Retired ancient ferry site in Xinbang Town whispers tales of a bygone era

Tan Weiyun
Sisheng Ancient Ferry in the southeastern corner of Dazheng Pond's southern bank, was once a lifeline for the villagers of Sishengzhi, where life flowed as steadily as the river.
Tan Weiyun
Retired ancient ferry site in Xinbang Town whispers tales of a bygone era

The ancient ferry, once bustling, now rests silently on the southern bank of Dazheng Pond.

In the southeastern corner of Dazheng Pond's southern bank sits the Sisheng Ancient Ferry. This historical site, nestled in the north of Sishengzhi Village, Xinbang Town, whispers tales of a bygone era, where life flowed as steadily as the river itself.

The ancient ferry was once a lifeline for the villagers. Dazheng Pond, a broad river flowing east to west, mostly winds through Qingpu District. A small segment also meanders through the northern part of Sishengzhi Village, where the river splits into three branches.

In an era before roads and automobiles, ferries were the bridges that connected lives across the river. This ancient ferry bore silent witness to countless crossings and the relentless march of time.

In those early days, the ferry terminal was a simple architecture. A stone path extended about 10 meters into the river, serving as a dock for passengers. Later, a small shelter was built to protect the waiting passengers from the wind and rain. It is recorded in the "Annals of Xinbang Town," which states, "The north of Sishengzhi Village in Dazheng Pond has always had a ferry."

The ferry operators, selected from the village's farmers, rotated monthly. They propelled the ferry, charging only 5 fen (cent) per passenger, with an additional 5 fen for bicycles. The route was the shortest connection between Xinbang and nearby areas such as Liantang, Zhengdian and Xiaozheng in Qingpu.

In the nostalgic hues of the 1960s and 1970s, the verdant expanse of Sishengzhi Village's farmland stretched predominantly to the south of Dazheng Pond, while to the north, a modest patchwork of low-lying fields sprawled - land that lay fallow, with no homesteads to mar its quiet solitude.

At the start of each day, farmers shouldered their meals in cloth-bound bundles and took the ferry to the north. There were no timetables dictating its departures or arrivals - only the rustic calls from the opposite bank, summoning its service.

Passengers young and old would lend their strength to the boatman, tugging the thick, coiled ropes with hands weathered and tough from the fields. Their voices mingled, laughter cascading over the water, weaving a tapestry of shared endeavor that transformed strangers into kin beneath the broad sky.

During the frantic summer harvest season, the villagers labored under the moon as well as the sun. The boatman waited patiently amid a chorus of frogs until everyone was done, ensuring no one was left behind.

Later, the transformation of the northern fields marked a new chapter for the village. Much of the land, except for a portion claimed by the newly constructed Zhufeng Highway, was converted into a lush forest spanning 200 - 300 meters, a conservation area protecting the upstream sources of the Huangpu River. This shift meant the villagers no longer needed to cross the pond to tend their fields.

As the socio-economic landscape evolved, the lives of the villagers improved markedly. The dusty roads once trodden by work-worn boots now hummed with the soft purrs of private cars. The familial gatherings and communal crossings at the ancient ferry, once the heartbeat of daily life, began to fade.

The thrum of conversation and the creak of the ferry's timbers were replaced by the silence of progress. The once-busy, bustling ancient ferry crossing gradually settled into a serene stillness, its waters undisturbed, mirroring the quiet skies above.

The ancient ferry port is now surrounded by beautifully repaired roads and houses scattered charmingly, with vibrant greenery enriching the landscape. The once-abandoned ferry has journeyed through the twilight and dawn of ages. It has washed away the mists of time and now stands as a scenic pavilion on the southern bank of Dazheng Pond.

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