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May 16, 2011

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Natural splendor awaits in Deqing

Gorgeous bamboo forests, a peaceful lake and old temples are only a short drive from Shanghai. Deqing has it all for that quick sojourn away from the big city, writes Chen Ye.

Deqing is a wonderful place for a weekend getaway. It's got wonderful mountains, bamboo forests and tea plantations, all of which make for a tranquil change from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai.

And it's only a two-hour drive away.

The county in Zhejiang Province is also known as "a land of fish, rice and silk."

The western part of Deqing is set against the Tianmu Mountain range, which shares a border with the Moganshan summer resort. The middle parts feature sprawling hills and plains.

Deqing has long been known for its beautiful scenery as Tianmu Mountain is covered by lush and verdant trees.

Deqing also features Xiazhu Lake and a dazzling natural waterway network. The lake is home to many elegant egrets.

Waterways wind through eastern Deqing's maze of ancient towns near the southern banks of the Yangtze River.

With a total area of 936 square kilometers, Deqing has nine towns and 151 villages under its jurisdiction and a population of around 430,000.

With a history of nearly 1,800 years, Deqing County has several historical relics to see. Check out the 1,000-year-old Yunxiu Temple, Wenming Pagoda, Huishan Pagoda, Juehai Buddhism Temple and a network of ancient bridges built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

? Piano hometown

Strolling down the streets in the small town of Luoshe in Deqing, visitors are always greeted by melodic piano music.

This town of only 18,000 residents has 46 piano-manufacturing companies, which means one out of five pianos made in China is from the hands of Luoshe farmers.

It all began in the early 1980s when Deqing Piano Factory invited four professional technicians from Shanghai to help start the business.

From few qualified artisans at the very beginning to the current advanced technologies and skills, Luoshe has become well-known worldwide for its high-quality pianos and is intimately called "China's hometown of piano."

? Moganshan

It is one of the most famous mountains in Jiangnan, regions south of the Yangtze River. A state-level scenic spot and one of the four most famous summer resorts in China, Moganshan enjoys fame both at home and abroad for its spectacular bamboo forests, misty clouds and beautiful spring water.

It is known as a green, quiet mountain featuring nearly 200 villas in various styles, earning it the title of the "World Architecture Museum."

Late Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and Kumingtang leader Chiang Kai-shek all visited Moganshan frequently during their lives.

There is a touching story behind the mountain's name.

There was a couple, Mo Ye and Gan Jiang. Gan was from the Kingdom of Wu, and his wife Mo was from the Kingdom of Yue during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-467 BC). They were skilled sword makers.

The lord of Wu asked them to make the most perfect sword in the world after he heard of their skills. When the deadline came, Gan and Mo had yet to finish making it.

In the interests of saving her husband's life, Mo jumped into the burner. Her sacrifice helped complete the perfect sword. Gan presented it to lord Wu with a broken heart.

However, lord Wu killed Gan immediately because he thought one day Gan would make another perfect sword for the lord of Yue.

The mountain, where this couple lived, became known as Mogan (Mo and Gan) Mountain in their memory.

? Xiazhu Lake

Located in the middle of Deqing, Xiazhu Lake is the largest wetland in Jiangnan and is also a state-level tourist destination.

Xiazhu Lake has more than 600 islets and sandlots in the lake zone, creating a unique water scene of connected waterways.

The crested ibis, an endangered species, egrets and many migratory birds can be found at Xiazhu Lake.

Visitors can take boat rides to enjoy the natural scenery. Local people in the wetland area are famous for making the best fish soup rice.

? Chunhui Park

The largest park in Deqing is near the New Town area and the park gained its name from a poem written by its native son, Meng Jiao of the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907).

The poem "Song of a Traveling Son" reads: "Thread in the hands of a loving mother, turns to clothes on the traveling son. She adds stitch after tight stitch until he leaves and worries about his return. A grass blade bathes in spring sunshine, how can its inch-sized heart return such love." The park was named Chunhui Park, or Spring Sunshine Park, to commemorate the famous poet.

If you go:

How to get there

Deqing is only about 15 to 30 minutes' drive from Hangzhou, and about two hours from Shanghai. Take a high-speed train from Shanghai to Hangzhou and then take Bus K588 to Deqing.

What to eat and drink

? Fish soup rice

Fish soup rice is a traditional food used in Deqing to welcome guests from afar. It takes a long time to prepare since there are many steps to make the fish balls.

Before cooking, locals pick the biggest and richest fish. The fish should be skinned and mashed with the proper amount of salt and yellow wine. It stirs for about 10 minutes.

Then the mashed fish is put into boiling water until it floats. Then add sliced bamboo, shallots, and black fungus. Cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Guests are always served the hottest and freshest fish ball because according to Deqing people, serving cold food is not polite.

? Baked green soybean tea

Baked green soybean tea is another favorite of Deqing people.

Green tea leaves and baked green soybeans are mixed with citrus peels, orange peels and sesame.

The tea has a memorable salty, yet slightly sweet taste.


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