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The Maritime Silk Road Exploring Fujian and Jiangxi Provinces

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Quanzhou Fuzhou Mt. Wuyi (Wuyishan) Mt. Sanqingshan Jingdezhen Pottery Nanching

Travel, Exploration, Conversation and Discovery

Reflections on China: Exploring China’s Maritime Silk Road. Secrets, Legends, Tea and Porcelain in Fujian and Jiangxi Provinces

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Clay figure in Jingdezhen Ceramics Museum The Travel Perspective with Steve Gillick Quanzhou, the Kai Yuan Temple Quanzhou, the South Shaolin Monastery Quanzhou, the Maritime Museum Three Lanes & Seven Alleys, Fuzhou Lunch, Mt. Wuyishan Plum Village (Xia Mei Cun) Climbing Mt. Wuyi (Wuyishan) Wuyishan Morning Market Wu Yi Palace Big Red Robe Tea and Tasting Mt. Sanquinshan National Park Jiangling Village in Wuyuan County Yan Cun Village Wang Cou Village Jingdezhen Nanchang At the summit of Mt. Wuyi

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The Travel Perspective With Steve Gillick But not to be outdone, my fourth trip in March 2016 took us to Hong Kong and then on to Fujian and Jiangxi Provinces to explore the Maritime Silk Road.

The main theme of all my travels revolves around ‘connecting’ with the local community. I’ve referred to this as “terroir” tourism, that is, tourism where the emphasis is on the land, the people and everything that influences the destination. Not surprising for me and for others who embrace the provenance of a destination (history, culture, people, geography, geology, flora and fauna) with one or more of the six travel senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, feeling tasting and the all-important, sense of humour and discover), this has resulted a number of transformative experiences.

Again we had that priviledged opportunity to climb mountains, first Wuyishan in Fujian Province and then Sanqinghan in Jiangxi Province. Both experiences afforded spectacular vistas and that special adrenaline rush from actually getting up (and down) the mountain paths. But in addition we learned about the Maritime Silk Road by visiting the Quangzhou Maritime Museum and then the pottery and porecelain street in Jiangdezhe where we learned that Changnan, the original name of the city, was so well known in the ancient world that soon the city and the products melded into the same name of “China”. This magazine is a story-board memory of my experiences along the Maritime Silk Road.

My articles and photos reflect the passion and enthusiasm that travel inspires. I’ve visited over 675 destinations in 82 countries and territories, to date, so I guess that’s a lot of inspiration! Gillick’s World covers main attractions, off-the-beaten-track wonders, the people I met, and every curiosity that this entails. My first trip to China was in the summer of 2000 where I joined an adventure group to explore Yunan Province as well as Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Yangshuo and Shanghai. In October, 2014 I was invited by the China National Tourism Organization to attend the Hunan International Tourism Festival. It was an amazing trip that got us up close and personal with Danxia mountains and spectacular scenery along the way. We also visited the Ancient Towns of Qianyang, Hongjiang and Fenghuang (Phoenix). In April 2015 I returned to explore Guangzhou, the captal of Guangdong Province. We climbed Danxia Mountain, spent a fascinating day discovering the towers in Kaiping Dialolou, re-visited Guilin and Yangshuo, walked to the Longji Rice Terraces and then finished our trip in Nanning.

It’s those brief encounters that sometimes result in lasting memories. In the village of Yan Cun in Wuyuan County we saw a woman selling rice wine and starting asking questions which led to a few samples of the 58% alcohol drink. It was tasty!

This magazine, Reflections on China, is based on an article by Steve Gillick that originally appeared in Travel Industry Today on May 2, 2016.

Kai Yuan Temple Grounds, Quanzhou, Fujian Province A ninety-minute flight from Hong Kong International Airport to Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, was followed by a 2 ½ hour coach ride to the city of Quanzhou, the starting point of our Maritime Silk Road adventure.

Secrets of the Lotus Flower Temple… Huang Shougong, a wealthy landlord in the city of Quanzhou in Fujian Province looked over the orchard of mulberry trees that were integral to his lucrative silk production business. That night he had a strange dream. A monk approached to beg that the land be donated for the building of a temple. Shougong suggested, “If my mulberry trees bloom lotus blossoms, I’ll grant you the land”. And wouldn’t you know it? A few days later the mulberry trees were festooned with white lotus flowers, a Buddhist symbol of purity. The land was donated and the Lotus Flower Temple, later renamed the Kai Yuan Temple, still stands 1300 years later. And even the Temple’s twin pagodas, a symbol of the city of Quanzhou, have their little secrets. With the idea of viewing the pagodas from the heavens, the two towers were meant to resemble the eyes of a catfish; a creature known for never sleeping, and so the city would always appear to be awake, active and vigilant. But also with the belief that evil forces could spread a net over the city, anchored to the surrounding mountains, the pagodas would serve the purpose of breaking through the net and allowing good luck and economic progress to flow down from the heavens. And apparently it worked!

