Zhoushan Travel Guide
Last updated by drwi at 2014/10/29
Zhoushan Archipelago, or Zhoushan Islands, is a large group of islands located at the mouth of Hangzhou Bay in the East China Sea where the latter meets the Yellow Sea. Put slightly differently, the Zhoushan island complex lies just beyond the mouth of the Yangtze River, where the Yangtze empties into the Pacific Ocean (or the East China Sea, as it is called locally). Known as "Chushan" by foreign powers during the Colonial Era in China (viz., the Unequal Treaties (1842-1933) period, when trade and territorial concessions were forced upon the then Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty government), the city that bears the same name as the archipelago - and the name of the archipelago's main island - is the only prefecture-level political entity in China that consists solely of islands.
Neolithic Age humans belonging to the Hemudu Culture (BCE 5000-4500) inhabited the islands of the Zhoushan Archipelago. Since these islands were relatively close to the mainland, early humans eventually found a way to get from the mainland to the archipelago, and given the close proximity of the island complex, it can be assumed that there was a certain amount of traffic between the mainland and the archipelago, though just how much of such traffic there was during the Neolithic Age is not well established.
Since there are no spectacular Neolithic Age archeological-anthropological finds on the archipelago, this might suggest that the island complex was characterized by a relatively isolated culture, where the "technological" discoveries of the day were imported from the mainland with a lag, and where the islanders did not themselves contribute much of significane to the progress of these "technological" discoveries, simply because there were too few members of the communities - themselves semi-isolated, each on their respective island - to provide a "brainstorming" effect, as in "many heads think better than only one", though this is pure conjecture on my part. What the archipelago may lack in the way of an interesting prehistory, it more than makes up for in its interesting history, as the next section illustrates.
A Historical Tapestry of Zhoushan Archipelago
The Zhoushan Archipelago, not surprisingly, given its location just off the coast of the area that corresponds to present-day Zhejiang Province, was first organized under the political and administrative entity that controlled the area in question, namely, the Yue (???-334) State, which state, though we do not know its exact date of inception, is believed to have originated sometime during the Spring and Autumn (BCE 770-476) Period of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty. The first recorded name for the island complex was Yongdong, meaning "East of Yong", or east of the Yong River which runs through the Zhejiang city of Ningbo before emptying into Hangzhou Bay between the mainland and Jintang Dao, or Jintang Island, one of the islands belonging to Zhoushan Archipelago. Note that Ningbo's ancient name was also Yong, though the city's ancient name was borrowed from the river that ran through it, of course.
Some sources have suggested that Zhoushan Archipelago houses one of the fabled Three Celestial Islands (of Taoism): "Penglai, Yingzhou and Fangzhang, located east of the Bohai Sea", according to the legend. However, most other sources place the presumed location of the Three Celestial Islands within the Miaodao Archipelago (aka Changshan Islands), which lie on the eastern edge of the Bohai Sea between Shandong Peninsula to the south and the Liaodong Peninsula (think: Korea) to the north, where the Bohai Sea merges with the Yellow Sea (the Zhoushan Archipelago, in contrast, lies more south than east of the Bohai Sea). The Three Celestial Islands figured importantly in Taoism, as it was believed that the ingredients necessary to create the elixir of life - the potion that could bestow immortality - could be found on these islands, therefore the Three Celestial Islands were the object of intense search by numerous alchemists throughout China's early Taoist history.
Beginning with the period of the Eastern Jin (CE 317-420) Dynasty, after large numbers of Han Chinese people fled south and began to settle in the area south of Jiangsu Province, including in the area of present-day Zhejiang Province, small-scale piracy began to be a nuisance factor along the open coast of China, from the East China Sea to the South China Sea. The piracy continued as more and more Han Chinese refugees settled in southern China, building cities and seaports along the coast and engaging in lively trade.
