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Tourists drawn to inspirational nature sites

Feng Zhiwei
Updated: Jul 29,2015 9:05 AM     China Daily

The Taohuayuan resort that was built based on the legendary Peach Blossom Land is a top attraction in Changde.[Photo/Provided to China Daily]

The city of Changde in Hunan province is becoming a hot tourist destination thanks to its legendary Peach Blossom Land and the Huping Mountain nature reserve.

Statistics show that the number of tourists to the city grew more than 20 percent on average year-on-year from 2011 to reach 30 million in 2014, generating 20 billion yuan ($3.2 billion) in revenue during the year.

Peach Blossom Land, a fairytale paradise described by poet Tao Yuanming (circa AD 365-427), is believed to lie in Changde.

The story tells of a fisherman who accidentally sailed up a river to a forest of blossoming peach trees, to a village where animals and people of all ages lived happily.

Surprised to see the stranger, the villagers told the fisherman their ancestors came to the area because of unrest during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) and he was their first contact with the outside world in several centuries.

The fisherman stayed in the village for days, enjoying peace and happiness with the residents. When he left, the residents asked him not to tell anyone else about the village. The fisherman nevertheless marked his way out but could not find the village again when he came back with troops sent by local officials.

In Changde’s township of Taohuayuan, which means Peach Blossom Land, there is a 135-square-kilometer site built based on Tao’s story.

Visitors can walk beside a stream that resembles the one the fisherman sailed up, tour a temple in which courtyard peach trees are planted, and visit a village where the people and animals live happily.

Each March, the tourist destination becomes a mass of peach blossoms. In addition to enjoying the blossoms, visitors can fish in nearby ponds then have their catch cooked by farmers while also getting a taste of the simple lives of Chinese people in ancient times.

In addition, the scenic area holds chrysanthemum shows each October, as Tao was a lover of the flower.

Fishing boats on a misty lake off a flowery coast near Changde constitute an idyllic sight typical of the region.[Photo/Provided to China Daily]

Another attraction of the town is a privately owned museum. Covering 1,400 square meters, it features 100 exquisitely carved wooden beds, which have been passed down from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties.

Although similar in shape, each bed was designed and tailor-made to suit the needs of individual families, reflecting their personal tastes and economic condition.

Huping Mountain

In addition to Taohuayuan, Changde is home to Huping Mountain.

Reaching 2,098 meters above sea level, it is the second-tallest peak in Hunan province.

Much of the national-level Huping Mountain Reserve is covered with virgin forest. The reserve covers 66,568 hectares and is hailed as a kingdom of plants as it was insulated from the most recent glacial age.

Statistics show the reserve is home to at least 2,836 varieties of plant, of which 33 are on the State list for protection.

The luxuriant vegetation and mild climate have made the region a habitat of many wild animals.

Experts said they have recorded 54 breeds of animals, including tigers, bears and leopards, in the reserve.

The abundance of wild animals adds to the charm of trips to the nature reserve. Visitors can see monkeys frolicking and enjoy birdsong as they hike in the mountains, as sunshine flickers through the leaves.

Huping Mountain is also known for its water resources, especially its waterfalls, which are famous for their bounds over rocks and leaps into ponds, forming attractive scenes.

Huping Mountain has been a magnet for visitors since ancient times. Among its best-known visitors was Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty.

After his visit, the emperor, who had traveled extensively in China, wrote a poem about the mountain, saying he wished to have enough time to fully savor the scenery in his next life.