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  Chinese Way>Life

Scenic Luodian Town blends old and new charm

2013-11-06 15:26:34

(Shanghai Daily)


Local men row the dragon boat during a Luodian folk culture event in Baoshan District.

Baoshan District in northern Shanghai, best known as the home of China’s steel titan Baosteel, also has attractions with deep cultural roots, from museums of art and design to rural towns, and a new town that looks like old Scandinavia.

Luodian, in north Baoshan, is a popular part of the district. The trading town has a 700-year history. During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), an entrepreneur named Luo Sheng opened the town’s first store and inn, which prospered due to their proximity to waterway commerce.

Markets and other businesses opened and, by the end of the Yuan Dynasty, there were about 700 businesses in Luodian. Producing cotton cloth became the most important industry. The town also became a key location for trading cotton and other textiles.

Today, with some patience, you can still find traces of wharves that were one of the foundations of a past economy so prosperous that the town was widely called “Golden Luodian.” The town was also famous for making dragon boats.

The town’s importance, however, meant that it was the site of battles during nine major wars from the beginning of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

The battle against Japanese invaders raged in Luodian for 37 days, destroying more than 1,200 houses and historical buildings and killing many people.

“This town is built from the wreckage. It was a sad beginning since, even though we decided unswervingly to create a better future, we are now no longer as we were. Still it is a vibrant and charming town, I believe,” says a local official.

The town is now divided into old and new areas, each with its own charms.

Luodian New Town is quickly emerging as a culture magnet with some northern European flair.

Take Metro Line 7 about half an hour from downtown Shanghai to the northern Meilan Lake Station and you’ll find yourself amid old Swedish-style architecture and a tranquil lake reminiscent of the fairy world of Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen.

The area, also called Luodian Northern European New Town, covers 6.8 square kilometers. Its green area, with lawns and forests, is equal to the space built upon.

The new town includes a winding causeway that’s reminiscent of the beautiful Su Causeway in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. The 2,000-meter causeway is planted with silk trees and acacia trees that frame views of beautiful Lake Malaren, a man-made lake of 200,000 square meters.

The town’s main street features fashion boutiques and designer brands while other areas includes restaurants, pubs and entertainment facilities.

In recent years, the new town also attracts a lot of couples with its exotic architectural style to take wedding pictures at Lake Malaren Shanghai Painters’ Village and Lake Malaren Asian Wedding Photography Bases.

Not quite like picturesque water towns popular with tourists, Luodian Old Town is slightly shabby. It takes some work to find the charm under the ordinary veneer, but it’s there.

The center of the old town still has some ancient bridges, memorial gateways and homes that reflect its past glory, while the whitewashed houses and tree-lined waterway banks are enjoyable.

The area’s rich cultural heritage was not wiped out by wars, and can still be seen and enjoyed by visitors to Luodian. There are many artists and artisans who are dedicated to preserving this heritage.

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