The Town God's Temple of Ningbo, also called the Town God's Temple of Ningbo Prefecture, is situated downtown of Ningbo, near the Tienfeng Pagoda. The temple was built in 1371, at the order of Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, in expectation of the good weather for the crops and the prosperity of the country. Covering an area of 4,700 sq meters, the present temple is one of the largest of the kind existing in the country. In architectural style, the temple is a reflection of the essence of the architectural art of the Ming and the Qing. The temple is Ningbo City's key unit for historic reservation. Since the Ming Dynasty, The Town God's Temple of Ningbo has always been business center which attracts clouds of merchants and tourists.
Rebuilt in 1884 of the Qing Dynasty, the present Town God's Temple of Ningbo is a complex of buildings along the axis including the Screen Wall, the Front Gate, the Opera Stage, the Grand Hall, and the Rear Hall, of which the Opera Stage is the most well-known. Beautifully integrated in size with the ancient temple, the Screen Wall is a wall facing the gate, with two archways on its both sides connecting to the main building. On the upper side of the wall is engraved a cut seal character "Sheng" (or God, in English), representing the Town God of Ningbo.
Through the gate one enters into a courtyard surrounded on the four sides by a compound of houses decorated with wall paintings based on classical Chinese stories. Here is a well-known food fair which is crowded with snack bars and refreshments stands, a must for all the local Ningbo people as well for the tourists to the city. Here the varieties of delicious snacks of Ningbo: Spring Festival cake, Vermicelli with beef slices, spicy eggs cooked with tea juice, glutinous rice dumplings, wonton, meat-filled buns and whatever, are liked and thought highly of not only by the local people but also by people from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and by celebrities of movie stars, writers, and artists.
The opera stage in the Town God's Temple is a stately building richly ornamented with well-known Ningbo local carving and painting techniques. In the past, it was a tradition in Ningbo for individuals and guilds to invite theatrical troupes to perform on the stage on important ceremonial occasions and kinds of traditional festivals. Such performances were free and open to all people, and thus on such occasions, the Temple would become a place of bustle and excitement with crowds of people. In this sense, it can be said that the Town God's Temple in the past was the center of folk custom and cultural activities. In the past there used to be two stages, a large one in the middle hall and a small one the back hall, and two little stages in the two wing buildings. The one that stands in the middle hall today is the grandest part of the Town God's Temple. This stage has a gable and hip roof with clay sculptures of opera figures, and a single eave propped up with complicated and beautifully decorated bucket arches.
The most amazing part of the stage is its ceiling, which is made up of 488 bucket arches, all connected with rabbets and piled one on the other, forming a large circular arch with a golden round disk on the top and 28 sculptures of phoenixes on the base. Arched ceilings, quite popular in traditional Chinese opera stages, have two functions. On the one hand, they provide actors and actresses sufficient space for the free performance, and on the other, the arches resonate sound and enlarge the performers' singing and speeches. In view of modern aesthetic value, architectural dynamics and acoustics, the Town God's Temple of Ningbo is a perfect building that reflects the combination of science, art and architecture. According historical records, the building was designed by Xu Xiao, a well-known artisan of Ningbo in 1884 of the Qing Dynasty.
The Fine Food Plaza, covering an area of 20,000 square meters, comprises such well-known restaurants and snack bars as Gang Ya Gou Sweetfood Restaurant, Bai Wei Lou Restaurant, Roasted Goose Restaurant, Xiaoshaoxing Restaurant, Hanlixiang Beaufet, Dongfang Jiaozi, Qiwan Noodle Beaufet, Kentacky Fried Chicken, McDonald, and Laomiao Snacks Bar etc. All the buildings on the plaza are of traditional Chinese architectural style and harmonious with the nearby Town God's Temple of Ningbo.
Not all visitors to Ningbo have the luck in enjoying the Top Ten Ningbo Dishes. However, one thing that any visitor can not miss is the Ningbo stuffed lard and sesame dumpling, just like one who goes to Beijing must go to the Great Wall. In China, sweet dumpling is a symbol of family reunion and happiness and in Ningbo it is a local custom for all family members to have dumplings on the morning of the first day of the lunar year. Dumplings are very popular in the city; however, to enjoy the most delicious, one has to go to Gang Ya Gou Sweetfood Beaufet, as saying goes: "Home-made dumplings are common things, but nothing is better than the dumplings in Gang Ya Gou." Gang Ya Gou Sweetfood Beaufet, opened in 1920's, is the best-known sweetfood shop in Ningbo, for the sweet food and deserts, in particular, the staffed lard dumplings, eight-treasure rice pudding, and fermented glutinous rice balls.
Town God's Temple of Ningbo→Guotai Street→the Department Store→Street of Gourmet→Business Street.