Songyang County, China

Songyang County, China

Songyang County is located in the mountains southwest of Zhejiang province around 400-500 km south of Shanghai and is renowned for its natural scenery and living ancient villages. A number of the historic and cultural relics go back over 1,800 years. The landscape of Songyang can be concluded in short words: 80 percent mountainous, 10 percent rivers and 10 percent fields. The county is hidden in the mountainous Songgu, whilst the villages and terrace fields are located on the hills.  Generally the condition of the mountainous villages is much better than that of the flat-land villages.   When visiting a number of villages we noticed quite a difference in prosperity and wealth between them.  With the undulating inclines of the mountains and the various terrains of creeks, forests and rocks, the mountainous villages present a varied landscape. The differences in the altitude of the villages constitute a magnificent vertical landscape visually.

You could spend months exploring this fascinating region. There are an array of historical relics dating back to the Shang (2,100-1,600 B.C.) and Zhou (1,600-356 B.C.) dynasties, and the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Song Dynasty (960-1279).   However with only a few days at our disposal we could only select a few highlights.  Being July it was hot and humid (even at altitude) with afternoon thunderstorms common.  The following is a summary of our itinerary:-

Wenzhou (Jiangxin) Island

We flew into Wenzhou and started our adventures just north of the Wenzhou city. Wenzhou Island is one of the must-see places in Wenzhou and easily assessable by a 5 min ferry ride. There are not only ancient towers and other monuments dating back the Southern Song Dynasty, but also the former site of the British Consulate in Wenzhou in the British Concession. It’s a great place to walk, take photos and was especially stunning at dusk when we visited with great views across the river to the city.

Jiushe Hostel

A quick mention of our accommodation where we based ourselves during our visit.  Jiushe Hostel is around 200km inland west of Wenzhou.  This was more of a hotel rather than a hostel or Airbnb and was set high in the mountains (600m) with great outlooks from all the rooms.  The rooms are huge – modern and designed to a high standard despite the rather remote location.  There are a number of steep steps to negotiate to get to your room but the staff were fully capable of carrying the heavy bags to our rooms.  The included breakfast was excellent.  

Nan xi jiang (Longwantan National Forest Park)

The next morning we drove to Longwantan National Forest Park.  There are many walks on well maintained paths and many stairs for those wanting to reach the higher parts of the park.  The scenery is well worth the effort – bush, waterfalls, waterscapes, swimming spots, and fun activities for all ages.  The park is huge (1,650 hectares) but in the oppressive heat many of the activities were not open and only managed to see a small part of the what the Park had to offer.

Heyang Ancient Houses

The village has a history of over 1000 years and has maintained its beautiful traditional architecture. Most of the buildings are around 200 years old and the village is very much a living relic with a population of 3,000 (94% of whom have the surname “Zhu”).  It was to be one of the larger villages we were to see with a number of restaurants and shops to cater for tourists. The highlight though of Heyang is simply wondering around and getting lost in the quaint alleyways and courtyard houses.

Jinyun Xiandu Geopark Scenic Area

This scenic area is dominated by a 170m high solitary stalagmite column formed from a volcanic eruption 160 million years ago.  There are also caves to explore if you are so inclined (which we weren’t).  The highlight for us was a steppingstone bridge over the Liaxi River which had to cater for people crossing (and the resident cow!) in both directions without falling into the river!

Guyan Huaxiang Scenic Area

Also known as the “Painting Town of Ancient Weir” this is graded AAAA tourist attraction.  The town is actually in two parts which are connected by a short boat ride.  It contains one of the oldest water dams / irrigation system structures in China estimated at 1,500 years.  The system is still operational today.  This feature together with the ancient camphor trees and the old towns and villages has made the area popular for creative artists and production site for oil paintings and photography.

Songyin Creek Scenic Area

The area features an architecturally designed modern pine pavilion and a paved path along the river enabling cyclists and walkers to explore the area.  It is also a popular fishing area. The development blended the structures with the surrounding landscape whilst also recognising the historical production of pine resin (gum) in the nearby Songyanglao Street which was very interesting and well worth visiting.

Jie Shou Cun Village

Our next stop to Jie Shou Cun Village (covering 25 sq kms) which is renowned for having the first girls second primary school.  The village is set in a geographically sailing boat shape moored by the Songyin River.  The village contains the ancestral halls of the surnames “Liu” and “Zhang”.  In 2013 the village was included in the second batch of traditional Chinese villages by the government.

Damu Mountain Tea Garden scenic spot ( Hengxi Village)

This village combines tea garden sightseeing with the tea culture experience.  You can interact with the tea pickers and then try several of the famous green tea varieties in the Seven Tea teahouse.  We were quickly dissuaded from walking the area (being too long) and we were given permission to drive through (despite the signs!) as it was quiet.   During the busy tourist season you are encouraged to rent bikes to explore the area.  It was a beautiful region and one of the advantages of being off-peak was that we were virtually the only visitors so managed to take some stunning photos.

Xikeng Village, Sidu

Xikeng Village is one of the smaller villages but has more than 20 Qing Dynasty buildings.  It is located within the mountains and sits within the mist and clouds at around 700m.  It is one of the smaller villages, very traditional and somewhat poorer compared to others we visited.  We got some great photos over looking the surrounding mountains and cloudy valleys. 

Chen jia Pu Village

This was one of the larger more modern and hence more popular of the villages and included a busy, large bookshop, cafés and restaurants.  It was one of the wealthier and prosperous of the traditional villages we visited during our trip.  

Songzhuang Village

With a history of 600 years National Geographic rated this as the last secret place in the south of the Yangtze River.  It is sited amongst the mist of the mountains and the village is built along the flowing stream with stone arch bridges to cross from one side to the other.

Yangjiatung Village

The village faces west and reflects the golden glow of the setting sun.  The village was made famous by a video that went viral on Douyin, a short video app in China.  We had dinner here on the deck and our dusk pics didn’t disappoint with the sun setting behind the mountain landscape.

If you would like more information about this destination, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Longwantan National Forest Park

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