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    Jinshagou Spinulose National Reserve, which borders the Wuzhufeng Scenic Area, is a well preserved subtropical forest ecosystem, in this case with some rare residents. Spinulose tree fern (Cyathea spinulosa) is a grade-one endangered species. It was flourishing alongside dinosaurs during the Jurassic Period 180 million years ago. After a series of disasters, this species can be found in its contemporary form (referred to as "living fossils") only in some low-latitude areas. Jinshagou has more than 40,000 tall spinulose tree ferns, whose leafs only grow, like huge umbrellas, on the treetops. It is known as the "king of ferns."

    In the Danxiagu Scenic Area in Xishui County there is an almost untouched primeval evergreen broadleaf forest, which has maintained its ecology for tens of thousands of years, or even millions of years by some estimates. The forest is rich with fresh air, gurgling streams, singing cicadas and chirping birds. According to the scenic area administration staff, its magnificence is just as pronounced after a winter snowfall.

The Tumble and Roar

    The most famous waterfall in Guizhou Province is the Huangguoshu Waterfall of Anshun City. In northern Guizhou is a lesser known but equally large and impressive cascade, Shizhangdong Waterfall.

    Shizhangdong is a scenic high-traffic area in Chishui, 39 kilometers from downtown. The waterfall is 76 meters high and 80 meters wide, eight meters higher than Huangguoshu Waterfall. The roaring of the fall can be heard over a great distance.

    Another waterfall, called Zhongdong, or to the locals, "Beauty's Comb," is 75.3 meters wide and 20 meters high, spurting out from between two peaks. It looks like a rhinestone curtain, or a silver comb. Experts at the Chinese Academy of Sciences named it the "typical of curtain-shaped waterfalls in China."

    The Sidonggou Scenic Area, 17 kilometers from downtown Chishui, has a cluster of falls. On the four-kilometer section of its watercourse are four cascades that are spaced at roughly same intervals. In the gullies flow nearly 20 streams, and flanking cliffs are hung with numerous waterfalls in various shapes.

    Ancient Town Charm

    Bing'an Town, 12 kilometers from downtown Chishui, is a goldmine of original Ming and Qing architecture.

    The town faces the Chishui River on three sides and many stilt houses cling to mountain slopes 10 meters from the shore. Two well preserved stone gates guard ingress and egress to the town, and a steep trail leads along the cliff to the entrance. In the ancient town, the cobbled main street runs 400 meters east to west; the stone surface is smooth, and the edges of the path are dressed in moss. The narrow, crowded street is flanked and overshadowed by old two-story houses whose dark, deep interiors seem abysmal. Due to poor lighting and bad ventilation, most of the townsfolk spend their daytime outdoors, weaving, cooking, or chatting in front of their homes, little affected by curious tourists who try to steal a look inside their dark dwellings.

    Bing'an Town served as a rest stop for merchants during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and also an important trade center for neighboring villages. After the Chishui River was harnessed during Emperor Qianlong's reign (1736-1796), Bing'an became a place where salt merchants anchored, and the market flourished as a result. There were many inns, restaurants and teahouses in the town, and most of the residents made a living in the hospitality sector. Later, businesspeople from other areas also came here to run inns, and people from Hunan and Hubei provinces built guildhalls here. The hotelier tradition is being carried on today.

    Eighteen kilometers from here, and six kilometers from downtown Chishui, is Datong Town. It has a similar history to Bing'an. Its impressively large, red rock wharf also weathered patterns of rise and decline. It is said that in the old days a considerable number of merchant boats were able to anchor here all at once. They shipped fabrics, yarns and merchandise from the lower reaches of the river to needy buyers in Sichuan and Guizhou, returning with loads of local produce and medicinal goods brought to provincial centers on overland routes from their border areas. Timber and bamboo rafts were also floated down the river from here, sometimes covering half of the water surface. As with Bing'an, the town became a berthing spot for salt merchants and cargo ships to repair sails and replenish their stores.

    Iron nails and pegs were actually the main industrial products of the town however, so naturally the blacksmith shops of Datong became well known. In its zenith, there were 60-70 blacksmiths in this town of 300 households, and each shop did a brisk business. According to community elders, Datong Town was always bustling with the ring and whoosh of smithing hammers and bellows, and the loud calls of boatmen.

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VOL.59 NO.12 December 2010 Advertise on Site Contact Us