By the end of the second day, last June, I had seen most of the sights in the Old Town of Shanghai but there was one building left I wanted to see, the Peach Garden Mosque. Obviously, with peach in the title I thought the building would be peach coloured and this tweaked my curiousity. I managed to locate it on the map the same evening and promised myself that early next morning I would go for a walk to find the mosque.
The walk was pretty straight forward; once I reached the YuYuan Metro stop I turned left and carried on. It was a busy area with traffic, the honking sounds were deafening and the clouds of dust blown up from speeding wheels made me cough and splutter. It became clear why some folks riding their bicycles were wearing pale blue masks over their faces, it was to keep the muck from the roads penetrating their nostrils and eyes. Some even wore long tapered gloves in the same material and colour, a bit like blue cotton evening gloves. It was a bizarre spectacle, sure enough but a memory that will stay with me for a long time.
It was still quite early in the morning and I remember enjoying myself on this walk as I came across a couple of interesting buildings before I even arrived at the mosque. One was some sort of amusement park with two stone lions protecting the main entrance and lots of fancy red Chinese writing, highlighing the main sign, gold lacquer had been sprayed in certain sections of the wrought iron gates. The gold colour made the gates look flash and a bit bad taste but I quite liked this touch. Other stone monuments lined the front entrance which seemed to spread for quite a distance. One I particularly liked was a statue of an owl; its head looked far too big for its body with eyes of dusty green, a pronounced beak and long sharp talons. It was a bit freaky and most unlike the genteel statue of a lady carrying a torch wearing a flimsy see through garment, stretched tautly around her breasts making them look more voluptuous than they actually were.
In the distance I spotted a huge flyover bridge and I guessed that I would have to walk over this to cross over to the mosque. Before coming to the bridge there was a snazzy hotel to the right with amazing blue windows that shone with a silver sheen when the sun was on them. Its name was Hotel Yun's Paradise, I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to walk into the front entrance of this Chinese paradise but the gold ox sat on top of a water fountain fascinated me as did all the seductive marble statues adorning the bottom of the fountain which had pea green water in the bottom of it. What was even more bizarre was the massive block of flats at the back of the hotel. These were really high and stretched for miles and miles. I wouldn’t want to live on the top floor of one of those when the wind comes hurtling round the corner.
It was quite windy that morning and as I stood on top of the bridge I suddenly had to make a run for my khaki beanie hat as it flew off and was about to hit the road full of squeaky motors underneath. As I bent over to pick it up, standing on it first, I noticed the dome of the mosque on the other side, it was olive green not pink! I was very disappointed at this stage.
There were two entrances to the mosque, one with a metal gate which led into a garden of trees, peach trees to be exact, (ah, so that’s where the name comes from) was closed and locked with a padlock. The other entrance was a bit of walk and hidden up a side street with parked bikes, scooters and cars all over the place. Two policemen were patrolling the pavement outside but apart from that no one else was around. The only noise I could hear was a whirring sound caused by traffic noises in the background.
The building wasn’t stunning to look at; it had a humble exterior painted off-white with splashes of olive green. Gold Chinese writing brightened the plainness of the architecture up and the gold topped dome gave it an extra splash of gold and an air of dignity. I was told that the mosque dates back to 1917 but above the entrance there is a date of 1343. Not sure what this signifies.
It is meant to be a famous mosque but it didn’t look very famous to me and it is the main mosque in the city where Shanghai Muslims go to worship. I didn’t actually go inside as no one was around but I peeped through the door and there was a long corridor leading into an inner courtyard with other rooms around each side of the courtyard. It all looked rather dark and dingy to me and not very welcoming. Apparently, Friday is the big celebratory weekday when a long line of worshippers stand at the entrance to the mosque after they have visited the market outside the entrance, waiting to go inside.
I have to say that I found the walk to the mosque far more exciting and interesting than the building itself. It would have been nice if I had been able to walk through the garden to look at the peach trees but it wasn't to be. Next time maybe!?
The Peach Garden Mosque is open from 8am to 7pm.
Address: 52 Xiaotaoyuan Rd. Metro stop Laoximen/ Yuyuan Garden