The area is known as “The Buddhist
Paradise of the Sea.”.
Zhoushan is China’s version of the California beach scene, with a flair for the remarkable that only China can offer.
Located between the outer edge of the Yangtze River estuary and China’s Hangzhou Bay, Zhoushan is an island the size of Hong Kong. Like so many lotus blossom petals tossed onto the water, the archipelago’s accompanying 1,390 islands are floating beauties that sparkle with adventure across the Eastern China Sea.
Knowing that I liked out-of-the-way destinations, friend Wu Xiaoming drove me down from Shanghai to catch a ferry for a three-day tour to Zhoushan, also known as the “Buddhist Paradise on the Sea.” The locals consider it a spiritual healing vacation spot, while many of the 3 million tourists who visit here during the busy summer months find equally enjoyable the natural beauty of the area and its beach life and culture. Walking the beaches in early spring, however, I was alone, and mesmerized by this fascinating remote area, with its rich fishing history of a people on the sea. It was such a stark contrast from the intensity of Shanghai and Beijing, where I had spent the last three weeks.
The islands also offer spectacular maritime scenery and abundant nature preserves, cultural relics, old war bunkers, exotic temples and ancient petroglyphs.
The tours on Zhoushan are limited only by your client’s desire. Rent a private car and explore the outback, or take a boat to nearby islands that few people have set foot on. In summer, indulge in the many festivals that include Zhoushan International Sand Sculpture Festival, Mount Putuo Kwan-yin Cultural Festival, Zhoushan International Sailing Competition and Zhoushan International Sea Fishing Festival.
Mermaid sand sculptures on display
on the island of Zhujiajian.
Of all the islands, Zhujiajian became my favorite, and is a paradise resort worth exploring. It is the fifth largest island in the archipelago. Air travel is also available from Beijing or Shanghai to Zhoushan Airport. The Seaview Hotel was superb in its natural landscaping and sand beaches, all close to the airport.
For nearly two miles, there are nine continuous unspolied sandy beaches for swimming or beach fun. South Bank Beach is home to the Zhoushan International Sand Sculpture Festival. These are not runt-sized sand sculptures, but sculptures with grand, elaborate themes that tower above the visitor. Clients can expect to build their own sculpture, or visit some of the many that include castles you can walk into, numerous mermaids and fish sculptures.
But there is more to Zhujiajian than just sand. Our tour guide was instrumental in taking us on a widespread tour of the outer refuge, with its many birds, dense jungles, remote beaches and fishing culture. He knocked on a door of one remote house, and offered to pay the woman there to cook us lunch. Religious culture requires them to serve anyone who knocks asking for food. What resulted was a delightful interactive afternoon with a woman and her husband, discussing her life in the fishing world and the gradual disappearance of this way of life on the outer islands. Even though the area is the fourth largest fishery in the world, the solitary fishing family’s life is one to witness before it is phased out by the mega-fishing industries. We picked tangerines, talked about commercial fishing, drank home-made farmers wine made from plums and watched her cook a variety of dishes. A walk through the fishing village revealed a Taoist temple and a group of nuns who were delighted that we could visit. A small donation resulted in my name being carved as a donor into a stone pillar. This was a part of China I was hoping I would find, and we didn’t see a tour bus or van the entire day.
I highly recommend a lover’s escape or honeymooner’s retreat on Lovers’ Isle near Nansha Beach. Romantic walkways, intimate and isolated accommodations in luxury villas get your clients away from the summertime crowds on the major beaches. Have your clients also choose a day tour to Black Pebble Beach with its commercial fishing culture theme park. Most of them will enjoy simply walking barefoot in the black pebbles smoothed by wind and wave, one of the few beaches in the world where this is possible.
It’s also a place where your clients can hire almost any fisherman to take them on a cruise of the islands, some no larger than a schoolbus. It’s a side trip that does not fail to disappoint, especially when relaxing and enjoying the exquisite beauty of island and waves against a backdrop of the setting Asian sun.