Sheshan, a Hiking Through the Scenic Hill in Shanghai     

Sheshan (佘山) is located in Songjiang district, west of Shanghai. It consists of two forested hills, the East Sheshan and the West Sheshan. They are parts of the Sheshan National Forest Park, which includes, for example, the East Sheshan, the West Sheshan, the Tianmashan (天马山), and the Xiaokunshan (小昆山).

Sheshan is the only mountain range in Shanghai. The bamboo forest walkway, the hiking trails, thousands of plant species, bird watching, and picnic places make the place a perfect day trip destination. It has not only the natural sites but also the cultural sites, such as the observatory and the giant Basilica at the peak of the west Sheshan. The place is in general known by the locals. But if you book a private landscape tour to explore the west suburb area of Shanghai, this site is also on its agenda.

The hiking trail is good for all skill levels and is accessible year-round. All paths lead up to the west hill. Both hills are next to each other and linked by a small valley in between. Therefore, visitors can see them on the same day easily.

The scenic area has very good facilities and is a family-friendly tourist resort. Visitors can take a rest in the pavilions along the hiking route. After several hundred metres there is always a toilet. The small kiosks offer simple snacks and drinks at reasonable prices.

The East Sheshan

The suggested route

All sites are easily reachable. There are many places where people can stop for a rest. The park is maintained regularly. So it might be the case that not all sites are open on the same day. Nevertheless, there are enough scenic places to satisfy your outdoor enthusiasm.

It is suggested to start from the South Gate and exit at the West Gate. In that way, it is easier to continue to trail to the West Sheshan without any detour. I walked through the following sites:

  • South Gate
  • The 368 stairs
  • Baishishan Pavilion
  • Bamboo Path
  • Forest Coffee Bar
  • The 22.4-meter-high Fire Brigade Tower
  • Qianglong Pavilion
  • West Gate
The 368 Stairs

To start the hiking through the East Sheshan, I arrived at the South Gate. Shortly after the South Gate are the 368 stairs up to the mountain. There is a short-cut on the left side which will lead the way to the West Gate. But I decided to take the 368 steps and see several sites before I headed to West Sheshan. The stone-paved stairs are very wide and easy to walk up the hill. Having walked around 200 steps, on the right side of the stairs, I saw the Baishishan Pavilion. There I took my first break and tried to capture the scenic views of the south side.

368 stairs in west Sheshan, Shanghai
Baishishan Pavilion from the east Sheshan, Songjiang, Shanghai
Baishishan Pavilion from the east Sheshan, Songjiang, Shanghai
The Bamboo Path

Behind the Baishishan Pavilion, there is the Bamboo Path. It was in the Spring when all the bamboos were growing. The root of the Spring bamboos are edible and is a delicacy in the local food culture. The entire area is fenced to protect the bamboo forest. People can dig the fresh bamboo roots only in the dedicated area by joining organized activities. Such activities are also part of the local bamboo festival. As I walked further along the bamboo path, I saw someone was digging the bamboo roots, outside the fenced area and along the roadside. I stood there watched them for a while. It took them nearly a half an hour to find a root deep in the soil. It seems not so easy to find them.

The Forest Coffee Bar

The Bamboo Path leads to the South Peak, according to my map. But I turned back and walked toward the Forest Coffee Bar. The name itself is appealing.  In fact, it is also a kiosk with more seats available. A nicely made entrance points the way to the bar.

A few steps further away the Forest Coffee Bar is the sightseeing platform in a mushroom shape. I was happy to have a break there and enjoy the view without any obstacle. The fog was gone and the the air was clear. Next to it is the 22.4-meter-high Fire Brigade Tower, highlighted by its red and yellow colour.

Exit via the Qianglong Road

In front of the Fire Brigade Tower is Qianglong Ancient Road, named after the emperor Qianglong form Qing Dynasty. Continue walking alone the road I reached the Qianglong Pavilion where I could have the next break. The Qianglong Road leads to the North Peak and another sightseeing platform. I opted for getting down the hill and then walking towards the west gate. It is also possible to hike back to the south gate directly by following the driveway.

The restaurant and the hotel between the East and West Sheshan Park

Outside of the west gate, there are two hotels. The restaurant that belongs to the Forest Hotel (森林宾馆) offers many local dishes. Each dish has a picture on a big wall. The guests can choose from around 50 dishes. Prices are displayed on the pictures. Waiters don’t speak English. But international guests should have no problem to order the food based on the pictures. Many dishes also use bamboo roots as one ingredient.

