ZHEJIANG PROVINCE is the coastal province located south of Shanghai and the Yangtze Delta. Covering 100,000 square kilometers, it is home to 47 million people and the southern terminus of the Grand Canal. Zhejiang, is China's richest province. Both its rural residents and urban residents have the highest per capita income of any province in China. Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces are known as yu mi zhi xiang (“land of fish and rice”) after its good soil, water and climate.
There are specific areas in the province that specialize in certain products such as electric plugs, hinges, electric switches, faucets and florescent light bulbs. Wuyi produces 1 billion decks of playing cards a year. Forty percent of the world’s neckties are made in Shengzhou. Xiaxie specializes in jungle gyms. Shangguan churns out ping pong paddles. Fenshuo makes millions of pens. There are also places that specialize in razors and eyeglass frames.
The people of Zhejiang have long been known for their entrepreneurship and resourcefulness. Because it surrounded by mountains it has traditionally been neglected by the central government. The coastal areas in particular were neglected because the government thought they might be attacked so why waste money on them .This left the people of Zhejiang with little choice but to take care of themselves and become self-reliant, which they did this by pooling money in their families and community organizations known as a meng and starting businesses.
About 80 percent of all Zhejiang entrepreneurs have eight years or less of formal education. Many of their enterprises are financed through the regions famed informal network of private lending that allows them to bypass state-owned financial institutions. Much of the money is borrowed from friends, relatives and business associates at higher interest rates than those charged by banks. Many deals are sealed with only a handshake yet defaults are rare.
Some link the entrepreneurial inclination so the Zhejiang people to high number of Christians that live there and the development of a work ethic not unlike the Protestant work ethic in the United States.
Zhejiang Province Hangzhou (100 kilometers southwest of Shanghai) was described by Marco Polo as "the greatest city which may be found in this world." Known to the Chinese as "paradise on earth" is located near the mountains, at the head of Hangzhou Bay, and traditionally has been a favorite resort of the emperors. In the 13th century, it was the capital of the Song dynasty and was perhaps the largest city in the world with over a million people.
Hangzhou has long been regarded as a cultural center. In the 11th century, its governor was the famed Song-dynasty poet Su Dongpo, who presided over a scholarly class that whiled away their times participating in writing parties and hanging out in gardens and tea houses.
Hangzhou (also spelled Hangchow) was visited by Marco Polo "many times." He called it "the greatest city which may be found in this world" and wrote that it had a population of 1.5 million people, 15 times more than his native Venice.” He also wrote it had the "great quantity of rich palaces" and fine bath where "a hundred men or a hundred women can well bathe" and was graced by 10,000 bridges (a later traveler could only find 347).
Modern Hangzhou is an industrialized city with a million people and many its attractions tend to be tourist traps surrounded by noodle stalls and souvenir stands. Still it has wonderful places to escape and is very popular with Chinese tourists. There are beautiful temples, pavilions, hills and lakes. It also reportedly has the most beautiful women in China and is famous for silk weaving, sandalwood fans, vinegar fish, aromatic green teas, local lonjing tea, and Dragon Well tea.
Many of the tourist sites have intriguing name: the Cave of the Morning Mist and Sunset Glow and Running Tiger Dream Spring. The Park of Orioles Singing in the Willows is a Song dynasty garden; the Temple of Inspired Seclusion is surround by cliffs covered with religious symbols; and Yellow Dragon Cave is a man-made grotto carved into a cliff.
Few traces of Marco Polo's Hangzhou remain other than perhaps some of the canals with small bridges and houses with their front sides facing the water. Tourist visiting the city also take stop to see a stream pouring into the mouth of a dragon and take in a performance of Yue, a local musical form. Funnel-shaped Hangzhou Bay sometimes produces a tidal bore with 10-foot walls of water that rushes at speed of almost 10 mph with a loud roar (See Below).
