Speciality produce and craft from poorer regions is food for thought

Oct 18, 2018 | By Chen Huizhi

BEEF from Tibet, walnuts from Xinjiang, tea from Yunnan and orange wine from Chongqing are on sale at  special exhibitions in Shanghai which run until October 22. One of the showcases of specialties from seven provinces, autonomous and cities began yesterday at the Yuanshen Sports Center in Pudong New Area. It is being organized by the Shanghai government's office of domestic poverty relief and cooperation. The opening marked China's fifth National Day of Poverty Relief. Shanghai residents and businesses have the chance to purchase more than 5,000 types of food, ingredients and handicrafts from Yunnan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, Guizhou, Chongqing and Hubei. One of the exhibitors is Aygul, director of “Siluguoxiang”, an agricultural trader based in Yarkant County, Kashgar in Xinjiang. Aygul said she has been selling walnuts, grapes, apples, almonds and dates from Kashgar at agricultural exhibitions in Shanghai  for years. She said the quality of the province's agricultural products had improved thanks to agricultural experts from Shanghai. “Previously our farmers harvested apples too early," she said. "Now they have learned to abide their time so that they can have bigger and sweeter fruit. They also produce apples of different classes to cater to different consumers.” The economic cooperation between Shanghai and Kashgar enables traders like Aygul to sell farm produce from Xinjiang directly to businesses in Shanghai, including restaurants and supermarkets. The Shanghai government said the development of local tourism has generated more than 400 new jobs in Kashgar so far this year. According to Aygul, the flow of tourists is not only in one direction. “With the expansion of trade volume in the past few years, our farmers have seen annual income grow several times, and some of them told me that they’re planning to travel to Shanghai,” she said. “It was unthinkable a few years back when they couldn’t even sell their products." Danbei Jiacan is the legal representative of a Tibetan culture company based in Golog, Qinghai, which promotes Dernang Sadris, a Tibetan calligraphy art, which is China’s national cultural heritage. He is attending the exhibition to seek a market for the unique Tibetan art from Golog. “Three years ago, 1,000 of our artists took part in an art training at Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts,” he said.  “Now I hope that we’ll soon have an art and craft college in my hometown and that in cooperation with partners in Shanghai we can modernize and market our art products here.” The first day of the exhibition already drew a lot of interest. Ruan Jiaming, Shanghai Fengxian Economic Development Co, signed a number of framework agreements of cooperation with the exhibitors. He said he is sourcing products to place on the shelves of the company’s community outlets. “Those areas are home to a lot of products that can’t be grown here in Shanghai and are very much loved by Shanghai consumers,” he said. “In Qinghai, for example, they have high quality Chinese caterpillar fungus and saffron.” On the side of the exhibition, about 30 companies, government organizations signed cooperation agreements. Apart from Yuanshen Sports Center, the exhibition can also be found at Minhang Gymnasium, Jiading Stadium and Shanghai Agricultural Exhibition Hall. The exhibitions at the sports center, the gymnasium and the stadium are being held until October 21, while at the agricultural exhibition hall it will be held from October 19 to 22.

Worming way to unclogging waste wetlands

Oct 17, 2018 | By Ma Yue

Earthworms are helping to reduce clogging in artificial wetlands used to treat sewage in rural areas surrounding Shanghai. Artificial wetlands are a low cost and technologically simple way to treat sewage. However, poor design and management can lead to clogging  which results in pollution. Research by the Shanghai Academy of Environmental Sciences,  showed that a particular species of earthworm – Eisenia foetida – can effectively reduce  clogging matter and effectively dredge the wetlands. Artificial wetlands are rich in water plants like canna and calamus, which absorb the chemical contents of nitrogen and phosphorus. Their roots also help purify other substances. “In winter, dead plants which are not removed can effect the wetlands’ functioning, while an excess amount of sewage can lead to clogging,” said an engineer at the academy’s water environment research center. “The wetlands then become ‘sticky’, and the ponding of sewage causes insect and pollution problems.” A report by United States Environmental Protection Agency showed that about half of artificial wetlands face clogging problems after five years of use.  The problem can be solved by changing the under layer, but that is costly. According to the academy’s research, about 10 percent of the clog matter is protein and polysaccharides. Despite this low percentage, they are the main cause of clogging. “But they happen to be the favorite food of Eisenia foetida," said the engineer. "Our test results showed that the metabolism and uptake by Eisenia foetida could effectively reduce the clog matter content at a higher average removal rate than micro organisms alone. Their movements also help dredge the wetlands.” A test was held by the academy at a 100-square meter wetland in Fengxian district where 1.5 kilograms of the worms were used. They absorbed about 0.18-0.25 grams of clog matter.   After three weeks, the porosity rate of the wetlands' under layer has been increased by three percentage points. Due to the habits of earthworms, the solution only suits the wetlands in rural areas rather than the urban sewage system, which has already been applied to some wetland fixing projects in Qingpu and Chongming districts. A Shanghai annals in 2016 showed that over 200,000 tons of domestic sewage were produced in Shanghai’s rural areas per day. A certain amount of the sewage was discharged directly into the rivers due to lack of sewage treatment system. By the end of last year, sewage treatment facilities, including those using wetlands, have covered 56 percent of rural area households. By the end of 2020, the figure should rise to 75 percent.

