Songjiang Square Tower

The pride of Songjiang, this elegant four-sided wood-and-brick pagoda rises 48.5 meters above the the city that, once Shanghai’s main trade rival, is now a southern suburban enclave of the ever-expanding metropolis. Today, it is one of the few remaining reminders of Songjiang’s past glory, now that the old town’s lanes have given way to modern China’s boxy upward-and-outward sprawl.

The Square Tower (Fang Ta) site has over 1,000 years of history behind it, dating in its earliest incarnation as a temple back to 949 AD. The tower itself is hardly any younger, having been constructed during the Song Dynasty (1068-1094 AD).

It remains in excellent shape, and is deemed one of the best of its class still standing south of the Yangzi (Yangtze). In fact, you’re free to climb the stairs up nine stories to enjoy the view. Below, you’ll see a pleasant park, often full of Songjiang citizens passing the time with a bit of dancing, tai qi or a game of cards.

You’ll also see the Ming Dynasty-era screen wall running alongside the tower. Closer inspection of the screen rewards one with a tableau illustrating a parable concerning greed: An enormous monster that attempted to swallow the world and drowned while attempting to drain the sea plays the starring role.

A pleasant spot for a weekend outing from Shanghai and a must for classical Chinese temple and tower fans.

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