Old Jiading: A Shanghai day trip without the crowds

Old Jiading: A Shanghai day trip without the crowds

Jiading may be a busy industrial district, but the ancient town of Old Jiading boasts canals, pagodas and areas perfectly suited to quiet contemplation

During the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), a time when historic Shanghai barely existed, Jiading was already a flourishing town. Today Jiading District, located in northwestern Shanghai, is well-known as an industrial zone. But the picturesque ancient town, with canals, stone bridges and a pagoda, remains a relative secret Shanghai day trip to both tourists and city dwellers.

Conveniently located at the end of Line 11, it is a tranquil spot to spend an afternoon before the weather cools down too much.

Jiading - temple

Jiading is home to one of the best-preserved Confucian temples in the country. Built in 1219, Jiading Confucius Temple (嘉定孔庙) shares a space with the old Confucian academy.

Three bridges adorned with small stone lions lead into the garden where the main hall is situated.

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Jiading - notes

In the center of the hall sits a large statue of Confucius, flanked by displays of writings and musical instruments.

On either side of the hall are racks containing letters to Confucius, which are handwritten by students (and occasionally an anxious parent) asking for his blessing during the exam period.

Jiading - school

The Shanghai Chinese Imperial Examinations Museum next door traces in detail the history of the imperial examinations system, which was used to select government officials and played a profound part in Chinese life and culture during its 1,300 years of existence.

Jiading - pond

Adjacent to the temple grounds is the 400-year-old Huilongtan Pond (汇龙潭, literally “pond where dragons meet”), which is connected to a quiet park featuring stone hills, pavilions, and even a working opera stage.

Entrance to the park is RMB 5, but the pond’s peaceful environment can be enjoyed for free just outside.

Jiading - river

A block away from the temple, you’ll find Suzhou-esque bridges and canals lined with houses sporting traditional black-tiled roofs and wooden shutters, with only air-conditioning units to spoil the view.

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Jiading - pagoda

Squeeze your way up the narrow steps and ladders to the top of the seven-story Fahua Pagoda (法华塔) for a view of the ancient town and beyond.

Built in the center of town between 1205 and 1207 and reconstructed many times since, it is now a government-protected cultural relic.

Mind your head: the doorways, too, were designed 800 years ago, when people were apparently much shorter.

Jiading - dining

If all that climbing and ducking leaves you in a huff, stop for a meal at one of the restaurants that overlook the canal.

Jiading - walking street

Then take a leisurely stroll along the Old Street, several pedestrian-only blocks of shops and eateries.

Despite the obligatory red lanterns, the area has much less of a touristy feel than Shanghai day tips to other old towns of Qibao and Zhujiajiao.

Frances Woo lived in Hong Kong, Canada, and the United States before coming to Shanghai in 2009 to do penance for a childhood of daydreaming through weekly Chinese lessons.
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Sean Hanratty is a photographer originally from Baltimore, Maryland. When not working he can be found on his bike going all over the place, including an Oreo and PB&J fueled trek to Suzhou.

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