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This small town to the north of Ningbo has an ancient history connected to one of Chinese culture’s principal virtues.
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When I visited Cicheng I have to admit I wasn’t particularly impressed. I had heard the town was walled, with streets arranged in a chessboard pattern lined with old buildings. I didn’t see the walls and the old buildings are actually scattered amidst more modern constructions.
The old Confucian Temple, which is worth checking out, lies smack dab in the middle of the town. Follow the signs from the bus station down a narrow lane lined with trees. The temple has origins in the medieval Northern Song Dynasty but it has of course been reconstructed and relocated over the centuries. The temple as seen today was built largely during the Qing Dynasty. The temple as an institution was host to the numerous scholars and literati who called Cicheng home down the centuries. You can visit the former residences of these figures – which include famous scientists, bureaucrats and imperial examination candidates.
When I hopped off the bus I made straight for the Daoist temple on the nearby hillside. This place I found more interesting than the Confucian temple and the rest of the old town, since I saw things here that I had never seen and never saw again elsewhere in China.
Later, when I did more research on Cicheng, I realized that I had missed a major landmark – Cihu Lake. The “Ci” in Cicheng and Cihu means filial. The area is associated with a story about a devoted son who walked a dozen miles everyday to fetch water for his ailing mother. Thus Cicheng is the “Filial Town” and Cihu is the “Filial Lake.”
The town was the subject of a New York Times article about government efforts to draw in local craftspeople.
How to get here: You can take buses 331, 335 or 337 from downtown Ningbo to the Cicheng Town bus station – 慈城南门.
Prices and hours: You can buy an 80 RMB entrance ticket for access to the various sites in the old town. The sites are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.