Oldest Teahouse in China
Next door to the Yu Gardens and Bazaar stands another Chinese architectural delight, a classical Pavilion known as Huxinting Teahouse, with its highly decorative upward curving eaves. The pavilion in the Old Town is regarded as the oldest existing traditional Chinese teahouse in China. The Teahouse, built about the same time as Yu Yuan Garden, and originally part of the Yu Garden, (Ming dynasty 1368~1644), stands in the middle of a lake with goldfish, lotus ponds and statues.
Willow Pattern Teahouse
In 1784, cotton merchants restored and expanded the building for use as a brokerage house. In 1855, after orders for its restoration from Emperor Xian Feng (Qing Dynasty 1644-1911), the pavilion served as a teahouse with the name “Wanzai xuan” (the Willow Pattern Teahouse). The pavilion appearing on the popular blue and white Willow Pattern design crockery of the 18th and 19th centuries is perhaps based on Huxinting teahouse.
Restoration of the Pavilion took place again, over 100 years later, with the teahouse re-opened to the public in 1965. Now known as Huxinting Teahouse, Huxinting literally translates to “mid-lake Pavilion”, as the teahouse sits on stilts in the middle of a rectangular lake. The lake, swimming with brightly colored golden carp provides a lovely outlook from windows of the pavilion while sipping tea. Access to the Teahouse is via a zig zag bridge across the lake, the bridge known as Bridge of Nine Turnings designed to frustrate evil spirits who prefer to travel in straight lines!
Classical Chinese Pavilion
Unfortunately I didn’t get back to ‘sip tea’ at this beautiful classical Chinese Teahouse on the lake. Our tour group shared a tea sipping experience in traditional Chinese style with exotic flowering teas while in Beijing, however, the teahouse in Beijing, although very interesting, isn’t in the class with the classical Chinese pavilion of Huxinting Teahouse. The problem here being, Huxinting Teahouse is so busy, and although it seats 200 patrons, we didn’t have time to queue and wait. Bit of a shame really, but we did have a peek inside.
The interior decor of the Teahouse is full of elegant old world charm with polished woodwork, period furniture, historical hexagonal palace lanterns with red tassel’s, and window seats overlooking the lake. Framed Chinese paintings of historical interest and calligraphy of quotes relating to tea are hung on beams throughout the teahouse. The teahouse serves a range of delicious and unusual teas,(flowering teas are a delight) with traditional snacks. Monday afternoon is a good time to visit as a band plays traditional Chinese music to entertain the tea sippers. A delightful tradition.
If you are in Shanghai do visit and take time to enjoy Shanghai Old Town, Yu Bazaar, Yu Yuan Gardens as well as Huxinting Teahouse, which are all in close vicinity to one another, and all worth a visit. You probably need at least four hours to enjoy the Old Town area.
Huxinting Teahouse(mid-lake Pavilion), Yu Yuan Garden and Yu Bazaar are all accessible from the Shanghai Metro’s Line 10 Yuyuan Garden Station.
Next Zhujiajiao, looking forward to exploring the cobbled lanes and waterways of this ancient traditional water canal town this avo. Tea will have to wait…
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