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February 19, 2014

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Remaining section of old city wall worth visit

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Tucked between the traditional old city of Shanghai, Yuyuan Garden, and all the commercial hustle and bustle of Huaihai Road, you’ll find a peaceful and quiet place — the old city wall of Shanghai. Although not one of the main attractions of the city that draws the tourists, it is well worth a stop if you are in the area.

Located at 269 Dajing Road, near Renmin Road, Huangpu District, the Dajing Pavilion and its adjacent wall is the only remaining section of the old city wall of Shanghai. In its heyday, the wall measured 8.1 meters high and had a circumference of 4.8 kilometers, with 10 gates. Sadly, all that remains today is a mere 50m of the old city wall.

Shanghai, a onetime small fishing village that grew into a trading center, once had its boundaries defined by the wall. The city wall, which had survived mostly intact until the 20th century, was built in 1553 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was built to protect the town from raids.

On the northern side of the city wall, four watchtowers were built that were named Wanjun, Zhisheng, Zhenwu and Dajing. Four pavilions were built on them years later, one of which was Dajingguandi Temple.

When most of the Shanghai city wall was destroyed, only the Dajingguandi Temple section remained intact. That 50m stretch is now the only part of the old wall left. The Dajingguandi Temple is one of the main Zhenyi Sect Taoist temples in Shanghai and was built between 1573 and 1620.

For an admission of 5 yuan (83 US cents), visitors can experience this symbol of ancient Shanghai. With that, they get access to many pictures documenting its history in a small museum and the Dajingguandi Temple inside. It’s open 9am to 4pm and can be reached taking bus routes 66, 11, 23, 24, 43 or 782 or Metro lines 8 or 10.

The city wall of Shanghai was built to repel wokou raiders, among other threats. Wokou, which means “Japanese pirates” or “dwarf pirates,” raided the coastlines of China and Korea. Although the name suggests they were Japanese, the wokou came from a mixture of ethnic groups.

By the 20th century, the traditional city wall was perceived as an obstacle to efficient trade and impediment to transportation and commerce, damaging to a city that thrived on trade. It was almost completely demolished by General Chen Qimei, at the time the new Governor of Shanghai, after the Xinhai Revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) at the request of the city’s merchant community. With the exception of two short sections, the city wall was demolished completely in 1912.

After its destruction, the city built a broad circular avenue over the former city wall and its moat, known as Renmin Road. The curve of Renmin Road matches the old boundaries of Shanghai, preserving a part of its history.

Today, the old city of Shanghai is still an attractive tourist destination with many ancient and renovated structures, such as Yuyuan Garden with its exquisite tea houses and the City God Temple, or Chen Huang Miao. The area is a fascinating combination of ancient winding streets, with some modern high-rises that are edging into older areas.

Surrounding the city wall is the old city, where visitors can shop at a variety of small stores and visit small restaurants where you can get local food and a nice cup of tea while resting or try the street food.

There also are many other things to do in the area. There is the City God Temple down the road. The temple is another significant Taoist monument in the region. It boasts a history of some 600 years although it was destroyed and reconstructed.

The temple is made up of six halls with an area of approximately 1,000 square meters and is a recommended place to visit. Located at 247 Middle Fangbang Road, it is within walking distance of the old city wall and it is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm. The admission is 10 yuan. City God Temple features ancient Chinese architecture and has great souvenirs.

Also within walking distance, but slightly farther away, is the Dongtai Road Antiques Market. To get there go to Dongtai Road, entering from Xizang Road S. and Liuhe Road.

The Dongtai Road Antiques Market is an open market and is great for souvenirs of a trip to Shanghai. One can peruse the various stalls, engaging in occasional haggling, or just enjoy the market. Although some of the “antiques” may be reproductions, its a great place for souvenirs. The market operates daily from 9am to 6pm.



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