Anji’s abundance of ‘super grass’ makes it host to synergetic ecotourism and sustainable manufacturing. Xu Lin and Erik Nilsson explore its plumed peaks and flourishing factories.
It’s so much like a movie backdrop that it has actually served as several. A warrior in a fluttering traditional robe smashes swords with a young woman as they literally fly through a bamboo grove’s canopy in the international blockbuster Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The iconic fight scene was shot in Zhejiang province’s Anji county— for good reason.
Visitors to the filming site in Anji’s Dazhuhai, or the Great Bamboo Sea, will discover that the landscape’s magic, unlike the movie’s martial arts, doesn’t require special effects.
They can soar like the Crouching Tiger scene’s fencers— even more fantastically, in fact — by zapping along a zip line over Dazhuhai.
Other cinematic hits, including The Banquet and The Matrimony, were filmed there. A small museum dedicated to films set in Anji’s bamboo forests is itself set in Anji’s bamboo forests.
Wanderers may stumble upon derelict shooting sites of their favorite flicks in these thickets.
Indeed, the plant plays no small role in Anji winning such State-level designations as Leading Chinese Ecotourism County, Beautiful Chinese Countryside (destination) and Most Livable County.
It’s important not only to Anji’s sustainable development but also toChina’s— and perhaps the world’s.
The county produces roughly a fifth of the country’s bamboo goods. The power plant is used by hundreds of local workshops and factories to manufacture thousands of items.
Bamboo’s alchemic versatility conjures golden economic opportunities. It can be used to make almost anything — textiles, computer keyboards, sacrificial funerary money, bike frames, luxury-car interiors, speaker diaphragms, smartphone cases, beer and animal feed.
That’s not to mention human fare. And the cutlery you eat it with. And the plates you put it on. And the table you put those on. And the bamboo flooring you put the table on. And the bamboo roof you put that under. And so on. Locals recall bamboo roofing saved their lives during the flash floods of decades past. They’d crawl atop rooftops and float away on them like life rafts.
The plant also presents green opportunities environmentally.
It can easily be grown organically. It gulps pesticides from the soil while guzzling copious CO2 from the air.
Bamboo processing typically requires fewer toxins than generating goods from trees.
It’s expediently renewable. It can be harvested in short spans.
Some varieties grow so fast that you can hear them creak as they stretch toward the sky.
They’re like Jack’s beanstalks. Perhaps louder.
Industrial users produce Anji’s bamboo that in turn protects the environment and adorns the terrain. That in turn lures tourists — producing a symbiosis of ecology and commerce.
The plant has for millennia occupied a revered position in Chinese culture.
It’s among the first subjects traditional painters are required to master.
It shares the distinction as one of the “four gentlemen”, along with the orchid, plum blossom and chrysanthemum.
Ancient scholars venerated it as an icon of longevity and endurance — a concept that has long endured to extend to ordinary folks today. Anji hosts over 300 species. The bamboo its people cultivate, in turn, cultivates its people.
“Chinese culture is bamboo culture,” local agricultural expert Xuan Taotao explains.
“Bamboo can make farmers rich and our environment healthy. So we must preserve bamboo forests and industries.”
Roofed corridors in Anji’s bamboo forests are fashioned out of bamboo forests.
Spring Alpha Resort offers not only guestrooms ornamented with bamboo handicrafts but also lessons in handcrafting bamboo ornaments.
Buildings designed according to Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynastic architecture with contemporary flourishes are arranged in courtyard gardens with stone bridges, pavilions and rockeries.
Its commercial street is lined with snack stores, souvenir shops, two bars and a theater where visitors can sip Anji white tea while savoring traditional Shaoxing Opera.
The resort also offers karaoke, mahjong and spa treatments.
Spring Alpha’s allure, like much of the county’s, is based on the trend in which more Chinese seek more leisure over mere sightseeing.
And ecotourism like Anji’s — which is conversely supported by sustainable agro-industrial production — accommodates both desires.
Top and bottom: The county of Anji in Zhejiang province is a leading Chinese ecotourism county because of its rich cultural and natural landscape.