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Penglai: Fairyland in the East(1)

2006-05-09 15:21:48

 

  

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Having long been known as a fairyland, Penglai is one of the three supernatural mountains inhabited by immortals. The other two are Yingzhou and Fangzhang, which were frequently visited for wonder herbs by emperors since Qin and Han dynasties. The famous legend of “Eight immortals crossing the sea” (Ba Xian Guo Hai) finds its origin here. It is said that the eight immortals (Lu Dongbin, Tie Guaili, Zhang Guolao, Han Zhongli, Cao Guojiu, He Xiangu, Lan Caihe, Han Xiangzi) got drunk at Penglai Pavilion (Peng Lai Ge) and crossed the sea by different tricks of their own without ships or boats. Their performance hovering over the waves against wind left a popular saying that “like the Eight Immortals crossing the sea, each one showing his or her special feats; each tries to outwit the other.”

The world famous Penglai Pavilion is seated on the hill of Danyashan close to the sea in the north of Penglai city. Built in 1061, the six year of the reign by Emperor Jiayou of Bei Song dynasty, it is listed as one of the four famous pavilions in China together with Huanghelou Pavilion, Yueyanglou Pavilion and Tengwangge Pavilion. It is in fact a vast group of ancient buildings on a land of 1.89 square kilometers, composed of the six buildings and their attached constructions: Penglaige Pavilion, Tianhou Palace, Longwu Palace, Luzu Temple, Sanqing Temple and Mituo Temple. Attractively on display in these buildings are works of calligraphy of famous literary writers, couplet hung on the columns of halls and stone inscriptions.
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East of the pavilion is the Penglai water city, one of the oldest military harbors in ancient China, where there were facilities like dry docks, piers and emplacements, all against hills overlooking the sea. It is appointed together with Penglai Pavilion as key historic relics protected by the state. West of the pavilion is Tianheng Hill or Dengzhou Cape, the start at the south end for the division line between Huanghai Sea and Bohai Sea. The legend says that it used to be the fort for the Tianheng five hundred heroic men, who built camps on top of the barranca overlooking the sea to the north. Here is the newly cultivated cultural park, plank road built along the cliff and the coordinate of the division line between Huanghai Sea and Bohai Sea. It is a well-known park by the sea.
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Penglai is world famous coastal tour city where summer is mild for sightseeing and holidays. The midseason here is from July to September. Travelers, however, come here all year round in recent years because of their changed ideas toward tourism.
Information
Temple Fair
It is said that January 16th of lunar calendar is the birthday of Tianhou, a goddess in charge of the sea. People in Penglai have long enjoyed the custom of gathering for the temple fair on this day. Coming from all directions to Tianhou Palace at Penglai Pavilion, folks burn joss sticks to worship the goddess, to pray and draw divination sticks, or to donate money for peace and happiness. Farmers from nearby countrysides organize operas and yangge, popular rural folk dance here for performance either on the stage of the opera house or on the square in front of the pavilion. This is the occasion when huge crowd of people gathers for fun and entertainment.
Fishing Lamp Festival
Every January 13 and 14 of lunar calendar, fishermen sent lamps or articles of tribute to Longwang Palace at Penglai Pavilion to pray for safety on the sea and harvesting fishery. Later, they changed the custom into setting a boat of sacrifice, sending fishing lamps or starting firecrackers. At the same time, they held recreation programs.
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