Many people think of Wenzhou, whose many small commodities such as lighters, shoes and locks are well known the world over, as a commercial city. Shops line its streets, and Wenzhou people have such business acumen, they are popularly known as China’s prize wheeler dealers. On arrival, however, the traveler discovers that commercial as it may be, Wenzhou is nonetheless a city of high culture. The Nanxi River, Yandang Mountain and Jiangxin Island testify to this important city on the east coast of China’s long and illustrious history.
The Nanxi River is in Yongjia County, 23 kilometers south of Wenzhou City. Covering 624 square kilometers, there are more than 800 scenic spots along its course, including ancient villages, rocks, mountains, primitive forests and waterfalls.
Wenzhou old town is the site of Neolithic cultural relics, and in the 200 or so old villages along the riverside are pagodas, bridges, streets, pavilions, archways and battlefields dating back to the Tang Dynasty. Ancient architectural facades are well preserved, as are the traditions, customs and life styles of the era in which they were built. Local inhabitants live one clan to a village, and enjoy a peaceful and happy life.
Cangpo is a Song Dynasty style village encircled by a moat where the Li clan lives. The village was designed in the style of the four treasures of study, namely the calligraphy brush, inkstick, inkslab and sheet of paper. A mountain to the right of the village resembles a brush rack, the brick road leading directly to the mountain a writing brush, and two square pools at the sides of the road could be ink wells. Beside them is a 5-meter-long stone slab — the inkslab — and the village’s enclosing wall is reminiscent of unfolding paper.
The Chen clan lives in Furong Village, whose streets and residences are interspersed with streams. First built in the late Tang Dynasty, 500 families, comprising over 2,000 people, now live in this village. Most of its houses are stone and wood structures with whitewashed walls and gray roofs, and trees grow tall in low-walled courtyards.
Wenzhou people have always attached equal importance to farming and commerce. The city’s commercial aspect is attributable to the northern imperial officials who fled there to escape wars in northern China when China was largely agricultural. Having made such early inroads into commerce, residents of Wenzhou made, and still have, a reputation for astuteness and economic know-how.
The unique landscape, culture and commerce of Wenzhou attract numerous domestic and overseas visitors from all social sectors. It has been nominated for a World Natural Heritage listing.
Yandang Mountain on the northeast coast of Wenzhou is one of the ten most famous mountains in China. Named by the State Council as one of the first group of key Chinese scenic destinations, it is now in the process of applying for UNESCO World Natural Heritage status.
Yandang Mountain is regarded as the first mountain of Southeast China. Lakes, bulrushes and grasses adorn the mountain, and in autumn migrating geese stop here to rest. The mountain was formed some 120 million years ago, and is regarded by scientists as a natural museum of great historic and scientific significance.
Yandang Mountain is divided into scenic areas that comprise Spirit Peak, Spirit Crag, Dalong (Great Dragon) Pond, Sanzhe (Three Steps) Waterfall, Yan (Geese) Lake, Xiansheng (Victory) Gate, Yangjiao (Goat Horn) Cave and Xianqiao (Fairy Bridge) s.
The most famous peaks on Yandang Mountain are Zhuobi (Sharp Pen), Duxiu (Unique Beauty), Yunu (Jade Girl), Shuangluan (Two Fabulous Birds), Jinji (Golden Roosters) and Shuangsun (Double Bamboo Shoots). As their names indicate, the shapes of these peaks vividly resemble animals and other objects, and some change their look completely, according to the angle from which they are viewed. For example, Spirit Peak, one of the three most popular Yandang peaks, looks like two palms closed in prayer when viewed from the left, but at nightfall like a closely entwined couple, while from a different angle again, like an eagle poised for flight.
There are also many famous caves on Yandang Mountain. Among them are Guanyin Cave — the loftiest, Tianchuang Cave — the most perilous, the vast Xianren Cave, and the particularly grotesque Xiangu Cave. Guanyin Cave is on Spirit Peak, and used to be inhabited by eminent monks of the Tang Dynasty. The cave ceiling is 100 meters high and 40 meters across and it houses a nine-story pagoda. Through the entrance is Tianwang Hall, where stand statues of the four Buddhas’ warrior attendants. The 377 stone steps at the back of the hall lead up to Guanyin Hall, and monks live and study in the cave’s other rooms. The sound of bells ringing and drums being beaten every morning gives the mountain a profoundly spiritual ambience.
There are waterfalls on Yandang Mountain all year round, and the 190-meter high Great
Dragon Pond Waterfall is probably Yandang’s most famous scenic feature.
Remote Jiangxin Island is to the north of Wenzhou City, and covers 70,000 square meters of land. The island has been famous throughout history, and its East and West pagodas were built in the Tang and Song dynasties respectively. Jiangxin Temple, which covers a floor space 3,000 square meters, also dates from the Tang Dynasty. There are altogether ten scenic spots on this small island that have been enjoyed since ancient times.
For their first visit, visitorss are recommended sample some traditional and delicious Wenzhou snacks, such as dumpling soup, sesame seed cake and glutinous rice dumplings.
Rafting is the main feature of the Nanxi River tour. For 32 yuan, you can sit on a raft, and listen to the sound of rushing water as you gaze at the fantastic mountain scenery. The best time for rafting is late October, when the mountain forests are at their most colorful. This is an ideal place to relax and escape from the noise and bustle of the city.
Yandang Mountain offers local delicacies, like shark’s fin and dried shrimp, and exquisite handicrafts, such as carved wood, papercuts, and woven straw hats and baskets.
On Spirit Crag, folk acrobatics are performed at a height of more than 260 meters along a 256-meter-long tightrope between Tianzhu and Zhanqi Peaks. Performances are at 10:30 and 15:00 from Monday to Thursday, and at 10:30, 13:30 and 16:00 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Wenzhou’s booming private economy attracts travelers interested in visiting some of the local enterprises. Several travel agencies now arrange economy exploration tours in Wenzhou and arrange lectures on the Wenzhou mode economy.