Guilin Park (桂林公园) is one of the best parks in Shanghai and is well-known among the locals only. It is on the west of Shanghai near the Xujiahui commercial district.
There are hundreds of parks in Shanghai, classified as recreational parks, community parks, and traditional parks. But Guilin Park is one traditional park with a classic southern Chinese garden landscape.
If you visit Shanghai and are short on time to see the Suzhou gardens, this park can give you a strong impression of a traditional southern Chinese garden. It only takes you less than an hour to complete a round walk. Visit Guilin Park is also one of the cheap things you can do in Shanghai because the entrance ticket was only two yuan when I was there.
Background of the Guilin Park
It used to be the private garden of Huang Jinrong, the former Head of the Police Station of the French Concession and the head of the Shanghai Gangster. Built-in 1931, it took four years to construct the garden on the ground of an ancestral temple and graveyard. The elegant, delicate, and enjoyable designed garden was a showcase of Huang’s prestigious status.
In 1937, when the Japanese troop occupied Shanghai, the garden became the army base. The Japanese troop burned several original mansions and a temple when they left Shanghai. In 1957, the Shanghai government turned it into a public park. Over the years, several expansions and constructions have taken place. Gradually, it has become one of the best parks in Shanghai again. Today, the park covers an area of 35,509 square metres.
The main features of the park
On both sides of the main door is the 83-metre long dragon wall. The wall has 46 windows, similar to the style of Lingering Garden in Suzhou. The layout of the park demonstrates the profound craftsmanship and an artistic way of simulating nature.
The park has all elements a traditional southern Chinese garden would have. Beautiful pavilions, rock formations, ornamental windows, arched bridges, ponds, and shady walkways, all of them were nicely designed and arranged. Furthermore, the park has several sections, each with diffident layouts.
The buildings’ architectural style is bright. In the park, there are 15 different pavilions. They connect ponds, rock formations, bridges, and garden sections. You will find a pavilion at every corner. The Hexagonal Pavilion (六角亭) on the right side of the Sijiao Ting (四教亭) has inscriptions written by Jiang Jieshi for Huang Jinrong. And, the long corridor (九曲长廊) will leave everyone a strong impression.
Nearly every square metre is for design purposes. All elements are placed next to each other in harmony. The design reflects the Chinese traditional faith, to be close to nature. And everything should be in harmony with nature.
The Osmanthus trees and other plants
Guilin Park literary means Osmanthus Woods Park (桂林 in Chinese, “桂” means Osmanthus, while “林” means woods). It got its name since more than 1000 Osmanthus trees of over 20 different types, were planted there. These are, for example, Osmanthus Fragrans and Osmanthus Asiaticus.
Besides, two-thirds of the trees are evergreen, and one-third is deciduous. The park is also famous for its hundred-year-old pine tree and two-hundred-year-old Boxwoods.
In addition, other plants and fauna such as Peony, Pine, Cypress, White Magnolia, Cinnamomum are also scattered among the buildings. All elements in the garden are unified perfectly together and form a unique garden complex.
What to do
Guilin Park is not so close to the residential area. It is usually pretty silent compared to other larger neighborhood parks in the city. You can have a break or read o book in one of the 15 pavilions like the locals.
Or, you can follow those winding paths leading to every secret corner while appreciating the garden landscape.
Around the Chinese traditional mid-autumn festival, it is also the Osmanthus blooming period. The whole garden is full of sweet scents. Sometimes there are events taking place.
If you are with the family, this is an excellent place for the kids to play hide-and-seek games. From the kid’s point of view, this park is like a natural playground.
Though it is one of the best parks in Shanghai, many tourists are not aware of it. But it is worth a walk if you are on the west side of Shanghai.
How to get there
The address of Guilin Park is: No1, Guilin Road, Shanghai (桂林路1号)
Buses such as 830, 909, 224, 732, 43, 92 all stop near the park. Alternatively, you can take subway line 12. Exit the subway and enter the park from the north entrance.
The north entrance is at the corner of Caobao Road and Guilin Road. The park also has the south gate and west entrance.