Whatever landmark the outside world chooses for Shanghai, no other places could represent Shanghai as Yuyuan Garden does. No matter how many skyscrapers are there in the prosperous Lujiazui Area, or how splendid the night scene of the Bund is, Yuyuan Garden is the only tranquil place amid chaos through more than 400-year time, it manifests the delicacy and elegant of Jiangnan Garden, consolidates the modern and contemporary Shanghai-style cultural roots. The only Jiangnan garden landmark, the local Town's God Temple (Chenghuang Temple), and the old city area (Chengxiang) comprised of old gardens and new residences, alternately witness the vicissitudes of new and old Shanghai.
It's OK if you have little knowledge about the garden. You can overlook up high when you are out, linger about in the garden when you are in, green and verdant trees scattered at random discretion, close to mountain and river, winding into a ink painting. It's OK if you have little knowledge about the history of this garden. At the beginning, the old owner of the garden Mr. Pan Yunduan turned the garden into prosperous based on an old vegetable garden, then, the chambers of commerce gathered here after the garden declined and fell. Later, Shanghai Small Sword Party Uprising was taken in Dianchun Hall. After that, with the Yuanyin Daya whistling leisurely up, Kunqu opera masters performed the drunk Li Bai on old stage in the garden, while the century-old Shanghai Picture Faction from the charitable calligraphy and painting institution founded in Deyue Tower are still alive today... Even when the garden master Mr. Chen Congzhou combed and renovated Yuyuan Garden in former years, he detested the stiff and buckling of the Bridge of Nine Turnings (Jiuqu Zigzag Bridge) in the external garden of Yuyuan Garden, but it has the unforgettable feelings of old Shanghainese, the river under the zigzag bridge flow back and forth, recording whose eighth decade and whose grace boyhood in this city?
Nowadays, the Yuyuan Garden area, which is filled up with tourists from all over the world, also represents the typical lifestyle of this city, even without the thick and long story of this garden and the delicate and elegant flavor of Jiangnan-style. Among the crowded prosperous commercial buildings, there are all the continuation of gorgeous and elegant old Shanghai acting, the wooden-desks of the tea house is still here, water mill Kunqu opera and the crisp and melodious Jiangnan Pingtan (storytelling and ballad singing in Suzhou dialect) are still continuing, while playing antiquities, looking for calligraphy and paintings, all are the graces in the street life.
Four centuries' vicissitudes of Yuyuan Garden
Yuyuan Garden is a famous Jiangnan classical garden, and it was built during the years of Jiajing in the Ming Dynasty, it used to be a private garden of Pan Yunduan, BuZhengShi (governmental official) of Sichuan Province at that time. Yuyuan Garden is famous for its exquisite design, delicate layout, elegant and beautiful features and exquisitely carved, as it boasts the character of seeing big from little. It was reputed "the Champion of Southeastern Famous Garden" by ancients.
But this Jiangnan famous garden was originated from a story: Pan Yunduan failed in the examination hosted by the Ministry in Rites in feudal China, then he had an idea of building the garden in the vegetable field in the west of Shichun Hall (the residence in the northwestern of Town's God Temple) by gathering stones, digging pools, constructing pavilions, and planting bamboos.
This Jiangnan garden—the most famous southeastern garden, has a floor area of more than 30 mu. The exit of the garden now was actually the front gate of this garden. Entering the gate, there is a screen (a screen wall facing the gate of a house), behind the screen there is a unique stone Jade Exquisite "Yu Ling Long". The Jade Exquisite, along with the Suzhou Ruiyun Peak and Hangzhou Zhouyun Peak, are the three unique stones of Jiangnan. With 72 holes on it, the top-grade stone boasts its elegant figure and amazing beauty. The ancients once said: "Putting an incense burner under the bottom of the stone, the smoke will billow from the holes; putting a spittoon of water to perfuse the top of the stone, the spring will flow from the holes".
