Travel Destinations: Ningbo, China
With a population of some 5.4 million, Ningbo is a great place to visit when travelling through Zhejiang Province. During the seventh and eighth centuries, the city rose in importance as it became a trading port for silk, tea and ceramics.
The Portuguese established a colony not far north of the city by the 16th century. As the Chinese were not permitted to deal directly with the Japanese at this time, the Portuguese acted as entrepreneurs, bridging the two in trade. However, it was after the First Opium War in 1842, that the city truly became a prosperous town when the British set up a treaty port and British Consulate here.
When Shanghai started to boom, Ningbo started to experience a sharp decline. Businessmen took their money to Shanghai and started the foundation of that wealthy business society.
Today, Ningbo is a completely modern city but is much more relaxed than other major cities in China. However, there are many historical sites you can visit.
Ningbo’s most famous attraction is the Tianyi Pavillion. Built during the Ming dynasty, it is believed that the pavilion is China’s oldest private library. It was created by Fan Qin, the head of the Ministry of War. As a great reader, Fan Qin amassed a wonderful library of manuscripts, woodblocks and imperial roosters. Although some of the rarer documents have been transported to Zhejiang Provincial Library, there are still some interesting documents to view.
Need some relaxation? Moon Lake (Yue Hu) is an open park. At one time it was the oldest part of town but construction in recent years has brought it into modern times. It is situated near Tianyi Pavilion.
If you walk down to Zhongshan Xilu, there are incredible landmarks a traveller must see. The Drum Tower (Gu Lou) indicates the start of a pedestrian street full of wonderful restaurants where you can sample the local cuisine. Near the tower is Xianfeng Pagoda (Xianfeng Ta).
About 15km north of the city is Baoguo Temple. It is set in the beautiful Lishan Hills and is one of the oldest wooden buildings. The temple was built in 1013 without using a single nail. Instead, it is an intricate system of interlocking beams and brackets. During the Qing dynasty it was restored with nails but visitors can still see some early architectural features. To get here, take the number 332 bus.
Another great temple to visit is King Asoka’s Temple, located at the base of Pushan Mountain, around 20km east of the city. The temple is home to the famous miniature stupa which is believed to have once belonged to King Asoka of India, the first key promoter of Buddhism. The stupa was thought to hold the cranium bone of the Buddha and was supposed to have been stolen by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.
Ningbo is home to some fabulous restaurants and cafes. The speciality here is seafood and the food street between Kaiming Jie and Jiefang Lu has some amazing recipes to try out. Hotels are more on the expensive side but if you are coming here on a budget, most hotels offer a discount, so it is best to do some research first.
Ningbo is a great place to visit in China. Not quite as polluted as other major Chinese cities, Ningbo is a thoroughly modern city with strong historical links that will truly fascinate visitors.