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January 10, 2011

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See the movie, then visit the location

YOU'VE watched the film and fallen in love with its setting, so why not pay the actual location a visit? Chen Ye provides a guide to visiting the places where some of this season's most popular movies were filmed, including "Let the Bullets Fly."

Kaiping Watchtowers

Kaiping City, Guangdong Province

Kaiping Watchtowers were chosen to be the residence for Chow Yun-fat's character, a countrified moneybags who has spent some time in his past overseas, in the action-comedy "Let the Bullets Fly."

Director Jiang Wen believed that Kaiping Watchtowers were the best place for shooting as the entire movie is set around the warring 1920s period and the watchtowers maintain the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), while also displaying the luxuriance and magnificence of Western architectural styles.

The multi-storied structures originally appeared in the late Ming Dynasty and were first built by overseas Chinese before many villagers started constructing similar-style watchtowers.

With the development of Chinese culture, watchtowers flourished in the early 20th century and there were more than 3,000 in existence. Today there are only 1,833 left in Kaiping.

History has it that in the early 20th century, a large number of overseas Chinese returned to Kaiping, and at that time there were many bandits and gangsters who were jealous of their wealth. To protect themselves from theft and attacks, the returnees built these East-meets-West style towers. Each Kaiping Watchtower has its own particular Western-influenced style, such as Greek, Roman or Gothic.

This century the Kaiping Watchtowers have seen an increase in popularity as people are now paying more attention to historical attractions, and in June 2001, Kaiping Watchtowers became a national cultural heritage. They were inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List in June 2007.

The watchtowers represent an era when overseas Chinese were working hard to make a greater contribution to China's political, economic and cultural development.

How to get there:

Take a plane/train to Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong Province, and then take a bus to Kaiping City for about 1 1/2 hours.

Yuan'an County

Yichang City, Hubei Province

Among many cinema-goers, director Zhang Yimou's new production "Under the Hawthorn Tree" has been very popular as it not only vividly portrays pure puppy love but also offers scenes depicting breathtaking natural landscapes.

Yuan'an County is where the true "Hawkthorn Tree" story really happened, according to director Zhang, who visited many places before he discovered this small, quiet and ancient place.

The county remained relatively unknown until halfway through the making of Zhang's film when some production stills were released. Immediately, people were amazed by the area's intact, postcard-like scenery.

Officially established in 140 BC, Yuan'an was then named Linju as it was close to the Ju River (lin means "by"). In 559 during the Northern Zhou Dynasty (AD 557-581), it was renamed as Yuan'an, meaning "peaceful forever." Yuan'an was also a major battlefield during the Three Kingdoms Period (AD 220-280).

Following the success of "Under the Hawthorn Tree," the county government is reportedly planning to rename Yuan'an as Shanzha (hawthorn), because they believe the new name will attract more tourists.

Once people pay a visit to Yuan'an County, they will never forget its elegant natural scenery.

Wangjia Village

Seventy kilometers north of the county center, this village is home to the internationally famous Ya Silk.

Legend has it that Emperor Xuanyuan's (2400 BC) wife Lei Zu, widely known as the "Mother of the Chinese Nation," was born in Wangjia Village. She invented and helped local people develop skills and techniques in raising silkworms and growing mulberry trees. Residents in Wangjia Village still maintain this tradition.

March 15 on the Chinese lunar calendar is said to be Lei Zu's birthday, so every year on that day villagers flock to the Lei Zu Temple and celebrate the great woman's birthday for three days with worship and sacrifice offerings.

Mingfeng Mountain

Mingfeng Mountain, one of China's most famous Taoist mountains, is an example of the Danxia landform typical in southeast and southwest China that consists of red-colored sandstone characterized by steep cliffs.

After several years of reconstruction, it is now regarded as "one of the most dangerous mountains in the country" with towering peaks and steep cliffs.

Many literati, including poets Li Bai (AD 701-762) and Yuan Zhongdao (1575-1630), have been inspired by Mingfeng Mountain's beauty.

Linglong Gorge

Established as a National AAA attraction, Linglong Gorge is a landmark, with a sightseeing area of more than 186 square kilometers, more than 95 percent of which is covered by plantation.

There is a grand gorge with a 90-degree turn that is considered to be the most dangerous turn along the Yangtze River.

How to get there:

Take a plane/train to Yichang City, and then change to a bus. A one-hour drive will take you to Yuan'an.

Yalong Bay Tropical Paradise Forest Park

Sanya City, Hainan Province

Covering an area of 1,506 hectares, the forest park in Sanya is one of the best places for mountain expeditions, field exploring or simply relaxing.

In the movie "If You Are the One 2" directed by Feng Xiaogang, the park is depicted as a popular location for those seeking romance and a hot honeymoon destination.

The entire area has natural paradise-like views with a wide diversity of plants and animals.

How to get there:

There are many flights daily from Shanghai to Sanya. Upon arrival, simply grab a taxi to Yalong Bay.


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