The hills are alive with the scent of flowers

THE withered rapeseed flowers and peach blossoms haven’t finished the flower season in Zhejiang Province. On the contrary, a heady bouquet of other flowers is now peaking.

Fragrances fill the air — notably the extravagant azaleas on the hillsides, a vast garden cosmos of flowers and there are popular flower festivals in the parks.

Shanghai Daily takes a look at the vibrant flowers and picks a couple of common varieties. People could have a flower-peeping self-driving trip on weekends, lingering over ancient hamlets, breathing aromatic air, and viewing a sea of flowers.

Flower Festival in Xixi Wetland

Visitors to the annual Xixi Flower Festival through May 7 will find 877 varieties along a scenic causeway in the Xixi National Wetland Park. In addition to common blossoms, precious flowers from Italy, the Netherlands and Japan bring exotic colors to the festival.

During the festival, Chinese and Western weddings are held in the park, and dancers from all over the world entertain visitors. Meanwhile, cosplayers in traditional Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) style costumes add an ancient vibe to the festival.

The traditional flower festival could date to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) when people worshipped the floral immortals in spring. During the festival, they appreciated flowers, went on outings, had get-togethers, made paper cuts and composed poems.

The festival in return stimulated the development of flower markets. Throughout dynasties, literatus were enchanted by the picturesque festival and created poems singing its praises.

In Xixi Wetland, taking a traditional-style boat through the rivers and streams is a great way to see the flowers. There are beautiful sights at every turn: flying, paddling and diving birds, lush trees, aquatic plants and reed marshes.

 

How to get there: Take bus No. 270 or 290, and get off at Xixi National Wetland Park.

Garden cosmos in Ninghai County

Garden cosmos have long been associated with Tibet, because they symbolize happiness in Tibetan culture. The cosmos vista on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau lures swarms of tourists every year. Now, locals needn’t travel that far for the view, since Lishanji Village of Ninghai County boasts similar floral scenery.

The colorful flowers cover the terraced fields, from white and yellow to rosy and pink. The village is famous for rapeseed flowers in March and colorful cosmos in May.

Villagers grow flowers to attract tourists and built family-run guesthouses providing homey accommodation and local flavors.

Not far from the floral fields, ancient Longgong Village is worth a visit.

There are 18 creeks flowing into three rivers flanked by centuries-old trees in the village. Most of the homes have white walls and black-tiled roofs in a style that dates back about 1,000 years.

Longgong means “dragon palace,” implying the village has a dragon link. About 99 percent of villagers are surnamed Chen and their totem is the dragon. Totems are everywhere in the village.

After the village was established during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), other villages suffered wars and natural disasters, but Longgong has spared. Villagers believe they are blessed by the hidden dragon and Buddha.

Meanwhile, a pond that never dried up for centuries made villagers believe deeply that a secluded dragon lives there. The pond is in the west of the village. The limpid water comes from a cave and sometimes waves roll with foam in the pond, which adds mysterious ambience.

 

How to get there: Hangzhou Bay Expressway — Changzhou-Taizhou Expressway — Shenyang-Haikou Expressway — Get off at Sanmen Exit

Azaleas in Tiantai Mountain

Now is the best season to appreciate the blooming azalea. One of the best spots to view these fuschia flowers is Huading Hill, which is the highest peak of Tiantai Mountain.

Fluctuating temperatures and moist air make it a great place to grow azaleas. Different from ordinary shrubs, the variety on Huading Hill features bigger flowers and taller trees.

The hill is mantled with mist on mornings and evenings. The misty landscape dotted with pink blotches lures shutterbugs from far and wide.

In addition to azaleas, Tiantai is also home to the Fahua Sect. The sect, also named the Tiantai Sect, is an important school of Buddhist teaching in Asia.

One of the mountain’s most popular sights is Guoqing Temple, which could date as far back as the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618) when the then emperors encouraged the spread of Buddhism across the country.

In addition, many other temples in Tiantai offer places for Buddhists to eat a vegetarian diet, learn scriptures and meditate with monks for weeks.

 

How to get there: Hangzhou Bay Expressway — Changzhou-Taizhou Expressway — Get off at Tiantai Exit