The Lan Sun Mountain Villa (兰笋山庄) occupies a large compound. There are many scenic places and recreational sites near Sheshan. Places like the Yuehu Sculpture Park, the Zuibaichi Park, the Fang Pagoda Park, the Chenshan Botanical Garden and other theme parks are all the outdoor destinations. If one plans to stay in the area for a couple of days, this hotel is a good choice. You can find this hotel at HotelsCombined.com.

West Sheshan

Between the west gate of the East Sheshan Park and the east gate of the West Sheshan Park is the Waiqingsond Road. Just cross the street I was in front of the east gate of the West Sheshan Park. There are also many attractions on the West Sheshan Park, such as the Sheshan Basilica. It is the biggest church in Southeast Asia and is also the landmark architecture of Sheshan Mountain. The Sheshan Observatory was one of the earliest and largest observatories in China. The Astronomy Museum is a National Science Education Base. Besides, Seismographic Station is one of the earliest institutes for earthquake research.

Suggested hiking route

There are much more visitors around there, compared to the East Sheshan Park. The suggested route starts from the east gate is as follow:

  • East Gate
  • Xiudaozhe Tower
  • Century Belfry
  • Sheshan Basilica
  • Sheshan Observatory and Astronomy Museum
  • Way of Sorrows
  • the Wooden Boardwalk
  • East Gate or North Gate
Xiudaozhe Tower in the west Sheshan, Songjiang, Shanghai
Xiudaozhe Tower in the west Sheshan, Songjiang, Shanghai
Century Belfry in west Sheshan, Shanghai
Century Belfry in west Sheshan, Shanghai

After entering the east gate of the West Sheshan Park, there is a tourist centre where visitors could get maps for the area. There is also a map on the board outside the centre. The first site is the Xiudaozhe Tower. It has a wooden structure. It has eight-story and is an octagonal shape.  According to the Legendary, a hermit called “Xiu” had participated in the construction of the tower. After the completion, he burnt himself to become a martyr. Therefore, “Xiu” become part of the tower’s name.

Sheshan Basilica

On the way to the Sheshan Basilica, I passed the Century Belfry. The well-maintained belfry is closed to the public. Going forward, it took me around 10 minutes to finally reach the peak of the West Sheshan, surmounted by the Sheshan Basilica. Along the way, I could see Fire Brigade Tower in red-yellow color on the peak of the East Sheshan, and the Lan Sun Mountain Villa is in the forest at the foot of the Sheshan.

The construction of the Basilica started in 1925 and lasted 10 years. The hill itself has an even longer Christian history as a Jesuit monk purchased part of it in 1863. Since that time, the hill has become a place of Christian belief. In the 1940s, the Sheshan Basilica became the most famous Catholic church in the far east. Even today, many pilgrims visit the basilica to worship the Christian God. However, the Cultural Revolution damaged the church severely. All paintings and stained glass windows were destroyed. In 1981 the government returned the church to the Shanghai Diocese and so the basilica got renovated.

The peak of the East Sheshan
Sheshan Basilica
Sheshan Basilica

From far away, visitors can see the red brick church with its 38-meter-high bell tower. The church itself is in a cruciform shape. The construction didn’t use single nails, beams or steel. Besides, the whole interior is made of granite. Above the marble altar the Virgin Mother, holding Jesus Christ in her arms, watches over the faithful. It can host up to 3000 people at the same time. Its colonnade architecture is impressive.

Sheshan Astronomical Museum

Ninety-nine meters above sea level, the former Sheshan observatory was established by the French Mission in 1900. Later, the Sheshan Astronomical Museum was founded in 2004 in the main building of the former Sheshan Observatory. It was China’s first modern observatory equipped with dome and big telescope. The museum shows the history of the modern astronomy in China supported by plenty of history information, exhibition and interactive scientific learning. It was a clear day, and I was lucky to have nice views over Shanghai’s suburban area. This is also a major place where many visitors take a rest there.

Sheshan Astronomical Museum (source)
Way of Sorrows

Below the Basilica there is a zigzag path through the bamboo forest. The path links 14 stations on each curve and forms the Way of Sorrow. The stations imitate the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem which is believed to be the actual path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary. Inside the stations are a series of 14 holy images. I saw scenes such as “Jesus carries His cross”, “Jesus falls for the first time”, and “Jesus meets His mother Mary”.