The piracy occurred both at sea and on land, eventually inspiring Chinese towns and villages to install defensive weapons emplacements at strategic locations near the shoreline. One of the suppliers of "manpower" to the piracy profession was, alas, the Zhoushan Archipelago, where pirate ships from Korea and Japan - and China itself - would regularly pick up whatever extra or replacement manpower was required for the voyage at hand. Indeed, piracy - like so many other firsts in the world - was "invented" in China. This is not so surprising, given the fact that it takes a highly developed country to give rise to well-developed trade in the first place, and secondly, it takes a maritime country, i.e., a country that borders navigable waters, to give rise to trade by sea, and China fulfilled both of these criteria. Piracy, after all, is nothing but highway robbery by sea, and highway robbery surely came before piracy.
The early Chinese pirates who operated along the coast of China terrorized sea trade from the Bohai Sea in the north to the Straits of Malacca in the south. Later, after the Yuan (CE 1279-1368) Dynasty made an unsuccessful attempt to invade Japan, which only emboldened the Japanese, it was primarily Japanese pirates who plagued the coastal areas of China (another place where pirate ships, including Japanese pirate ships, recruited temporary to permanent manpower was Taiwan - in fact, the island of Taiwan was under Japanese rule during various periods of the island's history).
The Japanese pirates, perhaps stung by the Chinese attempt to invade their country, did not confine their piracy to Chinese (or to Philippine and other Southeast Asian country) port cities, but sailed up rivers and sacked and looted towns all along the way in a manner reminiscent of the much later Nanking Massacre of 1937.
The Japanese piracy only ceased to be a major problem for China, firstly, when China began to build junks (see the image of a typical junk immediately below) that were much superior to the Japanese junks, and secondly, after Japan began to get its act together, eventually producing a strong central power and thus putting an end to such international piracy, with the advent of the first Tokugawa Shogunate led by the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, in the period CE 1603-16 (shogun is the Japanese title that designates a hereditary military commander who was the actual ruler of Japan, even as the emperor (the mikado, in Japanese) was the figurehead ruler of Japan).
Note that Tokugawa is the name of a family, meaning that the Tokugawa Shogunate, which stretched from CE 1603-1868, was indeed a hereditary dynasty. The seat of the Tokugawa Shogunate was the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo), and hence, this period in Japanese history is often referred to as the Edo Period.
The above image is of a Song Dynasty Junk, and, by the very nature of things, was not designed for transoceanic trade, which trade would first come into focus after the arrival of Portuguese and Dutch traders in the 17th century, and would increase as British and American traders arrived in the centuries that followed. The early period junk was used for trade along China's coast (the East and South China Seas) and trade with Southeast Asian countries as well as with the countries that rimmed the Indian Ocean (and it was surely used on the Maritime Silk Road to transport silk, spices and incense westward, as well as European and African wares eastward, from the earliest times).
As the British historian and navigator, H. Warrington Smyth, who served for a stint (1891-96) as Director of the Department of Mines in Siam (present-day Thailand) said of the junk:
"As an engine for carrying man and his commerce upon the high and stormy seas as well as on the vast inland waterways, it is doubtful if any class of vessel is more suited or better adapted to its purpose than the Chinese junk, and it is certain that for flatness of sail and handiness, the Chinese rig is unsurpassed." *
In CE 738, during the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty, present-day Zhoushan City on the main Zhoushan Archipelago island of Zhoushan was made into a district, Wengshan District, under the auspices of the then Ming Prefecture, i.e., the site of the ancient city of Yong, or present-day Ningbo. During the illustrious Tang Dynasty, when China was enjoying a Rennaissance-like status in the region, both for its art, its sublime Buddhist teachings and its progressive government that contributed to the flowering of China - and which so impressed China's neighbors that they sent emissaries to China to study firsthand the workings of the Tang government - Japanese Buddhist monks were frequently "stationed" in China in order to better learn Chinese Buddhism, just as Chinese Buddhist monks travelled throughout Japan, spreading Chinese Buddhism.
