Home > China Travel Special Reports > Ancient Water Towns Near Shanghai

Qibao – A Living Fossil in Greater Shanghai

Qibao Ancient Town is the only ancient town located in greater Shanghai and it has a history of one thousand years old. It is located at the center of Shanghai’s Minhang District, 18 kilometers from downtown. Anyone who visits can not only satisfy their curiosity about the water townships in the area but also relax in its human and historical atmosphere.

Why is it called Seven Treasures? You guessed right, becauseit hasseven treasures: Buddha, bell, lotus scriptures, sacred trees, a gold chicken, a jade axe and jade chopsticks. It is said that originally there were eight treasures, but one was stolen. So, the town was named Seven Treasures.

  • Transport: bus or subway
  • History: over 1,000 years
  • Recommended visiting time: 1 day
  • Suitable for: everyone
  • English signs: not many
  • Features: the only water town located in greater Shanghai

Why We Recommend Qibao

Qibao

Qibao Water Town is an enchanting place, taking visitors back in time to earlier centuries, with its local people, architecture, culture and history. Spending a day in this historic and unique town is a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

  • Qibao is the only water town located in greater Shanghai with a history as long as one thousand years.
  • It was built during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) and grew to become a thriving business center during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties.
  • The town is much more than just a living fossil of the Chinese Water conurbation or the result of modern urban planning.
  • If you are a gourmet, you can taste a range of traditional snacks here.

Explore the Highlights

The following 5 highlights of Qibao are highly recommended by China Travel.

1. Qibao Temple

Qibao Temple

Qibao Temple dates back from the time of the Ten States (902–979) and Five Dynasties (907–960).

It was extended and renovated during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Locals hold the temple in very high regard because legend says it had seven treasures but also because it looks splendid.

The temple was of major importance in fostering the development of the town. The newly renovated Qibao temple has ingenious designs for gardens and buildings and provides tourists with the opportunity to explore the unique architecture of the Han (206 BC–220 AD) and Tang (618–907) dynasties.

2. Crickets-Fighting

Cricket-fighting was a very poplar folk activity with the Water Chinese. Even today, cricket-fighting draws a big crowd. There is a special museum where crickets are displayed and live fights are organized.

Although it may seem strange that so many people would be fascinated with crickets, in Qibao the crickets come from a very fierce species known as Blue and Iron Sand, named after the colors of their feet and neck.

The fertile land and geographical position of Qibao provide the perfect habitat for crickets: an abundance of water and food, and great living conditions. As a result, the crickets are vigorous and provide exciting performances daily, during the annual Cricket Culture Festival and golden weeks.

3. Shadow Play

Shadow Play

In Shanghai, shadow plays were once a popular feature of local culture. The art was introduced to Shanghai by Mao Gengyu, a man from Qibao.

Shadow plays from Qibao provide entertainment based on popular historical events using local dialect to reflect local character. They are performed using expressive music and colorful drawings for illustrating characters’ emotions.

  • In 1988, a few amateur artists also held an exhibition of shadow play paintings and it developed wider appreciation and popularity of this unique folk art.

Bingtanghulu

4. Snacks

When walking around Qibao, you will find a huge range of snacks available everywhere. These are appetizing and colorful, and have become a popular feature of Qibao.

Cakes of different flavors are made from Qibagao, polished glutinous rice. Tourists can also find other local dishes like tanghulu (sugarcoated haws on sticks), xunlaihama (smoked toads), kaohongshu (roast sweet potatoes), hebao doufugan (dried bean curd in lotus leaves) and more.

5. Qibao Daqu Liquor

Liquor

Qibao Daqu liquor has been popular in the Shanghai markets for decades, and anyone over the age of 50 often talks about ‘that white wine from Qibao’.

Nowadays, people are no longer drinking strong alcohol for their health, but if they can buy a bottle of Qibao Daqu, they will still drink. For Qibao Daqu liquor is more than just a glass of spirits, it is part of human history.

In recent years, the local government has resumed indigenous production of "Qibao Liquor", and "Qibao Liquor Square" in Qibao Street has become popular with tourists.

How to Get to Qibao 

  • Subway: No. 9 line to Qibao station
  • Bus: 803, 748, 513, 87, 91, 92, 92B and Xinbei special line
  • Self-driving: Hongqiao Airport–Xupu Bridge–leave elevated highways at the exit of Caobao Road–turn right into Caobao Road–turn left on Xinzhen Road–Qibao Water Street

Best Time to Visit Qibao

Pan-Fried Dumpling

The scenery is suitable for a visit all year round. The town is quite small and can easily be explored by foot. But still, always avoid Chinese public holidays, such as National Day or Labor Day.

  • Admission Fee:

Free (simply to enter the Water town); RMB 30 (includes admission to all the scenic spots)

  • Opening Time: All Day Long

But attractions and indoor exhibitions are open from 8:30 to 18:00.

Accommodation

Since Qibao is located at the center of Shanghai’s Minhang District, only 11.2 kilometers from downtown, you can choose a hotel where you are traveling in Shanghai.

Food in Qibao

As mentioned above, Qibao is full of various delicacies featuring local culture. The most famous food are stewed pork with rice wine, Qibao square rice cake, Qibao red braised mutton … Just start your eating tour!

Recommended Itinerary for a One-Day Visit

Koi Fish

1. Starting at the Qibao Bell Tower and wandering down the street you will be able to visit the textile mill before enjoying a delicious lunch at a local restaurant

2. Once finished with lunch, you can walk to the Shadow Puppets Museum and The Memorial Hall of the Artist Zhang Chongren before crossing the beautiful Puhui River Bridge to explore the weird and wonderful traditional Shanghai snacks and savor a sip of Qibao Daqu liquor if you like.

3. After that it’s time to discover the beautiful Qibao Temple where you will be able to climb its Pagoda and feed the Qibao koi fish, which is said to bring good luck. When finished at the temple you can stroll back to the Bell Tower via the Old Trades House, to see what it was like to work and live here 200 years ago.