Statue of Buddha doing a V-sign invitation to all

Oct 16, 2018 | By Lu Feiran

I’d heard a lot about Longmen Grottoes in Henan Province, one of four notable grottoes in China, since I was a child – how it represented the crowning achievement of Buddhism art in China and how it survived wars and lootings. But when the grotto appeared in front my own eyes, I realized that no story could compete with the real thing. After a battery-powered car took me and other visitors from the ticket office to the entrance to the scenic area, I walked along the river toward the grottoes. The Yihe is a tributary of the Huanghe River. The grottoes are distributed on the mountain cliffs on both sides of the river. The main attractions are on the west side, on the cliffs of Longmen Mountain. From the Northern Wei (384-536AD) to the Northern Song (960AD-1127) dynasties, the sculpting of the grottoes lasted more than 400 years. While the Dunhuang Grottoes in Gansu Province are mainly known for their frescos, here in Longmen, the art of ancient Chinese sculptures reached its supremacy. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. The grottoes have more than 2,100 caves, in which more than 100,000 statues were sculpted. The oldest caves, the Binyang Caves, are not far from the entrance. The caves were built for 24 years and the original sites are still retained. In the caves, a Buddha statue is popular online as he is doing a “V sign” with his right hand. It is praised as the “cutest” Buddha ever. Experts say the “V sign” is actually one of the rarely seen Buddhism gestures that has something to do with Esoteric Buddhism. The gesture probably means that the Buddha takes all the people in. The image of Buddha statues in the Northern Wei Dynasty was very different from those of the later Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). The Northern Wei statues had the look of northern ethnic people, with a relatively thin face and broad forehead. The typical Buddha statue of the Tang Dynasty can be found at the largest cave, which is called Fengxian Temple. First dug during the Tang Dynasty, the temple was ordered by Emperor Gaozong (628-683AD) to be built to bless the soul of his father, Emperor Taizong (598-649AD). Nine huge statues were lined up in the grotto, including the Buddha, two of his disciples, two Bodhisattva, two warrior guardians and two providers. A long staircase extended from the foot of the mountain to the grotto to show the devoutness of the pilgrims. The clothes on the statues seemed different, too, as carvings showed that the clothes were thinner, softer and more silk-like than those represented by Northern Wei artists. The 17.14-meter Buddha in the temple is the largest of all in the grottoes, and his ears alone are two meters long. The statues, different from those in the Binyang Caves, are all of typical Tang style, with a round face, slant eyes and a plump figure. It seemed that Emperor Gaozong and his wife and successor, Empress Wu Zetian (624-705AD), were a pair of devout Buddhists as they ordered the building several main caves during their reign. The Moya Three Buddhas Cave was created during Wu’s time. There are actually seven statues in the cave, and they represent three statuses of Buddhas, the past, present and future. The Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of Future, sits in the center of all seven, which is quite rare in Chinese Buddhist expressions. The cave, however, was never finished as construction stopped after Wu died. However, that is a blessing rather than a pity for researchers, as it tells later generations the process of how the sculptures were made. Although the Tang Dynasty contributed a lot for the grottoes, the period was also when the sculptures suffered the greatest damage. About a hundred years after Wu died, Emperor Wuzong (814-846AD), hated Buddhism as many men became monks to shun taxes. He forced monks to leave temples and resume a secular life, and destroyed many temples around the country. The Longmen Grottoes didn’t escape the disaster. But it was ironic that, after he died, his son started to worship Buddha. Disaster struck again in the early 20th century. When China was involved in wars from the 1930s to the 1940s, the grottoes were suffered severe damage because they lacked management. Many statues, inscriptions and reliefs were stolen and sold to Japan, the United States and Europe. That’s why many statues I saw were incomplete, some with their heads were missing, some hands were missing, and some caves were just empty. What I saw was more shocking than any stories I have read on the cruelty of history. But it’s fortunate that I was able to see what has survived from all that catastrophe and are still standing. After centuries, the grottoes are no longer about religion but human beings, because the art is, indeed, as UNESCO commented: “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity.” Temple praised by historical figures On Xiangshan Mountain, right next to the Longmen Grottoes, the 1,500-year-old Xiangshan Temple attracts visitors who have finished sightseeing at the grottoes. The temple might not be as famous as the grottoes, but it has won the favor of many historical figures. Wu Zetian, the only Empress in Chinese history, ordered to renovate the temple after she took the sovereignty in Luoyang and often visited and stayed. Writer Bai Juyi (772-846AD) also paid to restore the temple and collected more than 5,000 scrolls of Buddhism scriptures to donate to the temple. After he died, he was buried right next to the temple on the Pipa Peak of Xiangshan Mountain, which is called “Baiyuan Garden” today. Hundreds of years later, Emperor Qianlong (1711-99) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) also visited the temple and praised it as “the best temple among dozens in Longmen.” He wrote an inscription that is still kept in the temple today. Different from most Zen temples, which usually use yellow and red as dominant hues, the buildings in the temple are in a more colorful Tang Dynasty style. The most notable building in the temple, however, is a modern style villa that seems incompatible with the rest. The two-story building is called “Chiang-Soong Villa” and was built in the 1930s by the Luoyang government to celebrate the 50th birthday of Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), former chief of Kuomintang. In fact, Chiang and his wife Soong Mei-ling (1897-2003) only stayed for 36 days in the villa and the birthday celebration became a get-together of Kuomintang senior generals. If you go: There are direct flights from Shanghai to Luoyang. At Luoyang Railway Station, the No. 81 bus reaches the ticket office of the Long Grottoes Scenic Area. The ticket office is about three kilometers from the grottoes, and battery-powered cars between the two are available. The sightseeing route starts from the western side of Yihe River. After reaching the end of the route, visitors can walk across a bridge on the river and reach the eastern side. Walking past the remaining grottoes takes you to Xiangshan Mountain and Baiyuan Garden. Opening hours: 7:30am-10pm from April 1 to October 7, 7:30am-6pm from October 8 to 31, 8am-6pm from February 1 to March 31, 8am-5:30pm from November 1 to January 31 next year. Admissoin: 120 yuan (US$18), including admission to Xianshang Mountain and Baiyuan Garden

