Beauty by the lake

Bul­let train to wa­ter fun at Baiyang­dian in He­bei

Global Times - Weekend - - TRAVEL - By Zhou Zi­ran

Many Chi­nese first learn of Baiyang­dian, or Baiyang Lake, though the rev­o­lu­tion-era movie Xiaob­ing Zhangga ( Lit­tle Sol­dier Zhang Ga), in which a young kid Zhang Ga helps vil­lagers fight against Ja­panese soldiers near the lake dur­ing the War of Re­sis­tance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1931-45). A five-A scenic area sanc­tioned by the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Baiyang­dian at­tracts mil­lions of vis­i­tors ev­ery year with its cool tem­per­a­tures in the sum­mer and count­less lo­tuses.

It’s a two-hour drive to the lake from Bei­jing, but the large num­ber of vis­i­tors head­ing their dur­ing week­ends and hol­i­days means heavy traf­fic may make the trip longer.

If you want to avoid the drive, you have a much faster – and less tir­ing – op­tion: bul­let train.

Ear­lier in July, bul­let train ser­vice was es­tab­lished be­tween Bei­jing and Xion­gan New Area in He­bei Prov­ince, where Baiyang­dian is lo­cated.

Now it takes only 1 hour and 20 min­utes to travel by train to the lake, which means you can go there in the morn­ing and re­turn in the evening.

Drift on the lake

Lakes are rare in dry North China, but Baiyang­dian of­fers a unique ex­pe­ri­ence with its placid waters and var­i­ous plants that means you don’t need to travel to fer­tile South China.

The reeds at Baiyang­dian have be­come one of its sym­bols. These are the reeds that gave Zhang Ga a hid­ing place from Ja­panese soldiers in the film.

In real life, Chi­nese forces in the re­gion of­ten used the reeds as am­bush sites to catch the in­vad­ing soldiers by sur­prise dur­ing the war.

With hun­dreds of boats drift­ing on the lake, now the reeds have be­come a nat­u­ral way to sep­a­rate the wa­ter­ways at Baiyang­dian.

To ex­pe­ri­ence the na­ture of Baiyang­dian, I rec­om­mend tak­ing a wooden pad­dle boat rather than a mo­tor­ized one.

The re­laxed sway­ing of these boats is a fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence from any­thing you can find in the city.

The won­der­ful breeze and fresh air made me feel as if I was at the ocean in­stead of an in­land lake.

There are plenty of fish, cray­fish and crabs in the lake. Some­times you can see them swim­ming around in the wa­ter near the boat.

I saw var­i­ous types of birds at Baiyang­dian. One kind is called a cor­morant. These birds en­joy perch­ing on fish­er­men’s ca­noes in the hopes of hunt­ing down a fish for a nice snack.

Sum­mer is also the best time to take in the nu­mer­ous lo­tuses that can be found at Baiyang­dian.

There’s even a park that bears the name of the type of lo­tus species that can be found in the area among the many other types of lo­tus. All in all though, I think only a botanist could tell how many kinds of lo­tuses the lake has.

Lo­cal leg­ends

The Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) Kangxi Em­peror main­tained an im­pe­rial resi- dence at Baiyang­dian, the big­gest la He­bei Prov­ince.

Kangxi or­dered that a tem­ple be near his res­i­dence. As an em­peror w fought nu­mer­ous bat­tles dur­ing his per­haps it was his way of try­ing to fi some peace in his old age.

How­ever, peace was not in the ca for the lake. About 200 years after t em­peror’s death in 1722, war fi­nally to Baiyang­dian as lo­cals bat­tled aga Ja­panese in­va­sion.

The Baiyang­dian-based Yan­ling ril­las played a ma­jor role in help­ing ef­fort.

The name Yan­ling – which re­fer feath­ers of a wild goose – comes fro feath­ers the guer­ril­las used to keep weapons and am­mu­ni­tion dry.

The movie char­ac­ter Zhang Ga i sym­bol of the Yan­ling guer­ril­las. A rial hall to the Yan­ling guer­ril­las is l

at Baiyang­dian.

Though the Yan­ling guer­ril­las were far out­gunned by the in­vaders, in the more than 70 bat­tles they fought from 1939 to 1945, only eight Yan­ling guer­ril­las were lost.

They have been highly praised for their ef­forts dur­ing the war, in­jur­ing hun­dreds of fully armed Ja­panese soldiers and slow­ing down lo­gis­tic sup­ply trains.

I ac­tu­ally re­gret stay­ing a sin­gle day at the lake. One trav­eler I met there sug­gested I spend the night at a ru­ral fam­ily home, then take a boat to go fish­ing in the morn­ing, after which I could en­joy a big break­fast made from what I caught.

It def­i­nitely sounds like a great plan for my next trip.

Pho­tos: CFP

Boats drift at Baiyang­dian in He­bei Prov­ince. Bot­tom left and right: Lo­tus plants at Baiyang­dian

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