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Road Less Traveled in China (1 Viewer)



This is my first attempt at writing for maybe magazines... I live and work in China. Please, give me your advice. Thanks.


Having lived in China, just shy of five years, I have had the privilege of traveling many places and seeing many things. I have stood in awe of the hugeness of The Forbidden City aka The Palace Museum in Beijing. I have stood and faced a whole army of ancient soldiers in Xi'an. I have wondered if the sand would ever end while wandering across the Taklamakan Desert when following the Silk Road.Oh yes, I have been to many famous places, here, all wonderful. However, I think that I have had the best experiences traveling off the beaten path.

Take, for example, a recently famous place, Zaoyang. Zaoyang is in central China's Hubei Province. It became well known, recently, when one of China's first men in space, Nie Hai Sheng, claimed Zaoyang as his home town. Zaoyang District is the equivalent to a township in the United States. It has Zaoyang City and many villages within its borders. Zaoyang City, though small in size, comes complete with modern stores and hotels. Yet, it keeps it's rural flavor with its street markets, where you can buy everything from fresh meat to the pots to cook it in. It is a bustling little metropolis.

Near Zaoyang City, about a half hour on the local bus, and a hour, or so, walk through a small village and orange groves, is Bai Shui Si (White Water Temple). It is tucked into the countryside, up on a hill. It has the usual assortment of buildings, incense burners and statues to pay homage to. The temple grounds sport a couple of 800 year old trees, an ancient well, and view to die for from the top of a small pagoda. Emperor Guang Wu Di (25-57 A.D.) would bring his court there in the summer.

Not far from the temple is a "calligraphy museum". This complex shows examples of calligraphy down through the ages from very old to very modern. Next to the calligraphy hall is a small botanical garden and tea house. It is a beautiful and historical place to spend the afternoon.

A little further away, but still within Zaoyang district, is another temple. This one is a Buddhist temple. It is called Bai ZhuYuan Si (White Bamboo Temple). It has stood for about 650 years. The Buddha statue and other statues are carved out of white stone. And while they are smoke stained from centuries of incense burning, they still look very beautiful. The temple gets it's name from the White Bamboo forest surrounding it. The lower temple area was open when I visited there, the upper being closed off for renovation. Some of the most interesting things to see were the burial monuments for the monks scattered about in the nearby forest. It was a bit eerie to be walking on the path and see these marble monuments appearing in the foggy forest among the trees. The best part of visiting this temple site was the quiet. The only sounds we heard were the crickets, birdsong, the occasional crowing of a far away rooster and the soft chant of a monk. This is another place to spend a quiet few hours while embracing history and culture off the beaten path.

Zaoyang has many small Taoist temples scattered about the area in the hills. Some were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. That doesn't stop the local people from climbing to the tops of the hills and paying respect to the gods or leaving their offerings.

If ancient history is your interest, Zaoyang can fullfill that desire, too. Near the village of Luotu is the 6000 year old site of the Diao Long. Not only is there a museum showing how the houses were layed out, there is a museum full of artifacts. Their pottery is quite beautiful and delicate. These people were very civilized. The museum has, on display, two skeletons of a couple who were found buried together as well as many household items.

Zaoyang District is full of small farming villages. Some are a little more modern than others. Luoto is one of the bigger ones. Its structures range from very old to somewhat modern. It has its street markets as do most larger villages. There are some villages in the area, that the newest dwelling is more than 40 years old. Zaoyang District has some beautiful lakes and hills to explore as well as the historical sites.

To find Zaoyang, just take the bus or train from Wuhan to Xiangfan. Zaoyang District is part of the Xiangfan District. Xiangfan District would be the equivalent of a county in the west. You can catch a bus from Xiangfan to take you to Zaoyang or hire a taxi for the day. The roads in Zaoyang are everything from paved, two laned hi-ways to dirt paths. Make sure you watch out for the locals and their livestock or occasional chicken or duck. They have the right away. If you visit, Zaoyang, you will be treated to some wonderful out of the way places. You won't get to fight your way through crowds, but that is the best part of taking the road less traveled.
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Senior Member
Very lovely. I have a dear friend Wen Li who lives part of the time in one part of china and the rest of the year far far away in another part and he describes his life there and has written several articles of his childhood and they are so fascinating.
I would add a few photos of the least covered places of interest , whatever the laws allow and I am sure your piece will be snapped up right away.