Cover Stories - Heaven Is High, and the Emperor Is Far Away - More Hangzhou Restaurants, Reviews, Places to go and what to do in Hangzhou. More Hangzhou Entertainment Guide
Home>Archive>2015>Heaven Is High, and the Emperor Is Far Away

Heaven Is High, and the Emperor Is Far Away
By Jim Phelps

Being English, the idea of my typical summer holiday is a stifling drive to the beach. Well, not a proper beach, as it’s England. You could certainly say it was sandy, but it takes the cheek of some over-zealous busybody working for the council to call it a beach. Like clockwork, upon arrival the dark clouds inevitably roll over and the family arguments begin. Perfect.

Here in China, my natural cynicism is swiftly disposed with when faced with such a vast and bewildering array of options of unique experiences and sights. The question of where to go can be a confusing one when armed with a Lonely Planet that looks twice as daunting as War and Peace and three times as big. Many foreigners are drawn to a familiar itinerary of locales – Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yellow Mountain, Guilin. Everyone ostensibly returns with similar stories, so last summer I decided to do something a little different.

If you’re happy to get a little out of your comfort zone and cast the net a little wider, a whole other world awaits you. Another China sleeps out there, somewhere beyond the leering megacities and rustling bamboo. Verdant meadows of wildflowers too numerous to count, desolate deserts where the dunes rise up as mountains, skies so big they stretch on forever. So what are you waiting for?

 

Xinjiang, which translates as New Frontier, is aptly-named. If you ever look at a map of China, Xinjiang is the big empty space in the northwest corner. It’s bigger than Tibet. It’s bigger than France, Spain and Germany combined. It’s bafflingly huge, and yet more people live in Shanghai’s metropolitan area than in the entire province. Xinjiang is universally gorgeous, and our first destination, Kanas Lake (喀纳斯湖), took us to the very edge of the Heavenly Kingdom.

There is an old proverb in China: Heaven is high and the Emperor is far away. Nowhere does that feel truer than at Kanas Lake, a dormant watery brute nestled between the towering Altai Mountains. Getting there is no easy task. It took thirty-six hours from our little flat in Hangzhou to the alpine valleys. After flying to Urumqi, a bus sped us into the sunset, the desert sky erupting in a bloody crimson, and when we awoke we found ourselves trundling through the sweeping foothills, a sea of grass punctuated with the white tents of Kazakh nomads. We reached the lake in the afternoon and took up an offer of accommodation inside a Kazakh family’s ranch – a little group of rugged log cabins perched above the valley basin. Each morning we awoke to the gentle sounds of grandpa’s lute playing and the cries of eagles, and threw open the cabin door for that first breath of crisp country air. 

The peaceful lake is bordered by mountains carpeted green with grass and trees, and in the distance looms Friendship Peak, where the borders of China, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan meet. Many of the visitors and staff here are Siberian or Kazakh, and all incredibly friendly and curious. The glacial valley at Kanas defies description: so big that a camera lens can’t capture it all, dwarfing the little Kazakh and Tuvan villages that meekly crouch below.

A range of hair-raising activities are now opening up at Kanas, including whitewater rafting, rock-climbing and paragliding. There are lots of hiking trails around the lake, and campsites for those who can go without a warm bed and don’t mind the high altitude’s cold nights. Just don’t expect to be going swimming – I decided to go for a dip and nearly froze inside two minutes. I was lucky not to fall victim to one of the monstrous fish that live in the depths of the lake. The local legends of mysterious creatures dwelling beneath Kanas have recently been given credence by several shaky handheld videos that have surfaced in recent years, so if you come, come with a video camera! Kanas is recommended for its placid alpine beauty, the circling eagles, the still quiet and the sunset at midnight. Devoid of foreign tourists, it has that indefinable sense of detachment from the rest of China.

Back to Urumqi then, which is a great stopping-off point and the centre of Xinjiang’s transport network. You can expect to go back and forth to the capital city a few times if you spend a long time in the province as the city’s bus and train routes connect the province’s disparate urban pockets.

Our next stop was Turpan (吐鲁番), which at 154m below sea level is the lowest place in China, and having been originally settled thousands of years ago is the cradle of civilization in this part of the world. Famous for its grapes, the Turpans grow them by the million in their little oasis town to make wine or dry them in one of countless dusty brick outhouses to make raisins. Over the years Turpan has proven to be a veritable treasure trove for archaeologists, who have discovered hundreds of dinosaur fossils throughout the county, well-preserved by the dry desert climate. Many of these can be seen in the wonderful (and free) museum.

The Turpan people are largely Uyghur, and the pace of life is lazy to say the least. Residents dress in colourful clothing, donkey carts shuffle languidly through the dusty streets, and families sleep outside in the open air together, all sharing one oversized bed. There are a wealth of places of interest near Turpan. We hopped on a minibus for an hour to Tuyoq (吐峪沟), a tiny oasis village in the shadow of the Flaming Mountain () and surrounded by scorching desert. Tuyoq is an ancient holy place for Muslim pilgrims – the first Chinese man to convert to Islam is buried here – and it is said that seven trips here is equivalent to one trip to Mecca. Settled over 1500 years ago, to this day only 300 people live here, eking out a living from their modest vineyards, selling dried fruit and mulberry juice. The Uyghur locals insisted on taking us into their homes to stay for lunch with them. I’m not sure what we ate, as their Mandarin was just as bad as mine, but it was quite palatable. If you’re looking for a very special experience where you can really engage with local people and their culture, this is the place.

Later that day we had time to check out Jiaohe Ruins (交河故城), a must if you are into ancient cities. The largest, oldest and best-preserved earthen city in the world, a visit to Jiaohe is like stepping into a time machine. Perched atop a natural fortress of towering cliffs and settled over 2000 years ago as a major trading station on the Silk Road, the city was one of the busiest and biggest in the world at its peak. Strolling around the immense buildings you can really imagine a bustling city of merchants and traders, but don’t stay too long, as the intense heat will melt you into a puddle!

