Entering Songyang

Text by Anthony Cheng


    This is a land of miracles, beauty, and wealth, bringing up generations of diligent, intelligent and brave Songyang people through thousands of years.

    Situated in Southwest Zhejiang, Songyang is surrounded in all directions by hills and mountains rising range upon range. In its central section, the Songgu Plain, the largest in mountainous Southwest Zhejiang, is stretching broad and level like a whetstone, with a wide expanse of flat land and myriads of fertile farmland. The Songyin River winds obliquely through the whole land from northwest to southeast. Richly endowed by its natural environment, Songyang has developed through the ages as a place where economy is well-off, humanities are prosperous, folkway is simple and honest, and society is safe and stable. It was famed as Shangri-la as early in Tang Dynasty. Wang Wei, a great poet in the prosperous Tang Dynasty, described "I am entrusted an inspection to Songyang and sweet soundings arc reverberating beside the limpid river throughout my tour." In Song Dynasty, Shen Hui praised it heartily the only land that can be called Shangri-la and all is well around.

    Songyang was officially established as a county in Jian'an 4 year of the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 199), where the organizational system of Chuzhou was initiated from this establishment. In its history, Songyang was ever the political, economic and cultural center of Southwest Zhejiang. The nine counties and cities of present Lishui and as well some others of Jinhua and Wenzhou were derived from Songyang gradually. It is the homeland of Zhang Yuniang, one of the four great poetesses of Song Dynasty. Her love stories, plaintive and affective,were handed down and circulated wide with A Collection of Orchid and Snow, a poetic perfection through the ages. Songyang is also the origin of Songyang High Tune, a living fossil of opera. At present, there are still preserved historical and cultural remains in large numbers. Along the business streets established in Ming and Qing Dynasties in the county town , shops and stands forest, and workshops cluster, presenting a picturesque view of clear and bright rivers. In west of the town, Yanqing Temple Tower, is graceful and fine, set up initially in Xianping 2 year of the Northern Song Dynasty (A.D.999) and buried Buddhist relics, is recognized as a rare treasure of South China. In Shicang Historic and Cultural Reserve, tens of buildings of the Ming and Qing Dynasty style rise side by side. The owners of these buildings are all immigrants from Fujian, who moved here about three hundred years ago. They still speak with south Fujian accents and maintain the Fujian custom in their work and daily life. It is an excellent attraction for seeking ancient custom and wonders. In Banqiao Shezu Autonomous Township, its splendid and age-old custom, with strong humanities, is so enchanting and exotic.

    As a land of green hills and clear waters, floating in a sea of cloud and mist like a landscape painting, Songyang is propitious for great men. In the valley of its Songyin River, it holds nine scenic spots, i.e. Ta Xi Lu Zhang and Yu Quan Cui Hua, crisscrossed with footpaths, luxuriant with bamboo and woods, dotted with farms and houses. Here, people are living an idyllic life in the neighborhood harmoniously. In Zhuyuan Gorge, there are over 30 waterfalls of large or small sizes, splashing intelligently along the lie of hills, full of natural and wild delight. There are primary woods of ten thousand mu in the Ruoliao Virgin Forest Scenic Spot, a native place for rare plants and animals. Azalea plants are growing well in wood along the hillside of over a thousand meters above the sea level, stretching for an area of one thousand mu. Every summer, when flowers have withered elsewhere, these hillsides are still in bloom, presenting us a splendid ten-li flower sea. Another magnificent and mysterious place is the Mount Mao and Wanshou Scenic Spot, where Taoist Ye Fashan ever practiced Taoism in Tang Dynasty, emperor Zhao Gou succeeded in escaping the troops of the Jin group in Song Dynasty, and emperor Qian Long granlted this mountain the name Wanshou in Qing Dynasty. Here still lies the insoluble mystery of the cliff coffins in suspense.

    Now, in the new century, the Songyang people are composing more splendid writings and creating unprecedented miracles diligently. The Three Leaves of Songyang, tobacco, tea and mulberry, are well known far and near, fruits like orange and mandarine are enjoying widespread renown, and vegetable of high mountains like radish and wild rice stem are selling well in the markets of all places. At present, its industrial system is beginning to take shape, its traffic and communication network exend in all directions, and its mountainous water facilities and electric stations scatter all over like stars in the sky.

    Once entering Songyang, this ancient land of miracles, you will inevitably be enchanted into the beauty of its natural land so much as to forget to return, amazed by its profound cultural deposits, and benefit great deal from the good environments of investment. Songyang, this existing Shangri-la, with its unique chalming, is attracting friends all over the world to seek scenic spots and historical sites, throw investment in industry and initiate business.


    Note: This essay was the preface to the album of pictures Entering Songyang published in 2003.