That was the question I kept asking her. Ever since she mentioned that we would be going to a "museum" on the weekend. My curiosity was peaked even more when she said it was an hour and a half away from where we were in Shanghai.
Was it a Kung Fu Museum?
A Historical Museum, like the one we saw in Nanjing?
Or was it some kind of Science Museum?
Finally, the day came. Opening the windows revealed that the skies were all dark and a steady stream of rain splashed down on the city streets. Great. We did not faulter, we would still go. Hoping the rain would let up. Hopping on the metro, we sluggishly waited for our stop. Once it arrived, we hopped into a taxi which took us a few minutes away to the great Guang Fu Lin (廣富林). There through the hazy sky we saw rooftops peeking out above the smokey water.
Not a Museum, a Large Park
Guang Fu Lin was huge. There were two or three exhibition centers in there as well as various temples, parks, and trails to walk connecting all of these locations. Obviously, it was too much to take in on one visit but we did get to see quite a lot during our time there.
Within the park are various temples to many, mostly Taoist, dieties. What captivated me were the differences each temple had. One Temple, I believe Zhi Ye Temple (知也禅寺), was a restored Tang Dynasty temple that is made of mostly wood. Instead of the usual reds and golds, you get to see a constrast of dark stained wood with the black/gray tiles. San Yuan Temple (三元寺) was a more traditional Taoist/Confucian temple. Decorated with all kinds of paintings, reds, and golds.
There is a pagota in the middle of these two "sister temples". While walking around the Guang Fu Lin area, it's golden rooftop can be spotted among the green trees and black rooftops. It was written that while this area was being excavated, no pagota was found. It was simply added to make it a better tourist attraction.
There were more temples as well. One dedicated to Guan Yu and his various forms/followers. As well as one dedicated to the "local spirits" like earth spirit, money spirit, study spirit, and even a spirit for relationships!
Tea and Noodles
Of course, spending the day roaming around the traditional streets and alleys will build up an appetite. Not only for knowledge, but for some delicious food! Guang Fu Lin has just that. An assortment of various noodle, dumpling, ice cream, and tea shops scattered about the park.
Stepping carefully into the entrance of the traditional noodle shop. We looked at the wooden planks hung on the walls. Enscribed upon them were names of various dishes. Careful consideration led us to ordering two bowls. The wrinkled face of a kitchen staff worker called out our order and smiled as I grabbed the two steaming bowls. A bowl of La Rou Mian (辣肉面) for her and Da Rou Mian (大肉面) for me.
Although the noodles were slightly more expensive than what you could buy on the street; the flavor and atmosphere certainly made up for it. As we slurped up our noodles, I listened. Quiet conversation filled the air as other tables enjoyed their food. Gentle gusts of wind would tip toe in through the curtains that made up the front door. The somber skies combined with the hanging lights made the restaurant more cozy.
As the sun faded and the sky grew darker. It was time to make our way back to the bustling apartment buildings of Central Shanghai. Through the streets our footsteps echoed through the traditional alleyways. Families and tour groups could be heard in the distance. For us, we found smaller paths to follow that led us across wooden bridges and over brick walkways. Through a gate marked only with three Hearts (心心心) towards the main entrance of Guang Fu Lin. We did grab some last minute snacks from a store and a milk tea from Coco (都可).
The rain had stopped but the air had grown cool with the sun disappearing. We past by the university where students flooded out; each on their way home from a long day's study. Eventually, we clambered into the tightly crowded bus as the doors were quickly shut. The suburb that held the park soon became evercrowded with people, cars, and looming skyscrapers of Central Shanghai. Another long metro ride took us home. Feeling fulfilled with all that we had seen.
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