Our last stop in Xinjiang was the gorgeous Nalati Grasslands (那拉提草原). It is said that Genghis Khan discovered the thin valley hidden in the west of the province when he was leading an expedition through the cold and barren mountains. The freezing temperatures and lack of food almost finished off his exhausted and famished army, until one day they were confronted with endless green pastures. Nalati is picturesque enough when you’re a tourist with a bellyful, but to Khan’s troops it must have seemed like heaven itself. It is recommended you travel here in June to August, as this is when the blue skies and green alpine forests are complimented with the countless yellow dots of wildflowers dancing in the sun. Cast your eyes up and you’ll see the clouds heaving their bones over the mountaintops. A sight to behold! The valley’s foothills are inhabited almost entirely by Kazakh nomadic herders whose tents sit lethargically every kilometer or so, interspersed with flocks of goats and cows. If you are lucky, you may even see the nomads hunting with trained eagles – a traditional practice handed down from generation to generation.

We pressed on to Zhangye in Gansu province, a beautiful overnight train ride past the Tianchi mountains, 100km of wind turbines spinning languorously and a heart-stopping sunset over the desert. This Silk Road city was the birthplace of Kublai Khan and home to Marco Polo for a year and maintains a sleepy feel despite its size, with young children splashing in the fountains. The main draws here are the Reclining Buddha Temple, the statue of Marco Polo and the beautiful park, where a local man asked me to marry his daughter. No thanks, chief. The main reason people come to Zhangye is to see the Danxia landform: 500 square kilometres of arresting rainbow-coloured mountains, formed by sandstone and mineral deposits over millions of years. It’s a singular, psychedelic spectacle. The best time to go is a sunny day after rain, where the mountains shimmer gloriously in the sun. Unfortunately when we went, there was a terrible storm. Despite this, the landform was still unearthly and preternatural.

Our next stop was the big one: Badain Jaran desert (aka Badanjilin desert ). If you’re sick of busy, ugly cities, then this is the place for you. Mysterious, miraculous and utterly isolated, the desert is difficult to get to but so, so worth the trouble. First you must get to Alashan, a one-horse town at the edge of the desert, and then rent a driver who will take you into the desert. Good research is a must here. I travelled with Mr. Fan, who was born to camel herders in the depths of Badain Jaran forty-five years ago. He’s lived there all his life. The rollercoaster ride through the desert is something I’ll never forget. The first hour is a rally race across scrubland and gravelly sand, but the following seven hours are where the real fun begins. Some dunes reach up to 500m high and every uphill struggle is rewarded by a sweeping vista as you clamber over the apex, followed by a terrifying plunge back down the other side. Our driver took absolute delight in using the dunes as skateboard ramps for his 4x4, tearing up the side, skidding 180° and diving back down.

The desert is a dreamlike place: constantly shifting and too vast to comprehend. Without any trees or buildings for context, it’s difficult to get an impression of just how big everything is. The dunes are really mountains in their own right, and there is nothing but sand, sand, sand in every direction, yet even here there is life. As we were enjoying a swim in an oasis, two wolves appeared on the crest of a high dune, eyeing the herd of goats watering with us. Later, camels plodded in to drink and cool down from the baking 45°C heat. After an 80km drive we pitched up and watched paralyzed as the sun tumbled down behind the horizon, burning the sands a golden red. A calm came over us all. We hadn’t seen a single soul all day and were completely alone in this gorgeous wilderness, the luckiest people in the world. In Mr. Fan’s one room house beside a mirrored lake, his wife cooked us dinner made with a grass that grows in the oases. In the soundless desolation of night the sky was so clear you could see the silvery belt of the Milky Way silently gliding across the black. The sunrise over the lake was even more extraordinary, and we felt utterly alone.

It took us a day to get to Hohhot (呼和浩特), Inner Mongolia’s capital, and from there we went straight to Xilamuren grasslands (希拉穆仁草原), staying in yurts on a working farm. The trip was organized by Anda Guesthouse in Hohhot, and they come highly recommended by many who have stayed there. There were about six people in each yurt, and while this sounds like a lot, it really helps at night when it gets very cold indeed. The grasslands are flat in every direction – no hills, no trees. In the afternoon we strolled up to a crude stupa, so crude it was practically a pile of rocks. Entire flocks of birds paced and twitched by a lake and then scattered and took off in unison as we approached. Herds of stocky chestnut horses and cattle roamed freely through the grasslands, and we were soon to find out that the cows weren’t just used for food.

As Xilamuren is devoid of trees, the nomads who have lived here for thousands of years need an alternate fuel source. I was unaware of this, and was quite surprised when in the early evening we were instructed by the Mongolian farmers to grab a bag and snatch up all the festering cow dung we could find. Meadow Muffins, it seems, are rich in undigested plant matter and burn up a treat. The bag becomes surprisingly heavy once you’ve got a few cow crepes in there.

Being a holiday of magnificent sunsets, Xilamuren had a lot to live up to and did not disappoint. As it fell, the sun painted golden light across the endless plains, and the immense Mongolian skies were lit with every colour from a vivid cerise in the west to royal purple in the east. Sadly, it was to be the last sunset before our return to Hangzhou.

And so the holiday was over, but what a trip it was. The whole thing was done on the cheap, without much sleep and at a dizzying pace – 10,000km in 14 days! My aim with this article is to introduce another side of China that you may not have heard of, to inspire you to go out that door. It’s not just the scenery; it’s the people, who could not be more happy and interested to meet you. In places that are really off the beaten track, many people may have not had contact with non-Asian people, and they just want to talk to you and show you their life. We met a Kazakh man named Atay on the way to Nalati, and he had nothing to his name, but immediately he left the bus to buy us lunch when it stopped, despite our protestations. He insisted we stay at his house and meet his family. The owners of our hostel in Nalati told us we were the first Westerners to ever stay there. They really make the time in these faraway places twice as special; their openness and kindness melts the heart and always makes it hard to leave. I’ll say it again: What are you waiting for?

