Known in China as the home of Hengshun vinegar – found on tables across the nation – Zhenjiang has a special heritage of its own
Mention Zhenjiang to any Chinese person and they will think of one thing – vinegar. As such, one of the most distinctive attractions in the city is the Chinese Vinegar Museum. Attached to the Hengshun factory, it takes visitors through the history and culture of the condiment until they finally arrive at a cavernous room designed to look like a vinegar factory from hundreds of years ago. This space is still fully operational and shows first-hand how glutinous rice is turned into wine – the first step in making this kind of vinegar.
Attracting commerce throughout the ages, Zhenjiang has many foreign influences that are reflected in the Western-style architecture of its old town. The city also played home to Pearl Buck, a Nobel Prize-winning American novelist who grew up here with her missionary parents.
Xiaomatou is the main street in Zhenjiang’s old town, and it has stayed faithful to its traditional roots. The street was once home to a busy ferry terminal, where traders and Travel:lers would congregate on their way home from China. A large archway features a striking Buddhist spire, originally erected in 1311.
Passing under this landmark is said to be good luck for tourists. Not far from this point is a museum acting as the education base for China Rescue and Salvage. This life-saving association has its roots in the 12th century, and gives a glimpse into the maritime history of Zhenjiang and its all-important links to the Yangtze River and the Grand Canal.
Travel to Jinshan (Gold Mountain) where you can visit a spectacular Buddhist temple built 1,600 years ago. This holy place is best known for being the setting of the old folk tale, The White Snake: a tragic love story in which a boy from Hangzhou marries a beautiful woman who turns out to be a snake. Visitors flock to the temple in droves to see the site of this dramatic legend, where elaborate roofs, Buddha statues and picturesque gardens are the tangible side to its mythical status.
Strike out and walk up Beigu Shan: the effort taken to climb the hill is balanced by the incredible panorama found at the summit.
The former home of an emperor from the sixth century, this imperial structure is surrounded by a wooded backdrop unrivalled by any other views in the region.
Local specialities: Vinegar, of course – bring back a bottle for home use
Travel: Zhenjiang is 20 minutes by fast train from Nanjing, or an hour from Shanghai