One of the more visited islands of the archipelago from a Buddhist pilgrimmage standpoint is Mount Putuo Island, where there is a statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and the Patron Saint of seafarers, as it were. The pilgrimmages to Mount Putuo Island commenced during the Tang Dynasty and have become more popular as time has passed, attracting Buddhist worshippers of all sects, and Buddhist worshippers from the Pure Land sect in particular.
In CE 1073, during the Northern Song (CE 960-1127) Dynasty, Wengshan District was renamed Changguo District, and during the early period of the Yuan Dynasty, Changguo District was upgraded to a prefecture. During the Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty - in particular, in the period CE 1530-60 - the Zhoushan Archipelago became an outright base for both Chinese and Japanese pirates. Also during this period, some of the most plunderous raids were conducted from Zhoushan along the Chinese coast, from the Jiaodong Peninsula (aka Shandong Peninsula, Shandong Province) in the north to the area of present-day Macau and Hong Kong, Guangdong Province, in the south, including plunderous raids up the major rivers to a distance of roughly 100 kilometers (even Nanjing (aka Nanking by foreigners), which would later be the venue of one of the bloodiest massacres in history, was plundered during this period by Japanese pirates).
It was perhaps the gruesomeness and the rapaciousness of these raids that prompted the Chinese to develop better, more fleet-footed junks, and which eventually forced the Japanese to gain control over the their countrymen pirates via the establishment of a strong central government under the Tokugawa Shogunate in CE 1603 (it would not be the first nor the last weak potentate who would be forced to cede power to the military!). Still, the emergence of the Tokugawa Shogunate in CE 1603 could not prevent the death in 1605 - at the hands of pirates - o one of Queen Elizabeth I of England's chief navigators and explorers, John Davis.
Davis, famous for having discovered the strait that was later named after him - while searching for the fabled Northwest Passage - namely, the Davis Strait, which lies south of Greenland (i.e., between Greenland, a part of Denmark, and Baffin Island, Territory of Nunavut, Canadian Arctic Archipelago), and for having later discovered the Falkland Islands, was murdered in December of 1605 by Japanese pirates while on board an East India Company ship, the Tigre ("Tiger"), that was anchored off the island of Bintang, east of Singapore. The East India Company had originated, with the permission of Queen Elizabeth I, only a few years earlier, in 1600.
Another famous pirate during this period was Zheng Chenggong, aka Koxinga, considered the greatest of all Chinese pirates for his daring exploits, though in reality Koxinga was part hero, part bandit, or what one might today refer to as a buccaneering adventurer. Koxinga, who was half Chinese, half Japanese (his mother was a native of Nagasaki and servant to a Japanese feudal lord), had been the commander of the maritime forces of the Ming Dynasty at a time when that dynasty was slowly falling apart, both internally and in the face of external, i.e., Manchu, opposition.
After the toppling of the Han Chinese Ming Dynasty by the Manchu Qing forces, Zheng organized his own army, taking up arms against the Manchus, eventually taking to sea and making raids on Manchu interests along China's coast. In preparation for doing battle with Qing naval forces, Koxinga took the Zhoushan Archipelago, making it his base of operations. His first encounter with Qing naval forces resulted in a Koxinga victory, thanks not least, it has been recognized, to Koxinga's cleverly having first secured the Zhoushan Archipelago.
However, a major stumbling block to Koxinga's ambitions was the Dutch East India Company, which Koxinga eventually resoundlingly defeated on Formosa (Taiwan) during a two-year campaign that lasted from 1661 to 1662, after which he intended to use Formosa as a base from which to launch attacks against Qing interests, but Koxinga died on Formosa in the same year, 1662, at the tender age, relatively speaking, of only 32, from malaria. (Note that China Travel is considering a fascinating article on the subject of piracy, and if - or, hopefully, when - it materializes, I will link to it from this article.)
