Zhoushan islands: An archipelago for first discovery of China
2011-03-18China travel Guide
If someone asks me the first place I have ever been to in China, apart from Shanghai where I first landed and visited later on during my one-month trip, I will answer: Zhoushan Island (舟山岛). This name may seem unfamiliar to many people, that is the reason why I am even more eager to make you discover it.
Zhoushan (舟山岛) is an island having jurisdiction over other smaller islands all of them located in the Northeast of the Zhejiang Province (浙江省). Just separated from the mainland by a narrow body of water, the only way to reach the place is to take on board at the city of Ningbo (宁波).
Arriving at Shanghai Pudong Airport, my trip started its way by getting on a bus for 3 hours in order to reach the city of Ningbo, which borders the sea to the Northern tip of the Zhejiang Province. When our bus finally arrived at the port of Ningbo, the place was displaying many fish shipping sceneries. Everywhere the activity displayed by fishermen and women was such a spectacle for me: fresh and good catch of the morning, fishing net drying on the boats' landing stages, sorting out fishes work, etc... the view was amazing. I finally take on board on one of the ferry boats that does all day long the journey between Ningbo's harbor and Zhoushan. The ferry was big, and many people were already sitting on the landing stages benches at the front and the back of the boat, while others were just sitting inside the boat main cabin. The crossing was just a matter of an hour or so, just the time to take a rest before the rich first day I was going to spend in this island.
By the time our boat arrived in Zhoushan island, the weather started to get sunnier, a real blessing for us after these past hours of bus and crossing. My stay in Zhoushan lasted for almost a week between visits of the island and the nearby one (Taohua Island), lessons at the Zhoushan Nanhai Experimental School (Chinese language, Chinese Taijiquan, Chinese music, etc...) and rests. This small island was for me a good first impression of China, and a real everlasting memory. While staying in Zhoushan and most precisely on the Dinghai Island, the biggest one in the whole archipelago, I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the many tourist and cultural sites. The first one that I did was the imposing Opium War Park and its long alleyways inspiring respect from everyone. The path to the main hall was a huge staircase surrounded by big black marble slabs where names of departed people where inscribed. To the top of the Park is standing the Museum Hall and a temple dedicated to the history and the victims of the war, from where a sightseeing over the whole island is available for the most courageous travelers.
Like any traveler, I also had the opportunity to walk around the city center in order to make some shopping and souvenir presents, but also to discover by myself the Chinese lifestyle of this "sea surrounded city". This was what attracted me most. Indeed, the walking streets of downtown Dinghai Island was for me the occasion to see, in the early evening for example, the main square crowded with people dancing all together on the rhythm of typical Chinese songs.
A walk in the Middle and Western Streets with architectures tracing back from the Qing Dynasty was a real highlight to me also, as well as the visit of a typical fish market and the Zuyin Buddhist Temple. This temple was again, the first one I ever visited in China: and what a sight! Colorful buildings, golden inscriptions, Buddha statues and priests where giving to the place a really special atmosphere intertwining respect and marvel at the same time. Tracing back from the post Jin Dynasty (265 AD - 420 AD), the Temple is recognized for its carved dragon buildings and painted phoenix as well as its importance as one of the most ancient Buddhist Temple of the country.
The seafood of Zhoushan was also a great experience that I had during my stay and a real worth doing experience for any traveler coming for the first time to China. As a seaport, the island enjoys a lot of markets and night street restaurants sprawling around the harbor and where everyone use to meet after hard days of labor. The dinner that I had there was just gorgeous! I tasted everything and even things I never saw before. The cookers were preparing the dishes, using the fishes and other seafood just displayed in front of us, all of this under a noisy but friendly atmosphere. For any traveler coming to China, this kind of street food restaurant is just a must-doing experience that make everyone feel the joyful mood characterizing Chinese people.
Ranked as the first trip I ever made in my life in China, Zhoushan still holds a special status in my mind. The place is now much more renowned for its nearby Putuoshan Island enjoying natural lush sceneries of great beauty, but I unfortunately didn't have the opportunity to tale on board for this destination. I'd rather went to Taohua Island, another island of the Zhoushan archipelago that enjoys many tourist sightseeing and that I'm looking forward to present you as well... but this is another story coming soon!
--- By Sophie (VisitOurChina)