Leg­end of The Jin­tang

To­day, the ‘gate on the sea’ is the bridge­head of one of the world’s ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders and the front­line of China’s new mil­len­nium of ma­rine econ­omy.

That's China - - The Seascape - Text by / Serene Li

The fourth largest is­land in the Zhoushan ar­chi­pel­ago, Jin­tang is the first is­land in the Ding­hai ter­ri­tory to re­al­ize food self-suf­fi­ciency. It may be ground­less to say it was one of the first places to be pop­u­lated in Zhoushan, but the is­land’s long­time af­flu­ence is a per­fect illustration of the fact that the con­flu­ence of rivers al­ways prom­ises to be a land of cor­nu­copia. Be­fore the ar­chi­pel­ago’s ‘sea-span­ning’ era, Zhoushan and the in­land had been sep­a­rated by the sea for only God knows how long; and the is­land of Jin­tang has long been the ‘gate­way’ to the Zhen­hai dis­trict (in the coastal city of Ningbo) – the first stop of an in­land ex­pe­di­tion in theYangtze River Delta. The ‘gate on the sea’ is also a wit­ness of how a de­clin­ing dy­nasty held fast to its ter­ri­to­rial sea till its last breath. De­spite its shame­ful gov­ern­men­tal im­po­tence, the South­ern Song em­per­ors at least had one thing to take pride in – the far­sight­ed­ness in sea de­fense that eclipsed all other dy­nas­ties in the feu­dal his­tory of China. The last ruler of the South­ern Song em­pire was not the only one to be cor­nered into this ‘gate on the sea’ amidst social and po­lit­i­cal up­heaval. It was also in this iso­lated space be­tween the straits and capes that the South­ern Ming (1644-1662 a loy­al­ist move­ment that was ac­tive in south­ern China fol­low­ing the Ming dy­nasty's col­lapse in 1644) walked into an im­passe and met its doom. In his last eight years, com­man­der Zhang Mingzhen ex­erted his faith and blood in the death strug­gle of Ming loy­al­ism, leav­ing a tragic chap­ter in the his­tory book of Jin­tang.The yearn­ings of his un­ful­filled soul can still be heard by to­day’s peo­ple from the fu­ri­ous bil­lows.

‘Gate on the sea’

When Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping (then Sec­re­tary of Zhe­jiang Party Com­mit­tee) was in Jin­tang back in 2003, he gasped in ad­mi­ra­tion, calling the is­land a trea­sure trove. Later that year, he pre­dicted at a meet­ing that Jin­tang would be the first is­land to break­through in the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of the Ning­boZ­houshan Port de­vel­op­ment, awak­en­ing the ‘ma­rine Re­nais­sance’ dream within all of the is­lan­ders.

Ten years later, the is­land was “be­yond recog­ni­tion” when Pres­i­dent Xi walked into Zhoushan for the 14th time.

It took only 10 years for the earth-shak­ing changes to tran­spire. To­day, the ‘gate on the sea’ is con­nected seam­lessly with the ar­chi­pel­ago proper and the in­land by two beau­ti­ful spans on the East China Sea, be­com­ing the bridge­head of one of the world’s ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders and the front­line of China’s new mil­len­nium of ma­rine econ­omy.

The word ‘new’, how­ever, is a rather vague sum­mary of the epoch-mak­ing sig­nif­i­cance of the rise of Jin­tang in the 21st cen­tury. The sea-span­ning glory is only the warm­ing up of the is­land’s re­sumed po­tency. Be­hind the pros­per­ity of Jin­tang that started from the an­cient times is the en­ter­prise and acu­men of the lo­cals that made this water-locked is­land the ar­chi­pel­ago’s gra­nary. The weather-beaten wharf of Li­gang in the north­west of Jin­tang was for­merly called ‘lie­gang’, mean­ing ‘port of hunters’ and sug­ges­tive of the wis­dom and brav­ery of Jin­tang peo­ple.

‘Port of hunters’

In the Guangxu years of the Qing Dy­nasty, car­pen­ters from the in­land set­tled down in Li­gang. They thrived in their adopted homeland and built the area into a scenic, busy street flanked by wil­low trees. The 400-meter long stretch, di­vided into three sec­tions by two lovely bridges, blos­somed into a res­i­den­tial and shop­ping haven that looked like a scaled-down ver­sion of the River­side Scene at Qing­ming Fes­ti­val (a master­piece by North­ern Song pain­ter Zhang Ze­d­uan that cap­tures the daily life of peo­ple and the land­scape of the cap­i­tal, Bian­jing). The fes­tive spirit and worldly com­mo­tion of the ‘port of hunters’ lasted for hun­dreds of years.

The seeds of hand­i­craft tra­di­tion sown by the Qing Dy­nasty car­pen­ters blos­somed into the car­pen­try boom of Jin­tang from the late 1970s to the 1990s, when the coun­try’s most sought-af­ter car­pen­ters and painters were from Jin­tang.

Born with an in­quir­ing mind and deft hands, Jin­tang

peo­ple have never been con­fronted by scarcity of land. The Lu­jia’ao area at the foot of the Im­mor­tals Hill has long been a pro­lific pro­duc­tion base of frit­il­lary bulb, the ex­tracts of which are used in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine as cough reme­dies, of­ten in for­mu­la­tions com­bined with ex­tracts of lo­quat.

