Shanghai has many water towns in the vicinity. Qibao Water Town is one of the closest ones and easily accessible by MRT. If you don’t have a whole day to spare to go to the bigger ones that are further away, visiting Qibao Water Town that’s just 30 minutes away would not be a bad idea.
When we entered the town, there were a few interesting stores like hand-made bucket stores,
and a “stone gambling” store. I found it quite fascinating that pretty much anything can be the subject of gamble – even stones. These plain stones are RMB 80 (about RM 40) per piece. When you buy one, you are betting on whether it’s a piece of stone, or piece of precious jade – something you will never know unless you cut open the stone. In jade markets in China, people can lose their entire saving because of this.
We arrived fairly early when the town was just beginning to wake up with not too many visitors.
The town is fairly small; you could finish walking the town in an hour or so if you are not discovering the town in depths. There are some mini museums that are worth visiting. The entry fee is RMB 5 per person per museum, or you can get a through ticket for RMB 30 for 7 mini museums.
The Shadow Play from Qibao Water Town is listed among the intangible cultural heritage of Shanghai. Shadow Play Art was passed on for 7 generations, with more than 120 years of history.
Movements became more agile with the extra “joints”. Today, the art of shadow puppetry is on the wane with one last person inheriting this folk culture, and who knows if there will be another person to succeed him.
For fans of the comic Adventures of Tin Tin, you don’t want to miss the Zhang Chongren Museum as the character Zhang of China is based on Zhang Chongren who was originally from Qibao Water Town. There is a remarkable picture illustration of how one of Zhang’s portrait served as the basis for the comic character. Zhang is also a renowned painter and sculptor with many of his works displayed in the museum.
Cricket fighting was another popular folk culture in Qibao Water Town. The Crickets Thatched Abode showcases the apparatus for rearing crickets. Some of the jars that the crickets were kept in are actually quite artistic.
Particular breed of crickets from Qibao are famous because of the loud sounds they make. Some of the breeds here have very pretty names like “true purple”, where the crickets do indeed have a purple coat.
Qibao Water Town had its share of prosperity when the textile industry was booming. Pawn shops flourished too where the entire street was filled with pawn shops and the street was simply called “Pawn Street”. The pawn shops no longer exist now with only one of the pawn shops left in its original state serving its purpose as a mini museum.
Another mini museum not to be missed is the Miniature Museum, featuring the works of the Zhou family father and daughter team. Their love for one of China’s greatest novels – the Dream of the Red Chamber is reflected in the work. The novel tells the story of the Chia aristocratic family set in the background of 18th century China. The novel was written with scrupulous details to the characters, the residences, the rooms, the gardens and everything else that there is even a study on the novel known as “Redology”.
The room of one of the protagonists from the novel – Lin Dai Yu.
Furthermore, the novel with 1 million characters were painstakingly carved onto 280 pieces of small of stones which took 2 years to complete.
Savory smells of braised pork knuckles and roast chicken drumsticks permeated the air.
Sweets (lotus stuffed with glutinous rice) and sour pickles were plenty.
While salt-roasted quail eggs in a special kiln and traditionally wrapped beggars’ chicken were eye-catching.
All the food looked really tempting but we didn’t really get to try much as the crowd was simply overwhelming – not exactly too easy to decide on something to eat when there was a constant wave of people behind us gently forcing us to move forward fast!
**Thanks to Spring Airlines of China for making this post possible. Spring Airlines now have direct routes for Singapore – Shanghai with excellent rates ! Just 5 hours away, Shanghai is not all that far away with plenty of things to do, plenty of things to eat and plenty of places to visit 🙂
Getting there : Take Metro Line 9 and stop at Qibao Station.