A couple of (hopefully) useful notes on travelling through Xinjiang. Due to terrorist attacks in 2014, you should be aware that all roads between cities have mandatory police checkpoints to check your documents. Enforcement is fairly arbitrary – at some checkpoints you will be waved through without even checking your passport, but others will be more thorough. Always make sure that you have a valid passport, a valid visa and a ticket to show where you’re heading to. Secondly, sleeper trains are a necessity here. The vast distances between places may mean up to twenty hours of travelling, so overnight train journeys mean you don’t waste your days travelling and also allow you to forgo the cost of a hostel or hotel. Book tickets in advance whenever possible and to avoid sleeper buses, which are smellier, less comfortable and slower. Thirdly, good command of Mandarin is really helpful too as few people speak English in the remote parts of China. Indeed, some may not speak Mandarin, so a Uyghur phrasebook may be helpful. Fourthly, pick your time of year carefully – winter is exceptionally cold. Check online for details of local festivals: there are lots of interesting cultural experiences that you can be a part of if you choose the right time to go.

Lastly, before travelling to Badain Jaran desert, check online if permits are required, as on occasion foreigners are asked to hold one before entering the area. When I travelled, the requirement had been lifted, but it could come back at any time in the future.

SHARE THIS
Latest 5 Stories

Great Places for Spring Getaways Around Hangzhou

The dreary months of rain may have you hankering for a vacation, and spring is the perfect time to take a quick weekend getaway. Whether you’re looking for the bustle of a city or the calm of the countryside, there are plenty of easy weekend trips that will feel like a much-needed escape.

With ideal temperatures, smaller crowds, and a true locals’ scene, spring shoulder season is arguably the most underrated travel time of the year. Here are five destinations to hit in April and May—before everyone else does.


Suichang, Zhejiang
Hongxingping Hot Spring Boutique Hotel

After 10 months re-renovation, this hotel reopened in the end of last year. Hidden in a small town called Suichang which is 4 hours driving from Hangzhou. To get there, the best way is to take a train to go to Longyou station (about 1 hour), then a 30 minutes bus ride to Suichang, once you are in Suichang, then you can get a Didi taxi to take you to the hotel.

As the name says, hot spring is the highlight of this hotel. The hot spring water associated with fluorite mine is introduced from the bottom of Hushan fluorite mine, which is two kilometers away from the hotel. The water temperature is about 41 degrees. It is one of the few natural hot springs of fluorite mine. You can chill out in the vinegar spa, rose spa, herb spa, or fish spa, if you want to be more private, a few rooms come with a spa. Make yourself a pot of tea, leave the stress and worries behind, pamper yourself in the nature.

There 22 rooms with different designs. The Family Friendly Room has a slide for the child to come downstairs and a glass ceiling to gaze at the starry sky; Hot Spring Room is facing at the Huangzhao mountain; the Husky fridge and Marshall blue tooth speaker are icing on the cake.

The hotel locates on the upstream of Wuxi River, everything comes from nature. The ingredients used in the restaurant are local chickens from Huangniling, vegetables and fruits from Gaoping, fish head from Shangping or rice from Zhulong. These ingredients either come from pollution-free areas at high altitudes or from areas with clear water quality at the source of Wuxi River.

The tea mountain just a few minutes away, you can also pick up the freshest fruits and vegetables in their own garden, or go sweat your self in the tennis court and gym, after enjoy a salt bath and hot sauna. 

Special Deal For MORE Readers
Price: 888RMB

Inclusions:
* 1-night stay of your choice of Courtyard Room, Sunshine Room, Family Room, Family Sunshine Room, Family Friendly Room (values 980RMB - 1,380RMB)
* Breakfast for 2 adults and 1 child
* Hot spring ticket for 2 adults and 1 child  (values 650RMB), unlimited entries during staying
* Free access to the gym with 1 hour personal trainer
* 2 glasses of cocktails at the bar, welcome fruit and free drinks at mini bar
* Ancient pagoda and tea plantation tour
* 30% off on the Hot Pot set menu (500RMB) for 2-3 people

Valid on both weekday and weekend till June 30th, 2019 (except for Apr.30th - May.3rd), if check in during the weekend, the 200RMB/room price difference need to be paid at the front desk. If change to other types of room, the price difference will be charged.

Add: Hongxingping Village, Hushan, Suichang, Lishui  浙江省丽水市遂昌县湖山乡红星坪村
Tel: 0578 8155 158
Website: www.schxp.com/cn/index.htm


Ningbo, Zhejiang
Camphor Tree Valley


Located in a small village called Li Jia Keng on Siming Mountain in Ningbo, Li Jia Keng means Family Li’s Pit. After 3 hours driving, you will arrive in this retreat away from the world.

In this spring, it’s time to get there to enjoy the private pool, the outdoor hot spring, and have outdoor picnic during the day and romantic stargazing at night, take a walk to the mountain which is covered by cherry blossoms and taste the rustic flavour from the countryside.

This is the season that cherry blossoms all over the mountain, there are two ways to enjoy the cherry blossom.

Tip 1: The Cherry Blossom Festival in Siming Mountain

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Siming Mountain (Zhangxi) of Ningbo is about to begin, it’s about 15 minutes drive from the hotel. This is a "cherry rain" for the tourists, you can walk among them or climb up to the cherry blossom sight-viewing platform to enjoy the amazing view. The Cherry Blossom planting area covers about 10,000 mu, there are more than 20 varieties of cherry blossoms in the field. In recent years, Zhangshui Town has extended the flowering period to more than 40 days by planting early cherry and mid-late cherry alternately. Generally, the flowering period can be extended from early and mid-March to the end of April.

Tip 2: Xiekenling Ancient Road

Xiekenling Ancient Road starts at Li Jia Keng and ends at Zhangxi village, it was the only way for Li Jia Keng people to reach to Zhangxi in ancient times.

It’s cherry blossom all the way from Xiekenling Ancient Road up to the mountain, total length is nearly 2.5 kilometers. The one-way journey takes about one hour, make sure you bring your camera, there will be a lot of inspiration for you all the way.