Below is an actual photo of a late Qing Dynasty, ocean-going junk - it might also have sailed between China and India or between China and Australia, since the Australian gold rush (or rushes, since gold was discovered in a variety of places at different times) occurred during the latter half of the 19th century (note that the earliest photography, called the Daguerreotype after its French inventor, Louis Daguerre, stems from 1839):
When the area of Zhejiang Province became a province by that name in 1688, during the reign (CE 1661-1722) of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty, Changguo District became Dinghai District. During the early years of Zhejiang Province, and after Koxinga was no longer a threat, the Zhoushan Archipelago was used as a sort of free port (entrepôt), in line with the free ports of Amoy (present-day Xiamen, Fujian Province) and Canton (present-day Guangzhou, Guangdong Province) that were ceded to Great Britain at the close of the First Opium War (1839-42), as part of the Treaty of Nanking (or present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu Province).
During the era of the Opium Wars (1839-42 and 1856-60), the Zhoushan Archipelago came into sharp focus. The archipelago was briefly captured by British forces under Captain Charles Elliot in 1840, but was used by Elliot as a bargaining chip in a swap in early 1841 for Hong Kong. Since Hong Kong was a barren island at the time while Zhoushan was a well-developed port, the British Foreign Secretary, Palmerston, dismissed Elliot and sent Elliot's replacement, Sir Henry Pottinger, with a fleet to retake Zhoushan, and the mission was accomplished in October of the same year, without forfeiting the island of Hong Kong, though the latter would be leased "in perpetuity" to Britain in 1860 as part of the First Convention of Peking that followed the conclusion of the Second Opium War (seen in retrospect, Elliot was a man simply ahead of his time!). Zhoushan Archipelago would be returned to the Chinese between the First and Second Opium Wars, though it would again be occupied by British forces in 1860, near the end of the Second Opium War (1856-60).
Below is a copy of a painting depicting the Keying, which sailed between China and the US and between China and the UK in the years 1846-48:
In in the brief interlude in 1841 when the Qing government had gotten the Zhoushan Archipelago back (i.e., after Captain Charles Elliot returned it and before Sir Henry Pottinger retook it), Dinghai District, as the archipelago was then called, became a subprefecture (Dinghai Subprefecture) directly under the control of the province, though Dinghai Subprefecture lost that status, becoming Dinghai County, with the fall of the Qing Dynasty.
Zhoushan Archipelago played a very minor role - more of a footnote role, in fact - in the Taiping Rebellion when one of the subordinates to Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the rebellion, a certain Wang Yijun, attempted to wrest Zhoushan Archipelago from Qing forces. Wang failed, perishing in the unsuccessful battle. Though no battles were fought here between Qing forces and the forces of the Republic of China (1912-49) that eventually ousted the last Qing emperor in 1911, the great military strategist and "George Washington" of the republic era, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, paid a visit in 1916 to the archipelago, where he visited in particular Mount Putuo (Dr. Sun wrote a short essay there entitled Travelling to Putuo).
The archipelago did not play a role in the War of Liberation (it was too far north to be of strategic importance in the struggle between the Nationalists (the Kuomintang (KMT)) and the Communists; in contrast, the archipelagoes in the area of the Zhujiang ("Pearl River") Estuary were very strategic to the outcome of the Chinese civil war. The archipelago was eventually taken over by the Chinese Communists in 1950. During the early period of the PRC, parts of the archipelago were assigned to different prefectures belonging to different provinces, but in 1987, the archipelago became one again when it was made into a prefecture, with the city of Zhoushan, Zhoushan Island, as its capital.
Present-Day Zhoushan Archipelago
The Zhoushan Archipelago comprises an area of some 21,000 square kilometers, whereof only about 1500 square kilometers is terra firma, the rest being water, and even of this terra firma, some 185 square kilometers of it is rather less "firm" in the sense that it is submerged during high tide. The archipelago is densely populated, with tourism and fishing as the its main sources of income. Of the 1390 islands (only 98 of them are large enough or high enough above sea level to be inhabited), only a handful are what one would call large islands. These latter include Daishan, Dongji, Mount Putuo, Shengsi, Taohua, the main - and largest - island of Zhoushan, and Zhujiajian, each of which islands will be highlighted in detail farther below.
