Enjoy the beauty of city's 'water forest'
It’s the best season to view dawn redwood, and Qingxi Countryside Park in suburban Qingpu District, which has the city’s only “water forest,” is perhaps one of the best destinations to appreciate the enchanting view.
Dawn redwood, or shuishan, is a fast-growing redwood conifer that is one of the world’s oldest tree species and is native to China.
The trees at Qingxi have been cultivated in water, which distinguishes them from their forest counterparts. As a result, Qingxi Countryside Park presents a unique water forest view. Every December, the water mirrors the red trees, creating a wonderland seen only in fairy tales.
Picturesque winter view
In early winter, the trees turn red for just two weeks. Emerald green grass floats on the water, in sharp contrast to the red leaves, attracting lots of people to take photographs.
The winding wooden paths provide a way to go deep into the water forest and discover many creatures such as toads, spot-billed ducks, whiskered terns and white wagtails. They are found amid rice fields, and brooks take leisurely wetland strolls or flying. The most commonly seen are egrets, which make nests in the conifer forest and twitter joyfully.
The shuishan forest is at the northeast corner of the park, in the same water system as Dalian Lake.
Walking along the Dalian Lake, withered lotus leaves presents a winter view, like a picture in an ink-wash painting. In the center of the lake lies the big “Dream Lotus” artwork by artist Chen Yiming with its white petals looking like doves of peace ready to fly.
After 40 minutes’ walk, when you reach the golden paddy fields, Lianhu Village is just in front of you. If you don’t want to walk, there are shuttle buses inside the park at 20 yuan (US$3) for a round trip.
Lianhu Village, the unique watertown inside the park, is also worth a visit, allowing people to experience farming life and get close to nature.
The village got its name from Dalian (big lotus) Lake. It dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and flourished during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Houses in the village feature white walls and black tiles with an antique flavor.
The village still maintains the old Chinese customs. At Lianhu Yizhan, a public canteen of the village, there are traditional stoves which use firewood to cook in the kitchen. Villagers make traditional desserts in the afternoon to welcome their guests.
It’s also the site of a rice cake workshop. Cooking classes are available to visitors, but reservation is required.
It’s the season of the pumpkin harvest. Villagers cook pumpkins, and then put mashed pumpkins into traditional glutinous rice cakes. After frying, villagers boil them in brown sugar water. The pumpkin glutinous rice cake tastes like a soft chewy pancake, with a strong pumpkin flavor.
Visitors are also able to enjoy cuisine served in typical rural style at the village.
The region’s traditional specialty products such as rice, jiaobai (wild rice shoots) and lotus roots are available to purchase at farmers’ houses and the village market.
Liantang, a nearby Jiangnan-style watertown, is known for its jiaobai plants and has an annual yield of around 52,000 tons. Jiangnan refers to the region south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
Jiaobai is a Chinese plant with a long history, which was originally cultivated as a grain instead of a vegetable in ancient times. Known as gu before the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), jiaobai was once regarded as one of the six grains.
Benefitting from its neighbor’s specialty product, Lianhu Village is famous for its unique jiaobai leaf weaving technique.
Handcrafts made of jiaobai leaves
The reed weaving technique has a history of hundreds of years in this rural area, and villagers use jiaobai leaves to create a new handcraft that has become an intangible cultural heritage of Qingpu District.
Zhang Xing has been dedicated to the protection and promotion of the traditional technique. She established a workshop and led nearly 40 villagers to improve their weaving technique through training.
“Twist the jiaobai leaves into a rope, then you can weave it into exquisite works like pendants, coasters, bags and various baskets. We hired the elderly at the village to help in twisting the jiaobai leaves, it’s an easy job, but needs time to do,” Zhang told iDEALShanghai.
Compared with reed rope, jiaobai rope is green with a grassy smell, flexible to weave. Even beginners like us can make a goldfish-shaped pendant in half an hour.
The products are both practical and artistic, such as exquisite handbags and coasters decorated with blue calico.The workshop also provides classes for tourists to learn to weave jiaobai leaves and turn them into handcrafts.
Qingxi Countryside Park
Address: 500 Zilian Rd, Qingpu District
Opening hours: 8:30am-4:30pm