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December 18, 2009

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Temples and classic gardens

IN the Old City area of Shanghai, the major attractions are Yuyuan Garden and bazaar, the City God's Temple, the Nine Zigzag Bridge and Chenxiang Pavilion.

The area has a strong local flavor and is thronged by tourists and shoppers in a fascinating bazaar, tea houses and shops selling gold, jade and jewels.

Many shops also offer local snacks and vegetarian dishes.

Yuyuan Garden

Beautiful Yuyuan Garden is one of the most ancient structures in Shanghai, a classical garden built around 400 years ago in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The small but spectacular garden contains many courtyards and surprises, with meticulously renovated architecture, pavilions, ponds, water courses and charming landscaping. It is laid out in the Suzhou garden style (gardens in Suzhou were built according to the style of Chinese paintings).

What visitors see today has been largely rebuilt.

Its tranquillity has made it one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

Yuyuan, which means Happy Garden, was built by a government official named Pan Yunduan. He built the peaceful garden for his parents to give them pleasure and relaxation in their old age.

In the heart of the Old City, the 2-hectare garden features around 40 attractions.

The garden deteriorated greatly with the decline of the Pan family. It was purchased in 1760 by a team of wealthy merchants who spent nearly 20 years reconstructing and renovating the buildings.

The garden was seriously damaged in 1842 during the Opium Wars. Major renovation began in 1956 and the garden was opened to the public in September 1961.

The 5-ton Exquisite Jade Rock is a highlight and parts are transparent and translucent. It is 3.3 meters high and contains 72 holes. If you burn a joss stick just below the rock, the smoke floats out from all the holes. If you pour water into the rock from the top, the water flows out from each hole.

Other attractions include the Grand Rockery, Iron Lions, Lotus Pond, Moon Appreciation Pavilion, Wall of Cloud-Piercing Dragon, Spring Transforming Hall and an ancient performance stage.

There are many winding pathways and corridors opening on beautiful scenes and flowers. Areas are separated by undulating "dragon walls" with gray tile ridges, each ending in a dragon's head.

Yuyuan Garden is regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in Jiangnan, the south region in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Its pavilions, halls, stones and streams form a picture featuring "one step, one beauty; every step, every beauty."

It has been called the "crown of beauty in southeastern China" and a "famous garden of Jiangnan."

Inside the garden is the site of the headquarters of the famous uprising of Shanghai's Small Sword Society in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Address: 218 Anren St

Hours: Daily, 8:30am-5:30pm

Admission: 40 yuan

Tel: 6326-0830

City God's Temple (Chenghuang Temple)

During the reign of Emperor Yongle (1403-24) in the Ming Dynasty, the Jinshan God Temple on the northern bank of the Fanghong River was expanded and transformed into the City God's Temple of Shanghai County.

Legend has it that Chenghuang is the Taoist god who protects the city and its citizens. It is the place to offer sacrifices to local deities, who were mostly upright officials and had contributed greatly to people's welfare.

They are worshipped as gods in the hope that from the after-life they can protect the people from great disasters.

Originally a temple to the Jinshan God Huo Guang, a high-ranking official of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), the City God's Temple is shared today by Huo Guang in the front hall and the god of Shanghai City, Qin Yubo who is venerated in the back hall. This is a rare phenomenon in the country, commonly called "two city gods sharing the same temple."

Address: 1 Yicheng Rd

Hours: Daily, 8:30am-4pm

Tel: 6328-4494

Tickets: 5 yuan

Chenxiang Pavilion

Profound Fragrance Pavilion, or Chenxiang Pavilion, contains a distinctive Buddhist nunnery, one of the country's largest.

The temple was built by Pan Yunduan, owner of Yuyuan Garden, and lies northwest of City God's Temple. It derives its name from the fragrant Chinese eaglewood used for Buddhist sculpture. Eaglewood resin is also used to make perfume and on humid days, the air is permeated with fragrance.

It is considered on par with the three famous Buddhist temples of Longhua, Jing'an and Jade Buddha.

Address: 29 Chengxiangge Rd

Hours: Daily, 7am-4pm

Tel: 6320-3431

Admission: Free

Nine Zigzag Bridge

The famous and very crowded Nine Zigzag Bridge was built across an artificial lotus pond with a popular tea house in the center.

More than 400 years ago, the owner of Yuyuan Garden Pan Yunduan built a square pavilion in the lotus pool. Later, the textile tycoon Zhu Yunhui and others built a hexagonal pavilion on the site in 1784.

Named "Pavilion in Lake Center," (Hu Xin Ting), it was a place for textile businessmen to gather. In 1855 it was converted into a tea house and is said to be the oldest tea house in the city.

Address: 257 Yuyuan Rd

Hours: Daily, 8:30am-10pm

Tel: 6373-6950


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