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Ancient Town in a Modern City @ Qibao Old Street (Shanghai)

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Sometimes big cities can be overwhelming. When the wide spanning streets, the tall buildings, the lights and sounds, and the apathetic press of people become a bit too much to bear, sometimes we crave for something a bit more… intimate.

Qibao Old Street (七宝老街) is a well preserved taste of an older, more intimate China. A series of narrow alleys filled with traditional shops and restaurants, Qibao Old Street is a small district of the ancient town of Qibao (七宝古镇), located in Shanghai’s southwestern region. Translating to “Seven Treasures” and pronounced “chi bow”, Qibao has over the centuries kept its mystique and maintained its old town charm.

Strolling through the alleys of Qibao, I’m reminded of the China I knew growing up, where physical settings felt closer and human interaction felt more personal. I pass by shops selling traditional art and handmade crafts. I gaze at crowded displays of colorful trinkets and mouth watering candies. Stopping at a snack shop, I look on as a man makes a Chinese style pancake by hypnotically spreading batter over a spinning stone hot plate.

Everything here seems to exist so simply and collectively.

The end of my walk found me on the stone bridge spanning over Qibao’s serene canal. Looking down the waterway, I watched as people went about their day in this old town. Some were seated by the windows of a traditional tea house, enjoying tea and food with some friends. Others were being ushered along the canal in old-fashioned boats. And some, like me, were just content to take in the ambiance.

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