It's generally accepted that when tourists want 'Old China', they go to Beijing. Shanghai is seen more as 'Cosmopolitan China'. While that's all fine and dandy, it's important to remember that, despite the hustle and bustle that goes on here, Shanghai actually does offer some beautiful glimpses of traditional China.
One of the oldest, and certainly one of the most beautiful landmarks in Shanghai is the Yuyuan, or Yu Garden 豫园. This five acre garden, located a few blocks south of the Bund in Shanghai's Old City, was built in 1577 by Pan Yunduan (潘允端), a government officer of the Ming Dynasty. Literally translated as "Happy Garden," it was created specifically for Yunduan's ageing parents, but fell into disrepair after their deaths. A couple of rich merchants bought the garden in 1760 and spent the next two decades restoring it, only to see it heavily damaged during the 19th century Opium War. It was once again restored during the 1950's to the Yuyuan that people visit today.
Both the inner and outer gardens contain classic Ming Dynasty features, such as rock and tree gardens, ponds, carved dragons, and intricate bridges separating the six main scenic areas within the garden. These six areas include the Sansui Hall (三穗堂), Wanhua Chamber (万花楼), Dianchun Hall (点春堂), Huijing Hall (会景楼), Yuhua Hall (玉华堂) and the Inner Garden (内园).
One of the first attractions you'll come across upon entering the garden is the Great Rockery, a 50 foot slab of rock from which you can survey the entire garden's tranquil beauty. Move on to Sansui Hall, which translates as "Lucky Hall." It was built in 1760 to entertain guests, and consists of five halls, making it the largest building on the grounds. The impressive Wanhua Chamber proves to be a great place to contemplate the lasting beauty of Shanghai. Linger around the bamboo plants and the maidenhair tree (which was supposedly planted by Yunduan himself back in the 1500's) to get a sense of what it was like in the garden all those centuries ago.
Dianchun Hall also provides a glimpse of history, as it was once the headquarters of Xiaodao Hui, a rebel group which revolted against the Qing Dynasty government in 1853. Here you can see propaganda posters and coins made by Xiaodao Hui during the revolt. You can also check out centuries-old furniture, calligraphy, paintings, clay sculptures, and brick carvings throughout the various halls.
Be sure not to skip the Inner Garden, which was actually a separate garden when it was built in 1709, but is now considered part of Yuyuan. This is where you'll see some of the most beautiful scenery that the garden has to offer, with its flowers, ponds, and landscaped pavilions.
The undisputable highlight of Yuyuan, however, is the Exquisite Jade Rock, a five ton boulder reaching almost 11 feet high. Rumours abound about the rock's origin, with some saying it was carried all the way to Shanghai from Tai Lake in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. Others claim it was found 1,000 years ago and belonged to Song Emperor Huizong's private collection before being brought to Yuyuan. This piece is a favourite among visitors because of its distinctive holes. Pour water on the top of it, and the water will run out of each hole. Or try lighting an incense stick below it and watch as the smoke floats out of the rock's various pores. Yunduan was supposedly so enraptured by the rock that he had Yuhua Hall built facing it so that you could see the rock while sitting in the hall.
Yuyuan is just one example of Shanghai's 'Old China' charm. If you haven't already stopped by, make sure to include it on your list of things to see. It's especially beautiful during the Lantern Festival.
Yuyuan 豫园 View In Map
Add: 218 Anren Jie, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6328 2465
Opening hours: 08:30-17:30 (Mar 1 – Oct 31); 08:30-16:40 (Nov 11-Feb 28)
Price: 40 RMB (April 1st - June 30th; September 1st - November 30th); 30 RMB (July 1st - August 31st; December 1st – March 31st)
Getting there: take subway Line 10 to Yuyuan Garden station or take bus No.11, 26, 64, 71, 145, 581, 715, 730, 736, 801, 926, 929, 932, 969 and 980 to Yuyuan stop
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Keywords: Yu Garden Old China Yuyuan traditional China Shanghai
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