According to the record, in order to create a garden Gen Yue in the capital, Emperor Zhao Ji in the Song Dynasty searched famous flowers and unique stones from all over the country, named "Hua Shi Gang". Some of the unique stones which stayed in Jiangnan for some reasons were called the "Relics of Gen Yue", while Jade Exquisite was one of them. The Jade Exquisite used to be owned by Chu Yu, the owner of Nanyuan Garden, Sanlintang, Pudong, Shanghai. Then, his daughter was married to Pan Yunliang, the descendant of Yuyuan Garden’s owner Pan En, and carried the Jade Exquisite to Yuyuan Garden.
The historical Yuyuan Garden has experienced a number of disasters. At the time of the Opium Wars, the British Forces Command was established in Mid-lake Pavilion (Huxin Pavilion) in Yuyuan Garden, which made the whole garden "spring and stone lifeless". The command post of 1853's Small Sword Party Uprising still located in Dianchun Hall of the garden. After the uprising failed, the army of the Qing Dynasty was stationed in the garden. Yuyuan Garden was used as the barrack, while the stone mountains of west garden were all demolished and filled in the pool.
After liberation, Yuyuan Garden has basically kept its original look through continuous renovation. It has a floor area of more than 30 mu. The layout of pavilions, rockeries and waterside pavilions, old trees and famous flowers is in order, and the density is proper, just like in those past years. Strolling in the garden casually, mounting the big rockeries, stepping on Yixiu, looking over the two pavilions near the river, "River-viewing Pavilion (Wangjiang Pavilion)" means "regarding Huangpu and Husong as under the feet". In the past, visitors came here to stand on a higher place and look far away. The scenery of the boat mask along Pujiang did not change. There was a dryland marble boat named "Yifang", just like a boat anchoring in the water. Passing through the compound Gallery, on its south side, there is Liangyixuan as it's appropriate to watch the mountain as well as the river. Wanhua Tower boasts delicate embellishment and curved railings as one of the wonderful sceneries in the garden. Near the Old Well Pavilion (Gujing Pavilion) of Treasure House, there is a school with little windows, the studying place of wealthy families.
Just like many old Jiangnan gardens, such as "Pangu Garden" in Yangzhou, Yuyuan Garden has a long dragon wall, symbolizes "Long Ji (dragon's spine)", but the old owner boldly used the real dragon head on the top of the wall, this dragon has three claws, avoided the possibility that the "five-claw dragon" would arrogate the emperor. The dragon wall lies towards "Dianchun Hall", the Small Sword Party Uprising Command Post, old things left during uprising are reserved there. "Dianchun Hall" used to has the meaning of "decorating the beauty of spring", but it became a dignified memory in the vicissitudes of the history, that is the unexpected consequence the founder could have imagined. There is a delicate stage towards the hall, carved with gold and painted with different colors. It is called "Feng Wu Luan Yin (phoenix is dancing and singing)", commonly known as "Da Chang Tai (playing and singing table)".
If you want to take a glimpse of the whole landscape of Yuyuan Garden, you should mount "Huijing Pavilion" in the middle of the garden, as its three sides are surrounded by water and the trees are green and verdant. Mounting high and seeing far, you can express your inside feelings. Go further inside, there is Yuhua Hall, it used to be the study room of the garden owner Pan Yunduan. The study room, facing Jade Exquisite, is located to the west of "Jiyu Corridor" and near "Qu Chi (Curved Pond)", so the environment is clean and quiet. Inside Xian Hall, the furniture is placed in accordance with the study room of scholars in the Ming Dynasty, such as some valuable furniture like the desks and chairs painted with rosewood pattern of the Ming Dynasty. On the west of Yuhua Hall, there is a "Deyue Tower. In front of the tower, a plaque carved with the words "Hao Yue Qian Li (the moonlight is bright and clear)", when Mid-autumn Festival arrives, the moon is as round as a wheel, stepping on the second floor of Deyue Tower. Looking up, whether it is thousands of miles apart, people can share the same moon and repose their feelings; looking down, you could see the moonlight casting a shadow in the center of Huxin Pavilion, and admire the beautiful moonlight on Jiuqu Bridge (the Bridge of Nine Turnings).
