A Travellerspoint blog

Yu Yuan garden and the Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse (新天地和湖心亭)

Tranquil settings with a lot of people

sunny 18 °C

The gardens are located in the Old Town of Shanghai (Nan Shi or Southern City), Yu Yuan is a classical Chinese garden originally built in 1559, with a maze of pavilions, pines, rocks and pools filled with carp.

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Yu yuan Garden is very accessible and draws huge crowds of tourists since it is one of the big sites to visit in the city. With a total area of less than 5 acres, it has more than 40 attractions in the inner and outer gardens. It is believed to have been built in the Ming Dynasty by the Pan, a family of officials, between 1559 and 1577. The gardens are in traditional Chinese style with numerous rock and tree garden areas, ponds, dragon-lined walls and numerous doorways and zig-zagging bridges separating the various garden areas and pavilions. To the gardens themselves there is a zig-zag of walkways over ponds of carp fish. These are made this way on purpose. The idea is that spirits are not supposed to be able to cross because spirits can only move in straight lines.

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There is a famous rock there with an interesting legend saying that the rock was found some 1000 years ago and it was originally one of the Emperor Huizong's private collections before it found its way in the Yu yuan Garden. The exquisite layout, beautiful scenery, and the artistic style of the garden architecture have made the garden one of the highlights in Shanghai. We thoroughly enjoyed the traditional decorations, sculptures etc in form of dragons, lions, little warriors and what not that are spread all over the park. Even though the park is fairly small, it feels big due to a smart layout of the architecture and landscaping. You always find something new and can almost get lost there.

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Next to the entrance of the gardens is the Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse which once was part of the garden and now is one of the most famous teahouses in China. According to the lonely planet even Queen Elizabeth and Bill Clinton were there. Now they can add us to that list...

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Love,

Fredrik and Sabrina

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Posted by fredrik_p 20:38 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Old Town and the Temple of the Town Gods (豫园和城隍庙)

Some of the few really old parts of the city

overcast 18 °C

The Old Town is not that far from where we live. It is probably about half an hour away and is located very centrally on pretty pricey land. Still it’s an area full of old historical houses with the occasional store, office or apartment building. I guess it is shrinking rapidly as the real estate gets more and more attractive to build on but it is still quite unique. There are a lot of small shops and kind of a bazaar where you can pick up some souvenirs.

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Most Chinese towns traditionally had their own town gods and a temple dedicated to worship them. As I have understood it the temples are typically Taoist but there are halls dedicated to both Buddhist and Taoist deities.

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The temple has an open courtyard that is bustling with activity as many people come to burn incense, pray or just look around.

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In the halls of the temple it is quieter and a bit more peaceful. The halls are decorated and there are many different and quite special statues scattered around the temple. It is really nice just to walk around and soak in the atmosphere while enjoying the art.

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It is also home to the most famous dumpling restaurant in Shanghai (Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant) where people wait in long lines to get a table or even just pick up some takeaway. We haven't even tried it yet, as there were so many people waiting and it started to rain when we were there. We instead went to a vegetarian restaurant which was packed with people. We managed to order and squeezed in at a table with 5 other people. As most places it was loud and busy but we really enjoyed it, and the food was good to.

Love,

Fredrik and Sabrina

Posted by fredrik_p 00:21 Archived in China Comments (0)

Jade Buddha Temple (玉佛寺, Yùfó sì)

A pretty special place

sunny 18 °C

We headed over to Yùfó sì, or the Jade Buddha Temple as it's called in English, famous for its two white jade Buddha statues. They were brought to China from Burma (Myanmar) by monks to Zhejiang Province in 1882 with the idea to build a temple dedicated to house them. They later came to Shanghai in 1918 when they had finished constructing the temple. The statue of a reclining Buddha which lies on a redwood bed, represents Buddha's entry to nirvana and is very rare, however, the other showing Buddha seated encrusted with jewels is probably more famous. The temple is one of the city's most visited tourist attractions.

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The temple is still active and is situated in the northwest of the city, less than a mile from downtown Shanghai. It attracts large numbers of visitors, both local Chinese and overseas tourists and is actually one of very few Buddhist temples in Shanghai.

Though the original temple was destroyed in 1928, the giant Buddha, along with a smaller, recumbent version of the statue were both rescued, and now rest at the rebuilt temple.

The Jade Buddha Temple also include an impressive collection of rare cultural relics that are housed there. We decided to save them for next time and focused on just enjoying the experience of the temple. The giant jade Buddha is the real draw here, the other artifacts are supposed to be worth a visit by themselves, but I don't think that anyone comes just for the porcelain artworks and ancient paintings that are also stored here. There are also over 7000 Dazang sutras kept in the Jade Buddha Tower, unfortunately its not supposed to be such an impressive sight as it sounds. What we really enjoyed was to just see people worship, hear the monks sing and experience how natural the religious life seemed in this tourist attraction.

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Another factor that adds to the spiritual element at the Jade Buddha Temple is the classical architecture style in which the temple was designed, and especially unique in the middle of the Shanghai of today.

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There is also a souvenir shop with the reclining Buddha just outside and a vegetarian restaurant (which we of course had to try).

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Its well worth a visit and of course we will go to Yùfó sì with anyone who comes to visit us. ;-)

Love,

Fredrik and Sabrina

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Posted by fredrik_p 21:53 Archived in China Comments (1)

Zhou Zhuang (周庄)

A day trip

sunny 18 °C

We booked a day trip through "Le Tour" hostel, where we stayed on our arrival to Shanghai. Early in the morning our "guide" came to pick us up. He only spoke a few words of English (like Hello) which was much more than what the driver knew. We went in a pretty worn down van and on the way, (actually totally in the opposite direction but anyway), we picked up an old Chinese couple who were also going.

