Streets apart from Shanghai's hustle
Time traveling in an ancient town
By Ulas Birkan Cakilci  ·  2023-11-06  ·   Source: NO.45 NOVEMBER 9, 2023
The entrance to Anting Old Street in Shanghai (ULAS BIRKAN CAKILCI)

Visiting Anting Old Street made me rethink the story of my journey from Türkiye to China. My major motivation for coming was to get to know China's history and culture more intimately, and I knew that doing so would require not only reading books but also experiencing life in China's cities and on its streets.

My visit to this street, located in Anting Town, just outside the northwest border of metropolitan Shanghai, seemed to prove this. I felt as if I had been transported back hundreds of years, and as I rode my bicycle along the street, I began to feel a true sense of exploration. Exploring is a wonderful activity I picked up in Türkiye, and while I had originally planned to spend just a few hours exploring Anting Old Street, I lost track of time and began to experience the vibrant texture of life on the peripheries of Shanghai.

An important trade center that dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Anting Old Street is still lined with workshops producing handicrafts, carvings and paintings, as well as antique shops. The cobbled streets, ancient architecture and traditional lanterns create a pleasing aesthetic.

Biking from shop to shop, I stopped when I saw a group dancing guangchangwu, a type of dance practiced in unison in public squares across China. People in Türkiye are also very interested in traditional dances, although it is not as popular as in China. I remember when I first saw it here it made me feel at home, which is probably why I'm so fascinated by it.

After watching the dancers for a while, I continued my exploration, stopping close to Yansi Bridge, which was built in 1374. Some friendly locals offered me a cup of tea and told me the bridge gets its name from the Yanjing and Sijing rivers, which meet there on Anting Old Street. 

The end of the street takes travelers even further back in time, with the Puti Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Shanghai, dating back to the year 239. Walking through the temple's tree-lined grounds brings a sense of peace, and its many traditional buildings, and marvelous carvings, reliefs, paintings, sculptures and ceramic decorations bring a sense of its long history and profound heritage.

Shanghai is truly an awe-inspiring city with a new surprise around every corner. The city has created harmony between modern life and its rich heritage full of historical and mystical sites. Visiting Anting Old Street, I was reminded again that exploring, which is an ancient human urge, is an important pursuit that I should never abandon and that the value of harmony should never be overlooked in China.

The author is a Turkish student at East China Normal University in Shanghai

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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