Tourist Office: Hangzhou Tourism Administration, 484 Yan’an Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, tel. (0)-571-515-6617, fax: (0)- 571-515-2645 Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Maps: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet China Map Guide China Map Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint Getting There: Hangzhou is accessible by air, bus and train. It is a little over an hour from Shanghai on a new fast train and is well connected to other main cities on China. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide
West Lake (west of Hangzhou) is known as one of the 10 best scenic spots in China. Surrounded by emerald hills on three sides, this large, calm blue lake is dotted with pavilions and moon bridges. According to some people the most serene spot is across the Crossing Rainbows bridge on an island called Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. A good time to come is on the morning when the lake is sometimes misty and people practice tai-chi. Solitary Hill is where the famous poet Bai Juyi was inspired to write many of his greatest poems. It also boasts a rich collection of cultural relics.
West Lake has been copied by copied by 35 other West Lake sin China. It is surrounded by teahouses, parks, and pagodas. Bikes can be rented. There are self-paddled boats and trips are offered in gondola-style boats.
Sights in Hangzhou: Hangzhou Provincial Museum (on the West Lake) is a former summer palace with live and mechanical fish. It also boast what may be the oldest samples of silk: some threads and knots dating back to 2,500 B.C. There is also a large silk factory in Hangzhou.
China Silk Museum (near West Lake) describes the 5,000 year history of silk. At Lonjing also on the shore of West Lake you can also visit the China Tea Museum. Located nearby in the Huqingyu Chinese herbal medicine shop, China's only Chinese Medicine Museum.
Six Harmonies Pagoda (on Yuelun Mountain) is one of China's most famous octagonal pagodas. Regarded as a masterpiece of Chinese architecture and built in A.D. 970, it is made of brick and wood and is almost 200 feet tall. From the outside it appears to have 13 stories but on the inside there are only seven. A stone staircase leads to the top, where there are beautiful views of the Qiantong River.
Qiantong River boasts the world's largest river bore (wave of tidal water). According to the Guinness Book of Records, the spring tides on Qiantong River produces a wave that can reach a height of 25 feet and a speed of 13-15 knots and be heard 20 kilometers away. This bore keeps large ocean-going vessels from entering the port.
Xihu State Hotel has 160 rooms. Mao stayed here more than 40 times. The suite were Nixon and Kissinger stayed in 1972 goes for $180 a night. Other rooms go for between $45 and $95.
Thousand Islands Lake is a 580-square-kilometer reservoir on the upper reaches of the Xin'an River. There are scores of scenic spots on the 1078 islands located in the reservoir. On the shores are the Lesser Stone Forest and Fengping Hill.
Waiting for a steamship in the 1920s
Ningpo (160 kilometers south of Shanghai) lies in the heart of industrial area of eastern Zhejiang Province. It is home to 5.3 million people and is quickly rising to the status of a first tier Chinese city. Ningpo experienced an extraordinary spurt of growth of 14 percent a year over the past decade.
Jonathan Franzen wrote in The New Yorker, “It seemed to me every inch of greater Ningpo was under construction or reconstruction simultaneously. My extremely new hotel had been built in the rear yard of a merely very new hotel, a few feet away. The roads were modern by heavily divoted, as if it were understood that they would all be torn up again soon anyway. The countryside seethed with improvement; in some villages it was hard to find a house that didn’t have a pile of sand or a stack of bricks in front of it. Farm fields were sprouting factories while, outside the less new factories, the support columns of coming viaducts went up behind scaffolds. The growth rate that Ningpo had sustained...quickly became exhausting just to look at it.”
Web Sites:Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Map: China Maps China Maps S Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint Getting There: is accessible by a new bridge from Shanghai. See Hangzhou Bay Bridge Below. Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet
Putuo Mountain (reached by hydrofoil from Ningbo) is a national park and one of China's four most famous Buddhist mountains. There are numerous historical relics on the beautiful mountain which sits in the sea. The three main temples are constructed in the style of the early Qing dynasty.
