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Traveling Along the Nanxi River

My dream of traveling along the Nanxi River came true in the early summer of 2003.


The Nanxi River is located in the county of Yongjia, Zhejiang Province, 23 kilometers from the city proper of Wenzhou. Flowing eastward for 150 kilometers and containing 36 bends and 72 shoals, the river and its banks form the Nanxi River Scenic Zone, which covers an area of 625 square kilometers, and is one of China's famous state-level scenic zones. With beautiful natural and man-made landscapes, as well as countryside scenes, the zone has more than 800 scenic spots scattered in its seven major tourist areas, including the Nanxi River, Yantou, Shiweiyan, Shuiyan, and Sihai Hill.


The Nanxi River Valley has produced a brilliant culture and many outstanding personalities. From the Tang Dynasty (618-907) through the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the river valley was home to over 600 successful candidates in the highest imperial examinations. During his tenure of office in Yongjia, Xie Lingyun (385-433) visited all the landscapes in the county and composed many fantastic poems to eulogize its beauty. Xie was considered the originator of China's landscape poems, making the Nanxi River the birthplace of this genre of poetry.


On a light rainy day, I arrived in Yongjia. As raindrops fell on me, I felt a little of the relaxation I had thirsted for a long time. I approached the riverbank and saw the Nanxi River draped in a veil of mist, which aroused my interest in the river. Among Yongjia's scenic spots, I selected the river's Shizi (Lion) Rock as my destination.


Early the next morning, I reached Yantou Town, which was still deep in sleep. I walked along a corridor-like street leading to a hill. Standing on the top of the hill, I had a full view of the town and a distant view of the Shizi Rock, which occasionally disappeared from sight. Anchored along the riverbanks were many rooster tail-shaped bamboo rafts. The owners of which were preparing to go fishing. The air was so fresh it greatly stimulated my interest as I started my one-day tour.


On this day, there were many tourists, and the bamboo rafts were extremely busy, carrying them to and fro. However, the vast expanse of water managed to remain peaceful and calm. In the drizzle, tourists on rafts opened their various-colored umbrellas, which looked like beautiful flowers blooming on the blue Nanxi River.


I caught a raft and sat on the bow, bathing in the pleasant drizzle. Wearing a straw raincoat, the boatman maneuvered the raft from the bank and towards the upper reaches of the river. The mist on the water's surface became thicker, and I could hardly tell where the heavens and the horizon met in the distance. The river was so calm that all I could hear was the sound of the flowing water beating against the Shize Rock.


I took over the bamboo pole and tried to move the raft. As I propelled the raft, I discovered that the water was so clear I could see to the bottom. In the tone of an expert, my friend told me the Nanxi River has long been famous for its water, which is pure, soft, and uncontaminated. Containing 0.0001 grams of sand per cubic meter, it has been praised by experts as the Best Water Under Heaven.


As the raft was approaching the Shizi (Lion) Rock, I saw the huge rock in all its magnificence. It looks like an imposing lion, holding up its head and roaring, hence its name. In front of the rock, there is an islet covered by luxuriant vegetation. When the trees and grass sway gently in the breeze, the islet looks like a rolling ball. The rock and the islet form a beautiful traditional Chinese painting of a lion playing with a silk ball.


There are green peaks towering on the banks of the river, which vary in shape. While one peak, for example, resembles a boy, another two look like an incense burner and a rhinoceros. In this area, there are too many peaks for the eye to take in. The traveling raft broke the inverted reflections of the many green peaks, one by one. At nightfall, the river presented a dreamlike scene.


Suddenly, I heard the sound of gongs and drums from afar. As they drew nearer, I saw the open ground on the bank brightly lit and thronged with a dense crowd. According to the boatman, there was a shexi (a traditional village theatrical performance) taking place. I had learned something about this performance from books before coming on this trip. As it was an unexpected chance for me to watch a shexi, I got off the raft and joined the audience.


On a 3-meter-high platform, two performers, a man and a woman, sang conscientiously in the local language. Although I couldn't understand what they sang, I noticed that the performance was simple yet wonderful, and that the audience was happy.


Traveling Along the Nanxi River


1. Transportation

A. Take a train or airplane from Beijing and Shanghai to the city of Wenzhou.


B. Take No. 33 bus from the Wenzhou Railway Station to the Anlanting Ferry. Then take a boat across the river to Oubei Town, where there are minibuses to every scenic spot in the Nanxi River Scenic Zone. The minibus ticket costs about 8 yuan.


C. Pedicabs and motorized tricycles are available for visitors to get to the scattered spots in the scenic zone, and the fares are reasonable.


2. Tourist Schedule


To fully admire the beauty of the Nanxi River, a three-day tour is recommended.

First day: Oubei Town, Yantan Town, and Linkeng Village.


At the source of the Nanxi River, Linkeng Village features the age-old houses of the Miao and Dong ethnic groups.


Second day: Linkeng Village, Liyu Town, and Shiweiyan Scenic Area.


Take a pedicab or motorized tricycle from Linkeng Village to Liyu Town, go sightseeing along the Nanxi River on foot, and camp in the vicinity of the Shiweiyan Fall. On the way, visitors need to cross the Nanxi River. The last ferry leaves at 17:00.


Third day: Shiweiyan Scenic Area, Yantou Town, Furong Village, and the Shizi Rock.

Take a pedicab or motorized tricycle from the Shiweiyan Scenic Area to Yantou Town, walk to Furong Village, and raft along the Nanxi River to the Shizi Rock.


3. Lodging

There are inns in major scenic areas. The price of one bed per night is about 25 yuan. There are also many camping sites along the banks of the Nanxi River. At nightfall, visitors can enjoy a delicious barbecue, including roast Nanxi River fish.


(China Pictorial September 30, 2003)


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