Above: Kai Yuan Temple courtyard Below: memorial to a priest, incense burner decoration and a statue of a protective god. Opposite page. Dragon perched on one of the corners of the temple roof; protective deities on the twin pagodas, a Magpie checking out the scene, and a ceremonial dragon mosaic

Kai Yuan Temple, Quanzhou

The South Shaolin Monastery, Quanzhou

The South Shaolin Monastery in Quanzhou is considered to be the home of southern Chinese martial arts which spread throughout Southeast Asia in the Ming and Qing dynasties. A popular story recounted that the Shaolin monks were involved in combatting piracy, thus associating them directly with the Maritime Silk Road.

A photo posted on the Monastery bulletin board and a garden statue depict martial arts training

Trading on a global scale meant that people of all nationalities and religions arrived in Quanzhou, including Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists and more. The grave markers and tablets displayed in the Quanzhou Maritime Museum testify to this diversity. In fact it’s the only museum in the country dedicated to the history of foreign cultural exchanges. But in addition, the museum contains a fascinating collection of model and reproduction ancient ships and vessels, including a 13th century Junk that was discovered in 1973. It carried silk, china and tea from Fuzhou Province to Southeast Asia and returned with copper coins and a cargo of incense wood, before it foundered.

We often hear about the land-based Silk Road, a network of trade routes that stretched from China, through Central Asia and on to the Mediterranean, but with the growing sophistication of sailing ships and sailing skills, the seas became the highways of the ancient world, and the city of Quanzhou became one of the world’s busiest ports during the Song and Yuan Dynasties (960 through to 1368 CE). Even Marco Polo set sail from Quanzhou on one of his adventures into Mongolia. Ships were built in Quanzhou and carried silk, jade and porcelain to eastern Africa and the Mediterranean. Foreigners who sailed to Quanzhou for business or religious reasons added to the incredible cultural diversity of the city. This is captured in the Museum’s displays.

In the city of Fuzhou, the area known as Sanfang-Qixiang, translates as ’’three lanes and seven alleys’’. It is home to around 150 ancient houses and is regarded as a major outdoor museum of Ming (13681644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) architecture. There are many shops along the main street (including a Starbucks) and it’s just a great area for strolling, photography and taking in street performances.

The ancient Three Lanes and Seven Alleys of Fuzhou, contrasted with the ultra-modern train station and the Bullet Train that took us to Wuyishan.

A feast for lunch in Wuyishan with 17 dishes and we tasted them all!

A visit to Xia Mei Cun (Plum Village) in the Mt. Wuyishan area revealed its past as one of the departure points for bamboo boats carrying tea to the north of China. The village is a time portal with 300 year old buildings, small bridges crossing the nearly dried up river way, groups of elderly men playing cards, and gatherings of women aggressively clinking mah jong tiles.

Plum Village. Above: The local temple Below: Men passing the time playing cards.

Plum Village: Top-one of the side streets. Below Left: Popo Door. (Mother-in-Law Door) Also known as the Bamboo Leaf Door to symbolize good fortune. The home owner built the door to ensure that the figure of the bride would satisfy the motherin-law’s expectations.

Above: Our guide, Jack, pointing out the route taken by the tea, exported from the village. Right: An Opportunity to taste some of the village teas: Oolong and Big Red Robe.

Wuyishan or Mt. Wuyi is in Fujian Province close to the border with Jiangxi Province. The climb to the summit is very popular with several huff and puff sets of stairs but spectacular views of the river and valley below.

Ascending Mt. Wuyi.

Sheer cornered walls, the twists and turns of the river, delicate pagodas and dramatic cracks in the earth are all part of the Mt. Wuyi experience. For those who choose, they can be carried up the mountain in a sedan chair.

Bamboo rafting on the Nine-bend Jiuqu Stream includes views of high peaks, unique rocks, cliff tombs, trees, rafts and flowing water that twists around mountains. It’s a leisurely but exciting 1 ½ hour venture.

