Fu Jian

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Fu Jian is a fine green province located at the southeast shore of China, just one strait away from the island of Taiwan. With 63% of the area covered by sub-tropical and temperate forests, the highest in the country, here in Fu Jian you can enjoy probably the cleanest air in China, which is quite a delight considering industrial pollution are ubiquitous in the country these days.

Like most places in China, the history of Fu Jian can be traced back thousands of years. Archeological evidence suggest that Fu Jian has entered the Neolithic age by middle of 6th millennium BC. However, for a very long time Fujian had been viewed as a barbaric land because of its peripheral location to the core of Chinese civilization, the Yellow River basin. Its native, the Yue people, were generally considered savages. Not until early 4th century AD, when central China was torn in a civil war and raided by the nomad of the north, did "civilized" Han Chinese start to migrate into Fu Jian. But still, because of its remote location and the barrier of numerous mountain ranges Fu Jian remained a relative backward province, until the blooming of maritime trade after 900 A.D. The city of Quanzhou was once upon a time the biggest seaport in the eastern hemisphere. But then there were several maritime trade bans from 14th to 17th century for various political reasons, which severely hampered Fu Jian's economic development. Well, from today's view, the setback was actually not without its merit. Long periods of slow development and low population density actually preserved the ecological environment nicely in Fu Jian, which remains the greenest province in china.

The isolation of Fu Jian from central China owe much to its mountainous geography. A local saying describes Fu Jian as "80% mountain, 10% water, and 10% farmland." Quite a fair description if look at the images below. In the last pic are layers and layers of terrace. This is how Chinese manage to cultivate rice, which usually requires water field, even in such hilly country like Fu Jian.

The most famous of all mountain ranges, is Wu Yi. Expanding 60km and covering 90 sq. km, the Wu Yi Mountain is the most majestic mountain range in Southeast China. Covered by subtropical forests and rain forests, the area supports a vibrant ecosystem that includes close to 3,000 species of plants and over 5,000 species of animals. The Wu Yi Mountain area has been inhabited by human for at least 4,000 years. Like most majestic mountain ranges in China, Wu Yi Mountain is religiously significant to both Buddhism and Taoism. More importantly, Wu Yi Mountain is generally considered the birthplace of Neo-Confusianism. Acknowledging its outstanding biodiversity and cultural significance, UNESCO enlisted Wu Yi Mountain in its World Heritage Sites, both natural and cultural, in 1999.

The first impression of Wu Yi Mountain was that incredible lushness of vegetation on all surfaces, that unmatched concentration of chlorophyll, so dense it's actually getting a bit dark. Even the water was in a lively cyan. Just escaped from the suffocating, heavy, gray smoggy sky of Shanghai, the welcoming crispy air of the Wu Yi Mountain felt extra exhilarating.

Towering above us were these majestic and rugged peaks. However, steep and intimidating as they were, these gorgeous stony peaks were strangely compelling and inviting. So instinctively we labored our way up the incredibly arduous stair in a half mesmerized frame of mind. Segments of the path was so impossibly vertical there's actually no stairs but only a steel ladders hanging in the air. God knows how these people managed to cement the ladder there. But finally at the apex, enjoying a commanding views over the winding river and green field of tea trees (1st row, 2nd pix), we thought all that toiling was well worthwhile.

Rafting. The meandering cyan stream is appropriately called the Nine-bend River. Since the water is shallow in many segments, the best traveling tool is a flat-bottom bamboo raft. The raft is propelled and steered by poking a bamboo stick onto the shallow river bed, which is kinda cool. It definitely makes the boat easier to maneuver.

On both sides of the calm and slow stream are dark sandstone columns and domes. The tallest and most majestic pinnacle, standing alone in front of the gorge, is the Yu Nu Feng (the Jade Fairy Pinnacle, 1st 3 pix). Despite of the name, there's actually nothing feminine about this...eh, erection. But its very lofty existence, its aloofness, are all quite impressive.