Hangzhou Bay Bridge
Hangzhou Bay Bridge (connecting Shanghai with Ningbo) is the world’s longest sea-crossing bridge. Opened in May 2008, just before the Olympics, it stretches 36 kilometers across Hangzhou Bay and was built at a cost $1.7 billion, most of which was covered by the Ningpo government which has mapped out a new industrial zine immediately to the east of the bridge. The longest bridge in the world is the 38.4-kilometer-long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway outside New Orleans.
The new bridge has has reduced the travel distance and time between Shanghai and Ningpo from 300 kilometers and four hours to 120 kilometers and 2 ½ hours. The bridge has a six-lane roadway that permit vehicles to travel at speed up to 100kph. To help drivers combat monotony, every five kilometers the color of the railings change.
Construction of the S-shaped Hangzhou Bay Bridge began in June 2003 and is seen as key to moving goods between two of China’s most important ports---Ningpo and Shanghai---and developing the Yangtze Delta area. The entire project also includes the construction of a large container port. Web Sites : Hangzhou Bay Bridge official site Hangzhou Bay Bridge ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; China Page ChinaPage.com
Yiwu (320 kilometers southwest of Shanghai) is the home of International Trade City, a giant wholesale market with 60,000 wholesale vendors who sell 400,000 items in 1,700 categories to buyers from 180 nations. Most of the items are inexpensive manufactured goods and general consumer merchandise. Around 1,000 container-loads of goods are shipped out of the city very day. Many goods sold at $1 shops are bought by wholesale buyers from here.
Located in the middle of nowhere, a 160 kilometers from the coast, the market contains so many stalls that it has been estimated that if you visit one shop every minute eight hours a day you’ll need two months to visit them all. Yiwi’s slogan is “a sea of commodities, a paradise for shoppers.” Deal made here affect retail prices around the globe.
About 7,000 foreign businessmen have set up shop in the city. Many of them are Iraqis and other Middle Easterners. For them a former clothing factory has been turned into a mosque. In a district called “Exotic Street” you can find Egyptian, Jordanian and Iraqi restaurant, women in head scarves, and men sitting in street drinking tea and eating kebabs.
Peter Hessler wrote in National Geographic: “traders come from all over the world to buy in bulk. There’s a scarf district. A plastic bag market, an avenue where every shop sells elastic. If you’re burned out on buttons take a stroll down Binwang Zipper Professional Street....Yiwu attracts so many Middle Eastern traders that one neighborhood has become home to 23 large Arabic restaurants, as well as a Lebanese bakery.”
Yiwu was a rural village until the 1980s. Conveniently linked by rail and road to the parts of Ningpo and Shanghai, it took off in 1982 when local authorities set up an open-air market there that is now the “world’s largest whole sale market.”
Yiwu now has a population of over 1 million who live mostly in endless rows of new apartment blocks.
Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint Getting There: Yiwu is accessible by train from new train station that opened in 2006, by bus and by air (it has its own airport). Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide
Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint Getting There: Wenzhou is accessible by air, bus and train. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide
Wenzhou (350 kilometers south of Shanghai) is a coastal city in Zhejiang not far from Taiwan. It is ground zero for Zhejiang entrepreneurship. In 2006, 130,000 private businesses earned 96 percent of the city output revenue and paid 70 percent of its taxes. By contrast state-owned enterprises generated only 3 percent of Wenzhou’s industrial output, compared to a national average of 10 percent. Most of the companies in Wenzhou are family-owned and were started without government help. The city has been so successful that the “Wenzhou model” is now held up as the model for which other cities are expected to emulate.
Wenzhou produces light industry goods such as textiles, shoes and sundry goods. It is the lighter capital of the world. There are more than 500 companies making lighters, accounting for 80 percent of China’s metal lighter production. Ninety percent of them are exported, mainly to European countries. Wenzhou is also home to 4,000 shoemakers that account for one forth “of China’s shoe production. It is also major producer of sex toys.
