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Beyond Shanghai’s concrete jungle
By Li Anlan

When people look at Shanghai, they often see a fast-paced, modern city, a skyline made of concrete and steel that captures an endless amount of opportunities.

Only on rare occasions do people get to see, quite literally, the wild side of Shanghai.

Beyond the concrete jungle, wildlife preservation specialists and concerned residents have taken measures to protect what’s left of the megacity’s nature and are now offering a new glimpse at Shanghai’s untamed corners.

Natural habitats have been diminished in most of the city and once endemic species have been pushed to the rural outskirts. However, in 2015, this series traveled to areas most are unfamiliar with to discover a different side of Shanghai — from cranes dancing in the winter to alligators swimming in summer, from mellow, yellow reeds to small violet blossoms. With a bit of luck, one may even spot a water deer leaping in forest parks. The four seasons bring about huge changes in wildlife populations and forest foliage, each providing a transient opportunity to discover a different Shanghai.

For the last issue in 2015, we have selected each season’s top destination.

Tianma Mountain

Located only about 11 kilometers from Songjiang District, Tianma Mountain is one of the favorite destination for runners in Shanghai. The name Tianma, a Chinese name that translates into sky horse, some consider it as a reference to the shape of the mountain.

The mountain is the highest point of altitude in Shanghai and the largest in area among all 12 mountains of the Sheshan Mountain range.

The rich natural vegetation resources of Tianma Mountain turns the place into a green paradise in spring where one can take a deep breath and smell the freshness of grass, flowers and trees.

The paved trails are narrow and surrounded by trees and bushes. While hiking to reach the mountaintop, one can overlook a corner of the city as well as the Sheshan Mountain.

Dianshan Lake

Dianshan Lake in Qingpu District is not only a destination for water sports, but also has a wetland area that’s ideal to avoid the summer heat.

Opened to the public in 2012, Dianshan Lake wetland is the largest lake-type wetland in Shanghai and connects Dianshan Lake with the Huangpu River. As one of the major ecological restoration projects in Shanghai, the marsh now presents a natural wetland landscape with different plant species as well as birds like egrets and wild ducks.

In the 1980s, due to the lack of drainage technology, the low-lying areas were flooded all year long and couldn’t grow crops. The forestry station in Qingpu then decided to plant pond cypresses in the areas, which has grown into an overwater forest in about three decades.


Gongqing Forest Park

An outing in autumn is all about the colorful foliage. One of the best places to be during this time of the year is the Gongqing Forest Park, which has largest number of tree species with leaves in different colors.

Since 1999, the park has been hosting special exhibitions of chrysanthemum flowers each November. In addition to the hundreds of pots of different species of chrysanthemum, park management also planted large amounts of flowers around the park, including coreopsis and sulphur cosmos.

The park is also a popular place for migratory birds who seek to rest during their annual journey to the warmer parts of the world.In late autumn, when most trees have put on their autumn foliage, Gongqing Forest Park turns into a colorful see of vibrant yellow, red and brown leaves stacked on the ground.

Chongming Dongtan

Winter on Chongming Island shows the beauty of desolation, but nature is never colorless. The mudflat in Dongtan wetland is full of grandeur when sunshine scatters on the ground and on the tidal creek, and in the reed marshes one may find flocks of wild ducks and mandarin ducks.

Dongtan wetland is also home to the hooded crane, one of the world’s smallest cranes. Each year, a flock of less than 100 hooded cranes arrive in Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve, a safe haven established in 1998 where they spent the winter.

There are also many common cranes as well as other bird species which winter in Dongtan.

Though visitors cannot go inside the nature reserve to see the cranes, they can learn about the animals and ecological environment of the wetland at the science museum located in Dongtan.


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