Tipped to be one of the highlights of a trip to the Paris of the East, Qibao Ancient Town is a centuries old township that has truly stood the test of time. As one of the last remaining riverside hamlets in the region the town also serves as an example of ingenious ancient Chinese urban planning that fostered the creation of a town that is bereft of traffic and maddening crowds congesting the roadways. Constructed thousands of years ago during the reign of the Song Dynasty the town’s name literally translates to “seven treasures” which is believed to denote a Ming Dynasty bell, an iron Buddha relic, a jade axe, gold script lotus sutra, jade chopsticks and a Chinese catalpa tree that’s over 1000 years old. Some however concede the area was named after the Qibao Temple although the bell and scripture are in existence even today.
The Qibao Temple is in fact one of the main attractions at the ancient town where the religious venue has played a pivotal role in the cultural life of its residents for centuries. Aesthetically pleasing and grandiose the temple is a revered structure in the hamlet as it is tied with the town’s progress over the years. Believed to have been spread out over 144 acres in its heyday the temple now occupies an area of 155 acres after renovations in 2002. Displaying traditional architectural elements from the Tang and Han Dynasties the venue also boast manicured gardens and other intriguing structures as well.
Shadow Plays are also unique to Qibao Ancient Town as it was a resident of this township that first introduced the art form to Shanghai. Performing episodes of historic annals Qibao Shadow Plays are showcased in local dialect with emotional music and elaborate drawings decorating the backdrop of these folk cultural items. Another folk element that can be witnessed in Qibao is of course cricket fighting which is another folk activity that is still popular among residents of the ancient town. A quirky museum devoted to the curios pastime is also found at the venue while live fights between the insects can also be witnessed firsthand. The Festival of Cricket Culture is conducted yearly to put on shows and fighting performances by the insects that seem omnipresent in every corner of the ancient town due to its moist climatic conditions.
Visitors can also sample food specialties of the area such as ‘Qibaogao’ cakes and lotus wrapped bean dish Hebao Doufugan or roasted Kaohongshu via street side vendors. Other must-try food items include Tanghulu haw sticks and toad delicacies such as Xunlanhamo.
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