The Hanging Coffins. A rather peculiar tradition of the Wu Yi Mountain natives is that they some times bury the dead in boat-shape coffins hanging on very steep cliffs or inside caves besides the river. From the water we were able to spot quite a few of them. Below is one with part of the coffin sticking out of the opening of a cave. C-14 dating showed that the natives have been doing this for over 3,000 year. This is truly remarkable: why and how did these supposedly primitive people, still living in stone age (or at most in transition to the bronze age), and without any help of modern technology, managed to place a 16-foot-long coffin and a dead body into such a improbable place? Whoever came up with such an idea must be romantically insane, ingenious in engineering, and very persuasive -- surely one had to convince a team of laborers to risk their lives to accomplish such unusual rituals.

Several local Universities have spent decades doing research on these hanging burials, but till today they still haven't reach a con senses on why the ancients chose such a laborious rest place. Some brought up the ancient belief that burying the dead higher up assures the souls of the deceased ascending to heaven; other proposed it's part of the transmigration -- the ancients believed they were born from rocks and shall be buried in rocks; still others think it was just a way to show off a family's social statue and wealth. In terms of how, archeologists generally agree that the coffins were dropped down from the top of the cliff by sets of pulleys -- all the more impressive considering it was still the stone age.

Everywhere in the mountain are these ancient calligraphy of poems and prose of literati of different ages, engraved into the rocks. And no, such inscriptions were not considered vandalism, but rather art that enhances the natural beauty of the mountain, especially if they're from contemporary celebrities or dignitaries.

A very nice botanic garden in the mountain. The Southern-styled Bonsai were well kept.

 

Fu Zhou. A 2,200-year-old town, the capital city of Fu Jian Province. Quiet, lazy, modest, and neat, Fu Zhou doesn't have the hastiness, aggressiveness, and greed that are commonly felt in many Chinese coastal cities. The charm of Fu Zhou, as generally true for most old cities, lies in the old town center, where you find ancient attractions like the Confucian Temple and the Ci Can Temple (the West Zen Temple), signifying Fu Zhou's status as the cultural and religious center. Stroll around the old town and get lost in any narrow, dark, old back alleys, you can breath the air of antiquity radiating from every old bricks and well-worn quarzite floor tile.

 

The food. The famous Fu Zhou fish balls are of the size of a Ping Pong ball and have seasoned pork filling in it. The most authentic fish balls are Ta Xiang fish ball, only sold in a very small and incredibly shabby restaurant located in Ta Xiang (the tower alley). That delicious red animal is a very specially kind of crab, which the native called "Xin." It's only found in part of Fu Jian and Taiwan. Compared to regular crab, it's sweeter, more flavorful, meatier, and of course, much more expensive.

The Fu Zhou Forest Park. We happened to met a rare snow in the forest, a scene has not been seen here for over a decade. See that huge banyan tree in the 4th pic? It's over a thousand years old.

The Fu Zhou Zoo. Know for having many pandas. This old panda used to be a super star in circus, but now she's retired.

 

Qi Shan National Park (the Flag Mountain). So you were impressed by Wu Yi Mountain's spectacular, glorious mountain scenery, and you think, wow, extraordinary, too bad I can't stay here forever. But then you travel across Fu Jian, and you find that is just pretty how the whole province is like. Say, you drive just some 20 miles north of Fu Zhou's town center, you arrive at Qi Shan National Park. The same lush mountain scene, the same soothing streams and waterfalls, the same breath-taking natural beauty. This is a piece of heaven for Chinese nature lovers in this ever.

And there's more. Hua Yang Mountain and Yu Hua Cave is just a little further from Fu Zhou. Yu Hua Cave is an exotic underground cave, but I'm not particularly fond of the lighting there.

 

Wildlife. The green state, with abundance of natural reserves, has an impressive collection of wildlife.

See that bright green snake escaping quickly away from the camera (1st 2 pix)? It's a poisonous Bamboo Snake (Trimeresurus stejnegeri), whose danger lies not so much in its toxicity but more in its body color, which provides perfect disguise in the bushes.

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