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They say that to visit Zhou Zhuang is to visit historical China. It's a tiny town with about 4000 inhabitants located between Shanghai and Suzhou, in an area with abundant rivers and lakes. There are several towns with canals in China but this one is today definitely one of the most famous. This ancient town has a history of more than 900 years with many houses built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

There are nearly a hundred well-preserved old mansions and over 60 gateways made of carved bricks built during the Ming or Qing dynasty. The mansions were named after owners ' surnames, such as "Zhang", "Zhou" or "Shen". The great mansion is "Shen-Ting" (Hall of Sheng) and was built in 1742 by the descendants of Shen Wan-Shan, the wealthiest person in the area under the Ming dynasty. The two-story mansion has more than 100 rooms and is an extreme example of how the rich lived during feudal China. The house has also been used as the set for several Chinese movies.

The other is the Zhang-Ting (Hall of Zhang) residence, which was built later during the Ming Dynasty. It is one of the few well preserved mansions in China and the oldest one in the city. Whereas the other houses in Zhou Zhuang are built along the streams and rivers, the Ruojing River actually runs through Zhang-Ting so that small boats can enter the house through its backyard.

We took it pretty easy, strolling around just soaking it in. We had rented audio guides just to have some information as our guide wasn't going to be of any use.

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There's a gondola service for tourists to take the city in from another perspective and get a quick tour of probably the most famous attractions, the 14 stone bridges built during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The Double Bridge being the most visited one. The Double Bridge, two bridges positioned so they form a right angle over a canal, was first built during the Wanli Reign (1573-1619). The other noteworthy bridge is Fu'an Bridge, which supposed to be the oldest bridge in the City having been built in 1355. You pay for the whole boat so we shared our gondola with some other people. It was over in about 30 minutes but it was very nice.

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Apparently Zhou Zhuang is now solely dependent on tourism (great shame, I've even heard a lot of locals don't even live there anymore!) though the day we chose to go was perfect, as it was relatively tourist free throughout the day.

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The local specialty dish here is pork knuckle, a rather gruesome lump of pork knuckly meat covered in fat. We ate together with the old couple and they helped us to order. Conversation was scarce but they were so friendly.

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After we had eaten lunch and then strolled around the narrow shopping streets for a while, we went to the outdoor stage to wait to be picked up. We watched a little Beijing Opera, without understanding too much of the story, and were then picked up by the driver.

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It was an interesting drive back. The countryside, if you can call it that just outside Shanghai, doesn't get boring to watch. There was quite a lot of traffic but we got back fairly quickly anyway.

Bye for now!

Love,

Fredrik and Sabrina

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Posted by fredrik_p 18:38 Archived in China Comments (1)

"Our" Apartment

...and the neighborhood

sunny 18 °C

I (Fredrik) did the move while Sabrina was at work. She had not had time to pack so I just shoved her stuff into her back-pack and in bags and filled the taxi. The taxi driver looked at me in amazement and could not believe that he would just be driving me and not a whole family. I got off at the new place and as I unloaded (with the help of the taxi driver) two of the neighbors started talking to me. We had a pretty short conversation before I lugged the stuff up to the 3rd floor, but nevertheless it felt nice with their curiosity.

There is a doorman living under the stairs in the entrance. He is almost always around keeping an eye on the place, and there is supposed to exist some kind of management but I don't think they have ever cleaned the stairs. :-) Our apartment is nice though.

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When you visit, the first thing you see, after having taken off your shoes and jacket (and put on your slippers), is the Living room. Working as a division between the Living room and the Diningroom/Study, is the shower. It's all glassed in an in the middle of the apartment. The kitchen is to the right and is fairly small. It has a large sink, a gas stove, an oven and a regular size refrigerator/freezer.

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The fact that you can see through the shower (but not the shower curtain though) makes the apartment feel bigger and brighter. There is a pretty small wardrobe for two people, but luckily we don't have that many clothes. There is also a storage closet.

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The dining room is pretty big so there is also a desk there and therefore also works as a study. We have had our friends over for a Sunday lunch, something that we hope we will be able to keep up.

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The bedroom is at the far end of the apartment and there is kind off a small passage that you have to go through. It has many windows and is in the corner to the back. The bedroom has many windows and is very bright. There is also a window from the bed room in to the dining room which spreads that light in to the rest of the apartment. It's also good when it's time to get up. You can knock on it, make funny faces and annoy the one who doesn't want to get up, (me, Fredrik).

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The neighborhood

The area is in Pǔxī (浦西), downtown, which includes a pretty large chunk of the city. As we mentioned earlier the area is in the Old French Concession (法租界). You can still see the colonial influences and the buildings are lower. There are many small streets, alleyways and shops. There are many good restaurants in the area, even just outside the door or in a 200m radius are enough restaurants not to get bored of any. There are still many that we have not had time to try yet! There are small local supermarkets just around the corner, a fruit stand and DVD-salesman (open almost 24 hours). A guy who makes copies of keys, etc. There are shopping malls and shopping streets within walking distance. The only thing that is not ideal is that our gym is 15 min away.

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If you want to know more, just pop by and have a look!!!

By for now,

Fredrik and Sabrina

Posted by fredrik_p 18:36 Archived in China Comments (0)

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