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Sights to see along Suzhou Creek
By Li Anlan

SUZHOU Creek shaped the history of Shanghai and of Putuo District, through which it runs for 14 kilometers.

It's studded with more than 20 pieces of industrial heritage built by Chinese and foreign capitalists more than a century ago. Old factories and office buildings are being transformed to tell the story of the district.

The aim is to develop a heritage sightseeing route.

In addition to the Yuan Dynasty Water Gate Museum just opened this year, Putuo offers more museums and the public library where visitors can learn about history.

Marked on this map are a few museums and the library. Some museums along Suzhou Creek were built on old factory sites, preserving the architectural heritage and providing a window on Shanghai's industrial period.

1-Yuan Dynasty Water Gate Museum

Address: 619 Yanchang Rd W.

How to get there: Metro Line 7, Xincun Rd Station

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-4:30pm

Tel: 1521-4380-020

Tel: Admission: Free

2-Putuo Library

Putuo Library was established in 1957. The new library covers 35,000 square meters and was opened in early 2010.

The collection contains 800,000 books, documents and periodicals, and 1,226 kinds of newspapers and magazines. The modern library combines book rental, academic research, information consultation, training and education, and provides database inquiry services.

The library also exhibits manuscripts by some Shanghai contemporary writers. It provides a children's library, and an educational library for young people.

The reading area has 1,107 seats, and visitors do not need a membership card.

The library hosts various exhibitions and lectures and is open free to public. It hosts activities to promote reading.

Address: 1278 Tongchuan Rd near Daduhe Rd

How to get there: Metro Line 11, Zhenru Station

Hours: Monday, 9am-4:30pm; Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-9pm

Tel: 5265-5000

Admission: Free

3-Shanghai Brand and Matchbox Label Museum

The museum, shaped like a vintage match box, was built on the location of the Shanghai Match Factory on Guangfu Rd W.

It contains more than three million vintage brand labels from China and other countries, as well as seven million match labels.

It covers the history of match making at the old site on Suzhou Creek, as well as the history of fire in human civilization, from fire to cook and frighten away wild animals to ignite rocket launches. It displays tools to start fire, including flint and sticks that were rubbed and drilled to create sparks through friction.

The exhibition includes rare match box labels, including some collected by famousfigures.

Address: 2521 Guangfu Rd W.

How to get there: Metro Line 2, Loushanguan Rd Station

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-5pm

Tel: 3804-6886

Admission: Free

4-Mengqing Park

Mengqing Park is all about Suzhou Creek, its history, cleanup, water conservation and environmental protection. The 8.6-hectare park opened in 2004.

Attractions include Moon Star Outfall, Qingyi Lake, Green Shade Square and a man-made wetlands area.

In the Mengqing park there is the Mengqing Pavilion which has three sections: Suzhou Creek impressions, the cost of pollution, and the future the creek.

Multimedia screenings and models show the changes in the Suzhou Creek ecosystem and the heavy pollution caused by reckless industrial development and discharge into the creek.

Address: 66 Yichang Rd

How to get there: Metro Lines 3 and 4, Zhongtan Rd Station

Hours: Park open 24 hours daily; Mengqing Pavilion 9:15am-4:15pm on weekends.

Tel: 6227-0428

Admission: Free

5-Shanghai Textile Museum

Textiles used to be one pillar of Shanghai industry and many factories were located along Suzhou Creek.

The Shanghai Textile Museum on Aomen Road stands on the site of the Shanghai Shenxin Textile Factory No.9 on the southern bank of Suzhou Creek.

It covers the history of textiles and the textile industry in the region. Visitors can learn about the development of the textile industry through exhibits, documents, models and multi-media exhibitions.

The exhibitions include old spinning wheels, early textile machinery and recreated scenes from textile factories. Collections also explain how garments were made and sold over history.

The museum tells the stories of important figures in the textile industry.

Address: 150 Aomen Rd

How to get there: Metro Lines 3 and 4, Zhongtan Rd Station

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9:30am-4pm

Tel: 6299-6969

Admission: Free


IN 2001, when a construction team was digging at the intersection of Zhidan Road and Yanchang Road W. in Putuo District, they couldn't go deeper than seven meters because they hit a sheet of rock.

Archeologists stepped in to find out more. They discovered wood boards were beneath the slates and underneath that were thousands of timber piles. It was later determined to be an ancient water gate.

Now a museum has been built on the site after a decade of archeological and protective works, and the Yuan Dynasty Water Gate Museum opened on January 1.

Chen Xiejun, the curator of Shanghai Museum, which was responsible for exploring and protecting the water gate, said the age of the water gate was verified after checking ancient water conservation documents.

"The water gate is indeed more than 700 years old," he said in an earlier interview.

The Wusong River, originating from Guajing Creek, was a main waterway in Shanghai before the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

But back in the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), the river was only 500 meters wide, because silt deposits had narrowed it, which eventually slowed down the economy of Yangtze River Delta due to inefficient transportation.

Both the government and locals wanted to invest money to clean up the Wusong River.

The water gate was constructed to solve the silt problem. The structure applied the slate building standards of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The well preserved site people see today is also an example for experts to study construction methods used 700 years ago.

In order to stop and wash away the silt, the gate would be closed when the tide came. When the tide went out, the water gate was opened so the river could wash away the silt.

The museum has left the water gate in its original form. About 2,000 of the 10,000 timber posts are exposed so visitors can see the details, though some are still wrapped in white plastic for protection.

The archeology team spent more than a decade studying the water gate and working out the best way to protect it.

"It is also an important witness of changes to Suzhou Creek," Chen said in the museum's introduction video.

The designed route leads the visitors to different sections of the water gate site. In the underground palace, it is cool and humid: the feeling of one's actually standing inside the water gate.

The museum features more than just photos. Visitors can learn how the water gate was built through an animated video.

Visitors can also walk above the water gate and see other remains including brick walls, a limestone slab pavement at the bottom of the water gate and miscellaneous limestone remnants.

The wooden piles are also known as the "ground nails" and vary in height and size. Some piles have characters written on them, which was a way of monitoring construction.

The museum has some transparent walkways so people can see directly beneath their feet.

Some valuable cultural relics dug up include celadon bowls, coins, porcelain and iron nails.

Zhou Haogao, a researcher at Shanghai Museum, said in an earlier interview: "It was a long process from the discovery of the water gate to protecting it. The subject of historical relic protection is just getting started among the public."

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