Qibao, an Ancient Water Town near Shanghai


Qibao (七宝) Ancient Water Town is one of the closest water towns near Shanghai. Situated in southwest Shanghai at the center of Minhang District, Qibao Ancient Water Town is a town within the city of Shanghai. It has a long history dating back to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Prosperous in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Qibao is an ancient water town of a thousand years. The town derived its name from the Qibao Temple in the town, which is a famous Buddhist temple in the area. Through a few mottled lanes, you see shops line up, and tourists crowd out locals. Under the eaves of the roof, the old street scene shows the glory of the past.

The main interests

The main scene in the town is the Qibao old street (七宝老街, Qi Bao Lao Jie). The Qibao old street has two parts, the North Street (北大街) and South Street (南大街). The north street many shops sell arts, crafts, calligraphy, and souvenirs. The south street shops specialize in local food.

Qibao Ancient Water Town is not only famous for its charming scenery and ancient architectures but also famous for its variety of delicious local food. There are food stalls which sell typical local food along the south of the old street. Actually, it is the food street that Qibao ancient water town is famous for.

Local foods you could try

  1. Glutinous Rice Ball) (老街汤团, Lao Jie Tang Tuan)
  2. Begonia Cake (海棠糕, Hai Tang Gao)
  3. Salt Baked Quail Eggs (盐焗鹌鹑蛋, Yan Ju An Chun Dan)
  4. Beggar’s Chicken (叫化鸡, Jiao Hua Ji)
  5. Candied Haw in a Stick (糖葫芦, Tanghulu)

Other local snacks are such as Fried Stinky Tou Fu (油炸臭豆腐, You Zha Chou Dou Fu), Slices of Lamb Meat(白切羊肉, Bai Qie Yang Rou) or Braised Pork(酱猪蹄, Jiang Zhu Ti). Few can resist the temptation but try them. Most shops are small, and the kitchens are open to the public. You will be able to see cooking teams preparing foods freshly. Local people like also visit this place frequently. It is also one of the top 10 ancient water towns near Shanghai.

Related post: 12 Epic Ancient Water Towns near Shanghai

Glutinous Rice Ball (老街汤团, Lao Jie Tangtuan)

The glutinous rice ball is nothing than a bowl of steamed dumplings. It is the love of Shanghainese. The filling of glutinous rice balls can be such as sesame paste, peanut paste or minced meat.

One needs a certain skill to make Tangyuan. Sometimes visitors can see how the staffs make Tangyuan. First, they flat one piece of doughs and then pinch it in the middle. Then, they place sesame fillings in the middle of the dough. Afterward, they close the opening gently until the filling is completely hidden inside the dough. Gently shape the balls as round as possible by rolling between their hands. Inspired to make yourself?  The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook will tell you how to do.

Take a small bite if it, you feel the pastry is soft and chewy. The rich sesame flavour mixed with the aroma of the lard rolls over your tongue. Then, the sweetness of the filling suddenly hits the cells of your tongue. Be careful of the liquid lard, it is melted and thus very hot. Otherwise, you will get your tongue burnt.

Related post: The Best Restaurants near Yu Garden in Shanghai

Begonia Cake (海棠糕, Hai Tang Gao)

The type of cake is one of Shanghai’s famous snacks. The history of Begonia cake dated back in the Qing Dynasty. It is made in a special mold and has a shape of a giant Begonia flower (well, in reality, it does not really look that), which is named for this snack. The Begonia Cake is very authentic. When you take a bite, the crunchy caramel mixed with delicate bean paste and flow of sweetness signals your taste buds.
Begonia Cake (source: http://edition.cnn.com/travel/destinations/shanghai)
Begonia Cake (source)

Salt Baked Quail Eggs (盐焗鹌鹑蛋, Yan Ju An Chun Dan)

You can see some stalls on both sides of the street selling salt baked quail eggs. Each stall is made of salt and gypsum into a small nest. Inside of the salt heap is stuffed with quail eggs. The small and spotted eggs are really cute. A few Chinese yuan will buy a whole box.

Salt Baked Quail Eggs Sold in Qibao Ancient Water Town
Salt Baked Quail Eggs Sold in Qibao Ancient Water Town

Beggar’s Chicken (叫化鸡, Jiao Hua Ji)

The process of making a Beggar’s Chicken is cumbersome. In general, it is not very easy to do at home. Therefore, many people will come to Qibao to get one. To eat a beggar chicken, you need to peel off the lotus leaf and can use a hammer to crack the mud shell. The rich aroma and fresh meat will increase your appetizer right away.

There are different versions of stories about Beggar’s Chicken. According to legend long ago there was a beggar living near a village in Changshu County, Jiangsu Province. One day, he caught a chicken and wanted to cook for his meal. But, he had neither cooking utensils nor any seasoning for the cooking. Being frustrated, he slaughtered the chicken and coated with mud after removing internal organs. Then, the beggar piled up some dried leaves and set fire to roast the chicken. Until the mud dried, the chicken was also done. Lastly, the beggar crashed the mud shell and removed the chicken feather. He was overjoyed when he smelt the aroma of the chicken and devoured the chicken in lightening speed. And, the recipe was kept ever since.

Beggar's Chicken
Beggar’s Chicken

Candied Haw in a Stick (糖葫芦, Tanghulu)

Tanghulu, also called Bingtanghulu, is a traditional Chinese snack made of candied fruit. It typically has a hardened sugar coating that comes from dipping the skewer in sugar syrup. Traditionally, the fruits are Chinese hawthorn, but in recent times vendors also use various other fruits, such as strawberries, pineapples, kiwifruit, or bananas.

Suggested tour

The private Shanghai layover tour to Xinchang Ancient Town is perfect for your stopover in Shanghai. It is an all-inclusive private half-day tour. The tour guide will pick you up at Pudong International Airport. You will enjoy a relaxing boat ride and a tasty local lunch in this hidden gem where is less touristy. Don’t miss out this great chance to see the real water village of China even you just have a short stopover in Shanghai. To book this tour, please click here.

Other tours have different options. They usually combine with top sites in Shanghai. Let the local guide arrange things for you because that will save you lot of efforts, especially when you are short in time. Please check other tours at www.viator.com.

How to get to Qibao ancient water town

By metro: Take Shanghai metro line 9 and get off at Qibao (七宝) station. The station is in a very big shopping mall. Take the exit 2 to get out of the mall it takes about 5 to 10 minutes to walk to Qibao Ancient Water Town.

By bus: Take Bus 87, 91, 92, 186, 189, 196, 198, 709, 735, 748, 803, Hongqiao Hub Line 4 (虹桥枢纽4路),  Husong Line (沪松线) or Minhang Line 33 (闵行线33) and get off at Qibao Station.

Once you are out from Qibao Subway Station of Line 9, walk along Minzhu Road (民主路)to the south direction. At the T-junction, you turn left and walk along Qingnian Road (青年路) to the east direction. Soon you will see the entrance, an archway with the bell tower behind it.

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