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Manufacturing powerhouse shows its softer side
2013-04-17
By Qu Zhi

Baoshan - which means "Treasure Mountain" - was named after an artificial hill created by Emperor Yongle during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The mound was created on the shore as a navigation landmark for shipping. Though it collapsed 170 years later, the name stuck.

The area was home to Shanghai's port and has become known as the location of China's most powerful and largest modern iron-steel enterprise, BaoSteel. As well as being a manufacturing and logistics powerhouse, Baoshan District has deep cultural roots, and a trip can combine nature, history and art.

Baoshan Temple

Baoshan Temple should be put at the top of every visitor's must-do list. Surrounded by erect pine trees, the Buddhist temple is an area of hush and contemplation. Wind bells chime on the roof and monks flit into mediation rooms.

The original building was built in 1511, known as Tang's Villa, but Tang's descendant later changed it into a temple. The past 500 years have seen it destroyed and rebuilt time and time again.

In 2006, a new Baoshan Temple was constructed adjacent to the old one. It is in late Tang architectural style and constructed from African rosewood. Shiliang, the abbot, says more than 13,000 square meters of timber have been used in its construction. There are plans to further add to it - a temple park complete with a wooden pagoda will be built over the next two years.

Shiliang says the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) was the heyday of Buddhism, and timber structures from that era were very developed.

"Most of the old temples that we can see today date from the Ming and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties," he says. "Thus, when we decided to build a new temple, we want something different, something with more character."

The temple has been constructed without any nails, instead using mortise and tenon joints to connect the timber.

Unfortunately, the wooden structures of the past made them susceptible to war and natural disasters.

Nevertheless, the abbot hopes the temple will stand the test of time. "When designing the temple, the abbot was really dedicated to make it last for thousands of years as a new heritage," says a local official.

In comparison to the buildings that rise abruptly from the ground, this temple has taken a long time to complete. "Every single detail should come from some reference as far as possible. We wanted it to look like just the Late Tang style, as it should be, " the abbot says.

Even the gray tiles on the roof took 15 days to make, he explains.

Gucun Park

There are a number of parks in the area, making Baoshan a perfect place for walking, jogging, BBQ and flying kites. A 100km footpath stretches across the whole territory of Baoshan, providing an ideal workout space for joggers and cyclists.

The biggest park is in Gucun, which, as the biggest countryside park in Shanghai, covers a whopping 4.3 million square meters and features more than 800 cherry trees in 28 varieties. The park is currently an explosion of pink sakura, but the park itself is worth a visit all year round.

In summer, visitors can see a 23-hectere lotus lake; in autumn, the gardens are filled with the sweet-scented osmanthus and golden ginkgoes stretch over the avenues. The park is even worth visiting in winter, when la mei (plum blossom) buds festoon branches.

Folk Arts Museum

A stone's throw from Gucun Park is the Shanghai Baoshan International Folk Arts Exposition, the biggest museum of intangible cultural heritage in China. The architecture is inspired by a Chinese knot decoration, which is a folk symbol of good fortune.

A free exhibition running until the end of May is a highlight. "Photographs of Long-gone Figures and Historical Relics of Old Shanghai" is being presented in collaboration with Shanghai History Museum and features pictures and other objects to illustrate the history of the city.

Wendao Collection House

The Wendao Collection House is a must-visit for art and culture lovers. Featuring Huizhou architecture (from Anhui Province), ancient arches, pavilions and ornamental stone engravings, this compound allows visitors to explore classic Chinese architecture.

Particularly notable sights include the garden hall inherited from 54 generations of descendants of Zhuge Liang, a chancellor of the state of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms Period (AD 220-280), and the "chastity arch" built during Emperor Wanli's reign (1563-1620) in the Ming Dynasty.

Wetland Forest Park

Wusong Paotaiwan Wetland Forestry Park is a scenic spot embodying a harmonious relationship between human and nature. The site is named Fort Bay after its original use as a key military base on the Huangpu River. The Qing Dynasty government built gun platforms there, and later it became the vital coast defence fort.

But nowadays, it is a place of natural charm, plus other attractions. The park includes the Yangtze River mudflats, manmade gardens, parkland and visitor attractions, and the ecological wetland boasts the Shanghai Yangtze River Estuary Science and Technology Museum, a children's amusement park, a commemorative square, a dock and a gym. The museum uses movies, pictures and texts to show how the estuary formed and transformed.

Spring is a great time to stroll along the winding wooden path in the park, and enjoy a panoramic view of birds flying among the water weeds. The walkway is also a perfect spot for enjoying the view during a beautiful sunset, or watching luxury cruise ships from the Wusongkou International Cruise Harbor as they pass by.

Shanghai Museum of Glass

Shanghai Museum of Glass is perfect for visitors of all ages, with its sparkling and colorful galleries. The main section shows a range of glass artefacts, from ancient to contemporary, classic to avant-garde.

The museum is divided into five exhibition areas - What Is Glass; The Development of Technology; From Daily Life to the Forefront of Science and Technology; Demonstration of Art Creation; and The Hot Glass Workshop.

The ongoing "Keep It Glassy" exhibition is eye-catching and whimsical, with touches of the unexpected. It showcases more than 200 glass artworks of over 50 designers from all over the world, including some rare pieces of world-renowned masters. The exhibition is open until March next year.

But the museum is not just a place for viewing glass - it's also home to an exciting teaching experience. The Hot Glass Performance shows the process of glass-making. In a high temperature stove of above 1,100 degrees, the glass is transformed to create brilliant artworks through softening, blowing, polishing and pressing.

Within the museum, the old glass furnace workshop of the Shanghai Light Industry Glass Co Ltd still stands. The workshop was refurbished by a famous French engineer.

Nordic New Town

Located in Luodian, the Nordic New Town is said to be the only place in Shanghai that embodies the natural beauty, architecture and culture of Swedish Nordic towns.

Visitors can get the whole Nordic-style luxury package - including an outlet mall, a 36-hole golf course, plus a variety of restaurants.

Baoshan Temple

Address: 518 Luoxi Rd

Admission: 10 yuan

Gucun Park

Address: 4788 Hutai Rd

Admission: 20 yuan

Baoshan International Folk Arts Exposition

Address: 1 Youyi Rd

Admission: 30 yuan

Wendao Collection House

Address: 2398 Shitai Rd

Admission: 80 yuan

Paotaiwan Wetland Forest Park

Address: 206 Tanghou Rd

Admission: 10 yuan

Shanghai Museum of Glass

Address: 685 Changjiang Rd W.

Admission: 20 yuan

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