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Visitors get a kick out of Jinhua

China Daily| Updated: September 30, 2023 L M S

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Top: Jinhua has a rich cultural heritage and Li Qingzhao (1084-1155), widely recognized as China's greatest female poet, lived there in the later part of her life. Middle and Above: In modern times, the enterprising spirit of the locals has made the name of Jinhua far more widely known.

As well as the sepak takraw and football competitions of the 19th Asian Games, the city has plenty to offer away from the arena

To the south of Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang province, lies Jinhua, a city of seven million inhabitants.

Standing in the center of Zhejiang province and connecting neighboring Jiangxi, Fujian and Anhui provinces, Jinhua has historically been an important port along the Xin'an River and a key commercial center in the region.

During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, Jinhua once served as a crucial trading post through which salt and silk were sold to neighboring provinces, and lacquer and porcelain were imported.

In modern times, the enterprising spirit of the locals has made the name of Jinhua far more widely known.

Yiwu, a county-level city with a permanent population of a little more than 1.86 million and often dubbed the "world's capital for small commodities", is under the administration of Jinhua.

Figures from Yiwu's commerce bureau show that the city sells more than 2.1 million types of products, ranging from daily use items to sports-related goods, to over 230 countries and regions, with some 65 percent of its goods designated for export.

In fact, much of the merchandise sold during the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou is made in Yiwu.

As a co-host city of the ongoing Games, among the sports Jinhua will host is sepak takraw and football.

A centuries-old sport, sepak takraw is believed to have been influenced by an ancient form of the Chinese game cuju, in which a group of players would kick a ball among themselves and aim to keep it in the air for as long as possible.

Modern sepak takraw is immensely popular in Southeast Asia. Also known as "kick volleyball", it is played by using the feet, knees, shoulders and head to touch the ball.

Close to Jinhua's Huhaitang Lake, described by locals as the "green lung "of the city, stands Jinhua Sports Centre Gymnasium.

The dynamic wavy lines of the building's architecture and the glittering water of the lake combine to present a perfect blend of vitality and tranquility.

The shell-shaped gymnasium, with a 5,800 capacity, holds massive appeal for local sports fans. It is the venue for sepak takraw, where six gold medals are up for grabs.

Locals have reaped manifold benefits from the hosting of the Games, since venues such as the gymnasium can be accessed free of charge, or at a nominal cost, for over 12 hours every day.

According to official statistics, some 1.8 million residents visited the venues to take part in sporting activities between January and July this year.

Apart from the competition venues, one of the Asian Games' five sub-villages is located in Jinhua.

Featuring a landscape garden that showcases local architecture, the sub-village provides a wide variety of services, including accommodation, catering and fitness facilities, among others.

Distinctive architecture is only a small part of Jinhua's rich cultural heritage.

Li Qingzhao (1084-1155), widely recognized as China's greatest female poet, lived in Jinhua for a period of time in the later part of her life and composed some of the most memorable poems about the place, including On Bayong Tower and To the Tune of "Spring in Wuling".

As well as these verses, a sure way to blend in like an authentic Jinhua native is to watch and enjoy Wuju Opera, which is a national intangible cultural heritage, the oldest local opera in Zhejiang and the second largest opera genre in the province.

Commonly known as Jinhua theater, Wuju Opera is some 500 years old and is the combination of six famous vocal tones — the high-pitched tone, the Kunqu opera tone, the luantan (literally "random pluck") tone, the Huiju Opera tone, the tanhuang (a local folk opera art) tone and the shidiao (popular local ditties) tone.

Mei Lanfang (1894-1961), one of the foremost masters of Peking Opera, once praised Wuju Opera as "the father of Peking Opera".

Of the more than 300 Chinese operas that are still being actively performed nationwide today, Wuju Opera is particularly noted for its rural origins. To many, it is "a living fossil" of the art form.

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From top: Bayong Tower, Wuyi (which is billed as a "city of hot springs"), and Hengdian World Studios are among the most popular destinations for visitors to Jinhua.

As well as opera, Jinhua has ample leisure and recreation activities on offer.

In Dongyang city, for example, sits "China's Hollywood", the Hengdian World Studios, the world's largest film and TV base, where visitors can try their hand at acting and being in the spotlight, just like the stars, by enjoying an immersive filmmaking experience.

Meanwhile, Wuyi county is an ideal place to be refreshed and revitalized.

Billed as a "city of hot springs", Wuyi covers an area of 1,577 square kilometers and boasts 13 hot springs. In total, the hot springs are believed to provide more than 24,000 metric tons of water a day — more than enough to dip into and bathe away a day's fatigue.

After drying off, there are plenty of epicurean delights to refresh the palate.

With some of China's most tasty organic tea found in Jinhua, as well as mouth-watering hams and a host of other delicacies, visitors can be forgiven for enjoying themselves too much.