The Southernmost Pass of Hunan

On the silk map of Changsha Kingdom unearthed from the Mawangdui Han Tomb which could date back to the early West Han Dynasty in 168 BC (2178 years ago); rivers, villages and towns in the present Jianghua County in Yongzhou are clearly visible, and these places are indicated as key towns and thoroughfares of strategic importance from the Kingdom of Chu to the mountain range of Guangxi Province. As more than two thousand years slipped by, this place, though possesses numerous irreproducible landmarks as enjoying the geographic advantages as the "southernmost point" of Hunan province, the source of Xiaoshui (one of the two sources of the Xiangjiang River --- the mother river of Hunan Province), and the junction of three provinces, boasting of a forest coverage of 76%, and being the only Yao Ethnic Autonomous County in Hunan, has been passed into silence for quite a long time in the southernmost part of the province. Yet such silence was a blessing in disguise as the natural beauty of this are a is still preserved.

Perhaps, it is the only place left in Hunan preserving its natural beauty. Hunan Geography once again set foot on Jianghua after 4 years, to explore the natural beauty of the southernmost parts of Hunan and appreciate the local customs of the Yao Ethnic Minority there.

After a three-hour climb in the rain, we finally reached the peak of Furong Hill in Jianghua at 6 pm, June 21, 2010, where the clouds were scattered and the mist gave way to the beautiful scenery. A boundary tablet with illegible engravings, demarcating the three provinces of Hunan, Guangxi and Guangdong, was right under our feet.

Photos Trip
Lingling Vanilla

Vanilla, is called "hui "(a species of orchid) in the poetry by Qu Yuan (a famous Chinese scholar and minister to the King from the southern Chu during the Warring States Period).

In The Songs of Chu by Qu Yuan, "hui" appears again and again. As per records, Hunan has the best growth of "hui" plant. This type of vanilla, which once widely grew in Lingling and was ever treated as a tribute, can now only be seen in such places as the Vanilla Garden because the plant requires favorable conditions for its growth.

Flora of China argues that vanilla has specie with five-petaled flowers termed as Lysimachia (Primulaceae. It contains 0.21% of essential oil, hence it can be made into perfume and it can also be used in making insect preventive substances. For instance, the books stored in Tianyi Pavilion (a well-known book-storage building in Ningbo, China), would not save from decaying without such vanilla.

  • The Source of Xiaoshui

Jianghua is divided into the east and west parts by a north-south mountain range named "Gougualing". The split also makes the Feng River on the east side, and the Tuojiang River on the west side along the hilly land of the west range, smaller than the Feng River. According to the Annals of Jianghua County, there are 291 rivers of various sizes in Jianghua, among which only the Jingbian River and the Baisha River flow into the Pearl River, while the other 289 finally merge with the Feng River and the Tuojiang, becoming the source of Xiaoshui.

Leaving Tuojiang Town and walking along the Feng River, we got to Wujiang Village 11 km away. After going through a long chain bridge, and boating up the river at the ferry, we then reached a county named Fengcheng. As per the records "at the sixth year of Yuanding Era under the reign of Emperor Wu in the Han Dynasty, Fengcheng County was set up, named after the Feng River in it."

The Feng River flows eastward till Mashi Township, and then turn northeast into the section first called "Daqiao River (Great Bridge River)", which tallies with the well-acknowledged record of the source of Xiaoshui that "the Daqiao River is located at the southern foot of Yezhu Hill in Ziliang Yao Ethnic Village, Lanshan County".

Flowing through Beijiang Town, the Feng River goes eastward till a place called Majiangkou, where the Majiang River submerges into Feng River. Via the No. X081 County Highway from Shuikou Town, we headed northward along the Majiang River until coming to Xiangjiang Township, a place which can be pinpointed on the map.

The sudden appearance of "Xiangjiang" in such a remote Yaoshan Mountain made us startled and a little confused.

  • to Vanilla Garden

Vanilla Garden, at the elevation of 1100 meters, is the last natural village towards north of the No. 081 County Highway along the Majiang River. It belongs to the Miaoziyuan Village in Xiangjiang Township. Wu Xiaoyuan, head of the Vanilla Garden, told us that the twisting and turning Vanilla River, is preferred to be called "Yunshui River (the river flowing down from the clouds)". The source of the river could be traced to a crystal clear lake 3 km away. As Wu told, "the water there is so clean that you can even drink it."

Theoretically, Xiaoshui originated in Lanshan County, according to the principle that the source of a river should be traced as far as possible. However, the 289 rivers and streams in Jianghua County are the very sources of Xiaoshui, on which the people in Vanilla Garden insist, and they even set up simple pavilions and verandas along the lake to protect them.

Upward along the Majiang River from the Vanilla Garden and not far away lies a renowned "Sanfen (trisection) Stone", which is a mountain dividing the three counties of Ningyuan, Lanshan and Jianghua. It is the second highest peak of the Jiuyi mountain range with an elevation of 1850 meters. "Actually, most parts of the Jiuyi Mountain Range lie in Jianghua County." The part in Jianghua County is called "Huanglong (yellow dragon) mountain" with the highest peak of 1823.9 meters, which is also called "Bagongling" by people of the Vanilla Garden. It is said that one climbing over the mountain from this place and walking towards Emperor Shun's Mausoleum would still be able to come back by lunch time, meaning that the distance is relatively short. As it was an official track from Tuojiang to Jiuyi Mountain for people to pay tribute to the ancient emperor Shun, ancient plank paths would be found scattered up the Vanilla Garden.

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■Translated by Qiu Xian ■Designed by Xie Huimin ■Made by Ren Zeyi ■Chinese Script Edited by Zang Jie ■English Script Edited by Pang Yuehui & Ahmad

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