Wuxie Scenic Area, Zhuji, Zhejiang Province – Home of the Five Waterfalls
Actually, this is not the sea of humanity pouring out of a waterfall- it is simply a joyful crowd of merrymakers, mostly visitors from Shanghai, like us, having a fun time in the Wuxie Scenic Area about 25 km away from the little town of Zhuji in Zhejiang Province.
In Shanghai we lack green and sun, in spite of the great effort made by the city at adding landscaped boulevards and green parks throughout the city. The company driver had heard me mumble “I need green” the day before the May Day holidays, and was kind enough to offer to take us out for a day. Wuxie satisfied the criteria for “green” and “water” and “fun” as well as being “not too far,” only three to four hours, depending on traffic. We had left home at 6 am, and by the time we got to the parking lot, it was full. The cars lined the road for miles by the end of the day. We were lucky we arrived early. On other weekends it is quiet and peaceful – so don’t be deterred if you are worried about people. Our trip was a very high holiday experience, and not indicative of what it is usually like.
It was like a reverse waterfall. A peoplefall. Surging from the side roads and broad parking lot and then packing into the the shaded lane by the side of the brook, cascading our way to the ticket booth. Water rushing out. People rushing in. If you are claustrophobic in crowds, it would be wise to avoid Wuxie during the May 1 holidays. I have to admit that I was reminded of a State Fair – and I find real pleasure in happy, warm-weather crowds that only have a good time in mind. If you just relax and join in, there are so many happy moments to be had.
Wuxie is written 五泄 and it means “Five Waterfalls”, which is the goal of your trek into the mountains. However, on the way, there are constant diversions. Sometimes people complain about touristic attractions, but I admit I found them cheery. On May 1, when all of China is in the mood for a trip somewhere, people are the point! Joy is infectious. On May 1, I would expect impossible lines, a bit like going to a State Fair in the US on the Fourth of July, but I was amazed at how quickly we got through the long line waiting for the boats. Each boat brought a surge of merrymakers to the trail at the far end of the lake, and we diverted easily off to the side of the flow to try various skills and activities on the way in.
Yes, that is me practicing shooting a tank with Xiao Xu, our driver and friend. Large plastic ping pong balls would puff out with no energy the first time, and then shoot out with real vigor the next time. I am not sure what I was trying to vanquish. There were some targets – but there was a lesson in it too. Although the guy in charge of the tank showed you the site on tip of the canon to aim at the target, the ball went out at varying speeds and pressures, so there was no chance to ever hit anything. Would US crowds at a fair enjoy these amusements?? Impossible to win and no prize?? For most of the visitors here, hitting the target wasn’t the point. It was enjoying the process and having a good laugh with your friends at how badly you did. We all shot at our own ghosts.
And yes, that is Peter, the Master Archer having a go at local archery. See? He was our champion.
There were no prizes for any of the booth activities. If you are used to having competition and prizes for these games, it is a bit deflating not having a prize. I ended up liking it better after a minute of contemplation- how nice to just enjoy the experience with no pressure to win. There were still fun “prizes” to buy – red plastic fishing nets on bamboo poles and small transparent plastic cage-containers with a handle to put your watery surprises from the brook – snails, insects, and minnows. The brook was not very full, so everyone piled in with great glee, falling in, laughing, and in the deep pool at the bottom of the waterfall, swimming around, delighting in the cool water. There were many prizes to be had.
You could even buy a turtle if you wanted to – all sizes.
The path continued on to an electric car station where everyone piled into the carts to go further in to the site. It was very telling about the groups visiting Wuxie that day – when the cart was almost full, the attendants would call out “Anyone here with two in a group? Three in a group?” to fill the last few seats. No one came forward. Most had come in larger groups – Parents, grandparents, children, and friends, all wanting to stay in the same cart. The cart drops you off right near the Zen Temple which is at the foot of the mountain area. The temple was full of activity, and the young monks looked like they didn’t mind the intrusion of the May Day crowd.
Like many religious institutions in China, this temple had been newly reconstructed on an old site. Its many buildings and statues were clean and tidy. Most statues in temples in China have dust on them. In the Zen tradition, dust is a symbol for what covers and hides our true nature/the divine presence. So it is always interesting to me to see whether the statues in the temple are clean or not (sometimes a challenge because in many places there is a lot of dust). Not that it means anything really, but I was happily surprised to discover that the statues in this temple were completely dust free. I wondered if it was because they were all so new, having been installed in the temple in the last few years.
In the back was a temple dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy and compassion. She is the Mary of China. In the only old building of the temple complex, the air was different from so many years of history. In this space two older monks in their 80s, known for their compassionate practice, sat on the side and talked to visitors who came with their life issues. The building was old, but the statue of Guan Yin had no dust either.
Even older than the monks, from the earliest era of the temple, was a ginko tree which they called the “Millenium Tree”. Was it 1000 years old? I think not. But it was an old one.
The mountains also had lively stands of bamboo – living green, sturdy and graceful stalk-trunks, shooting up to the sun. Spending the afternoon in a grove of bamboo made me feel stronger and more flexible – like the bamboo. I wonder what it would be like to live in a bamboo forest for an extended period of time.
Going up the steep stairs by the side of the waterfall meant holding on to whatever was available, so I didn’t get many photos – you can see the line of people going up in the first photo, and the second was taken above the first waterfall. Since there were so many people we didn’t go any further, but there are actually five sets of falls. I look forward to going back on a normal weekend day to get to the top when there are not so many people.
After their exhausting climb some of the hikers hung around at the foot of the waterfalls in a forest of hammocks, looking like great spider webs to the side of the trail. Smaller children hung napping, suspended in silky nylon webs while their parents caught their breath at the foot of the hammock. I thought of small flies bound fast in a spider web. Surely their parents were glad to have a rest after chasing after their little ones up the steep mountain path.
Peter, Xiao Xu and I retired to a tea shop instead, to try some of the area’s famous Green Sword tea. I regret that I didn’t get a photo of the tea in the glass, because it hung vertically like little people standing in a line – or swords – at the top of the cup. This is one of those trials – how to get to the tea without a mouthful of leaves. It can be done – sucked in through your teeth if the tea isn’t too hot. I got quite a few leaves in spite of my efforts, and resorted to using my fingers (very impolite here) to take them out of my mouth and put them in the ashtray. I hid behind my hand to do it. If no one sees it, then it isn’t as impolite!
I hope you feel a little greener after reading all this – and if you want to visit Wuxie, you will love it on an ordinary weekend when there are not so many visitors. And if you get to Zhuji, the nearby town, please make sure you stop in and see the incredible “Four Beauties of China” Museum. It sounds a little silly, but it is actually very inspiring, and exceptionally well done, documenting the lives of women who have made a difference in the nation’s history.
That’s all for now!