Now get the special offer for the Cherry Blossom Festival, only 588RMB for weekday, which includes 1 night stay + 2 breakfast + Chicken Soup Dinner (valid till Apr. 30th, 2019).

Add: Li Jia Keng Village, Zhangshui Town, Haishu District, Ningbo, Zhejiang  浙江省宁波市海曙区章水镇李家坑村
Tel: 136 1658 1771, 0574 8778 6682
Website: wx.miot.cn/i-95103


Anji, Zhejiang
Alila Anji 阿丽拉安吉


Alila Anji is a peaceful oasis situated on a hillside overlooking a lake, surrounded by the beauty of lush bamboo groves and tea plantations. With its clean air, mountainous landscape, dense bamboo forests and tea plantations, and ease of access from the major cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou, Anji offers a wonderful escape for city dwellers and nature-lovers.

Enjoy the outdoors, cycling, harvesting seasonal produce, or fishing in Tian Fu Lake. Grab your camera and uncover Anji's hidden beauty spots. Or enjoy cooking and crafting - great fun even for the little ones.

Weekday Lake View Room 
Price: CNY1,999net per room per night

Available on weekday stay (Sunday to Thursday)
Inclusions:
* 1 Lake View Room stay with daily breakfast for 2 persons
* 1 time 60 min Spa treatment for 1 person
* 1 time hot pot for 2 persons
* Free upgrade to Hill View Villa (subject to availability)
* 1 time hotel activity (choose from singing box, mahjong, archery, hiking etc)
* 20% off on extra consumption of F&B Spa

Weekend Lake View Room 
Price: CNY3,999net for 2-night stay

Available for weekend (Thu & Fri, Fri & Sat, Sat & Sun)
Inclusions:
* 2-night Lake View Room stay with daily breakfast for 2 persons
* 2 times 60 min Spa treatment or 1 time120 min Spa treatment
* 1 time hot pot for 2 persons
* Free upgrade to Hill View Villa (subject to availability)
* 1 time hotel activity (choose from singing box, mahjong, archery, hiking etc)
* 20% off on extra consumption of F&B Spa

Both promotions are valid till 30 June 2019, exclude public holiday (5 - 7 April, 1 - 4 May and 7 - 9 June 2019)

You can book these two packages through: 
https://www.travelzoo.com/cn/local-deals/EastCN/Getaway/317161/?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0

Add: Fushi Reservoir, Meizi Wan, Hanggai Town, Anji, Zhejiang 浙江省安吉杭垓镇梅子湾旅游风景区赋石水库
Reservations: anji@alilahotels.com
Tel: 0572 5133 566
Website: www.alilahotels.com/anji


Deqiing, Zhejiang
Moganshan Solvang Village Boutique Hotel


Many of our readers may know that Mogan Mountain has increased in popularity over the past year as ‘the’ place to go for that weekend break, especially in those hot summer months to escape the heat. There are resorts popping up everywhere.

So why, you ask, or what makes Solvang so special? Nestled right in the midst of hiking trails, this family-feel resort has everything you could ask for to keep your blood pumping whether that be on a hike through bamboo forests, local farms for some fruit picking or to a serene waterfall or perhaps racing around on a mountain bike (available to hire at the resort for a daily fee). Not feeling the ‘sweat it out’ fresh air vibe? How about relaxing on a terrace with a good book, soaking yourself in a large bathtub or if you book on a special weekend, center yourself with some fresh mountain air outdoor yoga? Not convinced yet? With a fully stocked bar and restaurant, you can really relax, put your feet up and enjoy being looked after.

To get there is pretty easy, just take the fast train from Hangzhou East to Deqing station in just 15 minutes and the resort can arrange a car for you from there for a fee.

Room starts at 1,180RMB, to celebrate the arrival of the spring, they are offering an offer (200RMB down) from this week until April 30th.

Add: 112 Xiangdao, Reservior Side, Dazaowu Village, Deqing, Zhejiang 浙江德清县大造坞村112乡道水库旁
Reservations: booking@mogansolvangvillage.com
Tel: 136 6189 4469, 0572 8667 297
Website: www.mogansolvangvillage.com/


Deqing, Zhejiang
Gen Sinn Horseback Riding


Unleash your inner cowboy, the Indiana Jones or Lawrence of Arabia deep within, and hop in the saddle for the trip of a lifetime! Here in GenSinn Moganshan, you will make it come true.

Cross paths and forests, ride seemingly endless trails on the countryside roads, and stop on your way to enjoy the delicious country cuisine.

Gallop or trot alongside the streams and tea fields in the Moganshan. Ride far from those dusty roads filled with tourists, and go deep into the mountain for a pure bush experience.

Price: 498RMB/40 minutes

Add: Gaofeng Village, Moganshan, Deqing, Zhejiang (you can set your GPS to "浙江爵隐马术文化有限公司")
浙江省湖州市德清县莫干山镇高峰村 (导航浙江爵隐马术文化有限公司即可到达)
Hours: 8am - 5pm
Tel: 400 926 7833, 133 0571 5229, 150 8831 9562 

All About Tomb Sweeping Day

Tomb Sweeping Day (清明节, qīngmíng jié) is a Chinese holiday that has been celebrated in China for centuries. The day is meant to commemorate and pay respect to a person’s ancestors. Thus, on Tomb Sweeping Day, families visit and clean the gravesite of their ancestors to show their respect.

In addition to visiting cemeteries, people also go for walks in the countryside, plant willows, and fly kites. Those who cannot travel back to their ancestors’ gravesites may opt to pay their respects at martyrs parks to pay homage to revolutionary martyrs.

When Is Tomb Sweeping Day?

Tomb Sweeping Day is held 107 days after the start of winter and is celebrated on April 4 or April 5, depending on the lunar calendar.

Origins

Tomb Sweeping Day is based on the Hanshi Festival (寒食节, hánshií jié), which is also known as the Cold Food Festival and Smoke-Banning Festival. While the Hanshi Festival is no longer celebrated today, it has gradually been absorbed into Tomb Sweeping Day festivities.