Over the past four decades, Jin­tang has been a hot­bed of pri­vate cap­i­tal en­tre­pre­neur­ial un­der­tak­ings. The is­land’s first gen­er­a­tion of screw man­u­fac­tur­ers in early 1980s laid a solid in­dus­trial foun­da­tion for the long-stand­ing eco­nomic vi­tal­ity of Jin­tang. Ever since a lo­cal tech­ni­cian known as He Shi­jun made the first mold­ing ma­chine screw in Jin­tang, the is­land known as China’s ‘screw cap­i­tal’ is wor­thy of its name. Pow­ered by more than 600 screw man­u­fac­tur­ers of all sizes, Jin­tang boasts the only screw and bar­rel qual­ity in­spec­tion cen­ter and more than 70% of the na­tional out­put, mak­ing it­self a must-see in­dus­trial tourism des­ti­na­tion.

The south­west­ern cor­ner of Jin­tang is siz­zling with the op­er­a­tion of the first two 70,000 DWT con­tainer berths of the Da­pukou Con­tainer Ter­mi­nal that con­nects Zhoushan with the world through 12 in­ter­na­tional routes. The in­ter­ac­tion of the ter­mi­nal with the Mu’ao Wharf shows the im­mea­sur­able po­ten­tial of Jin­tang act­ing as a key player in the lo­gis­ti­cal fu­ture of Zhoushan.

The rosy fu­ture of Jin­tang also in­cludes the China-Aus­tralia Mod­ern In­dus­trial Park - Zhe­jiang Prov­ince’s second state-level in­ter­na­tional in­dus­trial co­op­er­a­tion park - launched in May, 2016 and in­volv­ing a to­tal cap­i­tal in­put of more than 10 bil­lion yuan. The fo­cus on an­i­mal pro­tein im­port pro­cess­ing makes the park a trend­set­ter in the de­vel­op­ment of all in­dus­trial clus­ters across Zhe­jiang Prov­ince, light­ing up the en­tre­pre­neur­ial pas­sion of all Jin­tang peo­ple.

The blue­print of Jin­tang can also be viewed at the peak of the Im­mor­tals Hill. The myth­i­cal im­mor­tals are nowhere to be found, but the view of the seascape and the five bridges at the moun­tain­top is be­yond de­scrip­tion. Viewed from the Gonghou Hill in the north­west, Jin­tang Bridge looks like a fly­ing dragon catch­ing its breath on the Grey Tur­tle Sea un­der a vast deck of clouds. It takes such an im­mer­sion in the gal­lant sight to truly un­der­stand the im­mense im­pli­ca­tions and solem­nity of the ‘mil­len­nium dream’ of restor­ing ma­rine glory shared by all is­lan­ders in Zhoushan.

Taoist myths state that Laozi, the founder of philo­soph­i­cal Tao­ism, was con­ceived when his mother gazed upon a fall­ing star and sup­pos­edly re­mained in her womb for 62 years be­fore be­ing born while his mother was lean­ing against a plum tree. (The Chi­nese sur­name Li shares its char­ac­ter with "plum".) Leg­end also has it that Laozi emerged as a grown man with a full grey beard and long ear­lobes, both sym­bols of wis­dom and long life. The No.1 sum­mer treat of Jin­tang is the ‘Jin­tang plum’, re­puted for its fleshi­ness, crisp­ness and suc­cu­lence and rank­ing among the ‘top 10 fruits in Zhe­jiang’. It is widely be­lieved that this supreme sum­mer quencher was orig­i­nally grown in Hangzhou only, un­til a young man sur­named Yan ‘stole’ twigs from the road­side on his way back home from a pro­vin­cial ex­am­i­na­tion to re­lease his hor­ti­cul­tural pas­sion.The re­sult was suc­cess­ful stem graft­ing by us­ing peach trees as the root­stock. Ever since then, the yearly ripen­ing sea­son of this hy­brid fruit has been a re­li­able source of a tidy in­come of the lo­cal farm­ers; and the Xian­ren Hill in eastern Jin­tang has long been a pro­duc­tion base of the del­i­cacy. Upon the rolling hills blan­keted with lus­cious green fo­liage, the green-fleshed fruit is cam­ou­flaged amongst the broad-leaved branches.The plum grow­ers in ShunongVil­lage in the Shan­tan area iden­tify the ripened fruits as they pluck them from the branches and drop them into their bas­kets. Ea­ger to share the fruits of their labour, the farm­ers fill the bas­kets to the brim as well as shar­ing some ex­tra plums for taste test­ing.The small win­dow of time in which the fruit should be sa­vored, is be­tween late June and early July. When first picked off the branches the fruit is nat­u­rally coated with a pro­tec­tive frost­like waxy tex­ture, which can be rubbed off be­fore the fruit is eaten.The first bite into the crispy skin, re­veals a bright red in­ner flesh sur­round­ing the seed. One an­tic­i­pates a sweet taste, but is greeted with a cu­ri­ous fla­vor con­tain­ing sour tones. De­spite be­ing un­ex­pected, it’s a re­fresh­ing treat on a hot sum­mers day. For the more ad­ven­tures, one’s taste buds can be tested by try­ing the ‘Jin­tang plum wine’ and plum prune which are good value for money. Those trav­el­ing in Jin­tang in spring­time are ad­vised to squeeze in some time for the Huacheng Bud­dhism Tem­ple, where the pagoda sit­ting on the sum­mit of the Man­toushan Hill pre­sents a spec­tac­u­lar view of snow-white plum blos­soms blend­ing into the en­gag­ing seascape. First built in the Five Dy­nas­ties times of China, the tem­ple is one of the two most vis­ited an­cient Bud­dhism tem­ples in the Jin­tang ter­ri­tory. It also serves as an ideal view­ing site for tak­ing in the majesty of the Xi­houmen sea-span­ning bridge.


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