Taizhou – The Ancestral Home of Mei Lanfang
A sense of progress pervades this modern town, and you can also find peace of mind in its beautiful parks or in the grounds of its most famous temple
Whether you’re drawn to its fascinating museums or intriguing gardens, Taizhou showcases Jiangsu’s long and complex history. Starting with the Guangxiao Buddhist Temple, this impressive place of worship was founded in the 5th century and is home to about 50 monks. With a troubled past, the building was once used as a textiles factory but restored to its former use and glory in the early 1990s. If you’re lucky, you might find yourself inside the temple while the monks are reading their scriptures, sitting in a large majestic hall. This hauntingly beautiful spectacle is impressive to witness.
Taizhou’s Imperial Examination Museum details the long history of China’s ancient system of selecting scholars to enter the service of central government. This system was in place for 1,300 years and the exams were notoriously difficult, but passing brought great pride in addition to a stable income and solid career.
Six pillars with elaborately carved golden dragon heads stand at the entrance, and walking through the gate was meant to be good luck for students.
Qiao Garden is a grand old mansion built during the Ming dynasty and the 12,000-square-metre complex is an excellent place to unwind. In the 1950s, Peking opera star Mei Lanfang stayed here and it has been preserved in exactly the same condition as he left it. In fact, Taizhou is and he has a museum dedicated to him, his career and his activism in the time of the Japanese occupation during WWII.
After you’ve seen all the sights of Taizhou, take a boat ride to meander through the old city and relive the tradition of touring the region by boat. One stirring sight on a clear night is the reproduction of the ancient Wanghailou watchtower, first built in the 12th century. Its present-day successor stands proudly on the banks of the old city moat.
Street snacks: Qinhu Lake, 15 miles to the northeast, provides the crabs that are used in many Taizhou dishes
Travel: Taizhou is around two hours’ drive from Nanjing (don’t confuse the city with another Taizhou, in Zhejiang province) or 3 hours’ drive to Shanghai