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It’s a little-visited site in the little-visited Ningbo metro area – but a wealth of history.
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You’ll find this historic site in an industrial region of the Ningbo metro area. When I went, the smog from the nearby smokestacks was fairly stifling, enough to drive away all but the most hardened Sinophiles. This isn’t uncommon – many of China’s greatest architectural and historical treasures are directly adjacent to depressing stretches of polluted wasteland. Sound enticing?
The mountain’s two walls, the Weiyuan City wall and Zhenhai Seawall, date back to the Ming and Tang Dynasties respectively. There are even ancient Buddhist prayer chants carved in Sanskrit on some of the rock walls. It’s hard to imagine that before the erection of the modern smokestacks, Buddhist monks would stroll the serene hills carving their prayers in stone.
Inside the Aozhu Pagoda you’ll find striking, larger-than-life painted images of Guanyin, popularly seen as a goddess of compassion and mercy. But in these murals Guanyin is seen using her miraculous powers to defeat foreign invaders, from Japanese pirates to Western colonialists. Popular legend says that she intervened on the Chinese side in the Ming Dynasty wars against the Japanese and in the 1885 Battle of Zhenhai during the Sino-French war.
You can learn more about these conflicts in the Zhenhai Coastal Defense Museum though it was closed when I visited on a Monday afternoon. In addition to Guanyin, the sea goddess Mazu is also revered and there’s a subterranean temple dedicated to her. There are also some old US warplanes bizarrely on display.
How to get here: Take the 541 bus from Ningbo city to the Zhaobao Mountain bus station 招宝山站. Entrance tickets are about 60 RMB.