The archipelago is characterized by four seasons, with an at times humid, monsoonal subtropical climate. The summers are warm - in some places rather hot - generally humid and rainy; the winters are cool and sometimes foggy, with moderate rain; while spring and autumn are transitional periods with a predictable mix of these two general patterns. Since the archipelago is influenced by the sea, certain islands are more temperate than others. For example, the main island, Zhoushan, has a slightly humid year-round climate with little swing in temperature between winter and summer (the winters are rarely chilly and the summers are rarely hot).
Generally, most of the rainfall occurs in the summer months. Typhoons are a mid to late summer risk, i.e., where they occur, they do so from July through September. The hottest temperatures occur during the month of August, with a monthly average of 27 degrees Celsius. The coolest month is January, with a monthly average of roughly 6 degrees Celsius.
In spite of the summer weather pattern described above, the weather on any given day can be made more tolerable by the presence of a sea breeze, which is not uncommon. For this reason, the best time of year to visit Zhoushan Archipelago is from the beginning of June to the close of October, which also comprises the typhoon "season", so one should check with the weather forecast when visiting the archipelago during this period.
The following is a brief, detailed desciption of each of the main islands comprising Zhoushan Archipelago (note that Jintang Island will not be covered here, for at present, it is hardly more than a stepping stone for the bridge that connects the mainland (at Ningbo) with Zhoushan Island, though in the years to come, the plan is to develop the island to its optimum potential as a tourist destination - and note that an annotated reference map of the archipelago will be presented after the description of Mount Putuo Island below):
Daishan Island - nicknamed Penglai Fairyland after the fabled island belonging to the fabled Three Celestial Islands of Taoism, Daishan Island is the administrative seat for a further 532 smaller verdant islands, most of them low-lying and therefore resembling large lotus leaves, flush with the surface of a pond, when the sea is tranquil. The islands are separated by reefs here and there that are sometimes visible at low tide. The beaches of the small islands are covered in a red-brown sand. The combined effect is one of sedate beauty and charm, with the dark blue of the sea, the deep green foliage of the islands and the red-brown hues of the reefs and shorelines.
Su Shi, aka Su Dongpo (1037-1011), the famous Song Dynasty statesman and poet, visited Daishan Island and wrote several poems while here. An earlier, unknown Qin (BCE 221-207) Dynasty poet wrote a poem entitled Ten Highlights of Penglai, and though it is most likely that the Penglai in question belongs to the aforementioned Miaodao Archipelago on the eastern edge of the Bohai Sea, the inhabitants of Daishan Island insist that they have identified the 10 highlights in question on their island (it would be gratuitously cruel to disabuse them of this belief, so we will refrain!).
Things to see and do on the island include a number of museums, among them a special typhoon museum which, in the spirit of an experimentarium, helps the visitor to better understand the forces at play during a typhoon (hurricane, in Western parlance). The island has a theme park, a genuine fishing village, its seascapes are a wonder to behold, and, for the more active, the island offers a range of sea sports.
Dongji Island - aka Zhongjieshan Isles, belongs to some of the easternmost islands of the archipelago, where Hangzhou Bay meets the East China Sea. Though there are other islands in this "easternmost" category lying farther north of Dongji Island, they were historically less important than Dongji Island, which lies close enough to the cluster of islands surrounding Zhoushan Archipelago's main island, Zhoushan Island, to make Dongji Island of particular importance to the archipelago. Indeed, dong-ji means "east pole" (as in North and South Pole), which reflects the strategic importance that was attached to the island by the archipelago's central administration, even in ancient times.
The most attractive feature of Dongji Island, or rather, of the Zhongjieshan Isles, are their natural beauty and sublime tranquility, which offer a panoply of mountain landscapes as well as seascapes. There is a plethora of interesting sea shells strewn on all of the shores of the Zhongjieshan Isles that can capture the imagination of collectors of rare and unique sea shells.
The Zhongjieshan Isles are also a favorite venue for deep sea fishing, given their close proximity to the deep waters of the open sea. Local fishing boats catch many other kinds of commercial fish in these rich waters. In all there are 28 lesser islands and a whopping 108 reefs that belong to the Zhongjieshan Isles, the latter of which explain the abundance of commercial fish present in these waters.
