This is the 6th and final post in the Shanghai Journal by guest blogger Renee Toll-DuBois of Earth Our Only Home who recently traveled to Shanghai to attend the World Green Roof Conference and the 2010 World Expo. All text and photographs courtesy of Renee Toll-DuBois. Previous posts can be read here (day 5), here (day 4), here (day 3), here (day 2), and here (day 1).
I leave today but will fit in some more sightseeing.
My first stop is to an old temple recommended to me by a restaurant owner back in Cambridge. Friends took me out before I left and we spoke with Eddie, letting him know I was going to Shanghai and asking if he knew it. As it turned out, he grew up there but had then gone to Hong Kong. When I asked him what he might recommend I see it was the Chenghuang temple, a Taoist temple, also called yi temple.
One of the volunteers for the conference, Cloudy, who has a boyfriend from the US now living and working in Japan, who speaks both Japanese and English besides her Chinese, has offered to accompany me which I welcome. We take a taxi, and I am surprised to watch her use her T pass to pay for the cab. Apparently it is all part of the transportation system and one never tips! Another innovation I would love to see come to cities in the US!
As it turns out, the Chenghuang Temple is embedded deep within a marketplace that creates an ambiance of times past with its large wooden structures, and seemingly hand-carved curved roofs that suggest boats to me. This is the heart of tourist land but we are still early and get in line for a ticket to the temple as it is still about 5 minutes before it opens. It opens promptly on time and in we go, buy our incense that is the size of fireworks, light them at communal fires burning in metal dishes, then bow to the four directions - at least that is what it seems like to me - and stick them into the sand in the container with everyone else's to burn for much longer. The smell of the incense fills this outer inner courtyard. Then we enter the temple and there are monks beginning to chant. She says it is the birthday of one of the people/statues and so the monks will be chanting all day. She also tells me with enthusiasm that a monk's life is a good life. We continue through the temple, visiting the different rooms where one can make a financial offering and pray. She says the place is very busy, especially when children will be graduating parents come and make many blessings for their child's success. Her own mother comes here which is why she knew where to go.
All the buildings surround a main square with lots of shops, even a Starbucks! and many artisans continuing ancient crafts. There is also a large pond filled with hundreds of white-and-orange Japanese carps, where crowds gather to feed the fish, take pictures, or to enjoy what many call the best Chinese steamed dumplings. The Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant apparently is a nationwide brand name, found on the third floor of one of the many Chinese structures that has survived time and weather. We passed the shop where a woman was making the dumplings to be steamed but as time was short and the famous dumpling that some say originated here in Shanmghai has meat broth along with the meat filling, we continued on visit to the YuYuan gardens, described below.
According to travel information found on the internet, Yuyuan Garden is believed to have been built in the Ming Dynasty, as was the Temple, more than 400 years ago. Yuyuan literally translated means Happy Garden. It is located in the center of Shanghai's Old City, a few blocks south of the Bund.
It has a total area of about two hectares (five acres) and more than 40 attraction. We heard tours being given in French, Italian, German, Spanish, English. The inner and outer gardens were both built in the Ming Dynasty classical style, with numerous rock and tree garden areas, ponds, dragon-lined walls and numerous doorways and zigzagging bridges separating the various garden areas and pavilions. I had limited time so was able to visit only some of these delightful attractions and found them all restful and inspiring, a final touch of green before my 14 hour flight back to the States.