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Masterpieces of watermelon sculpture

IT'S getting to be the season to pick pumpkins and carving jack o' lanterns for Halloween, but in the small city of Pinghu in Zhejiang Province, everyone knows how to carve watermelon lanterns.

Many melons are elaborate works of folk art in Pinghu where kids as young as eight years and residents as old as 80 sculpt and etch the melons into things of beauty, glowing from within.

They carve them all year round, since the melons grow all year, but September is the month of the annual Watermelon Lantern Festival, held since 1985.

At night, 3,000 fantastic lanterns light the street, creating a warm, somewhat greenish glow.

The nearby river, the moonlight and pipa (Chinese lute) music create a magical scene.

Pinghu melons are famous around China for their flavor, sweetness and abundant juice. So these are not only delicious but also beautiful to behold.

"Wow! These are amazing!" says Hu Yamei, a 50-year-old visitor from Shanghai, staring at a display of watermelon lanterns, some carved like Kunqu Opera masks, some like landscapes and traditional gardens.

Haibao, the World Expo 2010 mascot, is another favorite subject.

The art of carving watermelons has become a famous folk art and dates back around 200 years in Pinghu.

In 1989, Zhejiang TV Station made a documentary film, "A Trip to the Hometown of Watermelon Lanterns," which won third place in the annual CCTV feature competition.

Pinghu City encompasses six towns and three districts; around 485,000 people make a living growing melons.

Pinghu is an hour's bus ride from Shanghai. It lies in the Hangjia Lake area of northeast Zhejiang Province, east of Shanghai and south of Hangzhou Bay.

More than melons

Pinghu area has many attractions in addition to melons. I

t's part of Jiangnan, or the region south of the Yangtze River known as the land of fish and rice for its abundance.

Jiulong (Nine Dragons) Mountain Holiday Resort, one of the best known, offers mountains, seacoast, islands and beaches and many activities in comfortable settings with an East-meets-West style.

Covering more than 9 square kilometers, it offers a golf course, polo field and yacht club.

To the west is a national forest park where visitors can hike, bike or stroll around the landscape.

To the east of Pinghu city lies Donghu (East Lake) area, a well-known scenic attraction.

It's famous for the ancient Nine Dragon Port because it's shaped like jiu long xi zhu (also known as nine dragons chasing a pearl).

The area covering more than 60 hectares combines leisure and culture in a beautiful setting.

In 2006, Donghu was named a national AAAA tourism spot.

Mo's Mansion is considered as beautiful as the ancient gardens in Suzhou, Jiangsu Provinces, though not as well known.

It is one of China's six major mansions known for elegant traditional gardens.

Mo's Mansion was constructed in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and covers around 7 hectares.

The mansion contains more than 70 rooms in various shapes and is one of the largest traditional enclosed structures.

Since the 1980s, many famous films and TV series have been filmed there, including "A Dream of Red Mansions," "Family," "Spring," "Autumn" and around 100 other films.

Another attraction is Li Shutong Memorial Museum near scenic Donghu Lake.

Li (1880-1942) was a famous musician, actor, educator and poet who contributed to China's New Culture Movement in the early 1900s.

Donghu Lake is shaped like a lotus, a symbol of purity, and the area including the museum is considered one of purity and refinement.

Jiulong Mountain

Open: 8am-6:30pm

Admission: 150-200 yuan per person

Mo's Mansion

Open: 8am-4:30pm

Admission: 20 yuan per person

Li Shutong Memorial Museum

Open: 8:30am-4:30pm


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