The average income of Wenzhou is $3,000 (2007), almost double the national average. Buildings are going up at a rapid pace, with gated communities for the wealthy opening up in the suburbs. One worker at a shoe factory told Smithsonian magazine: “Wenzhouese work harder than anyone else in China.” Many of the wealthiest people are Christians.
Wenzhou People: There are about 7.5 million people living o the Wenzhou metropolitan area. By one estimate 2 million people have left to seek their fortune outside of Wenzhou. About half million of them can be found in 70 different foreign countries, including 100,000 in the United States, mostly in New York.
People from Wenzhou are famous throughout China for their business and money-making skills. Books about them include The Jews of the East: The Commercial Stories of Fifty Wenshou Businessmen; You Don’t Understand the Wenzhou People; and The Feared Wenzhou People, the Collected Stories of How the Wenzhou People Make Money.
< Wenzhou people are often mocked by other Chinese for their flashy ways and strange dialect. They are admired and disliked for their entrepreneurship. Many of the wealthiest Wenzhouese are Christians.
With little arable land and mountains blocking them from the interior of the mainland, the people of Wenzhou have traditionally looked to the sea, trading and opportunities abroad to improve themselves. They promoted the idea that the government should support commercial enterprises during the Song Dynasty in the 12th century and developed a strong trading culture during the Ming period in the 17th century and managed to emerge as an economic powerhouse in recent years without the education levels of Beijing, the special treatment of Shenzhen and the foreign investment of Shanghai.
Wenzhou people have succeeded through hard work, starting out with small businesses and workshops and expanding them. Over time they have come to dominate certain low-tech industries. Zhong Pengrong, a prominent economist told the Los Angeles Times, “Wherever there are business opportunities there are Wenzhou people...Unlike many other people in China who become rich overnight almost all the Wenzhou people built up their wealth from nothing and amassed their fortune through years of hardship.”
Two million Wenzhouese live abroad. The are big in the restaurant business in France, Russia, Italy and Brazil and involved in outsourcing Chinese manufacturing work to Vietnam and North Korea. Wenzhou people can be found everywhere: shipping 10,000 VCRs a month and mining iron and gold in Mongolia; mining molybdenum in North Korea; buying cow leather in Tanzania; and trading shrimp and turbot in Iceland. One Wenzhou man in Inner Mongolia who has four brothers and sisters in Italy told the Los Angeles Times, “My parents told us, “Go out and explore. The farther you reach, the stronger you get.”
Wenzhou Wealth: Wenzhou makes half the world’s cheap shoes, nearly all of its plastic leather, bra part and zippers, and numerous other essential parts to everyday items. Sales of Audis, BMWs and even Maseratis Porsches and Bentleys are brisk in Wenzhou as are the sales of vanity licence plates for outrageous prices. To really impress your friends you need to buy an executive jet or $50,000 Vertu delux mobile phone. Tens of thousands of bottles of Margaux and Chateaux Lafit have been give as gifts and mixed with green tea and sugar before being gulped down.
It s not surprising that housing prices in Wenzhou are among the highest in China. Buying property is a pastime with real estate investments sought not in new apartment building in Wenzhou but also residential blocks in Paris. Wenzhou has a new airport and an opera houses designed by the famous Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott.
Malls in Wenzhou are stacked with band name luxury goods. Furniture stores sell knocks off of items displayed in the Louvre. The new $128 million Shangri-La hotel was built mainly to host extravagant weddings for pampered children who in some cases have been educated at some of Britain’s most famous boarding schools.
Wenzhouese have made bids for fashion company Pierre Cardin and tried to buy Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and bring it to Wenzhou. In one survey Wenzhou millionaires were asked what they would do if they were forced to chose between their business and their family---60 percent chose their business, 20 percent chose their family and 20 percent couldn’t decide. Wenzhou business people tend to be very superstitious, laying out their factories in accordance with feng shui and starting business on auspicious days.
Image Sources: Province maps from the Nolls China Web site. Photographs of places from 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4) Beifan.com; 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6) Mongabey.com; 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia
Text Sources: CNTO, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays