Déjà vu Dapeng Islet

Em­bod­ied in the silent beam of light that pen­e­trates the all-emerg­ing dark­ness of the sea is the na­tives’ good na­ture and their faith that the fear of God that drives man to do good works will never fail.

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

The en­counter with the islet of Dapeng is like the chance dis­cov­ery of the Peach Blos­som Land fic­tion­al­ized by the Jin poet Tao Yuan­ming. In the poet’s day­dream, upon leav­ing the fish­er­man was in­formed that it was worth­less to re­veal this ex­pe­ri­ence to the world. He marked his route on his way out with signs and later di­vulged the ex­is­tence of this idyl­lic haven to oth­ers who tried to find it re­peat­edly but in vain. The only dif­fer­ence be­tween Dapeng and the ro­man­ti­cist’s Xanadu is that the ethe­real utopia he re­counted was his un­ful­filled dream of an ideal ex­is­tence in har­mony with na­ture, but the islet is not a mi­rage but real; and if I ever want to come back to this idyl­lic haven again I know I don’t need to be sneaky and there is al­ways a ferry to take. Only three min­utes’ ferry away from the Li­gang Wharf, where tourists can buy the 0.5 yuan ferry ticket at a petite tick­et­ing of­fice, the islet feels just close enough to touch from the Jin­tang proper. For the abo­rig­ines that can be counted on one’s fin­gers and are mostly oldies, the ferry ser­vice avail­able every half-hour each daily is the only re­minder of the hus­tle and bus­tle be­yond the Dapeng Hill. Sep­a­rated by a cres­cent body of water are two worlds run­ning par­al­lel to each other. Set­ting foot in the islet feels like walk­ing hap­haz­ardly into the pre­vi­ous life of Jin­tang - an un­spoiled wilder­ness of great beauty made up en­tirely of all kinds of non­de­script blos­som­ing trees, crow­ing cocks and quack­ing duck­lings. Ev­ery­thing seems to be a freeze-frame from a hun­dred years ago.The abo­rig­ines are kind and friendly, and are al­ways hap­pily sur­prised to see vis­i­tors, as if un­aware of the out­side world for cen­turies. The life here is prim­i­tive and tran­quil. Doors are left un­bolted at night. Hon­esty pre­vails through­out.The is­lan­ders had been col­lect­ing rain­wa­ter as the sole source of liv­ing water sup­ply un­til three years ago when the islet joined the tap

water network of Jin­tang.

Orig­i­nally com­posed of five nat­u­ral vil­lages, this place off the beaten path hosts a fan­tas­tic view of well-con­served Qing-style civil dwellings rarely seen any­where else in China’s coastal re­gions.The sheer size of the houses, one of which is a sprawl of more than 2,000 sq.m, is com­pelling ev­i­dence in­di­cat­ing how rich the orig­i­nal own­ers were. No one knows how their an­ces­tors set­tled down in this tiny place, but it is easy to reach the con­clu­sion that the is­land had served as a haven amidst the civil un­rest of suc­ces­sive reigns and dy­nas­ties. In its hey­day dur­ing the Song and Yuan dy­nas­ties, the islet was the per­ma­nent res­i­dence of a good many boat mer­chants and in­flu­en­tial land­lords.The op­u­lence of Dapeng reached its pin­na­cle in the Ming and Qing times when peo­ple who had seen the world and were rolling in wealth brought in ex­otic ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments into the islet, lead­ing to the islet’s ‘golden pe­riod’ re­puted as the ‘lit­tle Hong Kong’.

In the blue­print of Jin­tang, the other side of the Dapeng Hill prom­ises to be the prime mover of the coun­try tourism in­no­va­tion of the is­land. For the in­dige­nous peo­ple, how­ever, liv­ing for to­day is much more im­por­tant than what may hap­pen to­mor­row.

“Do come back ear­lier an­other time,” a hos­pitable woman peeped her head through the door of a grocery store,“so that you can take a look at the light­house,” she rec­om­mended the is­land’s ‘crown jewel’ earnestly.

Rank­ing amongst the “top 10” in Zhoushan, Lib­iaozui Light­house was built by Yang Xi­dong and his son in the late Qing Dy­nasty from their own pocket. Em­bod­ied in the silent beam of light that pen­e­trates the all-emerg­ing dark­ness of the sea is the na­tives’ good na­ture and their faith that the fear of God that drives man to do good works will never fail.

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