Thousand Islets Lake
Thousand-islet (Qiandao) Lake is a huge reservoir covering an area of 580 square kilometers on the upper reaches of the Xin'an River, 160km from Hangzhou and Huangshan Mountain. It is an artificial lake formed as a result of being a reservoir for constructing Xin’an River Water Power Plant in 1959.
We boarded a boat and traveled to a few of the islands. One of which had a small mountain and after scaling Mount Yellow I decided I had enough of climbing mountains and decided to take a sedan chair up this time. A sedan chair is carried similar to a stretcher but instead of laying down I had a chair to sit in. Feeling rather princely the cost was only 50 Yuan or a little over $8 and trust me the bearers earned their salary carrying me and my heavy backpack that day. Besides visiting the islands we had a wonderful time on the boat when our tour companions broke into a song which may seem strange if you didn't know I was traveling with a group of singers!
As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life - and travel - leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks - on your body or on your heart - are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.Anthony Bourdain
Our bus just arrived as the last boat was getting ready to embark. It was a cold and windy night and rain lashed the pier. We were traveling to an island on a lake that was populated with Buddhist temples or so we were told. For now, we were more concerned about drowning in a place far away from our homes. Mt. Putuoshan lies to the east of Zhoushan City. Zhoushan City is situated on Zhoushan Island that in turn gives its name to a group of some four hundred small islands off the east coast of China in Zhejiang Province. These islands are in fact the peaks of submerged mountains and so rise steeply from the sea. Mt. Putuoshan dominates the small rhomboidal landmass with its total area of about 12.5 square kilometers (4.8 square miles). The mountain is of one of four in the country that are held sacred by Buddhists and it was here that over the centuries a once large Buddhist community was to evolve.
The island's scenic beauty meant it was the perfect setting for temples and other religious buildings. In due course, it became known as the "Heaven of the Sea and Kingdom of the Buddhists". In its heyday, the island had eighty-two temples and nunneries together with some one hundred and twenty-eight shelters that between them housed 4,000 Buddhist monks and nuns. Even today visitors to the island will encounter monks in their traditional robes as they walk along the many paths that crisscross the picturesque landscape.
The major sites to visit on the island are:
Puji Temple: This temple dates from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and covers 11,000 square meters (2.7 acres). Mt Putuo (Putuo-shan)Mt Putuo (Putuo-shan)Mt Putuo (Putuo-shan)
Fayu Temple: Construction commenced during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the buildings hug the mountainside in the seclusion of lofty and ancient trees.
Huiji Temple: This is known as the Buddhist Hilltop Temple (Fodingshan) on account of its elevated position.
The center of the island is covered with rich green forests that form a tranquil setting appropriate to a place of quiet religious contemplation. It is here that magnificent and protected hornbeams grow as well as the famous one-thousand-year-old camphor tree, a particularly fine tree species with a circumference measuring 6 meters (20 feet). The sandy shores of the island are also special features and particularly attractive to tourists are the bays known as "The Thousand-Step Sands" with its 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mile) beach and the smaller "Hundred-Step Sands". These fine beaches are very popular with bathers as are the entertainment facilities. Here it seems vacationers have been thrown together with those visitors seeking a more spiritual outlet.
China has a rapidly developing tourist industry. Efforts are made to identify any area that may be even remotely appealing and designate it a "scenic area". Often places that could stand on their own are "improved" with colorful names, local legends or newly placed sculptures lending each place a slightly carnival attraction quality.
Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province and its political, economic and cultural center. With its famous natural beauty and cultural heritages, Hangzhou is one of China's most important tourist venues. The City, the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, is located on the lower reaches of the Qiantang River in southeast China, a superior position in the Yangtze Delta and only 180 kilometers from Shanghai. Hangzhou has a subtropical monsoon type climate with four quite distinct seasons. However, it is neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter making it a year round destination.
