Hey John and Ben,
Thanks for all the comments, I wasn't expecting to get so much info so quickly. Also glad its turned into a travels around China thread. I have list of weekend trips I would like to take and it's always good to get more info. Let me try to reply...
I signed up for Oriental List. I hadn't heard of it before so I'll check it out.
Thanks for suggesting Yangzhou. I went on a weekend trip to Hangzhou a few weeks ago. It was a nice trip, but crowds everywhere. I'll have to try out Yangzhou one weekend. I've never been to Huangshan, but have wanted to check it out too. Is it possible to do in one weekend? I always assumed I would need to take a few days off to see it. I know it's a long shot, but do you think it would be possible to camp in Huangshan?
I'm also interested in Moganshan. It's about an hours drive from Hangzhou. I heard there are some pretty areas to hike there. I need to look into it more.
About driving - you can rent cars now. I know Avis has rentals here, and there are also some local rental companies too. I haven't looked into it too deeply. The catch is you need a local license to drive and to rent a car. US and international licenses are not recognized. I'm in the process of getting my local license. Basically, it's a lot of document gathering and procedure. It's also not friendly to non-chinese speakers. There is a good description on how to do it here. Just note the location has changed to 1330 Ha Mi road. http://www.shanghaihalfpat.com/convert-to-china-driving-license/
I have checked out Jing'an temple and I agree with you. I don't know if you have been back recently, but the shopping mall attached the back of the temple is almost complete. It's a shame.
Tom - you are right about smoggy haze, but that just makes me want to get out of SH and go on a camping trip or hike even more.