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Scenic Sanming!
Lansing, Michigan (U.S.A.) knew what it was doing when choosing Sanming as a sister city. For sheer scenic beauty, Sanming is unsurpassed in Fujian. And fortunately, new roads are making it more accessible.

Sanming, in the very west of Fujian, bordering Jiangxi Province, was so remote that even the Japanese could not reach it. Mountain passes were too narrow to fly through safely (locals should shoot planes out of the sky from the comfort of their front porch rocking chairs!), and it took days to lug a boat up the river, using ropes pulled from the shore. But thanks to new highways, it is only a five hour drive from Xiamen to Sanming—and another half hour to that culinary oasis of Shaxian, and “Shaxian Snack Street (沙县小吃街, Shaxian Xiaochi Jie),”

Shaxian Snacks 沙县小吃 are famous throughout China, but the so-called Shaxian cuisine sold anywhere else is a poor substitute for the 100+ dishes offered in this unique melting pot of menus!

About 1,000 years ago, people began flocking to Shaxian from all over China, and they brought with them their unique foods and cooking methods. Over the centuries, the styles have mellowed and blended to create the over 100 “Shaxian snacks.” Who needs an entrée when you can enjoy a meal of one hors d’oeuvre after another? And ordering is no problem even for illiterate Laowai. Many “Snack Street” shops have menus with photos. Just point, eat, and hand over your wallet. (Actually, the dishes are very reasonable).

By the way, our favourite dish, by far, is Xiao Mai Wan (小麦丸)!

Goddess of Siestas? China’s largest reclining Buddha lies on a hillside West of Shaxian. We got there late, but the gatekeeper wanted ten Yuan apiece anyway—which I thought was a bit steep, given that the display room was closed, and the giant idol was asleep anyway.

Malinqiao Zoology Fairyland, between Sanming City and Shaxian, has a kayaker on the sign—but this zoology fairyland has no kayaks, no zoos, and no fairies (that I could see, anyway).
But they do have nice rubber rafting though—provided they first turn on the river. No joke! We had to wait for them to turn the river on, and flush it clean, before we could go river rafting. Only in China!
But it was fun, and lifeguards posted along the river keep it safe—and probably turn the river down or off if it gets out of hand. The owner has invested 100,000 USD in the little resort, and plans on adding go-karts on the mountainside. If he gets that going, he’ll really be on a roll.

Mingxi Town, Fujian’s gem capital, has 20 kinds of gemstones, including rubies, and is China’s fourth largest producer of sapphires. In addition to jewelry, some local firms are on the cutting edge with their elegant gem-studded knives and swords. I bought one that looked for the world like something elves would have used in “Lord of the Rings. ”

Taining—City of Gold! During the Song Dynasty, about 820,000 folks flocked to Taining—in part to mine for gold. The gold is pretty much gone now (though I found a pretty nice chunk of gold ore!), but Taining has struck gold again with tourism!

Gold Lake,
created when the Gold River was dammed, attracted over 50,000 tourists in 2002. Every weekend, thousands fish along the lake’s shores, or take the half-day boat cruises through the winding valleys—or go parasailing. Prices are strictly regulated to avoid rip-offs of tourists, be they Laowai, Laonei, or folks like me who no longer know just what kind of Lao they are.

Taining shares the same mountain range as Wuyi, and so has the same biological diversity—meaning, plenty of wild critters and snakes! Wuyi’s main advantage has been that it was better promoted, and more accessible. But when the Fuzhou—Beijing highway is completed in 2007, Gold Lake will really shine. They are also working on a “Fuzhou—Shaowu Gold Lake Tourist Train.” (I had something to write about that, but lost my train of thought ).

The Ming Dynasty Village in Taining has been meticulously reconstructed, thanks to a 600,000 Yuan investment by Mr. Huang Shuang An, an Overseas Chinese. Over 6,000 square meters has been completed, and another 4,000 square meters is on the way.

One very unique attraction is the dozens of animated wax figures going about life as it must have been a few centuries ago (and as it is today, in some places). Drop a coin in the wooden box and they will sing, perform the dragon dance, grind wheat, or pour tea to dignified Chinese gentlemen.

Yuhua Cave (玉花洞, Jade Flower)
, just East of Taining in Jiangle, is Fujian’s largest limestone cave, and one of the top four karst caves in China. Over 200,000 visitors annually explore Jade Flower Cave’s three subterranean rivers, two passageways, and six halls, and marvel over the 100 stalagmites and the 2,000-year-old stone carvings. The caves extend over five kilometers, and the main cave is 2.5 kilometers long. Carlsbad Caverns ‘Big Room,’ by comparison, is but 610 meters long.
Yuhua Cave needs investors for expansion! For info, phone Liao Yuhui, at (0598) 232-3977.

Shibi Village (石壁, Stone Wall),
some 25 km from Ninghua County seat, was home to Li Shimin (Emperor Tai Zong of the Tang Dynasty), Jiang Ziya (Prime Minister during the Zhou Dynasty), deng deng. Their ancestors still live in Shibi, and carefully tend the family trees and family temples. The area is so remote that no war has hit Hakka territory since the Tang Dynasty. Even the Japanese missed it!
Shibi once boasted 200 villages, but because of the exodus of its youth, only 2,000 people, sharing 6 surnames, remain in 20 villages. But every year, Hakka from all over the world return to worship their ancestors and trace their lineage in the Hakka Temple.
Visit nearby Ninghua’s Hakka Folk Custom Museum, and while you’re in Hakka heaven, snap some shots of the picturesque covered wooden bridges. You’d think you were in Vermont, were it not for the distinctly Chinese upturned wooden eaves.

Anzhen Fortress is off the beaten path but well worth a visit. Built just over a century ago, the walls around the 10,000 sq. meter compound are 9 meters high and 4 meters thick. The walls and towers complement each other in such a way that those within could safely shoot the enemy (barbarians, warlords, insurance salesmen), no matter what direction they attacked from.

The fortress had 12 kitchens, six on each side, with ‘alligator’ vents above,. Second floor granaries had trap doors leading directly to the kitchens below.

The fortress is in excellent shape, but much of the fine wooden and stone ornamentation was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and the furniture hauled off. The caretakers of Anzhen Fortress are now seeking funds to repair the site, and buy back the stolen furniture and art work.

Sanming sites are far too numerous to cover in “Amoy Magic,” or even in “The Fujian Adventure.” Your best bet is to explore Sanming yourself—places like the delightful 1.21 sq. km. Linying Stone Forest—and then share your discoveries with me and other Laowai by dropping me an e-mail at

TRAVEL LINKS Hakka Earthen architecture Favorite Fujian Sites Photographs of Fuhken places like Zhangzhou, Longyan, Ningde, Sanming, Wuyi MountainFujian Foto Album AmoyMagic-- Travel , Resident and Business Guide to Xiamen and FujianXiamen Gulangyu Kulangyu Kolongsoo Kolongsu KulongsuGulangyu Guide to Fukien Fuhken Fujian Guides Mystic Quanzhou -- the fabled port of Zayton ( or Zaytun Zaitun Zaiton ) from which Marco Polo sailed,  Sinbad the Arab visited.  ChinchewQuanzhou Zhangzhou  changchow Zhangzhou Longyan Yongding Liancheng Changting Amoy Tigers LianchengLongyan Wuyi Mountain Guide Zhuxi  tea Wuyi Mtn Ningde Taimu Mountain ZhouningNingde Putian Fujian Xianyou Mazu TemplePutian Sanming Scenic Wonderland Mingxi Gem bed rubies Sanming
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