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.
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.