Mount Putuo Island - thanks to its namesake mountain (Mount Putuo is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains) and to the presence of the statue of Guanyin (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy), Mount Putuo Island is one of Zhoushan Archipelago's most popular tourist destinations. The island, located just east and slightly north of Zhoushan Archipelago's main island, Zhoushan, became the center for the Chinese Buddhist worship of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and the Patron Saint of seafarers, as it were. Guanyin is revered by all Buddhists, but perhaps especially by Pure Land sect Buddhists (the Pure Land sect is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism). Even Taoists revere Guanyin, elevating her to the status of an immortal, though the Guanyin-origin story adhered to by Taoists understandably differs from the Guanyin-origin story adhered to by Buddhists, the latter of which story is associated with a legend...
According to legend, in CE 863, a Japanese monk who had been on a pilgrimmage to Mount Wutai (another of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains) and was on the way back home to Japan by sea, taking with him a statue of Guanyin, was forced to seek refuge at a harbor on Mount Putuo Island. The monk, a certain Huier, perhaps under the influence of his religious sojourn on Mount Wutai, came to the conclusion that Guanyin was trying to tell him that she would prefer to make her home on Mount Putuo instead of in Japan, therefore Monk Huier erected the statue of Guanyin at Chaoyin Cave (not an actual cave, but a deep inset in a cliff face where the waves crash against the island). Monk Huier dubbed the statue "Reluctant-to-make-the-voyage Guanyin". True story or not, Chaoyin Cave became the venue for popular Buddhist pilgrimmages thereafter for those wishing to worship Guanyin. The current statue of Guanyin on Mount Putuo Island is of more recent date.
Guanyin and Guanyin-related festivals and ceremonies dominate the island. Especially auspicous days are February 19th, June 19th and September 19th of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. An annual Guanyin cultural festival is held in autumn, and there is a special, very popular annual spring festival where Guanyin is celebrated and where there is an additional pilgrimmage to Mount Putuo itself. Over a million tourists pay a visit to Mount Putuo Island each year. They are attracted not only by Guanyin and the sacred mountain with its many cliffs, caves, unusual rock formations, ancient trees and mountain streams - and not to speak of Mount Putuo's sea vistas - they are also attracted to the island for its many temples and shops, its ponds and streams, its quaint bridges, fountains and famous stone inscriptions, all of which combine to produce what is known as the "Number One Buddhist Paradise In China".
Note that you should most definitely click on the above image in order to enlarge it for the sake of clarity (it will automatically open in a new tab/ window).
Shengsi Island - aka Shengsi Isles, lies on the northern edge of the archipelago, where the Yangtze River estuary meets Hangzhou Bay. The Shengsi Isles share a marine border with Shanghai Municipality. Indeed, the Shengsi Isles are closer to Shanghai than to Zhoushan Island, the archipelago's main island. In fact, the regular ferry service to the Shengsi Isles originates at Shanghai's Luchao Port and serves, besides the Shengsi Isles, also the Zhoushan Archipelago island of Dazhi Tou (or Dazhi Toudao, as it is most commonly written, though this contains a redundancy, given that dao means "island"). There is also a direct highway, the S2 Hulu Expy, between the mainland (Shanghai) and Dazhi Toudao via a bridge.
The Shengsi Isles is indeed worth the trouble required to get there, as the isles offer tranquil, golden sandy beaches, unforgettable land- and seascapes, cliffs, caves, beautiful reefs and some excellent fishing grounds. Besides sport fishing, the isles also offer a range of other water sports.
The Shengsi Isles is THE place to go on Zhoushan Archipelago if you are in search of relaxed shoreline strolls off the beaten path and a chance to taste some of China's very best seafood.