The West Lake is undoubtedly the most renowned feature of Hangzhou, noted for the scenic beauty that blends naturally with many famous historical and cultural sites. In this scenic area are Solitary Hill, the Mausoleum of General Yue Fei, the Six Harmonies Pagoda and the Ling Yin Temple are probably the most frequently visited attractions. The West Lake Scenic Area Covers an area of 60 square kilometers, out of which the West Lake occupies 5.6 square kilometers with 3.3 kilometers from north to south and 2.8 kilometers from west to east. The lake has a circumference of 15 kilometers. It is surrounded by hills on tree sides and faces the downtown area on one side. The charming lake is a pearl that lay by the city. There are two brocade-ribbon-like causeways inside the lake, namely Bai Causeway and Su causeway, and they divide the lake into five parts. Three man-make islands named Three Pools Mirroring the moon, Mid-lake Pavilion and Mr. Ruan T Yuan's Mount stand elegantly in the outer lake.
Chinese legend tells how silk was discovered almost 5,000 years ago by Xiling Shi, the wife of the emperor Huanghi. Walking in the garden, the empress plucked a cocoon from a mulberry tree. The cocoon fell by accident into her cup of tea and she watched as a strong white thread unraveled. However it was discovered, the potential for such a thread was first realized in China, where silk fabric was being produced by 3000 B.C. A silk industry had developed there by the 14thcentury B.C.
The Silk Road, a trade route which involved many cultures and stretched from Nagasaki, Japan in the east to Genoa, Italy in the west, opened by 100 B.C. As its name implies, the major product being traded from east to west was silk, the manufacture of which the Chinese kept a closely-guarded secret on punishment of death. Other peoples in central and western Asia learned how to spin and weave the threads, but only the Chinese could supply the raw materials.
This situation altered in the fifth century A.D., when a Chinese princess married the king of Khotan, an oasis north of the Plain of Tibet. When the princess left her native land and traveled west to her bridegroom, she carried, smuggled in her headdress, silkworm cocoons and the seeds of the mulberry tree on which they feed.
Silk spread even further west by similar ploys. In 552 A.D., Persian Christians visiting Khotan hid silkworm cocoons in their hollow walking sticks, subsequently delivering the means of silk cultivation to Justinian I of Byzantium. Though this story is the stuff of legends the fact remains that silk production began in the Byzantine Empire at that time. From the sixth to the thirteenth century, the silk brocades of Constantinople were highly sought.
"All the tea in China" is a statement most of us have heard at one time or another designating something with limitless quantities. Of the three major beverages of the world-- tea, coffee, and cocoa-- tea is consumed by the largest number of people. Interestingly all three contain caffeine. Tea and China are synonymous, and it is thought that human cultivation of tea plants dates back at least two thousand years. Tea from China, along with her silk and porcelain, began to be known the world over more than a thousand years ago and has since always been an important Chinese export.
At present more than forty countries in the world grow tea with Asian countries producing 90% of the world's total output. All tea trees in other countries have their origin directly or indirectly in China. The word for tea leaves or tea as a drink in many countries are derivatives from the Chinese character "cha." The Russians call it "cha'i", which sounds like "chaye" (tea leaves) as it is pronounced in northern China, and the English word "tea" sounds similar to the pronunciation of its counterpart in Xiamen (Amoy). The habit of tea drinking spread to Japan in the 6th century, but it was not introduced to Europe and America until the 17th and 18th centuries.
Chinese tea may be classified into five categories according to the different methods by which it is processed:
- Green tea - keeps its original color of the tea leaves without fermentation during processing.
- Black tea - also known as "red tea" (hong cha) in China, is the category which is fermented before baking; it is a later variety developed based on the green tea.
- Wulong tea - represents a variety halfway between green and black teas, being made after partial fermentation.
- Compressed tea - is compressed and hardened into a certain shape. It is good for transport and storage and is mainly supplied to the ethnic minorities living in the border areas of the country. Most of the compressed tea is in the form of bricks; it is, therefore, generally called "brick tea", though it is sometimes also in the form of cakes and bowls.
- Scented tea - is made by mixing fragrant flowers in the tea leaves in the course of processing. The flowers commonly used for this purpose are jasmine and magnolia among others.