Factories old and new offer interesting tours

Oct 16, 2018 | By Lu Feiran

Sightseeing destinations don’t have to be far mountains or distant seas. Sometimes they can also be unlikely places close to home. One of the most interesting in that category are factories, both past and present. In Shanghai, many old manufacturing sites have been rehabilitated into creative zones, and many factories still in production have developed museums and activities to attract visitors. “Creative zones modified from old plants are open at any time, but plants still in operation accept only groups on a pre-booking basis,” says Xu Kejian, director of the Shanghai Industrial Tourism Promotion Center. It recommends several sites worth a visit. Here are some of the most popular. Factories of the past 1933 Old Millfun In the Hongkou District, a giant gray building that was a slaughterhouse in the 1930s now hosts workshops, studios, bars and cafés. It’s hard nowadays to imagine such a large abattoir in downtown Shanghai, but back in its day, the building’s locale was far less busy. Now known as the 1933 Old Millfun, the building features maze-like passageways and concreate walls and pillars. Without painted walls, floor tiles or interior décor, it looks a bit rough. But keeping the original look part of the site’s allure. The building was designed by British architect Andrew Balfour in 1933. With wide open spaces in the central part, the building allowed the whole construction to remain cool in summer and well ventilated in winter. Concrete ramps used to herd livestock are a chilling reminder of what occurred there. Since 2007, the site has become a creative landmark in Shanghai. Movies are shot there, dramas are performed and Internet celebrities find it an ideal background for live-stream videos. 1933 Old Millfun Address: 10 Shajing Rd, Hongkou District, Open: 9am to 10pm The Yangpu section of the Huangpu Riverside The 45-kilometer-long Huangpu Riverside walkway runs through an area of old factories in the Yangpu District. It is a historical tribute to the industrial powerhouse that began in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and helped underpin Shanghai’s economic development. The old sites include the China Merchants Steam Navigation Co, established in 1873; the Yangshupu Water Plant that went into operation in 1881; and the UK-based Jardine Matheson Cotton Mill. The old facilities have become an iconic part of the riverside walkway. Visitors can see the old welding docks of ship-repair factories and the British-style construction of the water plant. Pipes and steel frames form the landscape. Walking along the trail is like a trip through a museum of modern industrial history. Address: the Huangpu Riverside from Huaide Road to Dandong Road Red Town The site of a former cold rolled steel plant of the Shanghai No. 10 Steel Factory has been turned into a creative zone known as Red Town. The area is now undergoing another restoration, and all the old buildings, covering an area just over the size of a standard football field, will be retained. The name might come from the look of the red-brick buildings. The original interior, including gray cement columns and steel-bracketed ceilings, give the venue a somewhat cold atmosphere. In recent years, Red Town has also come to be known as the Shanghai Sculpture Space. Sculptures on the central lawn of the area, mostly in modernist and post-modernist styles, seem to work well with the old factory buildings and also will be retained. Red Town will be a centerpiece of plans to turn the area into a comprehensive CBD area focusing on the creative arts. Red Town Address: 570, Huaihai Road W Factories of the present SAIC Volkswagen Automotive Co As one of the first Sino-foreign joint automobile ventures in China after the country opened up to the outside world in 1978, SAIC Volkswagen Automotive Co in Anting in the Jiading District displays its best vehicle production technologies to tens of thousands of visitors every year. Visitors can view the development of electric cars at one of the world’s top plants for green vehicles and can