Re-living ancient times at Qibao ancient town

Tan Weiyun
A week of festivities will let people revive and re-live times long past.
Tan Weiyun
Shot by Tang Dafei. Edited by Hu Jun. Subtitles by Shen Ke.

The festive spirit was high at the Bell Tower Square at the Qibao ancient town over the weekend, with traditional paper-cut artists, dough figure sculptors, colored-ink calligraphers, old-school Chinese dessert chefs, and embroiderers  teaching how to stitch a perfume sachet or a silk fan.

Kicking off the city-wide  Quality Life Week” on Saturday to support sustainable growth through consumption amid COVID-19, the “Handicraft Bazaar” highlighting Shanghai’s intangible cultural heritages held in Qibao old town offered a combination of culture and art.

Young and old artisans set up the booths on the square at the foot of the town’s landmark Bell Tower to showcase their skills developed over generations.

Sculptor Dai Yan conjured up a vivid Monkey King from dough in minutes, while  artist Tang Hua swiftly painted a colored-ink calligraphy of a visitor’s name with the patterns of dragons and a phoenix.

“Children love my dough figures most,” Dai says as he  kneads the dough.

“The most popular are the 12 zodiac animals as well as some Japanese cartoon characters.”

Dessert chef Tao Sumei  paints a butterfly with with heated liquid barley-sugar, and kids are anxiously waiting for her on the side.

“Not only children, adults like me would love to pay for the sugar painting,” said visitor Yao Daxi, 58. “It’s the sweetest memory of my childhood when candies were hard to find.”

Re-living ancient times at Qibao ancient town
Ti Gong

Folk artists of Shanghai's intangible cultural heritages show their skills at the Bell Tower Square in Qibao ancient town.

The three-story tower will be fully open all week. The souvenir shop is on the first floor. The second floor has been renovated into a cultural classroom, where visitors can roll up their sleeves and try to make a tree leaf bookmark, stitch a homespun bag, string beads for a necklace, or dress up in a traditional Chinese robe.

The top floor has an ancient bronze Tunlai Bell. It was said to have floated to Qibao Town along the nearby river on a stormy night. Locals then placed it in the tower, worshiping it to protect their homeland. 

“By being engaged in these Do-It-Yourself interactive events, people can learn more about the city’s intangible cultural relics, and live a day of how ancient people once lived hundreds years ago,” said Hou Jiamin, Oriental Culture Project Manager of Shanghai Orient Webcasting Co.

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