Zhujiajian (Putuoshan), China
Zhujiajian is an ancient “watertown” that is today a suburb of Shanghai. The town is spread over a series of lakes and streams connected by 36 bridges, earning it the nickname of Shanghai’s Venice. It is a vestige of a China that is disappearing, and a stroll across its bridges, such as the stone Fangcheng bridge dating from 1571, and through its neighborhoods will reward a visitor with tranquil views of China’s past.
A short way offshore lies one of China’s most important Buddhist sites, which has attracted pilgrims for over a thousand years. The island of Putuoshan is named for Mt. Putuo, the highest peak in the archipelago. The mountain is one of four peaks in China sacred to Buddhists, and the island is a picturesque treasury of temples, over 80 monasteries and gardens that embody every nostalgic image of China one could hope for. The slopes rise from a shoreline boasting two lovely sand beaches; Hundred Step Beach and Thousand Step Beach, divided by a rocky promontory topped by a temple. The island’s main temple is dedicated to Guanyin, sometimes called Avalokitesvara, the Goddess of Mercy and Hearer of Cries, beloved of the common folk. On Longwu Hill stands a remarkable 33-meter statue of the Goddess, crafted of bronze and gold and erected in 1997, which continues to draw pilgrims from around China and the wider world.