Rulers and swords, bamboo and breezes

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-2 17:53:01

Mogan Mountain is a quick, historic escape from the heat and hustle

At 2.5 hours from Shanghai by car, Mogan Mountain is a wonderful escape from the hustle of the city. Before I went to Mogan Mountain, near Hangzhou, I thought it was just another green mountain with bamboo forests, like others in Zhejiang Province.

But after a two-day trip I was in love with its crisp, refreshing breezes, old stone houses and country lifestyle.

The most convenient way to travel is by car, as scenic areas are scattered far from each other. If you want to challenge yourself, there are many footpaths and hiking trails.

Mogan Mountain in Zhejiang Province is a wonderful escape from the hustle of the city. Photos: Qi Xijia/GT

At the base of the hill you can already sense the history of Mogan Mountain. There are many shops and grocery stores built in the style of the Republic of China (1912-49). At the ticket office, entry is 80 yuan ($12.34) each.

After driving for about 15 minutes, our first stop was Sword Pond. According to legend, in the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC), a talented swordsmith named Ganjian arrived at the mountain.

He and his wife, Moye, forged a special pair of swords at the Emperor Wu's command. To commemorate their legend, the mountain is named after them.

The pond where they forged the swords has become a tourist attraction in itself. Sword Pond abuts a waterfall and is surrounded by greenery.

You can walk down stone roads and wooden steps, following a meandering footpath that passes bamboo forests and a beautiful network of streams and waterfalls. It is easy to walk down, but takes some effort to go back up.

The mountain has numerous trails for hiking or cycling amid the bamboo forest, with a little effort. A round-trip through Dakeng, for example, can take 2 hours.

But if you are in good physical condition, it's worth it. The path offers a breathtaking panorama of the forest and the mountain backdrop opposite you. There is a gentle breeze so you won't feel very hot, and the air is also much cleaner than in the surrounding cities.

Old stone houses

But what truly sets Mogan Mountain apart from other hills are its colonial-style villas hidden among the lush bamboo. These were originally developed during the 1900s by Americans and Europeans to escape the intense summer heat of Shanghai.

The homes are well-preserved, with some operating as hotels and guesthouses today.

Among them, No.550 once served as a temporary residence of Chiang Kai-shek when he called a currency reform conference here in 1948.

The two-story stone house (pictured above) still has its original look. The upstairs comprises the bedroom of Chiang and his wife Soong Mei-ling, the reception room and a showroom of documents. The downstairs area holds the meeting room where Chiang and his staff gathered to discuss monetary policy and reforms.

Nearby are other summer homes built for high-ranking officials of the Kuomintang, and the gardens are filled with trees and blossoms. The stone houses are also quite cool to stay in; the rock face shields from sunshine, and the window placements are well-calculated to let in cross breezes.

Another historic site included with the entrance ticket is a villa (below) where Mao Zedong rested during a visit to Mogan Mountain in 1954. There are some historic pictures and material, and the house is decorated very simply with cane furniture.

For lunch, you can dine at restaurants on Shanyin Street. The 300-meter street is a major market in Mogan Mountain, with restaurants, cafes, post offices and a Catholic church.

Strolls here are marked by the chirping of birds, shades of green and distinct Western architectures. Then dining in a house with a hundred years of history gives off the feeling of taking part in the history.

After visiting Mogan Mountain, go down the hill following the driveway that leads to the lake. There are many local farm houses, fresh tea fields and bamboo shoots along the road.

If you're lucky, you'll see chickens and geese crossing the road for a cute little photo op.

On the whole, Mogan Mountain is a well-developed tourist destination. There are volunteers in red vests standing at every corner to disperse the traffic, and if need be, there's a hospital.

Although it was congested during the May Day weekend, we could still move about. One volunteer told me that on weekends there are more people, but fewer visitors on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, About Town

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