The wooden boardwalk

Follow the zigzag path visitors can turn back to the east gate in a few minutes of walking. But, I went back to the main driveway and continued walking towards the east. After around 10 minutes of walking, I arrive at the entrance to the wooden boardwalk. The wooden boardwalk is quite wide and allows two people to pass at the same time. There is notable less crowd, most of the time I was alone there. The sitting places use the same type of wood. Bushes and trees cover the walkway.

Way of Sorrow beneath Basilica of west Sheshan
Way of Sorrow beneath Basilica of west Sheshan
Wooden boardwalk at west Sheshan
Exit at either the North Gate or the East Gate

The boardwalk ends up at the junction of the roads to the North Gate and the East Gate to the left side. I suggest exiting at the east gate where the buses to the subway station stop. The bus stop is just in front of the Adcote Boarding School founded in the UK in 1907.

Travel tips

Near Sheshan, there are many scenic and cultural sites. Those who are short in time can join a private landscape tour. The tour takes you to the Sheshan Basilica, the Grand View Garden and the Dianshan Lake. The Grand View Garden and complex were the main scenes in the famous classic novel “A Dream of Red Chamber”(红楼梦) written by Cao Xueqin in the 18th century. It was a sad romantic story about two wealthy families during the Qing-Dynasty. Fiction is a masterpiece of Chinese literature. The novel was the manuscript for the films for many many times. It was a popular TV series in China. Read more about Private Landscape Tour at Viator.com.

The Grand View Garden near Dianshan Lake, Shanghai
The Grand View Garden near Dianshan Lake, Shanghai (viator.com)

Where to stay

Sheshan is in the Songjiang District, Shanghai. While Songjiang has become the new tourist destination, some tourist resorts are well-developed in the area. In general, hotels with high-standard are cheaper than those in the city centre. All hotels selected by me can be found at Booking.com or HotelsCombined.com.

InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland

This is the deepest hotel in the world! It has been masterfully built directly into the side wall of a quarry decommissioned for over a decade. It features 2 above ground storeys and 15 storeys that stretch 88 meters below altitude, creating a breath-taking facade. The hotel itself is a site in the area and is available at Booking.com or HotelsCombined.com.

InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland (source)

Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental

Surrounded by tropical gardens and boasting both indoor and outdoor swimming pools, the luxurious Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental presents a classic Mediterranean architecture, luxurious guest rooms and elegant dining options. The hotel is available at Booking.com or HotelsCombined.com.

Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental
Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental (source)

Ramada Shanghai Songjiang

Boasting a restaurant, Ramada Shanghai Songjiang is a hotel is set in Songjiang, only 5 minutes’ drive from Songjiang University Subway Station. It is 10 minutes’ drive from Sheshan National Forest Park and Chenshan Botanical Garden. The hotel is available at Booking.com or HotelsCombined.com.

Ramada Shanghai Songjiang (source)

The Yuluxe Sheshan

This is the former Le Meridien She Shan Shanghai hotel. It is located by the shore of Yuehu Lake, Shanghai’s largest, and features modern and chic rooms offering scenic views. A luxurious spa and a fully-equipped fitness centre are available. The hotel is just a 5-minute drive away from Happy Valley theme park and is available at Booking.com or HotelsCombined.com.

The Yuluxe Sheshan
The Yuluxe Sheshan (source)

Related post: Historic Hotels in Shanghai, Where the City’s Old Lifestyle is Represented

How to get there

Take the Shanghai subway 9 and get off at the Sheshan station. Then, take the No. 92 and get off at the Sheshan National Forest Park station. However, the bus doesn’t arrive frequently. Meanwhile, some private persons offer a drive to the Sheshan. But don’t take their offers. It is not cheap and unsafe. It is easy to call an official taxi just outside the subway station. For example, the taxi to the south gate of East Sheshan costs around 17 RMB.

What to pack

The Sheshan Forest Park is a pleasant getaway from the urban hustle and bustle of Shanghai. To be well prepared for the outdoor excursion, I suggest to pack the following things:

  • Through the trails are all paved, you should still wear a pair of comfortable shoes to avoid potential accidents.
  • The kiosks sell water and soft drinks. But it is better to carry a bottle of water because you can easily get thirsty during the hiking.
  • Not all the toilets are at the newest standard. Prepare for some toilet paper to avoid embarrassing situations.
  • The kiosks sell some basic snacks. They might not be your favourite. Bring some  snacks to have a picnic while enjoying the pleasant views.

 

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