HANGZHOU is an energetic city, but amazingly near its heart there’s a broad heavenly field of Chinese wisdom, organic farming and fragrant tea. Wang Yong takes us on a ramble.
Imagine a 10-hectare idyll within two hours’ amble from the West Lake shore, where you can stop for tea, enjoy meals with fresh, delicate produce, go fishing or just ramble to your heart’s content. You’re a world away from the clutches of the city.
Impossible, you scoff. Farming and fishing in the heart of a modern city of traffic, expressways and skyscrapers? No way.
Hangzhou has it. Hangzhou is just an hour and 20 minutes’ ride from Shanghai by bullet train.
Hangzhou has restored to ecological harmony 150 mu (10 hectares) of prime farmland that once was the octagonal imperial farm for the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).
The huge octagon in the famed Eight Diagrams (Bagua) shape has been recreated in its original spot, and it again is surrounded by water. The familiar Eight Diagrams design, with yin and yang in the center, is a representation of Chinese wisdom about the cosmos and the harmonious workings of nature.
In 2007, the capital of Zhejiang Province rescued the land from decades of industrial pollution and waste, scattered non-ecological farms and encroaching tangles and wilderness.
On the skyline, you can see the tall buildings of Hangzhou, but all is tranquil in the Bagua Field.
The eight-sectioned field mainly grows eight crops, from peppers to beans. In the center, tea is grown. Of course, everything is organic.
The varieties are not what grew in the fields more than 1,000 years ago, as the original genes have been lost over time or have mutated.
When my wife and I visited on February 21, a few farmers were collecting and selling spinach, white radishes and other vegetables, while others were clearing weeds from the water that encircles the Bagua. That’s the place to fish.
We two had just descended upon the field from legendary Yuhuang Mountain. The Bagua Field lies at the southern foot of the 237-meter-high mountain, which is south of West Lake.
It took us less than two hours to climb up and down the mountain, which abounds in Buddhist and Taoist relics.
Then we arrived in the crop fields °?- Bagua is actually an island – ringed by flowing water that contains many varieties of fish.
On the shores are thatched tea houses and small eateries that extend on stilts and decks above the water. The wild plums were blooming in profusion and the bees were busy.
Our entire travel route took us from the Orange Hotel in the middle of the eastern bank of the West Lake, then south to Yuhuang Mountain, then up the mountain and down to the Bagua Field. It took only two hours on foot.
If you don’t feel like walking much, you can take the Bus 809 or 12 across from the Orange Hotel and get off at the China Silk Museum station after two or three stops. The museum is near the major entrance to Yuhuang Mountain. The entrance fee is 10 yuan (US$1.46).
This jaunt is not as demanding as most that my wife and I have taken in our explorations through not-so-high but steep hills to the west of West Lake.
On February 10, Xinmin Evening News reported that this easier route was less traveled as few tourists outside Hangzhou had heard about it. How lucky that we were one of the pioneers.
By the time we reached the Bagua Field, the sun was high and the tea houses were full.
Even the designated fishing area – a small, plum tree-covered stretch of land extending into the waters – was crowded.
“How long must we wait for our meal?” I asked a young waitress who scampered from table to table taking orders.
“One hour,” she said.
“Aren’t you starving us?” I joked, smiling as I took in the broad green landscape. My stomach was growling.
She smiled back: “You’re the kindest couple. All the others shout at me.”
When she said this, we realized how relaxed we had become in our ramble through nature.
My wife is always patient, but if this had happened in a city, if I had to wait for an hour in any restaurant, I would have raised my voice.
The waitress, possibly in response to our politeness, was nice enough to quickly give us a basket filled with three kinds of sweet potatoes and corn, to take the edge off our hunger.
Two other delectable dishes of delightfully fresh vegetables came after an hour.
Next time we go, we may try our hand at farming.
Xinmin Evening News reported on February 10 that Hangzhou might allow urbanites to lease plots of land in the Bagua Field this year to grow their own and satisfy their curiosity about farming.
The “tourist heaven” of Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, lies in the heart of the southern Yangtze River region. One of China’s eight ancient capitals, it has a rich history and easy lifestyle that complement the vibrant regional economy.
Shanghai Daily is publishing a special Hangzhou page every Monday through Friday to introduce our readers to its beautiful scenery, fascinating happenings and people, colorful nightlife, lifestyles and business.
It is published in cooperation with the Hangzhou Municipal Information Office, Organizing Committee of the Hangzhou West Lake International Expo, Hangzhou Tourism Commission and Hangzhou Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau.
If you go:
1. Take a bullet train at Shanghai South Railway Station to Hangzhou.
2. Take Bus Y2 or a taxi to the Orange Hotel or another hotel on the eastern shore of West Lake.
3. Walk to Yuhuang Mountain from the hotel and hike all the way down to the Eight Diagram Field (Bagua Field).
4. Better arrive before 11am or after 3pm if you want a quick meal.
5. Pay a 200-yuan deposit if you want to fish. You can rent fishing rod, line, bait, etc. Then you buy all the fish you catch at reasonably low prices.
For more information, call 0571-8658-0347.
Source: Hangzhou International Center