My last trip within China in 2012
My last trip of 2012 was to Jiangxi Province which occurred just after Christmas with the aim to visit Poyang Lake, Mount Lu (Lushan) and buy some porcelain from Jingdezhen. My friend recommended Jiangxi because of its history and wonderful sights but also because it would be warmer than Beijing at this time of year. Wrong!! Really not warmer than Beijing, the first day we arrived in the capital, Nanchang, it was snowing delightful little snowflakes; the first snow of the season. A couple of hours later we travelled the two hours from Nanchang to Jiujiang city where the snow was no longer delightful but had become very [very] heavy with little visibility.
Still we trouped on and with our tour guide and our bus driver we drove along the twenty two km long curved road to the top of the mountain but not before the bus broke down and we had to transfer to another.
After transferring buses we arrived at the top of Lushan to find it totally and completely covered in snow. The streets were particularly lovely covered in snow although visibility was extremely limited and the wind bitter. Lushan is an unique mountain, twenty five kms long and ten kms wide and at its centre, between three peaks, is the two square kilometre town of Guling inhabited by 120,000 residents. Not many out on this day I must say – only the hardworking men and women carrying items on their shoulders!
Chiang Kai Shek spent his summer holidays there, Mao Zedong is said to have asserted his power which led him to proceed with the Great Leap Forward and one of my favourite authors, Nobel Prize winner, Pearl Buck, was one of the first westerners to be carried by sedan chair up the thousand steps to Guling.
We were forced to leave the mountain early in the afternoon as the government declared that all visitors, due to heavy continuous snow fall, were to leave asap. But it’s certainly worth the visit as the walks down the tree lined streets were beautiful – and empty.
Our tour guide insisted we see the Ruqin Lake but I am still at a loss as to why because at this stage you could not see two feet in front of you so the lake was just a white blur. It turns out, as we found out on day three, that the lake was on our itinerary so we ‘had’ to go there. I have looked it up on the internet and it does look lovely so I am sure it would be lovely to visit in spring or summer.
That evening we stayed at Jiujiang at the Juijiang S & N International 5 * hotel which was very lovely but with the usual bricks for a mattress. The next morning we took off early to visit Poyang Lake National Wetland Park which was about a two and a half hour drive but with the sun out, the drive was enjoyable. I forgot my sunglasses so we stopped at a little shop along the way where I bought a pair for 10 RMB (@ $1.50) – I didn’t even bother with the usual foreigner phrase of ‘tai gui le’ (too expensive) I just bought them and must say they did the job and didn’t look ‘too’ bad.
Poyang Lake is a habitat for over two million migratory birds and during the winter it becomes a home for a large number of Siberian white cranes, of which 90% spend their entire winter at the lake. China’s finless porpoise is also a habitant of the lake however we unfortunately did not see any.
Environmental issues such as dredging are making life difficult for the porpoise but luckily there are groups taking action to save the porpoise of which there are only 1400 left living with 500 of those in Poyang Lake. The lake is about 200 km2 and is fed by the Gan, Xiu and Xin rivers which connect to the Yangtze through a channel.
That evening we drove to Jingdezhen – a two hour drive – where we stayed at the Jingdezhen Zi Jing 4* hotel, which I think was even better than the 5* in Jiujiang. Jingdezhen (the town of Jingde) is now a city and is know as the ‘porcelain capital’ because it has been producing porcelain for 1700 years. Historical records show that it was during the Han Dynasty that Jingdezhen commenced making porcelain. The views from my hotel room were spectacular with misty views out onto the water.
Across from the hotel was a small area which at night looked fabulous. There were little lights in the trees and shrubs and a huge 56 metre long dragon made of blue and white porcelain perched on a small lake. The lake provided a mirror image of the dragon that changed colour every couple of seconds – really spectacular.
The dragon was a lovely sight during the day also.
On our third and final day we visited the Jingdezhen Porcelain Factory which afforded us the opportunity of seeing how porcelain is made with one Chinese employee having worked in that field since he was twelve years old – and is now a very young 72!!
The gardens at the Factory were lovely and interesting – everywhere you turned there was some sort of porcelain ornament or object; be it a tea pot on a rock or a totem pole made of porcelain. Inside the factory, we saw the world’s largest wood fired ceramic kiln which has the Guinness World Records certificate to verify it.
In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jingdezhen was named one of four famous towns in Chinese history, along with Foshan in Guangdong Province, Hankou in Hubei Province and Zhuxianzhen in Henan.
It is said (unconfirmed) that Jingdezhen gave birth to the English name of the country. The ancient name of the town is Changnan. Way back in time, Changnan was synonymous with ceramics, and over time, foreign ceramics traders made the name sound like “china”. The rest is [said to be] history!!
During our tour of the factory we saw a few of the younger (well just a little younger than our 72 yo employee) taking what was clearly a well deserved rest whilst waiting for their tools/paints and clay to defrost from the previous day’s below minus temperatures.
And last but certainly not least, on the way to Juijiang airport, with beautiful clear blue skies and the absence of snow, I finally got to see Lushan which was truly beautiful. Another fabulous place in China I am glad I took the time to visit.