South of Yuyuan "Huanlong Bridge" is the internal garden scenic spot, as the garden inside of a garden, it has a floor area of only more than 2 mu, but it is tightly layout, the winding path leads to a secluded quiet place, pavilions, peaks, waters, bridges are all available, many towers like Huanyun, Yanqing, Guantao are built too, small-sized square hall is on the rockery, the brick carving <Guo Ziyi Offering Felicitation Painting> is lifelike. South of the internal garden has the old stage, which was transformed here by Shanghai North Qianye Gong, the front stage has wooden-carved patterns like lions, phoenix, double dragon playing a ball, opera figures, they are all beautifully shaped and lifelike. On the top of that, the caisson is in hole-shape, there are 22-layer circle intersected with 20 arcs, 28 golden birds around opening their wings about to fly, a round mirror is in the middle. The caisson is not only beautifully decorated, but also conforms to the acoustical principles, even if there is no amplification facility, a good sound effects can be achieved. The stone pillars on both sides of the stage are carved with a couplet:" Tian Zeng Sui Yue Ren Zeng Shou, Yun Xiang Yi Shang Hua Xiang Rong (As time passes by, people are getting older, seeing the cloud can think of someone's clothes, seeing the flower can think of someone's face)", the calligraphy is elegant and vigorous, written by Yu Zhenfei, Kunqu Opera art master.
Yuyuan Garden has jagged pavilions, high mountains, pretty stones, and wandering stream, while the greening layout is very wonderful. When autumn arrives, we can admire the beauty of chrysanthemum, and when winter comes, we can admire the beauty of the plum in the garden. The lantern party in the Lantern Festival has a long history here, we can taste the famous snacks around the garden, which draws the most people during festivals in Shanghai.
The flavor of Shanghai’s old city area
Yuyuan Garden is one of the "Four National Cultural Markets", along with Panjiayuan in Beijing, Liulichang, and Confucius Temple in Nanjing. The old Shanghainese called this area old Chengxiang, the downtown of old Shanghai. The Chinese tradition for building a town: a city should have city walls, inside the four-or-five-floor walls was called the old Chengxiang, and outside the walls was the moat. According to the reminiscence of the old people, the cultural cinema (now old Lao Feng Xiang), Qu Renmin Road and the old Jiaochang Road is the boundary.
Nowadays, the city wall was demolished already and the moat has been filled up, but Chenghuang Temple, which blesses the city, is still here, receiving lots of tourists as the old times. Now, many old Shanghainese still keep the custom of burning the first incense in Chenghuang Temple on New Year's Eve, welcoming the God of Wealth on the 5th day of first lunar month, and worshiping the Taisui on one's animal year.
The most famous resident of old Chengxiang is the Shanghainese well-known Xu Guangqi. Now in the Jiu Jian Lou, 244 Qiaojia Road, the former residence and ancestral hall of Xu Guangqi are still retained. Qiaojia Road now is the historical and cultural street. Other than Xu Guangqi, the general of Ming Dynasty Qiao Yiqi was born and raised here too, but after the chaos caused by war, his former residence Zuile Hall and earlier precious cultural relics were all destroyed. During this period, there were Yaoju Alley and Yaowang Temple in the Qing Dynasty. During the Cultural Revolution, the statue of Yan Emperor "Shen Nong Shi" was smashed. After demolished in the middle of 1970s and turned into the public house, Yaowang Temple remained only in the memory of old people.
Nonlocal tourists always like to go to the Bund and Oriental Pearl Tower. They have no idea that the real Shanghai flavor is all in the old alleys of Chengxiang like Qiaojia Road. Small and narrow tobacco shops write "gorgon fruit", "dried shrimp meat", “Ningbo rice dumpling", and "toon sprout" on the small blackboard as in the past.
