Shànglǐ was once an important stop on the Silk Road (the Horse and Tea route) and during the Long March. Many slogans can still be seen around the town, carved into rock by the Red Army. Shànglǐ is also known for its 8 different stone bridges of varying style which cross the waterways surrounding the town on all sides.
Tourism here is picking up again after the Sichuan earthquake, but most of the tourists are predominantly domestic Chinese and foreigners are still somewhat of a novelty.
Minibuses bound for Shànglǐ can be caught from outside the tourist bus station in Ya'an which is a short rickshaw ride (¥6) away from the main bus station.
Walk! The town isn't large.
Exploring on foot is easy enough to do. Look out for:
the bamboo water wheel.
the eight stone bridges of varying style - in particular, look out for Erxian Bridge, made purely out of stone fashioned into a high arch.
the pagoda across the fields opposite town next to the pass through the hillocks which goes to Shànglǐ proper.
the Red Army stone carvings, a display of which can be seen on the riverbank pathway next to where you get down off the minibus.
the Han courtyard.
the semi-restored, ancient mill.
Relax, and absorb the village's atmosphere.
Wander into the surrounding countryside.
A plethora of stores catering to the domestic Chinese tourists. Don't expect any English to be spoken!
Next to the square outside the Han courtyard, there is a little noodle shop offering the seemingly local specialty 大肉面 (dàròumiàn; pork fat noodle soup), but if you don't want the fat, go for the 牛肉面 (nǐuròumiàn; beef noodle soup) done in a similar way. The eatery has photos of the head chef with some famous person (I couldn't determine who) in a bigger restaurant which made it look more promising than others.
Relax in the large, comfortable bamboo chairs located right next to the streams. One restaurant has them situated right on the bank of the river but it is quite pricey. Another store, right next to the bamboo waterwheel, has chairs for customers seeking pricey tea, but they don't seem to mind if you buy cheaper refreshments from their store and drink them sitting there.
Within the Han courtyard itself, there is a new, somewhat atmospheric, cheap hotel with great views - 银杏苑 (Yínxìngyuàn) offering ¥50 for a single with TV & ensuite (Ph: 08352316682 / 13980175152 / 13882439152). Definitely recommended!
Apparently, there is a cheaper place in town if you want to go out seeking it.
Take the minibus out of town that you used to get into town.