Taohua Island - belongs to the cluster of the archipelago's islands that comprises Zhoushan Island itself. It is located just east and south of Zhoushan Island. The island is rich in natural as well as cultural highlights. In fact, the island's natural highlights have given rise to many of its cultural highlights, since many of the latter are film sets that are famous in Chinese TV series.
The Chinese film director, Zhang Jizhong, shot the Chinese TV series Legend of the Condor Heroes (after the 1957 novel of the same name by Jin Yong, which is the first of the Condor Trilogy by Jin Yong) on the island in 2001, then returned the next year to film the Chinese TV series Dragon Chronicles. In advance of these filmings, the archipelago's authorities had set up China's first island filming base and studio on Taohua Island. The main highlights of these filming sets are the following: Anqi Peak (also the archipelago's highest peak), Dafo Rock, Taohua Port, Taohua Valley, Tawan Golden Sand Beach and Xuanbugu Island. In addition to the main filming set highlights are a number of lesser filming set highlights that include noteworthy land- and seascapes and other attractive physical features on the island.
Other must-see highlights on Taohua Island include: a thousand-year-old temple, Baique Temple, dedicated to the worship of Guanyin (it can come as no surprise that the Goddess of Mercy and Patron Saint of seafarers is worshipped throughout the archipelago's islands); Taohua Village and the Taohua Stone.
Zhoushan Island - is, as indicated, the main island of the archipelago and the seat of the archipelago's administration, meaning that it houses the majority of the government administration buildings belonging to the archipelago. But there are several sightseeing venues on the island that will be of interest to the visitor, spread over the island's three main districts: Dinghai, Lincheng and Shenjiamen, as described below.
Dinghai District- is the site of a Neolithic Age archeological find and now a theme park named "Hemudu at Sea, First Village on the Island". There are also traces here from the Opium Wars period, such as the Opium War Park. Some Dinghai District street names reflect the Western influence of the Unequal Treaties period, or what one might call the Colonial era in China during the late Qing Dynasty. An additional 128 smaller islands are administered via government offices situated in Dinghai District.
Culturally, Dinghai District is one of the more interesting places on the archipelago, with old temples and museums (housing, among other things, a collection of handwritten documents by former emperors), and in general several elegant buildings that stem from the Qing Dynasty period.
In addition, there are several former dignitary residences in the district, including the former residences of historical figures such as Qiao Shi, a native of Shanghai who rose to the 3rd highest post in the government of the PRC and a distant relative to - of all people - Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the opposition (KMT) movement during the civil war; Chen Ping, aka Sanmao, the famous female Taiwanese author; Ding Guangxun, another native of Shanghai and a Christian who was partly educated at distinguished American universities, and who rose high not only in the Protestant movement in China but also in the various conferences and committees of the PRC; and last but certainly not least, Tung Chee Hwa, also a native of Shanghai and the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong (1997-2005), after Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
Other must-see venues in Dinghai District include Joining Bridge, Bandao Fishing Garden and Wuzhishan Bird Island, as well as Mount Huangyangjian, which offers some stunningly beautiful landscapes.
Lincheng District- though not the administrative heart of Zhoushan Island, Lincheng District is the political and cultural center of the archipelago as well as the archipelago's educational center. But the Lincheng District also sports an international class golf course and a first-rate yacht harbor on Changzhi Peninsula. In addition, Lincheng District boasts a marine culture park and a sports arena, and some 5 kilometers of coastline that is currently being developed for the usual waterside recreational activities, so even if you can't find the time to visit the more exotic corners of the archipelago, you will soon be able to satisfy your craving for waterside recreational activities at Zhoushan Island's Lincheng District.
Shenjiamen District - is the administrative heart of Zhoushan Island, and thanks to Shenjiamen Port, is not just the archipelago's fish capital, but the fish capital of all of China (Shenjiamen Port, along with Norway's Bergen Harbor and Peru's Callao Port, are considered the three most popular fishing ports in the world, while Shenjiamen Port is ranked as the world's largest distribution center for fresh fish, a surprising fact when one imagines that Tokyo Harbor might otherwise have held that distinction). Shenjiamen Port, not surprisingly, is also home to a long string of excellent seafood restaurants and seafood stalls in the dozens if not in the hundreds. Thanks to the fact that Shenjiamen Port lands the bulk of the fish that are caught in the archipelago's rich fishing waters, plus the fact that fresh fish are flown in daily from elsewhere in China and throughout the region, Shenjiamen is the seafood capital of China (but note that there are lots of excellent seafood restaurants, as indicated above, on the Shengsi Isles, situated on the northern edge of the archipelago).