Xu Uncle, who used to live in Zheng Xiuli, Qiaojia Road, said that the house in Lao Zao Di is called Guo Jie Lou, in the middle of the alley was the street, but there was an area that protruded from the top of the building like a balcony, through which people could get to the opposite, thus, it was called "Guo Jie Lou. There were wing-rooms on the front and back of the house, the younger generation lived in the back of the wing-room where the sunlight couldn't get through. The older people such as grandmas lived in the front wing-room. The old Chengxiang in their childhood means the memory of sugar dumplings, Tiaotou pudding, salt gold jujube, deep-fried dough sticks, and Xiexietou. The cornucopla that wrapped by Xiexietou was sold at only one penny, but it was the supreme delicacy for children at that time.
Xu Uncle said, the most happiness of childhood is eating the snack. After eating the snack, they would roll the toilet seat to Chenghuang Temple with friends. When the Spring Festival comes, after kowtowing to the elder, they would get New Year’s money of one Jiao, and happily went to buy Ligao candies and five-flavored beans, then went out and had fun in Yuyuan Garden. The earliest river of Jiuqu Bridge fostered a pile of kois. Sometimes when a foreigner came, there would be hundreds of people curious about him/her. Of course, the old Chengxiang was very fashion since very early: the earliest old Chengxiang taxi was called small Wuju: the outside of Wuju is tarpaulin, there are three wheels under it; it took one Jiao and several pennies for a ride, so an ordinary family could not afford this.
In the past, people who drank tea in Huxin Pavilion of Yuyuan Garden were not the tourists, they are all local residents, several customers gathered around one table, and a whole afternoon would be past leisurely. If you wanted to be more civilian-style, you could go the Lao Hu Zao on the old Jiaochang Road. It served tea and sometimes there would have artists singing Pingtan and telling stories; people could take shower too, one penny for a bottle of boiling water, wood could also be used to trade for boiled water.
Now the small commodity markets in Fuyou Road inside the old Chengxiang are all filled up with big or small businesses of merchants from Yiwu and Wenzhou. When the houses in Fumin Street were not demolished, only natives here could run market stalls in their own facade rooms or on roads. At spare time, except drinking tea and talking about "Mountains-Seas Book", people also searched antiques and old books on the street. The old book market in Wen Temple is very famous in Shanghai, now it still opens on every Sunday morning. However, time has past and things have changed, old books now are much more expensive than new books. Those who used to search antiques were the vendors on the street. People did not have the courage to sell "Sijiu (the four olds: old thought, old culture, old custom, old habit)" until the Cultural Revolution ended. Things sold out there were not all fake goods, so sophisticated faddists sometimes could find some valuable things there.
Now the old Chengxiang, along with Yuyuan Garden, has become one of the landmarks of Shanghai after demolition and renovation. In the patches of pseudo-classic architectures and busy shopping mall block, from the small commodity buildings to the jewelry stores, old restaurants and shopping malls, tourists are everywhere. Whether you are in shopping sprees, searching the old and quiet place or enjoying the flowers, you could always find the new and old Shanghai flavors in the old Chengxiang.
What other places can you visit around Yuyuan Garden?
Gucheng Garden ( Shanghai South Qianye Society)
Shanghai South Qianye Society, which located in Anren Street, west of Gucheng Garden, was used to be the place where Shanghai Money Shop does the consultation and prays for Budda's help. It is the earliest "Bank Club" in Shanghai. It was a construction in the Qing Dynasty, which renovated in another place, has a floor area of 800 square meters, three entrances, the front is brick carved Menlou. There is a tea house in the center, and the hall is in the back; French window, Liang Fang carved with flowers. The three-ridges-and-memorial-arch-style brick carved Menlou has the most delicate carving, while the screen walls on both sides are carved with some folk patterns like "fortune is ahead", and "two gods of harmony and integrity". After seeing this delicate old construction, taking a walk in the garden and breathing the fresh air, it is very comfortable and cozy.