The Hanshi Festival commemorated Jie Zitui (介子推), a loyal court official from the Spring and Autumn Period. Jie was a loyal minister to Chong Er. During a civil war, Prince Chong Er and Jie fled and were in exile for 19 years. According to legend, Jie was so loyal during the duo’s exile that he even made broth out of the flesh of his leg to feed the prince when they were short of food. When Chong Er later became king, he rewarded those who helped him when times were tough; however, he overlooked Jie.

Many advised Jie to remind Chong Er that he, too, should be repaid for his loyalty. Instead, Jie packed his bags and relocated to the mountainside. When Chong Er discovered his oversight, he was ashamed. He went to look for Jie in the mountains. The conditions were harsh and he was unable to find Jie. Someone suggested that Chong Er set fire to the forest to force Jie out. After the king set fire to the forest, Jie didn’t appear.

When the fire was extinguished, Jie was found dead with his mother on his back. He was under a willow tree and a letter written in blood was found in a hole in the tree. The letter read:

Giving meat and heart to my lord, hoping my lord will always be upright. An invisible ghost under a willow Is better than a loyal minister beside my lord. If my lord has a place in his heart for me, please make self-reflection when remembering me. I have a clear conscious in the nether world, being pure and bright in my offices year after year.

To commemorate Jie’s death, Chong Er created the Hanshi Festival and ordered that no fire could be set on this day. Meaning, only cold food could be eaten. One year later, Chong Er went back to the willow tree to hold a memorial ceremony and found the willow tree in bloom again. The willow was named ‘Pure Bright White’ and the Hanshi Festival became known as ‘Pure Brightness Festival.’ Pure Brightness is a fitting name for the festival because the weather is usually bright and clear in early April.

How Is Tomb Sweeping Day Celebrated?

Tomb Sweeping Day is celebrated with families reuniting and traveling to their ancestors’ gravesites to pay their respects. First, weeds are removed from the gravesite and the tombstone is cleaned and swept. Any necessary repairs to the gravesite are also made. New earth is added and willow branches are placed atop the gravesite.

Next, joss sticks are placed by the grave. The sticks are then lit and an offering of food and paper money is placed at the tomb. Joss paper money is burned while family members show their respect by bowing to their ancestors. Fresh flowers are placed at the tomb and some families also plant willow trees. In ancient times, five-colored paper was placed underneath a stone on the grave to signify that someone had visited the grave and that it had not been abandoned.

The Chinese joss paper “spirit money” known as Hell Bank Notes are commonly used in all manner of contemporary ancestor ceremonies. The most traditional notes bear the seal of the afterlife’s “Bank of Heaven and Earth,” while others are printed to resemble legal tender currency from various countries. Bills feature an image of the Jade Emperor, the Taoist monarch of heaven, and come in outrageous denominations from 10,000 to 1,000,000,000 dollars to help an ancestor purchase services, pay off the God of Death or escape punishment. Here are a few popular designs.

As cremation is gaining popularity, families continue the tradition by making offerings at ancestral altars or by placing wreaths and flowers at martyrs’ shrines. Due to hectic work schedules and the long distance some families must travel, some families opt to mark the festival earlier or later in April over a long weekend or assign a few family members to make the trip on behalf of the entire family.

Once the family has paid their respects at the gravesite, some families will have a picnic at the gravesite. Then, they take advantage of the usually good weather to take a walk in the countryside, known as 踏青 (tà qīng), hence another name for the festival — Taqing Festival.

Some people wear a willow twig on their heads to keep ghosts away. Another custom includes picking shepherd’s purse flower. Women also pick herbs and make dumplings with them and they also wear the shepherd’s purse flower in their hair.

Other traditional activities on Tomb Sweeping Day include playing tug-of-war and swinging on swings. It is also a good time for sowing and other agricultural activities, including planting willow trees.

Hangzhou

In Hangzhou, major activities for celebrating Tomb Sweeping Day Festival include sweeping tombs and going on spring outings. During the Festival each year millions people offer sacrifices to their ancestors and sweep their family tombs. Cemeteries are becoming more popular as a result of reform and China's opening to the world. This is particularly so in the areas outside Hangzhou, such as Suzhou and Jiaxing. Each year, more than a million people stream to these places, spawning traffic jams.

During the Festival it has become fashionable to blend brome grass juice with the flours of glutinous rice, and then to make them into pastes. The pastes are rolled into pieces of wrappers and stuffed with sweet bean paste and jujube paste. The stuffed pastes are put into a steamer, the bottom of which is covered with reed leaves. The freshly steamed pastes are green, bright and attractive with an appealing aroma. This kind of paste is the most unique local snack of the Festival. The local people also have a penchant for porridge cooked with peach blossom petals. Fish, whether for offering sacrifices or for a family banquets is usually saury. Local people consider the green pastes to be an indispensable sacrifice to their ancestors.     

Qingming Vocabulary

fénmù 坟墓= tomb / grave

mùdì 墓地 = cemetery (which sounds exactly like mùdì 目的 = “goal”)

sǎomù 扫墓 = to sweep tombs

bài zǔxiān 拜祖先 = to pay respects to ancestors

shāo xiāng 烧香 = to burn incense

shāo zhū 烧猪 = roast pig

gānzhè 甘蔗 = sugar cane

fàng biānpào 放鞭炮 = set off firecrackers 

qīng míng tuán 清明团 = green rice ball

All These Big Events You Need to Know - Coming Up in Hangzhou

International Conference on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology has become an important part of many areas of biology. ICBCB conference series will be held annually to provide an interactive forum for presentation and discussion on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. The conference welcomes participants from all over the world who are interested in developing professional ties to and/or exploring career opportunities in the region. The conference should serve as an ideal forum to establish relationships from within China and other regions of the world.