watch efficient assembly lines of skilled workers and robots. The quality-control hall exhibits different models of cars produced in the plant. Meanwhile, visitors in Anting can also go around the Shanghai International Automobile City to complete a car-themed tour. The Shanghai Auto Expo provides the opportunity to try out an electric vehicle driving in the park, while the Shanghai Auto Museum tells the full history of automobile development with an exhibition of vintage cars. Visitors can also go around to the Shanghai Circuit, site of the annual Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix. SAIC Volkswagen Automotive Co Address: 5288, Cao’an Highway, Jiading District Open: 8:30am-10:30am, 12:30pm-3:30pm, Monday to Friday For tours, groups of about 10 people have to book a week ahead of time. More information is available on the hotline 5465-4890. Shanghai Shenxian Liquor Plant From outside its gate, the Shanghai Shenxian Liquor Plant in Fengxian District looks like a traditional Chinese garden instead of a modern factory. Inside, visitors can see the process of turning grain into alcohol. In the production area, visitors can view the different vessels used to process various grains from northeastern China, including wheat and sorghum. In the cellar, row upon row of liquor bottles are stored, aging for 10-20 years. A cultural gallery in the plant displays the history of Chinese liquor, showing how ancient Chinese distilleries worked and how liquor played a role in ancient societies. The plant, which had a history of half a century, started from several small family distilleries in the district. In 1958, the Fengxian government decided to merge them into one company. The Shenxian brand today is one of the most popular for white spirits in the city and has been designated an “intangible cultural heritage” of Shanghai. Shanghai Shenxian Liquor Plant Address: 2888, Xinsiping Highway, Xintuan Town, Fengxian District Open: 9am-16pm, Monday to Saturday Tour groups need to book a week ahead of time through the hotline 5464-4890 or 5753-6059.

New home sales double after holiday sentiment fades

Oct 15, 2018 | By Cao Qian

New home sales more than doubled in Shanghai last week as holiday sentiment faded away, the latest industry data showed. The area of new residential properties sold, excluding government-funded affordable housing, jumped 107.4 percent to about 117,000 square meters during the seven-day period ending Sunday, Shanghai Centaline Property Consultants said in a report released on Monday. The Pudong New Area, where some 21,000 square meters of new housing was sold, a week-over-week drop of 19.2 percent, continued to be the most sought-after area. The outlying Fengxian District also performed quite well, with transaction surging 166.7 percent to about 16,000 square meters, according to Centaline data. "Despite the rebound, the overall sentiment among home buyers was still pretty low as not a single project managed to register weekly sales exceeding 100 units," said Lu Wenxi, senior manager of research at Centaline. "However, as supply recovered as well, transaction volume might continue to improve over the next couple of weeks." The average cost of a new home fell to 59,291 yuan (US$8,570) per square meter, a weekly decline of 15 percent, mainly due to a structural shift, according to Centaline data. Half of the top 10 most sought-after projects cost no more than 50,000 yuan per square meter, and only one housing development with a price tag of more than 100,000 yuan per square meter, which sold 5,631 square meters, or 26 units, last week, managed to squeeze into the best-selling list. An apartment project in Fengxian emerged as the most popular after unloading nearly 8,000 square meters, or 81 units, for an average price of 36,853 yuan per square meter, Centaline data showed. On the supply side, some 152,000 square meters of new homes spanning six projects were released onto the local market last week, compared with zero supply during the previous seven-day session which was the National Day holiday.

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