Yesterday I shared the first part of my journey through China with you – today I carry on to Lijiang, home of the Tiger Leaping Gorge; Jinan, the City of Springs; our Change for Children program in Bu Yang; Qufu, the birthplace of philosopher Confucius; and cosmopolitan Shanghai…
Next stop was Lijiang, my favourite place on my trip. Not far from Tiger Leaping Gorge and home to many ethnic minorities, Lijiang is a quaint and picturesque town with my only regret being that I could not spend more time there. Tiger Leaping Gorge is the world’s deepest canyon, and after the climb back up again from the bottom it certainly felt like it. Recent rains ensured that the river pounded through the canyon with an almost deafening roar as the water crashes and pummelled the rocks as it rushed through the canyon. Two impressive tiger sculptures sit on either side of the river and legend has it that a tiger escaped pursuit by leaping across the narrowest part – although locals believe the tiger leapt onto two rocks in the middle of the river to get to the other side.
Back in Lijiang, the old town is an absolute delight. Traditional buildings line narrow streets and a busy market square is bustling with Naxi people with horses, a man with a falcon, Buddhist monks and every type of handicraft available in tiny shops. With a mix of Han, Bai, Tibet and Naxi styles, Lijiang is stunning. The residence of erstwhile Chinese ruler Mu can be found in the centre of Lijiang, and my guide was a descent of this ruling family. Luckily for me he was happy to talk about the Naxi way of life, which made me even more determined to return to this fascinating region.
It was time to journey on to to Jinan, the beautiful capital of the Shandong Province. Known as the City of Springs, Jinan is home to over 700 natural springs and and a large lake stretching along the city. On a hot summer’s day, a walk through the Baotu Spring Park is a welcome relief from the heat of the day. South of Jinan is Mt Taishan, the holiest of China’s five Taoist mountains. Pilgrims walk the 6000 steps to the top, but for the less energetic, there is a cable car ride. Temples, padlocks, dragon statues and red ribbons abound at the top, symbols of good luck in this lofty oasis of hope and peace.
Travelling on, it was time for our Change for Children project in the village of Bu Yang. We first had lunch at the home of Mr Peng, one of the local party officials. The table was soon groaning under the ever increasing dishes that are served up in a lunch that ended having over ten dishes. Afterwards it was time to see the local school, with children from three to seven years. While the schoolchildren were timid at first, seeing their photos (the joy of digital cameras) soon caused them to crowd around. I had a swift lesson in Chinese letters, new style and old style, and managed to work out a few with much prompting from the teacher. Seeing what the school and village do for their local community is an eye opener, especially when compared to the way of life back home.
Next we made our way to Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius. At the heart of the city is the Confucius Temple, with over 466 rooms and stretches over one kilometre, the complex was built and dedicated to the descendants of Confucius and has housed 77 generations over 2500 years. Qufu’s old town had plenty of traditional style buildings and an interesting night market, with food stalls and shops staying open late.
I next got to experience the bullet train to Shanghai, my final stop on this amazing journey through China. Travelling at over 300 kilometres per hour seemed completely surreal, especially as it really did not feel that fast. Arriving into Shanghai I was taken to the French Quarter, a pretty area of French influence in this cosmopolitan city. A walk through the Yu Yuan gardens and along the Bund at night, are really the best ways of seeing Shanghai and the highlights.
After fifteen days exploring this amazing country I got to see some incredible sights, amazing scenery, and had a few surprises along the way. With so much left to explore, I hope it won’t be long until I can return once more!