Time: 8am - 6pm, Mar. 21st - 23rd
Location: Zhejiang University Yuquan Campus


2019 4th International Conference on Renewable Energy and Smart Grid (ICRESG 2019)

International Conference on Renewable Energy and Smart Grid. ICRESG is co-organized by Auckland University of Technology, American University of Madaba (AUM) and Hong Kong Society of Mechanical Engineers(HKSME), technically sponsored by Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Zhejiang University.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Mar. 28th - 31st
Location: Hampton by Hilton Hangzhou Binjiang


Asia Conference on Power and Electrical Engineering

The Asia Conference on Power and Electrical Engineering. ACPEE is co-organized by Auckland University of Technology, American University of Madaba (AUM) and Hong Kong Society of Mechanical Engineers(HKSME), technically sponsored by Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Zhejiang University.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Mar. 28th - 31st
Location: Hampton by Hilton Hangzhou Binjiang


Asia and Oceanian Parkinsons Disease and Movement Disorders Congress

Asia and Oceanian Parkinsons Disease and Movement Disorders Congress is a platform to facilitate communication between clinicians and researchers in the region, disseminate updated knowledge about movement disorders, improve quality of life and independence of movement disorders patients and caregivers, promote research and facilitate research collaborations in movement disorders and expose clinicians, researchers and healthcare professionals in the region to movement disorders initiatives.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Apr. 12th - 14th
Location: InterContinental Hangzhou


Food & Beverage Innovation Forum

"Promoting the positive development of the food & beverage industry"
FBIF2019 is themed as "Gaining New Momentum from Open Innovation". The three-day FBIF consists of Plenary Session and two awards ceremonies on Day One, five sub-forums on Day Two and Day Three including Product Innovation, Marketing Innovation, InnoPack and Food & Money. At the same time, there will be interactive activities at FBIF exhibition area. Food and Beverage Innovation Forum (FBIF), founded in 2014 by Simba Events, is one of the most influential industry forums in Asia-Pacific. It is dedicated to promoting the industry development through sharing the most updated successful cases and communicate upcoming trends across the globe in the F&B industry.

Highlights
120+ global speakers and juries communicating the latest trends and successful business cases
7700m2 exhibition area with both exhibition and exclusively organized interactive activities

Time: 8am - 6pm, Apr. 23rd - 25th
Location: Hangzhou International Expo Centre


API China

"The oldest exhibition in the pharmaceutical field."
API China is the one-stop hight efficient industry platform for thousands of pharmaceutical and health care products manufacturers both at home and abroad. It will help pharmacy colleagues at home and broad fully understand the development trend of China pharmaceutical and healthcare products industry, meet industry friends and find new business opportunities.

Time: 9am - 6pm, May. 8th - 10th
Location: Hangzhou International Expo Centre


China International Pharmaceutical Industry Exhibition

China International Pharmaceutical Industry Exhibition will focus on areas like pharmaceutical machinery, packaging machinery, biological engineering, biopharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical water treatment equipment, fluid engineering, cleaning technology & equipment, process technology & control system, etc.

Time: 9am - 6pm, May. 8th - 10th
Location: Hangzhou International Expo Centre


China Hangzhou International Tea Industry Expo

China Hangzhou International Tea Industry Expo convenes famous tea, artisan and experts at home and abroad from top tea industry, big coffee, and tea lovers Gather together to create a grand tea feast.

Time: 9am - 6pm, May. 14th - 19th
Location: Hangzhou International Expo Centre


VeggieWorld Hangzhou

"VeggieWorld. The fair for the vegan lifestyle."
VeggieWorld Hangzhou is a platform to discover products that are not available in your supermarket and get to know vegan pleasure. Enriched with tips and tricks from creators, producers, chefs, and faces of the scene. Even vegetable-produced clothing and cosmetics that make no compromise in terms of shape, color, and style, you can find with us.

Time: 9am - 6pm, May. 14th - 19th
Location: White Horse Lake Jianguo Hotel


International Congress on Thermal Stresses

International Congress on Thermal Stresses aims to provide a forum for scientists and engineers from academia, research laboratories, and industry from all over the world who are involved in the field of thermal stresses to exchange ideas and to extend further cooperation among participants. The Congress should forge cooperative links between researches and engineers by bringing them to one place where they present their achievements and conduct discussions.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Jun. 1st - 5th
Location: Zhejiang Hotel Hangzhou


International Content Summit

International and Chinese companies to develop new programming across all genres. The most direct & easy way to find the right co-production or co-development partners.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Jun. 5th - 7th
Location: Grand Hyatt Hangzhou


Electromagnetic and Light Scattering Conference

The main objective of this conference is to promote the communication of new research on various aspects of light scattering including theoretical developments, numerical simulations, and laboratory measurements, and applications in scientific and engineering disciplines. The conference is expected to provide a congenial atmosphere for in-depth discussions as well as a learning platform for young scientists and students to experience the frontiers of these areas of research.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Jun. 9th - 14th
Location: Zhejiang University Yuquan Campus


International Conference on Physics of 2D Crystals

The International Conference on Physics of 2D Crystals will cover a variety of topics ranging from fundamental physics to applications of new two-dimensional crystals and crystal structures including Graphene, Boron nitride, Transition metal dichalcogenides (MoS2, WS2, ...), Hybrid Perovskite, Photonic crystal, BN nanophotonics, and much more.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Jun. 10th - 15th
Location: Zhejiang Hotel Hangzhou


EAI International Conference on Mobile Computing, Applications and Services

The EAI International Conference on Mobile Computing, Applications and Services focuses on the topics such as Innovation in Mobile Apps, Networking, and Computing, User Interfaces and Interaction Technologies for Mobiles, Location and Context Sensing/Awareness, Mobile Computing and Internet of Things, Smartphones and Wearable Platforms, and much more.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Jun. 14th - 15th
Location: Hangzhou


Asian Regional Association of Home Economics International Congress

The theme of this congress is The Aging and The Development of Home Economics Industry: For the Aspirations of the People to Live a Better Life, starting from the responsibility which home economics should assume while Asian countries and the community are developing rapidly. We hope that through home economics research, we are devoted to attaining the goal of family members' having a healthy, sustainable and long life We expect that in this very commemorative ARAHE International Congress, we will discuss this significant theme with many researchers of home economics from all Asian countries.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Aug. 20th - 23rd
Location: Zhijiang Hotel Hangzhou