The advantage to dining at one of the seafood stalls along the wharves of Shenjiamen Port is that one can at the same time stroll along the wharves and enjoy the special ambience that only a port city can offer (anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit the harbor area of France's famous coastal city, La Rochelle - bejewelled with seafood restaurants in all price classes (and with the ruins of ancient harbor walls and other maritime military fortifications (La Rochelle was one of the bases of France's 17th century Protestant movement (think: the Huguenot rebellions)), giving the city the aspect of a painting by the French classical-style painter, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)) - would readily agree with the above observation, especially at nighttime, when the harbor lights are reflected in the broken, dancing surface of the harbor's waters).
Zhujiajian Island - lies just east of Zhoushan Island, the archipelago's main island, and is linked with the archipelago's main island by a short bridge. Zhujiajian Island can safely be said to be Zhoushan Island's main getaway, the nearby venue that Zhoushaners escape to in order to find a bit of unspoiled nature in the form of fresh air, sandy beaches, deep blue bathing waters and pristine forests. In addition, Zhujiajian Island offers a rocky, mountainous landscape with lots of sheer cliffs, caves and interesting rock formations, interspersed here and there with green copses. The island's invitingly clean, golden-sand beaches are: Dongsha, Lisha, Nansha, Qiansha and Qingsha. Not surprisingly, Zhujiajian Island is home to the annual International Sand-Sculpture Festival featuring many larger-than-life sand sculptures. Two of the island's, popular non-beach venues are:
Mount Baishan, with its many odd rock formations, some of which seem to be perched so precariously that one expects them to come tumbling down at any moment. However, visitors to Mount Baishan have been expecting this 'at any moment' moment for thousands of years, so it will not likely happen any time soon. The local authorities commissioned a large fresco of a Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) on a particularly large rock face on Mount Baishan, looking down benevolently on visitors. The explanation for a Guanyin on Zhujiajian Island when it is Mount Putuo Island that is known for its connection to Guanyin? Since time immemorial (well, ever since the Yuan Dynasty), Zhujiajian Island has served as the supply base for Mount Putuo Island, and
Mount Daqing, with its 380 meter high summit, offering some of the best panoramic views in the area. A hike up Mount Daqing is the perfect day trip, provided that one brings a good lunch with beverages. It offers a view of Nansha beach below, one of the five outstanding beaches of the island, all strung out in a row along the southeastern shoreline of the island - and collectively referred to as "Ten-Li Golden Sand". Zhujiajian Island's famous beaches are separated by natural (wave) breakers, or stone dikes, the most famous of which is called Black Cobblestone Dike.
Another interesting feature about Zhoushan Archipelago, and perhaps of special interest to photographers, are the many unique lighthouses spread throughout the archipelago - they come in all sizes, shapes and colors, some of them looking like giant Lego creations.
For sheer diversity, it is hard to beat the islands of Zhoushan Archipelago. Even the weather varies depending on which part of this vast archipelago one finds oneself, since the sea influences the weather greatly locally, and the currents are warmer or cooler in various locations, and, as well, the exact location of the island, whether it is in the middle or on the edge of the archipelago can make a difference. Little wonder then that Zhoushan Archipelago, occupying the outer extremity of Hangzhou Bay, has been dubbed "The Golden Tourist Triangle".
* H. Warington Smyth wrote two books:
Five Years in Siam: from 1891-1896 (Bangkok: White Lotus, 1898), and
Mast and Sail in Europe and Asia (London: John Murray, 1906), the latter of which has been republished countless times, including the most recent, a 2010 publication.
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