Address: Gucheng Garden, Anren Street
Lubo Corridor, a century-old well-known restaurant, has received lots of foreign leaders. It offers the unadulterated Benbang cuisine, the specialty crystal shrimp is very elastic and delicious, and the "eight-treasure" duck is very tasty. And the clear and crystal osmanthus pudding is appetizing and sweet, while the three sliced meats of Meitousu and crisp peel are marvelous. If you're tired of visiting the stores around Yuyuan Garden, you can come here and sit by the window to enjoy a good view of the landscape of Jiuqu Bridge, and it's a feast for your mouth too.
Address: No.115 Yuyuan Road, Old Chenghuang Temple
Tel: +86-21-63280602, +86-21-63559999-1733
Moonlight Tea House
Although it is a new tea house, it has the old charm as Yuyuan Garden. The desks and chairs in the Ming and Qing Dynasties modeled after antiques and all kinds of old accessories, along with the people singing Suzhou Pingtan on the stage, everything looks like those in an old tea house. Tea, nuts, fruits and snacks are all provided. Enjoying sunflower seeds, tasting tea, and listening to Pingtan, the life couldn't be more comfortable.
Address: 4/F, Yu’an Pavilion, No.235 Middle Fangbang Road (near An’ren Street)
Tel: +86-21-58777797, 63301237
Treasure House with four floors is an antique market. Things are different on each floor. From the first floor to the third floor, there are different kinds of jewelries, stones and antiques: from “East China Sea” Crystal to emeralds from Yunnan Province and Burma, as well as ivories, rosewood and silver accessories, even the "Cultural Revolution" souvenirs; on the fourth floor, there is free fair on every Saturday. Those who love antiques, jades or old things can come here. However, if you're a new hand, you should go with a sophisticated friend, or just have a look.
Address: No.457 Middle Fangbang Road
Shanghai Classical Restaurant
Shanghai Classical Restaurant, the old brand of Benbang cuisine with a long history, absolutely has the traditional flavor characterized by plenty of oil and sauce. Eight-treasure duck has contained many "materials", and the flavor of sweet sauteed shrimps is just like the flavor that mother cooked when we were young. It is said that the old restaurant is being decorated, and it will probably be refreshing when it opens again.
Address: 242 Fuyou Road
Mosque on Fuyou Road
The original name of the mosque on Fuyou Road was Chuanxin Street Chapel. Later, it changed its name into Chuanxin Street Mosque. It was founded in the ninth year of Tongzhi Reign in the Qing Dynasty (1870). During the "Cultural Revolution", the mosque halted all religious activities, and resumed them after its renovation in 1979. The mosque faces north, with arch-shaped flower plaid iron gate. The crossbar of the gate is carved with three Chinese Character "Qing Zhen Si". Entering the gate, there is an arch-shaped internal screen, a stone monument carved with "Wuben Hall" stands there. There is a court through the interior door, while on the south side of it is a Sanjinlibai Hall. Muslims enter the main hall for worships on Monday, and the great hall for discussion, teaching, wedding, funeral, and other rituals (for rites and mass greetings at festivals and grand ceremonies) on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Address: 378 Fuyou Road
Dajing Pavilion (Shanghai Old Chengxiang’s Historic Preservation Exhibition)
Dajing Pavilion is a bit far from Yuyuan Garden, but it is the best conclusion of Yuyuan Garden. Dajing Pavilion, which was built in Jiajing Reign years in the Ming Dynasty, used to be a part of Shanghai City Walls. It was demolished after the revolution of 1911, but the section related to the Guangong Temple on the city walls was reserved. Guangong Temple has the plaque of “Da Qian Sheng Jing” inscribed by Governor Chen Luan of Jiangnan and Jiangxi in Daoguang Reign years of the Qing Dynasty, so it is also called "Dajing Pavilion". The bottom floor of Dajing Pavilion has the 400-square-meter exhibition area of Old Chengxiang’s history, which provides abundant and vivid materials for visitors to know the vicissitude of Shanghai.
Address: No.259 Dajing Road
Tel: +86-21-63135582, 63266171