Province: Zhejiang. Area: 301 sq.km/116sq. miles Population: 125,000 (conurbation 833,000)
Jinhua is situated at 119°35’E and 29°09’N, in the centre of Zhejiang Province.
The city is 185km/115 miles from the provincial capital Hangzhou and can be reached from there by rail (4 hours) or bus. There are also rail and bus links with other Chinese towns.
The town, which was mentioned as early as the Eastern Han era (25-220), received its present name in the Sui era (581-618). At the time of the Southern Song (1127-1279) an important philosophical movement sprang up here, the Jinhua school, an eclectic derivative of Confucianism.
From the earliest times Jinhua has been an important trading centre, dealing in both timber and agricultural produce.
In previous centuries the city acquired a certain distinction by virtue of a culinary speciality, Jinhua ham.
The original Tower of the Eight Poems in the north of the city was erected in 494 at the instigation of the prefect Shen Yue, who on completion of the building climbed to the top of the tower and recited eight poems. Since then it has been a meeting-place for literati.
The present-day building was rebuilt during the Qing period (1644-1911) as a faithful replica ofthe original.
From the tower there is a fine view across the city and the surrounding area.
The Grotto ofthe Two Dragons lies on the slopes ofthe North Mountain (Beishan), 15km/9 miles north of the city. At the entrance there are two massive stalagmites which have the shape of a dragon’s head.
The grotto is divided into two parts, an outer and an inner, 1200m/2 mile and 2100m/1% mile long respectively, which are connected by a narrow 12m/40ft long channel. As the grotto is under water, visitors travel in a small boat.
The 50m/164ft long Grotto ofthe Ice Vase lies 200m/220yd further up from the Grotto of the Two Dragons. It owes its name to its shape, which calls to mind a vase, and the low temperatures which are to be found here even on warm days.
In the middle of the grotto the visitor will be astonished to see a small 20m/66ft high waterfall which disappears between clefts in the rocks.
The Grotto of Homage to the True Immortals lies Ikm/Vi mile further up from the Grotto ofthe Ice Vase, concealed between the rocks.
According to a legend a Taoist hermit, who is purported to have lived here, by practising alchemy over a number of years, successfully attained immortality.