11th Edition Conference
International Conference on Intelligent Human-Machine Systems and Cybernetics

"New applications for Human-machine interfaces"
International Conference on Intelligent Human-Machine Systems and Cybernetics aims to provide a forum for exchanges of research results, ideas for and experience of application among researchers and practitioners involved with all aspects of Human-Machine Systems and Cybernetics.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Aug. 24th - 25th
Location: Zhejiang Zijingang Hotel


IWA Odour & VOC/Air Emissions Conference

The IWA Odour & VOC/Air Emissions Conference will focus on the subject areas such as Policy and associated regulations for odour and air quality, Odour/VOC measurement, monitoring & sensor technologies, Odour/VOC perception, impact, formation and dispersion, GHG emissions, particulate matter and industrial emissions, Source characterisation and odour/VOC mapping, Odour/VOC abatement, mitigation and neutralization, Odour/VOC from wastewater, sewer systems and livestock, etc.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Oct. 14th - 17th
Location: Zhejiang University Yuquan Campus


China International Automobile Aftermarket Fair

China International Automobile Aftermarket Fair not only witnesses the rise and prosperity of China Automobile Aftermarket Industry but also sets up the most direct business negotiation platform for industrial enterprises. It will be the comprehensive industrial event that focus on providing product and technique solutions for automobile service industry, automobile dealers and all levels of selling agents

Time: 9am - 6pm, Nov. 23rd - 25th
Location: Hangzhou International Expo Centre


International Conference on Signal Processing and Machine Learning

International Conference on Signal Processing and Machine Learning are meant for researchers from academia, industries and research & development organizations all over the globe interested in the areas of machine learning methods/ algorithms, signal processing theory and methods, data mining, artificial intelligence, optimization and applications to human brain disorders like epilepsy etc. The conference will feature world-class keynote speakers in the main areas. Machine Learning usually plays an important role in the transition from data storage to decision systems based on large databases of signals such as the obtained from sensor networks, internet services, or communication systems.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Nov. 27th - 29th
Location: Hangzhou Dianzi University


Universal Tourism Exhibition

Universal Tourism Exhibition is a large outbound tourism trade platform and an itinerant exhibition. It is a B2B platform for Chinese outbound travel agencies and overseas inbound travel agencies, hotels, resorts, scenic spots, tourism platforms, cruises, tourism bureaus, other related tourism.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Dec. 5th
Location: Hangzhou


Money 20 20 China

Money20/20 is your opportunity to mix with an electrifying blend of global financial leaders, showcase new ideas, forge new partnerships and build brand awareness. This market-leading event showcases domestic and international companies from across the entire payments, FinTech and financial services industry, from financial giants to the rising stars of FinTech. Become a sponsor and make the most of this incredible opportunity.

Time: 9am - 6pm, Dec. 4th - 6th
Location: Hangzhou International Expo Centre

What To Do For Chinese Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival marks the last day of the Spring Festival and officially ends the Chinese New Year celebrations. This fun festival is mostly celebrated at nighttime to see the colorful lanterns flying high in the dark sky. In addition to seeing the lanterns flying, during this festival, families gather to attend four other major activities on this special day.

The belief during this festival is by lighting a lantern, you make a wish. So Chinese families light their lanterns and pray for health, fortune, wealth or make even more precise wishes. It is said that if you want your wish to come true, you must walk under a hanging lantern and pray for what you want.

So, at the end of the day, people light their lanterns and watch them fly away in the dark sky, accompanied by fireworks. Releasing the lanterns, which are red for good luck, symbolizes people letting go of their past selves and embracing new identities for the coming year.

Another popular activity during the Lantern Festival is to guess lanterns riddles.

Lantern riddles are called 灯迷 dēng mí in Chinese, where 灯 dēng is a lantern, lamp, or light, and 迷 mí refers to a puzzle, riddle, enigma, or conundrum.

The lanterns’ owners write riddles on small strips of paper they attach to the lantern they have hanging outside their home, so visitors can try to guess and solve the riddle.

If the visitors come up with an answer to the riddle (they are usually pretty tough to guess!), they can take off the paper and give it to the lantern owner. If the visitor guessed the right answer, then they win a little gift, given by the owner.

And this is how you change your casual stroll in the streets into a delightful moment by solving riddles. Fun, right?

Lastly, a big Lantern Festival tradition is to eat 元宵 (yuán xiāo) and these sticky balls are so yummy you’d be sorry to miss out on this excuse to eat sweet stuff.

元宵 (yuán xiāo) are sticky rice dumplings that can be stuffed with white sugar, brown sugar, sesame seeds, peanuts, walnuts, rose petals, bean paste, and jujube paste, or any combination of two or three ingredients. For Chinese people, the roundness of the dumplings symbolizes the togetherness as it is a great time for family gatherings.

Here are the locations where you can watch the Lantern Festival:

Grand Canal Spring
“运河之春”灯会


Time: Feb. 19th
Location: Streets in Gongshu District 拱墅区各街道

Wushan
吴山灯会


Time: 5:30pm - 9:30pm, Jan.25th - Feb. 20th (5:30pm - 10:30pm on the 19th)
Location: Cheng Huang Ge, Wushan 吴山城隍阁景区
Tickets: 30RMB/adults, 15RMB/children

People's Square, Xiaoshan
萧山人民广场


Time:  1:30pm - 3pm on Feb. 18th - 20th. Variety performances including singing and dancing, magic, acrobatics, etc.
Location: People's Square, Xiaoshan 萧山人民广场

Xiang Lake
湘湖灯会


Time: Feb. 3rd - 19th
Location: Xiang Lake, Xiaoshan 萧山区湘湖景区

West Lake Culture Plaza
西湖文化广场


Time: Feb. 18th - 20th
Location: West Lake Culture Plaza 西湖文化广场

Qiantang Lantern Affair
钱塘灯会


Time: Feb. 19th - Mar. 4th
Location: Dengxin Lane, Tianshui Street 天水街道灯芯巷

Song Dynasty
宋城灯会


Time: Feb. 5th - 19th
Location: Song Dynasty Themed Park 宋城景区
Tickets: 290RMB

Post-Holiday Weight Loss Plan

If you gained a few pounds over the holidays, you’re not alone. The good news for seniors looking to get back on track is you can bring about weight loss by cutting 500 calories daily from your diet. That’s the equivalent of one bagel with cream cheese.

