Follow the trails of colorful sweetgums
Nature's palette in Hangzhou is frequently comprised of gingkos, dawn redwood, golden soapberry and scarlet maples. The Chinese sweetgums are also coming into the height of their colorful season, transforming the Lingyin Scenic Area into many shades of orange and red.
The 2nd Chinese Sweetgum Festival is underway at the scenic spots in the area with various sweetgums such as fengxiang (枫香), jizhuaqi (鸡爪槭), dahongyefeng (大红叶枫) and shanhongyefeng (山红叶枫).
Sweetgum leaves are typically three-lobed, although they can also be five or seven-lobed. During early winter, the foliage develops a captivating reddish hue. The leaves grow in an alternating arrangement, palmately-veined, and with serrated margins, giving them a distinctive appearance.
The multicolored trees in the Lingyin Scenic Area are mostly found along Zhongfa, Lingyin, Tianzhu, and Longjing roads, as well as Feilai Peak, Fayun Lane and Fengshu Ridge. The organizers have created various itineraries that include both natural and cultural assets.
The Tianzhu Road follows a brook that is lined with flourishing sweetgums. The famed Fajing Temple, which dates back over 1,000 years, is also in this neighborhood.
Compared to the well-known Lingyin Temple, Fajing Temple is less crowded. Its location in a very serene and tranquil setting offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and creeks, as well as many shades of red. Buddhist monks have long used the temple to deliver lectures and exchange ideas.
Another spot worth visiting is the Hangzhou Buddhist Academy. The walk from Lingyin Temple to the academy is almost straightforward thanks to Fayun Lane and Zhongfa Road. The multicolored trees and Buddhist pines give the area a poetic feel.
The academy, along with the neighboring Yongfu Temple, is nestled in an ancient village where monks and farmers live in peace in a beautiful setting. In the morning, take a walk alongside the West Lake to witness the mist hovering over the water. Then, climb the hill to explore Yongfu. Now is the time to linger over the red leaves.
Whether you're a nature lover or a history buff, Lingyin Temple is a must-visit destination to enjoy the autumn foliage. Luxuriant sweetgums surround the temple, providing a serene atmosphere.
Lingyin literally translates to "Temple of the Soul's Retreat" and is always crowded with devotees. The temple has many grottoes and religious rock carvings, the most notable of which is Feilai Peak.
The organizers released the book, "Feilai Xunzong (飞来寻踪, Tracing the Origin of Feilai Peak)," during the festival's opening ceremony. It is the first book to present the natural scenery, garden design, cultural heritage and history of Feilai Peak comprehensively.
In Chinese, Feilai Peak literally means "the peak that flew hither." Limestone gives Feilai Peak a jagged aspect that contrasts with the surrounding mountains. Monk Huili's narrative stated that Buddhism's might was illustrated by bringing the stone from India to Hangzhou.
Throughout the dynasties, monks and scholars inscribed a plethora of inscriptions and built Buddha statues on the peak, which have now constituted the cultural heritage of the West Lake Cliff Inscriptions.
Cliff inscriptions were most common during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) and the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (AD 907-979), when Hangzhou's mountainous terrain was filled with Buddhist grottoes and temples.
Today, Feilai Peak still has around 300 stone inscriptions. Some of them had been concealed in forests for years and were only recently uncovered. The book combs over the cliff inscriptions to provide visitors with a well-rounded introduction.