Dramatic escape
Rediscover the revolutionary spirit in Shajiabang
Published: Jan 14, 2015 04:43 PM Updated: Jan 14, 2015 10:17 PM

Following the success of the film The Taking of Tiger Mountain, people from across China have traveled to Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province to see for themselves the snowscapes and icy locations featured in the movie.

While those looking for such chilly climes closer to Shanghai may be out of luck, the revolutionary spirit can still be uncovered in the history of Shajiabang in Changshu, Jiangsu Province. Shajiabang is a water town about 10 kilometers from Changshu which is roughly 90 minutes by car from downtown Shanghai. Events there were also the inspiration for an eponymous yangbanxi (model operas), or revolutionary performance.

Shajiabang, a water town in Jiangsu Province, which is well-known for its role in revolutionary history of China Photos: Feng Yu/GT

Shajiabang and The Taking of Tiger Mountain were both famous model operas during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). The operas sang highly about the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the common public in the fight against foreign and class enemies.

The other yangbanxi consisted of four other model operas and two ballets: The Legend of the Red Lantern, Raid on the White Tiger Regiment, Ode of the Dragon River, On the Dock, Red Detachment of Women, and The White Haired Girl.


Watching a video of the opera before setting off will greatly add to the experience. Shajiabang tells the story of how the villagers in Shajiabang fought against the Japanese invaders and then the Kuomintang, cooperating with CPC members and protecting injured CPC soldiers.

Central to the opera's story is a teahouse and its owner, Aqingsao (the wife of Aqing), around which much of the opera's story revolves. The town also has large areas of reeds that acted as natural shelters for wounded soldiers.


Today, the teahouse and the reeds are the biggest tourist attractions.

Acts from Shajiabang are put on in the teahouse regularly, which can be watched while enjoying tea and sunflower seeds.

Even when there's no performance, the teahouse is a good place for whiling away some time, drinking tea and tasting some tofu products.

The reed beds are the most favored scenic spot in the area. It costs 100 yuan ($16.10) to 150 yuan to hire a boat to take a water trip of about half an hour, zigzagging through the reed jungle. The prices vary depending on the types of boat hired - motor or row. All of the certified boat rowers can sing folk songs for their passengers' entertainment, and this is included in the service charge. Visitors are asked to fill in a form reviewing the service at the end of their journey. For one trip of 120 yuan, the boat pilot can earn 30 yuan. During holidays, a boat pilot can earn about 200 yuan per day.



Although the 80 yuan entrance fee to Shajiabang for an adult during the off-peak season draws some complaints from visitors, the Global Times would still recommend paying for a boat trip. In different seasons, you can enjoy different scenery thanks to changes in the colors of the reed leaves.

There are also some folk museums in town that reveal local culture and tradition to visitors. These include a marriage museum. There are exhibits of marriage certificates and files revealing the birth information of the couples to predict whether they are a good match. Typical rooms of newlyweds are also displayed on the second floor of the museum.

Another place to visit is the former residence of the Diao family. Diao Deyi was a cunning spy for the Kuomintang. Strolling through the century-old alleys of the town is also a popular pursuit.

While the town lacks high-end restaurants, there are plenty of simple snacks and meals on offer. One specialty goose store has cooked goose (100 yuan), goose feet (3 yuan each) and goose stomach (15 yuan for two). There are also tofu restaurants and locally brewed baijiu.

Address: Luweidang Road, Shajiabang town, Changshu, Jiangsu Province

Admission: 80 yuan for adult and 40 yuan for students during the off-peak season (December 1 to May 5)

Call 0512-5250-0000 for details