About 25 kilometers west of the city of Sanya, at the foot of Xiama Hill, lies the small town of Tianya (alternatively, Tian Ya). Tianya is home to Tianyahaijiao (Tianya Haijiao, or Tian Ya Hai Jiao) Tourism Zone, a park that is ranged along a fantastic beach that is dimpled with large stones, some in grotesque shapes, and one of which (one of the more regular-shaped, smooth stones) is quite famous, as it bears an inscription made by a certain Chengzhe, chief magistrate of Yazhou (alternatively, Ya Zhou) Prefecture, one of the former designations of the area on which the present-day city of Sanya sits.* The inscription by chief magistrate Chengzhe reads simply: "Tian Ya", meaning "The Edge of the Sky". On a nearby stone is another inscription, though the author's identity is not known. This inscription reads: "Hai Jiao", or "The End of the Sea".
Both of these inscriptions are related to a Li nationality legend. According to the legend, two fairy maidens descended to earth in order to aid fishermen in the South Sea, and the empress of heaven was so annoyed at this interference in the affairs of men that she sent the god and goddess of thunder to fetch the wrongdoers back to heaven to be scolded. The miscreants refused to obey, and were duly tranformed into a large rock, which cleaved into two parts, one part falling into the sea near Li'an, the other, thereafter called Nantianyizhu, falling to one side of the village, Tianya (a scene depicting Nantianyizhu was printed on the 2-yuan note from 1986).
Whether the chief magistrate of Ya Zhou Prefecture and the anonymous author of the other inscription deliberately intended to pay homage to the legend, or whether they only wished to comment on what had seemed obvious to countless generations of Chinese people that had gone before them is not known. It seems likely, however, that since China was synonymous with the world and since this was the southernmost extremity of China, and since what lay beyond was a body of water that met the sky out there on the horizon, it was indeed the end of the world in their minds, or the place where "The Edge of the Sky" met "The End of the Sea".
The main attraction at Tianyahaijiao Tourism Zone is of course the beach, which is so South-Sea-Island paradise-like that it is hard to connect it to the rest of bustling China. With palm trees gently swaying on sandy beaches and sparkling, pristine waters beckoning, one has to pinch oneself to remind oneself that this is not some sort of exotic, South-Sea-Island movie set.
* Sanya was called Ahuya Prefecture during the Western Han (BCE 206 – CE 9) Dynasty, Linzhen Prefecture during the Sui (CE 581-617) Dynasty, Zhen Zhou Prefecture during the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty, Ya Zhou Prefecture during the Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasty, then simply Ya County in 1920, and finally, Sanya (City) in 1984.