The bad news, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, is most people don’t lose the one to five pounds they gained during the Christmas and Chinese New Year’s season. Aim to follow these suggestions on this list over the course of a week, and you'll be well on your way to reclaiming your waistline before you've even had a chance to pack up the holiday decorations.

Cut Sugar
The topic about sugar can go on and on, how bad is sugar? The World Health Organization recommends that adults consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 22 grams) of sugar per day. This seems easy to control, but in fact, if you drink a bottle of any sweet drink, you will exceed the standard.

If you want to know more, we suggest you to watch this film That Sugar Film by Damon Gameau, here is a trial:
https://v.qq.com/x/cover/yxmn5h9ya3rl2e9.html
Damon Gameau becomes a human guinea-pig when he puts himself through a grueling 6 week diet consuming the equivalent of 40 teaspoons of sugar a day. That Sugar Film is one man's journey to discover the bitter truth about sugar. Damon Gameau embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived as “healthy.”
Sugar is Sweet or white “poison”?

Drink Water
People often mistake thirst for hunger, so next time you feel like noshing, reach for water first. Drinking also helps you feel full. Some experts suggest sipping water (or iced tea) just before you sit down to a meal. Continue drinking as you eat to add volume and weight to your meal.

Try An At-home HIIT Workout
Try this 25-minute HIIT workout to torch 500 calories: 1 minute, 30 seconds of burpees; 1 minute, 30 seconds of squat jumps; 1 minute, 30 seconds of pendulums; 1 minute, 30 seconds of band jumps; and 1 minute, 30 seconds of bicep curls with bands. Repeat three times with a minute of rest in between. This sequence hits your whole body and the fast transitions keep your heart going. That way, even when the workout is over, you'll still be burning calories.

Opt For A Low-calorie Breakfast
Swap out your regular morning bagel, baozi, youtiao, fried dumplings to immediately slash 240 calories from your breakfast. And instead of flavoring it with spreading some ripe avocado on the whole wheat bread. You'll save yourself another 25 calories and benefit from the "good" monounsaturated fats in avocados, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Do this twice a week to cut 530 calories.

Don't Just Sit There
The average person burns 100 calories per hour sitting and 140 per hour standing. Make a point of being on your feet for at least two hours every day, and you could slash an extra 560 calories by the end of the week. Bonus: Taking frequent breaks can help prevent your risk of developing anxiety, heart disease, or certain cancers—all potential side effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Go Easy on the Alcohol
Remember that alcohol is a source of calories. A 12-ounce beer has 150 calories; a 3.5-ounce glass of wine, 85. A margarita packs a bigger caloric punch. Even worse offenders are creamy cocktails, such as brandy alexanders and mudslides—equivalent to drinking a rich dessert. The bottom line: If you’re trying to lose weight, stick with water. Follow these simple tricks to cut back on alcohol.

Dress Your Salad with A Fork
Prefer your salad dressing on the side? Lightly dip your fork into the dressing before stabbing your greens instead of plunging an already-loaded fork into the condiment (which picks up more) or drizzling it on top. You'll get just enough to flavor each bite and will cut about 500 calories. Another tip: Always opt for balsamic instead of Caesar to save yourself another 70 calories per tablespoon.

Say Goodbye to Soda
There are plenty of reasons to give up your soda habit once and for all. Studies have linked consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to tooth decay, diabetes, and poor bone health. And diet soda doesn't fare much better—artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose trigger insulin, which could cause you to gain weight. Start by replacing your daily 12-ounce can with a glass of water for a week, and you'll cut 980 calories. This is probably one of the easiest and best swaps you can make.

Up Your Protein (A Little)
Research suggests that protein prolongs the feeling of fullness better than carbohydrates or fats do. Studies in Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, and England found that people who ate a high-protein breakfast or lunch were less hungry at their next meal. Protein also requires a few more calories to digest. Just don’t go overboard. Stick to low-fat protein sources like low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese, low-fat soy drinks or snacks, or thinly sliced turkey breast.

Go For A Run
Running may be one of the most efficient workouts when it comes to blasting fat. Lace up your sneakers and go for a 60-minute run at a 10-minute-per-mile pace to burn about 600 calories.

Hit the Stairs
Not a fan of long runs? Work off nearly the same amount of calories in half the time by running up and down the stairs in your home. Do this for 15 minutes, and you'll lose 270 calories. Repeat twice a week to torch over 500.

Grab A Jump Rope
We know, we know—it gives you flashbacks to elementary school gym class. But jumping rope is a serious calorie-burner that strengthens your quads, calves, core, and shoulders. Spend 20 minutes jumping rope and you'll burn 240 calories; do this twice in a week to torch nearly 500.

Snack Smart
You may think of it as a health food, but one serving of pita bread contains about 13% of your recommended daily sodium. For a healthier fix, pair hummus with crunchy red pepper slices. This fiber-filled veggie is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, and will save you 135 calories. Do this four times a week to burn 540 calories in total.

Work Out For Just 10 More Minutes
Whether you're on the treadmill, walking around your neighborhood, or swimming laps, tell yourself to continue on for another ten minutes after you're ready to end your workout. Those extra minutes could help you shed an additional 100 calories. Repeat for five of your weekly workouts to burn 500.

Only 4 months to summer, good luck to you, and we hope you'll get to see a new you in the year of 2019!

Click for Hangzhou, Zhejiang Forecast

Get Weekly Events to your Mailbox