What fun! Mid-Autumn Festival beckons the moonstruck
By Tan Weiyun
The scorching days of summer draw to an end and the cool freshness of autumn breezes begins. It’s that time of year again to munch on mooncakes and sip fragrant green tea while enjoying the radiance of the harvest moon.
The popular Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 19, when the moon is its biggest and roundest of the year. It is a festival when Chinese families get together.
The Chinese have been celebrating the autumn full moon for centuries. Lanterns, moon-gazing, incense-burning, mooncakes, riddle-guessing and dragon dances have become ritual activities during the festival.
Songjiang, with its historic sites, cultural relics and picturesque villages, is an ideal venue for joining in the fun. Here’s a guide to some of the best spots for making this Mid-Autumn Festival a memorable one.
Shanghai Sculpture Park
With more than 30 hectares of water, grasslands and a manmade sandy beach, this park boasts more than 20 stone, porcelain and bronze sculptures created by masters from 10 countries.
It’s the perfect spot for a romantic stroll along rippling waters in the glittering moonlight.
The park, at the foot of Sheshan Hill, is divided into four gardens celebrating the four seasons. The spring zone features an opera stage built on the water and a crystal palace, while the cobble pathways of the autumn zone are strewn with golden tree leaves. It’s a popular site for wedding photos.
The summer zone features a sandy beach, flanked by trees that reach 26 meters high. A sightseeing deck, built on a giant banyan tree with a diameter of more than one meter, affords an ideal location for bird-watching.
The winter zone has a pavilion in the center of the lake. In winter, red plum flowers planted along the waterway poke their cheery heads through the snow.
Through the end of October, the price of admission for adults will be halved to 60 yuan for visits on Mondays through Thursdays. The discount will also be available during the Shanghai International Tourism Festival from September 14-18.
Address: 1158 Linyin Rd
How to get there: Sheshan Hill Station on Metro Line 9
To really enjoy the splendor of the big bright moon, it’s best to gain some elevation. Sheshan Hill, which rises to 98 meters from the flatlands below, is a natural destination. Unfortunately, the Songjiang Observatory, a nationally protected heritage site, is closed this year for renovation,
“The reopening hasn’t been decided yet,” said Tang Haiming, director of the observatory’s astronomical science center. “We hope it will be by the end of this year.”
Small disappointments aside, Sheshan has plenty else to offer. Its range of 12 hills stretching for 13 kilometers encompasses 400 hectares and contains Shanghai’s only natural mountainous forestland.
Away from annoying urban neon, the parkland provides a tranquil place for viewing forests, hills and a distant lake under a starry sky lit by the bright moon. In this setting, body and soul come together in perfect harmony.
Needless to say, the higher you climb, the bigger and clearer the moon. On Sheshan peak and along the mountain road leading there are kiosks, offering cozy spots for rest and refreshment.
How to get there: Sheshan Hill Station of Metro Line 9
Zuibai Pond Park
With a history dating back almost 900 years, the Zuibai Pond Park will celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with a gathering of Chinese ink artists.
On September 17, about 50 calligraphers and ink painters will exhibit their craft for the public. This is the second year running for the park to host a “brush session” on the moon festival.
“Last year it was such a great success,” said Yang Quan, the park staff member in charge of the activity. “Artists brought their artist friends along, and it attracted many fans.”
All of the art pieces produced that night will be put on display in the park.
Address: 64 Renmin Rd S.
Admission: 12 yuan
Du’s House, a mansion built by a late 18th century landlord, is a wood-and-brick building famed for its intricate wood carvings on pillars, window frames, doors, staircases and handrails.
After the most recent renovation, the house, located in the western part of the old Songjiang area, is open to the public again. It is a showcase for some of the district’s most venerable cultural heritage, including shadow plays, embroidery, tree root carvings and bamboo dragon dancing.
During this Mid-Autumn Festival, the mansion’s courtyard will be festooned with giant red lanterns. On the night of the full moon, folk artists will perform there.
“We’ve prepared local operas, storytelling, folk dances and many others shows,” said Lu Chunbiao, director of the Songjiang Cultural Center.
“In addition, children can try their hand at carving tree roots and embroidering silk pieces, with artists there to guide them.
Best be early to grab a good seat by the window in the tearoom on the second floor. What a perfect place to sip green tea and watch the performances!