The first orange heat alert of summer didn’t put people off visiting the Guangfulin Cultural Relics complex in the suburban Songjiang District, with its first day of trial operation attracting thousands of visitors.
Jiang Yajuan, 67, arrived at 9am from the Pudong New Area with six of her neighbors. “We left home at 7am so that we could be the first,” Jiang said. “I’ve been looking forward to coming for a long time.”
However, even earlier, a group of children from a nearby art school had picked the best spots at the entrance to sketch, arriving before opening time.
“This place is quite good,” said Qiu Junchi, an 8-year-old. “But my painting is better.”
As the other children started to laugh, one of them, Gao Yan, said she had been here several times before. “I couldn’t get in back then,” said Gao. “I thought it was some kind of mysterious palace.”
More than a thousand people had entered by 10:30am, according to operator Future Land.
“We took precautions due to the heat and arranged an ambulance just in case of an emergency because of the weather,” said the company’s Shen Yongyi.
One of the main attractions was the Guangfulin Culture Exhibition Hall, a museum built under water, with only its roof above the surface.
“It is wanghong (Internet sensation) that everyone wants to have a picture with,” said Zhang Jie who was with her family of five. “I’ve never seen a building built under water.”
The exhibition hall takes visitors on a journey through time from the very beginning of Guangfulin culture 4,500 years ago.
Visitors to the hall’s basement can see the restored archeological sites with copies of artefacts and wax statues of the researchers.
From caves to ancient street markets to the whistle of trains at Songjiang Railway Station built in 1907, the exhibition recreates scenes throughout Shanghai’s history.
“I only learned that the short name hu of Shanghai was originally referring to a fishing tool used by people lived here more than 1,000 years ago,” said Zhang. “I’m proud to see our city culture shaped a part of history and is still influencing us.”
Beside the exhibition hall are the religious buildings of Fulin Pagoda, Zhiye Temple, City God Temple and Guandi Temple highlighting Buddhism and Taoism.
Huang Amei, 78, one of the volunteers at Zhiye Temple, said she was more than pleased to see people enjoying the relics.
“It is quite hot today,” said Huang. “But it’s not a patch on the passion of the visitors.”
Yin Jun, vice chairman of Songjiang History and Culture Research Society, said the area had been farmland for thousands of years. As a district official, he took part in the excavations more than 20 years ago.
Yin said there had been 11 major excavations since ruins were discovered by farmers in 1958.
Yin recalled the thrill when world experts confirmed Guangfulin culture as a unique civilization in the Yangtze Delta in 2006.
College student Li Qin said she was impressed by how profound ancestors in Guangfulin were.
“Our ancestors started cultural exchange so early that they might not have noticed,” said Li. “But it certainly had a great impact on how our civilization came into being.”
Chen Jie, head of Shanghai Museum’s archeology department, who also took part in the excavations, said: “Guangfulin culture was the earliest civilization in Shanghai that indicated signs of diaspora. Pottery made with both north and south craftsmanship were found here.”
Chen said the Guangfulin culture was one of the few prehistoric civilizations that opened up to other cultures.
Shen told Shanghai Daily that a museum on pottery found in Guangfulin will be opened along with preserved ruins in 2019.