Above: Site of one of the Hanging Coffins Below: One of the rafts people on Nine-Bend Stream.

We stayed at the Best Western Jiuqu Vacation Resort Wuyishan in Xingcun Town, just a few minutes from a small market. When I returned on Saturday morning, the market had blossomed into a large scale social event with fresh vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and friendly merchants who if they didn’t want their photo taken, they definitely wanted their neighbour’s photo taken! Lots of fun!

The fine art of Tea Tasting in the Mt. Wuyi area.

Mount Sanqingshan National Park is a Taoist sacred mountain in Jiangxi Province. “Sanqing” means “Three Pure Ones” and refers to the three main peaks of the mountain. The legend of the Anaconda Rock says that a little snake wanted to be a spirit. But after trying for 999 years, he made a mistake and as punishment he was turned into stone.

Mount Sanqingshan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its concentration of fantastically shaped pillars and peaks. Access to incredible views is by a cable car ropeway and then a railed walkway, and many steps. As the light changes during the day, so do the shadows and shapes of the rocks. It’s an amazing place to explore.

Mount Sanqingshan National Park

Mount Sanqingshan National Park

A boy wears a garland of rape flowers near the lookout at the terraces of Jiang Ling in Wu Yuan County. Because of the forest of yellow flowers, Jing Ling is known as the most beautiful village in China.

Walking down a path from the lookout where you see the terraces of Jiang Ling, you pass through the picturesque village with old buildings, refreshment stalls set up for visitors (eggs, water) and views of the rape flower fields in the area.

Near the village of Jing Ling there is a tourist area with straw figures, such as the camera man, above and the four mythical figures, below. The figures relate to a story of the Buddha who descended from heaven but encountered the dangers of the world. Each figure represents different stories. The horse used to be a dragon; the pig used to be a marshal in heaven whose behavior was questioned and he was sent to earth as a pig. The monster used to be a servant of the Jade Emperor in Heaven but again, sent to earth for a misdeed. The monkey (king) is the hero of the Chinese people representing perseverance.

In Yan Village (Yan Cun) we visited a rice wine stall and had a few samples of the 58% alcohol beverage

Wangkou Village is over 1000 years old. Many people have the surname “Yu�. There are many interesting alleyways running off the main street as well as shops and temples. The Yu Family Ancestral Hall (below, left) is one of the main attractions.

An artist at work at the Gu Yan Factory in Jingdezhen, the Porcelain capital of China.

Master crafts-people have been making ceramincs in Jingdezhen for 1700 years. The old name of the town, Changnan, became synonymous with ceramics and foreign traders started to refer to “China�. The country and the product took on the same name.

The new Ceramics Museum in Jingdezhen has a huge collection of ceramics from the Song (869-1279), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (13681644) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911) including 400 pieces designed as national precious cultural relics. Above: figurines unearthed in a tomb (Yuan Dynasty). Below Left: Blue and White plum vase with peony scroll pattern (Yuan Dynasty).

Nanchang is the capital of Jingzi Province. The city name means Nan-South Part of China and Chang-to flourish, blossom and develop. The Shengjin Tower (Rope and Gold Pagoda) refers to the legend of a monk finding an iron box containing 4 golden ropes, 3 ancient swords and a golden vase full of Buddha’s relics. It’s also referred to as the 1000 Buddha Temple. The side street is full of shops as well as statues and reliefs that recount the history of the area. Below: Moving day.

Guardian statue at the Pavilion of Prince Teng, Nanchang

The Pavilion of Prince Teng (Tengwan Pavilion) is considered to be one of the three great towers built in Southern China, The original Pavilion was built in 653 CE but was destroyed and rebuilt 29 times until the last version in 1989. A line from a famous poem by Wang Bo at the dedication of the Pavilion mentions “wind comes to say goodbye to the Pavilion�, meaning that if the Pavilion or the Shengjin Tower fell, the treasure and resource of Nanchang will not exist anymore. The poem can be seen inside the nine-floor Pavilion and a very good light presentation shows the 28 destructions. The main Pavilion, along with two smaller pavilions on either side form the Chinese character for mountain.

steve@talkingtravel.ca www.gillicksworld.ca Steve at summit of Mt. Wu Yi, under the good luck tree.

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Reflections on China  

Exploring the origins of the Maritime Silk Road in Fujian and Jiangxi Provinces.

Reflections on China  

Exploring the origins of the Maritime Silk Road in Fujian and Jiangxi Provinces.