Qibao Ancient Town: Visiting Shanghai’s Most-Accessible Water Town

Eighteen kilometres from downtown Shanghai in Minhang District, you’ll find the only ancient Chinese water town within greater Shanghai city limits.

Qibao has a history that spans more than a thousand years. The ancient city was built around Qibao Temple during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 to 1126).

The town spans an area of just two kilometres. Visitors can easily walk to any of the local attractions. You couldn’t find a more enchanting way to see the architecture, culture and history of a region than you’ll find in Qibao.

A river runs through the town which is also traversed by two canals bounded by plenty of traditional homes, restaurants, teahouses and shops.

It will cost you nothing to get into the town. All attractions are open to the public between nine in the morning and six at night.

What to do in Qibao Ancient Town

Qibao Ancient Town is the picture-perfect water town and visiting is easily one of the best things to do in Shanghai. On top of all the sights, Qibao Ancient Town offers visitors some of the best traditional food in Shanghai. Here you could partake of smoked toad, stinky tofu or bright traditional rice cakes. If your palate is more conservative noodle soup, duck and potato snacks are also on offer.

Pagoda in Qibao Ancient Town

Here you can walk into the ancient blacksmith and pawnshops where the ancient Qibao business culture is still evident. The bell tower and the local mill should also find a place on your itinerary.

Qibao Temple

Qibao Temple is held in high esteem by the people of the village. It’s newly renovated and surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens.

Qibao Temple

The temple itself offers visitors an opportunity to view the magnificent architecture of the Han and Tang dynasties. While you’re here, be sure to climb the Pagoda and stop and feed the koi.

Cricket fighting

Cricket fighting was once a popular pastime among ancient Chinese people. In Qibao you’ll find that the people still indulge in cricket displays and fighting. There’s even a museum dedicated to the sport. The crickets in this area are particularly ferocious which has no doubt kept the sport alive.

The home of shadow play

Make sure to indulge in a traditional shadow play while in town. Shadow play was introduced into Shanghai popular culture by an inhabitant of Qibao. Shadow play traditionally tells historical tales to music and colourful drawings. You should also pay a visit to the Shadow Puppets Museum.

Take a walk to the Qibao Winery where you can witness the art of brewing the traditional Daqu, a strong liquor that originates in the area. Then, off to Zhou’s micro-carving museum where you’ll find thousands of pieces of finely carved stone art on display.

Getting to Qibao Ancient Town

The Qibao Ancient Town meander is best experienced as a full day trip from Shanghai. There’s plenty to see, taste and experience, and, of course, buy. Prices here are reasonable.

Subway line 9 will take you directly to Qibao Station. You’ll enter the town through a large gate a short way down the road. The train trip takes around half an hour from central Shanghai. There are also several buses into Qibao.


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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