Tea remains a major product in the Wuyishan area of China, as it has been for hundreds of years. Located in the eastern province of Fujian, Wuyishan (or Mount Wuyi) claims to be the only "city of tea culture" in China.
Wuyi Rock Tea is regarded as the first among the Top 10 famous teas in China. Popular with visitors is a pleasant stroll along a valley to a place called Dahongpao, where six bushes, each more than 350 years old, are thought to be the originals from which all oolong tea bushes in the region are descended. The spot is revered by the Chinese.
Chinese authorities have catered to the rapidly increasing number of visitors to the area by building a separate tourist town near the city of Wuyishan.
Besides its tea, the area is famous for its grain and timber production, and, in addition to numerous new hotels, the tourist village is dominated by shops offering tea-tasting ceremonies and places containing enormous—and often grotesque—wood carvings.
One of the noted mountains in the area, Drawing Peak, provides a dramatic backdrop. The Chinese have a special reverence for mountains. Visitors will find large numbers of locals touring areas where the mountain scenery is spectacular, enjoying the fresh air and partaking in various activities.
The Mount Wuyi Scenic Area has many attractions. The Nine Bend Stream winds through some magnificent mountain areas, odd-shaped peaks appearing at every turn. Small temples and pagodas cling precariously to the edge of the steep cliffs.
At a couple of places, visitors can spot large crevices where "hanging boat coffins" were placed long ago, in a practice unique to this part of China. At the end of the rafting tour, at the mouth of the Nine Bend Stream, tourists shouldn't miss the excellent local museum (for explanations of the boat coffins) and Wuyi Palace.
For a different perspective on the scenery, it is worthwhile to take a couple of the walks to viewpoints high above the river. Steep steps lead to pagodas on such points as Heavenly Tour Peak, from which the whole panorama of the region is exposed.
The Chinese often give evocative names to scenic spots. The Mount Wuyi area offers Eagle's Beak Rock, Ever-Happy Temple, Nine-Dragon Nest, Peach Blossom Cave and Twin Breast Peaks, among others.
Just south of Wuyishan lies the small village of Xiamei, where a small group of ethnic Shanxi people continue to live a traditional lifestyle. Elderly women deftly sort out the tea leaves on large bamboo platters, while others carefully rake rice grains drying on concrete pads. Animated groups play cards or mah-jongg, women knit on four needles while chatting in doorways, old men sit contemplating life and, nearby, young men shoot pool.
Don't leave without trying tea eggs, the ubiquitous snack of eggs hard boiled in—what else?—tea.
Tiny shops tucked inside houses sell artifacts, including knives, vases, pots and paintings, all supposedly 200 years old. It's a vivid example of a lifestyle only now starting to change.
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