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Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development

Beauty by the lake

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Many Chinese first learn of Baiyangdian, or Baiyang Lake, though the revolution-era movie Xiaobing Zhangga (Little Soldier Zhang Ga), in which a young kid Zhang Ga helps villagers fight against Japanese soldiers near the lake during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

A five-A scenic area sanctioned by the China National Tourism Administration, Baiyangdian attracts millions of visitors every year with its cool temperatures in the summer and countless lotuses.

It's a two-hour drive to the lake from Beijing, but the large number of visitors heading their during weekends and holidays means heavy traffic may make the trip longer.

If you want to avoid the drive, you have a much faster - and less tiring - option: bullet train.

Earlier in July, bullet train service was established between Beijing and Xiongan­ New Area in Hebei Province, where ­Baiyangdian is located.

Now it takes only 1 hour and 20 ­minutes to travel by train to the lake, which means you can go there in the morning and return in the evening.


Drift on the lake

Lakes are rare in dry North China, but Baiyangdian offers a unique experience with its placid waters and various plants that means you don't need to travel to fertile South China.

The reeds at Baiyangdian have become one of its symbols. These are the reeds that gave Zhang Ga a hiding place from Japanese soldiers in the film.

In real life, Chinese forces in the region often used the reeds as ambush sites to catch the invading soldiers by surprise during the war.

With hundreds of boats drifting on the lake, now the reeds have become a natural way to separate the waterways at Baiyangdian.

To experience the nature of ­Baiyangdian, I recommend taking a wooden paddle boat rather than a motorized one.

The relaxed swaying of these boats is a fundamentally different experience from anything you can find in the city.

The wonderful breeze and fresh air made me feel as if I was at the ocean instead of an inland lake.

There are plenty of fish, crayfish and crabs in the lake. Sometimes you can see them swimming around in the water near the boat.

I saw various types of birds at Baiyangdian. One kind is called a cormorant. These birds enjoy perching on fishermen's canoes in the hopes of hunting down a fish for a nice snack.

Summer is also the best time to take in the numerous lotuses that can be found at Baiyangdian.

There's even a park that bears the name of the type of lotus species that can be found in the area among the many other types of lotus. All in all though, I think only a botanist could tell how many kinds of lotuses the lake has.


Local legends

The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Kangxi Emperor maintained an imperial residence at Baiyangdian, the biggest lake in Hebei Province.

Kangxi ordered that a temple be built near his residence. As an emperor who fought numerous battles during his reign, perhaps it was his way of trying to find some peace in his old age.

However, peace was not in the cards for the lake. About 200 years after the emperor's death in 1722, war finally came to Baiyangdian as locals battled against the Japanese invasion.

The Baiyangdian-based Yanling guerrillas played a major role in helping the effort.

The name Yanling - which refers to the feathers of a wild goose - comes from the feathers the guerrillas used to keep their weapons and ammunition dry.

The movie character Zhang Ga is also a symbol of the Yanling guerrillas. A memorial hall to the Yanling guerrillas is located at Baiyangdian.

Though the Yanling guerrillas were far outgunned by the invaders, in the more than 70 battles they fought from 1939 to 1945, only eight Yanling guerrillas were lost.

They have been highly praised for their efforts during the war, injuring hundreds of fully armed Japanese soldiers and ­slowing down logistic supply trains.

I actually regret staying a single day at the lake. One traveler I met there suggested I spend the night at a rural family home, then take a boat to go fishing in the morning, after which I could enjoy a big breakfast made from what I caught.

It definitely sounds like a great plan for my next trip.

Global Times


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