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September 5, 2011

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Where to watch the moon

ACROSS China people will be celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival with family reunions and mooncakes, and at the heart of the festivities is watching the full moon reflected on water.

This year the traditional festival falls next Monday.

In ancient times, the moon was worshipped in autumn, the time of harvest. It symbolized completeness and abundance. Traditionally scholars wrote and recited poetry in praise of the moon as they sipped yellow rice wine and watched the moon over a beautiful, watery landscape.

Today, the worship and poetry are gone, but most people make it a point to be with family, eating round mooncakes, symbol of union, and watching the moon. It's also a time of romance.

The perfect setting for moon appreciation is beside water where the reflection can be appreciated.

Here are a few crescent-shaped Moon Bays (Yueliang Wan) around China that are famous sites for moon-gazing.

Kanas Lake Moon Bay

Bu'erjin County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

The breathtaking Moon Bay on Kanas Lake in the forested Altaire Mountains is legendary for its beauty and is a famous travel destination all year round. Photographers, poets and artists are drawn here.

"Kanas" means "beautiful and mysterious" in Mongolian.

It's very rugged, the autumn foliage and snow-capped mountains are spectacular.

The bay is an extension of Sleeping Dragon Bay (Wolong Bay).

Locals call the reflection of the full moon on the water a "pearl of Xinjiang."

Along the moon bay there are two beaches that appear to be giant footsteps and they are known as the footsteps of immortals. It is said the Dragon King visited Xinjiang and fell in love with the Moon Bay, so he left his footprints behind as a gift.

It lies in a river valley where there is virgin forest. A winding mountain road is the best place from which to view the lake and bay.

Bird watching is popular.

Location: Kanas Lake, north of Bu'erjin County

How to get there: Take a direct flight to Urumqi (about three and half hours), where a long-distance bus can reach Bu'erjin Town, then 4-wheel drive or horseback. Except to walk for a couple of hours.

Dalian Moon Bay

Dalian City, Liaoning Province

This moon bay is on the southwest sea coast of Liutiao Village. There's a 1,500-meter-long crescent-shaped bay.

It's famous for natural scenery. The water and sands are pure and clean. Surfing is popular in the daytime.

The legend has it that the Dalian Moon Bay is visited by the Ba Xian (Eight Immortals) every year around the Mid-Autumn Festival, drawn by the full moon perfectly reflected in the water. The bay is surrounded by mountains and greenery.

Location: 50km from downtown Dalian

How to get there: Fly to Dalian (nearly two hours) and then transfer to bus at Jianshu Road Station.

Jingxian Moon Bay

Jing County, Anhui Province

It is a crescent-shaped bay in a lake where movies like "Sparkling Red Star" (1974) were filmed. The warm autumn wind wafts bamboo fragrance across the water; streams flow quietly and occasionally there's a boatman's call.

It's pure nature.

The moon bay is located at the foot of Niu Tou Shan or Cow Head Mountain and there's a 2-kilometer-long stretch of silver sand. People gather on the beach and share mooncakes under the full moon. Bamboo rafting is popular.

Hours: 8am-5pm

Cost: Bamboo rafting, 50 yuan per person

Location: Dakang Village, Caicun Town, 20km from Jing County, Xuancheng City

How to get there:

? By bus: A train ride from Shanghai to Xuancheng takes about seven and half hours.

? By driving: Take A9, exit at Xuancheng, then take S322 to Caicun Town, stop at Moon Bay.

Shapa Moon Bay

Yangxi County, Guangdong Province

This crescent-shaped bay is famous for its rare saltwater hot spring, producing 5,200 tons of water daily. The unspoiled seacoast is seven kilometers long and edged by cliffs and rocks.

People gather to enjoy the scenery, sea breeze and hot springs and to share mooncakes.

Location: 320km southwest to Guangzhou, the capital city

How to get there: Fly to Guangzhou (about two and half hours), then take a bus to Yangxi County.

Yantai Moon Bay

Yantai City, Shandong Province

Yantai Moon Bay is famous as a romantic destination for lovers.

A stainless steel statue of Yue Lao, a traditional Chinese matchmaker, stands on the shore. After it was erected in 1989, the place became popular with newlyweds and lovers.

Rock formations, islands, ocean and beaches create magnificent scenery.

There's a wedding tradition in Yantai in which brides and bridegrooms usually stand in front of the matchmaker statue and pledge their love.

Location: 30 minutes from Binhai Plaza, Yantai City

How to get there: Fly to Yantai (one and half hours), and then take Bus No. 17 at railway station and get off at Moon Bay Station.


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