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Chances abound to find ‘peach spring’ of legend
By Qu Zhi

A fisherman happened to sail up a stream where he encountered a forest made up of blossoming peach trees. The rosy petals were billowing in the breeze and covered the ground. He continued to the source of the stream and found a village inhabited by people of all ages. They were entirely isolated from the outside world.

The fisherman stayed in this peaceful, hospitable village for a week and left. Since that time, no matter how hard he tried to go back to this idyllic haven, he was unable to reach it.

That’s the plot of “The Peach Blossom Land,” written by Tao Yuanming in 421 AD. Later on, the expression “the peach spring beyond this world” (“世外桃源” shiwai taoyuan) depicts an unexpectedly marvelous place of great beauty.

Beautiful, romantic and graceful, peach blossoms are beloved by almost everyone, and a subject of great art, literature and legends. Also, since peach blossoms appear before the leaves sprout, the ancient Chinese believed it possesses more vitality than any other trees.

Taking a one-day excursion with your family and friends for the ongoing Peach Blossom Festival in the Pudong New Area in Shanghai may give you a hint of “the peach spring beyond the world.” That’s especially so this year since the festival features the theme of “enjoying an idyllic life.”

The festival takes place in five different areas in Pudong and some are accessible by Metro. It lasts until the end of April.

Laogang Town near the Nanhui area of Pudong has been turned into a sea of peach blossoms. Approximately 22,000 peach trees were planted in its peach orchard three years ago, plus 3,000 trees added this year. It is said that the town boasts the biggest peach orchard in East China, featuring 56 kinds of peach blossoms.

In addition to blooming peach trees, there are also pear blossoms and rape flowers in the orchard, rendering exuberant vitality and explosion of various colors — rosy pink, pure white and bright yellow.

Gray tiles and white walls surround the orchard, which blocks the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Inside the orchard, there is a pagoda that visitors can climb to get a bird’s-eye view of the stunning blossoms in silhouette against the white walls and stone bridges. Bicycles are available for rent.

In Laogang Village, visitors can see the world’s oldest spectator sport, cockfighting, which goes back 6,000 years to Iran. This sport is between two roosters. During the match, the two cocks claw each other with their sharp spurs and attach each other aggressively until one is mortally wounded.

If cockfighting is too brutal for you, the village provides a great place to fishing under the boughs of peach blossoms, and you also can rent a boat to sail on the town’s rippling river while enjoying willows swinging alongside the bank.

Nanhui’s peach village is another main attraction of this year’s Peach Blossom Festival. The village provides a full package from enjoying the blossoms to shopping and entertainment.

The peach orchard covers a vast area of 306,667 square meters and includes more than 20 types of peach blossoms. In the peach orchard, visitors will not only enjoy the peach trees with blossoms of different colors, but one has flowers with three colors — white, pink and light red — in one petal.

Nanhui’s peach village is the most mature and well-organized peach orchard event in Shanghai and it has run for eight years. There are many family activities including a small carnival, water facilities, and a grill and picnic area for the family to enjoy quality time.

The millennium-old water town Xinchang also boasts a peach orchard that dates back to 1962. It is the oldest place in the Nanhui area for peach cultivation. In the orchard there are thousands of peach trees while winding streams are intermixed in the forest.

This year, the peach orchard is decorated with dazzling lanterns that have vivid pictures of traditional folk scenes and old Chinese mythology.

Peaches always have been linked to love and romantic legends. Dating back to the Zhou Dynasty (11th century-256 BC), in the “Book of Songs,” (“Shi Jing”) peach blossoms are used as a metaphor for beautiful young women. The poetry depicts a beautiful scene of a woman marrying her husband.

“Bitten peach” (分桃fen tao) in ancient Chinese is a euphemism of homosexual. As the poem goes, “Love of the half-eaten peach never dies.”

The legend is that Duke Ling of Wei, a ruler of the ancient Chinese Wei State, had a favored courtier named Mizi Xia and was attracted by his beauty. One time, Mizi bit into a delicious peach and gave the remainder to the duke. The duke tasted it and felt grateful that Mizi would save the delicacy for him.

“Peach blossom luck” in China means receiving special affections from others.

In the Xinchang Peach Orchard, there are many activities for lovers or those who wish to find a partner. People can make their own paper windmill under the peach blossoms in the spring breeze and tie it to the trees to pray for a better and happier love life.

Xinchang also is the location where the beautiful Chinese ancient town scenes in the movie “Lust, Caution” by Ang Lee were shot, which for many makes it a place worth visiting. More than half of the architecture in this water town is preserved from Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

Another two main attractions of this year’s Peach Blossom Festival take place in Datuan and Heqing towns. Both have vast and high-quality peach orchards.

At the two peach orchards, tourists can enjoy folk performances and dramas while drinking fresh spring green tea. Also, cycling is available at both sites.

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