Sunday, June 5, 2011

China Travel

How Slow Can You Go?

An Obscure County IN Jiangsu Province is Named The Country’s Most Leisure City.

By Liu Zhihua ,Executive summary by Darmansjah godjali.

Hardly anyone had heard of Gaochun county, located about an hour’s drive outside of Jiangsu’s provincial capital Najing, until it rapidly rose to fame for being the country’s first “slow city”. The sobriquet was awarded by cittaslow , an international movement founded in Italy in 1999 to preserve leisurely lifestyles in small towns. Most locals hadn’t heard the term “slow city” When Cittaslow’s vice president visited Gaochun’s Yaxi town. He was impressed by the natural beauty and relaxed pace of life, and “told us Yaxi perfectly fit the slow city requirements”, the local official recalls.

I came to understand what this meant when I visited Gaochun for two days int late Apri. The time was short, but seemed to pass, well, slowly.

My first stop was Dashan Village, surrounded by fields of golden rapeseed blooms that look like magma flows.  Where there weren’t clear blue skies and glittering blue ocean waves, there were lands that burned with rapeseed torches, white-brick farmhouses and verdant alpines.

The sky’s breezy exhalations smelled of spring. It was so quiet that we could hear-but not see-bees buzzing.

My guide, explains Dashan is known as a village of longevity. Nearly every household includes at least one member older than 70, and many are in their 80s. Locals believe the long life spans are linked to the natural environment and healthy lifestyle.

The village fills the cracks of several small mountains that are fleeced with tea trees, pines and magnolias.

Residents’ advice led me up the mountain. The marvelous views from the top were indeed stunning.

The rows of white-brick farm houses with black rooftops sprinkled along the foothills looked like small-scale models.

Near the houses is a tranquil pond that mirrors the sky, surrounded by a patchwork of farm fields.

On my way down the mountain, I stopped at the Dashan Temple, where villagers meet to worship and recreate.

Statues of Buddhist gods, Taoist immortals and historical figures stand in the temple, greeting constant flows of worshippers.

The temple’s centerpiece is a wooden stage that has hosted performances since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

There are no seats in the “auditorium”-a large lawn in front of  the stage, where people enjoy shows.

Villagers gather at temple from march 17-19 of the lunar calendar to watch Wuchang Opera, a performance art form from the Western Zhao Dynasty (c.11th century-771BC). The show is staged as ritual to repel of evil and draw in good luck.

While hiking the mountain and visiting the temple provides insight into what makes Dashan,  strolling through the village proper is the best way to understand the decelerated local way of life.

The villages is changing in pace with the country and in sync with the other rural settlements, as working age residents chase big city dreams, leaving behind the children and grandparents.

It’s common to see elderly people strolling alongside the pond or chatting beneath the peach trees with a tot or two in tow.

“We have nothing to worry about. I just enjoy my time,” 71-year-old Villager says, while playing with her 1-year-old grandson.

“I haven’t been to town or any where else for a long time. It’s not necessary. We have every thing we need here.”

Like other elderly residents. The Villager gets up early every day. Older villagers spend their time watching TV, playing "mahjong" and chatting.

Nearby, her daughter-in-law washes clothes in the pond. The family has a washing machine, but she prefers doing laundry the traditional way-scrubbing clothes in the pond and beating them with a rod.

Gaochun’s downtown balances modern conveniences with heritage preservation.

The county’s thriving  business hub is the 900-year-old Laojie (Old Street), which is one of Jiangsu’s longest  and best-preserved ancient streets.

Flanking the 400-meter-long, 5-meter-wide quartzite road are two-story Ming (AD 1368-1644) and Qing buildings. The wooden structures haves black rooftops, white walls, swooping eaves, red lanterns and carved wooden windows.

And the best thing about eating duck – or anything, really – in Gaochun is that you just don’t feel rushed.

How to Reach the location, If you Go.

Najing Lukou Airport has daily flights from major Chinese and international cities. You can take a bus to Nanjing, from where buses leave for Gaochun every 10 minutes. Or you can take a taxi to Yaxi for 200-250 yuan($31-$39).

The summer high is 39 C and winter low is -8C. Spring and autumn are quite agreeable.


Local Food
Seafood (especially Gucheng Lake crabs in autumn) and dried bean curd.


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