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In Eastern China, the past's rich legacy and the challenges and aspirations for China's future combine in a present that is dizzying in its variety and speed of transformation. Zhejiang and Fujian, often overlooked on the standard Beijing–Shanghai–Hong Kong tourist trail, offer some of the country's most verdant scenery and a plethora of diversions, like hiking through ancient villages,
bicycling along lush tea fields, and lounging on lively beaches.
Zhejiang has always been a hub of culture, learning, and commerce. The cities, with their elegant gardens, elaborate temples, and fine crafts, evoke the sophisticated and refined world of classical China's literati. Since the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–79), large numbers of Fujianese have emigrated around Southeast Asia. As a result, Fujian Province has strong ties to overseas Chinese. In 1979 Fujian was allowed to form the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ)—a testing ground for capitalist market economy—at Xiamen. Today, although Xiamen is a wealthy place with a vibrant economy, the city has managed to retain its Old World charm.
One of China's most beautiful provinces, Fujian has escaped the notice of most visitors. This is because the region, though not too far off...