Fengjing: more than your average water town

Culture, Travel | by Aimee Groom
Posted: March 7th, 2012 | Updated: March 7th, 2012 | Comments
Mao Zedong On 17 March 2012 Ctrip English is offering a special one day tour to Fengjing for just RMB 199. Any self-respecting Shanghai travel itinerary is bound to include a number of things: a stroll along the Bund, the city's celebrated waterfront; a basket or two of xiaolongbao; a wander through the melée of people, colors, sounds, smells, hawkers and touts that make up the area around Yu Yuan Gardens and the more peaceful, crooked alleyways of the Old Town; and of course, a day trip out to see the "real China." Well, as real as it gets within a 90-minute drive of downtown—most often this involves an afternoon visiting one of the many picturesque canal towns that populate the Yangtze River Delta, many of which have been cashing in their waterside locales, historic Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture and charming stone bridges with renovations and recreations of traditional buildings, souvenir and trinket stalls to attract hordes of flag-toting, matching-capped tour groups that traipse from former residence to museum to local specialty food stand, ticking off boxes on a mental list as they go in search of ancient China. There are a number of these water towns within easy reach of Shanghai. The better known among them include Tongli with its Sex Museum, Zhouzhuang (known as the Venice of the East), or Xitang (Xītáng, 西塘), the gorgeous Zhejiang village that lent itself as a backdrop to scenes in Mission Impossible II. But with such credentials come the crowds, and with every new busload that arrives a little more authenticity slips away, carried off in the form of local handicrafts exchanged for a handful of RMB. It was for these reasons I was so pleased to discover Fengjing. Having spent the first day of the year in recovery from the last, my friends and I decided to use our January 2nd holiday to explore something new. We'd done the rounds of all the usual suspects with visiting friends and family in tow, and now found ourselves headed southeast along the Huhang Highway on a crisply clear and sunny day, bound for a day out in Fengjing. Discover Fengjing, after the jump... water tonws, canal towns, shanghai Fengjing's history dates back 1,500 years when it began life as a Country Fair before graduating to full town status during the Yuan Dynasty, under the name of Bainiu (Báiniú, 白牛), or "White Buffalo." The name was later changed to Fengjing during the Ming-era. Though by no means off the beaten track, it has yet to be overrun and has managed to retain a local feel with groups of elderly residents sitting in the sun with cards and idle banter, in no hurry to go anywhere. With much the same kind of scenery as many of the other water towns around Shanghai (there's no shortage of stone bridges arching over placid waters, cobbled pathways and white-washed walls to wander around), Fengjing also has several more unique attractions that make for a more interesting than usual visit. From the Song Dynasty Three Bai Garden (Sān Bái Yuán 三白园) or Shi Wang Temple (Shī Wáng Miào, 施王庙) to the Fengjing Air Raid Shelter (Fángkōngdòng, 防空洞), complete with a MiG-15 fighter jet, and the surprisingly pithy and amusing works of cartoonist Ding Cong (Dīng Cōng, Mànhuà Chénlièguǎn, 丁聪漫画陈列馆), the Old Fire House (Huǒ Zhènghuì, 火政会) and the Mao Zedong Badges Museum (Máo Zédōng Xiàngzhāng Bówùguǎn, 毛泽东像章博物馆), there's plenty to see. If you have time, you can also head out to the Jinshan Farmers Painting Village, an entire hamlet dedicated to a venerated school of art that has its roots in 1970s Fengjing and features colorful scenes depicting rural life painted by peasants. shanghai water towns, canal towns shanghai water town, canal town shanghai water town, canal towns, chinese streefood, shanghai water towns, canal towns, communist party Mao badges_Shanghai water town_Shanghai canal town shanghai canal towns shanghai water town, canal town shanghai water town, shanghai shanghai canal town, water town Shanghai water town, canal town Admission: RMB 50 Opening hours: 8am-4:30pm Oct-Apr, 8am-5pm May-Sept How to get there: Head to Metro Line 1 Lianhua Lu Station then take a bus from the adjacent station to Fengjing. While it's not the bus' final destination, ask for "Fēngjīng" (枫泾) and someone will point you in the right direction. If you have access to your own wheels you'll cut your journey time down significantly—it's just a 30-40 minute drive from downtown. For those on a tight schedule or not familiar with Shanghai, taking an organized tour to Fengjing is a smart alternative. All photos © Aimee Groom.

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