Tonglu County offers lush landscapes, village charm

Wu Huixin
With the arrival of high-speed rail, the picturesque and culturally vibrant county in southwest Hangzhou is now more accessible than ever.
Wu Huixin

Tonglu County, in southwest Hangzhou, is one of “China’s Top 10 Tourism Counties” by virtue of its mountains, river scenery and charming villages. When sightseeing in Tonglu, travelers are encouraged to linger over the county and admire its old hamlets, rivers and forests.

The Fuchun River runs through the county with crisscrossed tributaries. The river is known for its long connections with literature and the arts. Many scholars lived there or wrote poems about the area.

Throughout its history, literati left nearly 3,000 poems eulogizing its picturesque landscape and idyllic lifestyle, which reflects the county’s abundant natural resources.

Inspired by the scenery, painter Huang Gongwang created the painting “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains,” which today is one of the master’s few surviving works.

Tonglu County offers lush landscapes, village charm
Wu Huixin / SHINE

Bamboo weaving

Tonglu County offers lush landscapes, village charm
Wu Huixin / SHINE

A villager makes embroidered sachets.

The Hangzhou-Huangshan high-speed railway, which came into service last December, allows tourists from Shanghai, Ningbo and Nanjing easy access to Tonglu.

Formerly, it took around two hours’ driving from Hangzhou to reach the county. Now bullet trains take only half an hour, greatly boosting the local tourism industry.

In recent years, the area’s tourism committee has turned its focus to promoting the county’s small mountain villages.

Infrastructure and roads have been upgraded and given a facelift, and guesthouses and small eateries were built to offer homey accommodation and local cuisine. Some high-end guesthouses have a large number of followers on social media because of their chic designs integrated with natural landscapes.

With a growing number of people living in cities longing for an escape from the stresses of the daily urban grind, guesthouses in the village have become even more popular.

These simple hostels give travelers a chance to experience life like a local and are famous for serving great meals made from fresh catches and locally raised poultry. Free-range chicken, bamboo and fish dishes are all highly recommended.

E’shan Village is home to thousands of ethnic She people. Since the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when the village was established, they have retained their distinguished ethnic culture and folklore.

In family-run guesthouses, visitors will find basic but friendly accommodations, as well as authentic She food and delicacies including local poultry and wild herbs.

For tourists, E’shan is a great weekend getaway that offers a glimpse into folk life and some much-needed fresh air.

The picturesque village not only attracts visitors, it has also drawn cultural industry insiders to invest there. Yunxi, a bookstore chain from Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu Province, opened a branch in the center of the village.

The bookstore was designed to reflect the local environment and features the area’s distinctive architecture style. It aims to display China’s countryside life, photography and folk culture.

Visitors can experience the She people’s traditions when touring the village. Woven apparel and exquisite crafts are particularly popular with visitors.

Locals are highly skilled at bamboo-strip weaving and embroidery. Girls begin to learn knitting and braiding at a young age. Most of their sophisticated, colorful costumes are handmade.

Tonglu County offers lush landscapes, village charm
Wu Huixin / SHINE

A small family-run eatery 

Tourists are recommended to visit E’shan during unique festival periods. The third day of the third lunar month is a big day for worshipping ancestors among the She people.

During the celebration, they cook colorful rice dyed with herbal juice. Hospitable She people sing folk ballads and serve homemade Hongqu wine to guests.

According to records, they use fungus found in bamboo to create the red-hued wine. The wine is bitter but has a refreshing scent. It is an indispensable part of She celebrations and banquets.

Apart for E’shan, some villages still look like relics from the past. There are antiqued bridges, temples, ancestral halls and other architectural structures with sculptured beams and engraved rafters, representing traditional Huizhou style.

For tourists who want to immerse themselves in nature, Luci and Dipu villages are recommended. These places offer hiking in lush forests filled with pine trees and bamboo.

In summer, Tonglu offers aquatic entertainment. A section for paddling along the Chuiyun Tongtian River provides a complete journey down its slow-moving and winding riverine course.

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