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Wenzhou, in southern China, wants to be the country’s next big tourist destination, and it has a lot to offer. Wenzhou translates as “warm and mild place,” and lives up to its name as it is temperate year round. In addition to the weather, here are 7 reasons to visit a city of nine million that most Westerners have never heard of.

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Wenzhou City

Jiang Xin Island | Photo courtesy of Evelyn Kanter

1. Jiang Xin Islet
This pedestrian-only island is just two minutes from downtown by ferry across the Ou River and is popular with locals for its lovely gardens and a small amusement park, including a Ferris wheel. Visit the Wenzhou History Museum, with historic photos and memorabilia about the city’s role in the “liberation,” and two historic pagodas, one of which served as a lighthouse when it was built in 869. Although you can’t go inside either one, walk around them to appreciate the intricate brickwork and niches containing Buddhas.

2. Wu Ma Street
The city’s main pedestrian shopping mall is lined with modern shops and restaurants in historic 19th-century buildings, dominated by a huge bronze sculpture of horses pulling a wagon (Wu Ma means five horses). More interesting are the side streets, each one dedicated to a particular kind of goods, making it easy to comparison shop: children’s clothing on one street, women’s clothing on another, intimate apparel around the corner. The street ends at a city park with a beautifully restored hilltop pagoda, Miaogo Temple.

3. Wenzhou Southern Opera Museum
Wenzhou claims to have invented Chinese opera in the 12th century. Colorful hand-embroidered costumes, programs and other artifacts from more recent centuries are housed in a 100-year-old downtown bank building. Take a break from the exhibits to appreciate the beautifully carved woodwork and stained glass inserts over the doors.

4. Wenzhou Martial Arts Museum
This is the only museum in all of China devoted to ancient martial arts. Tai chi, xing yi and ba gua are taught here, as well, along with kick boxing and kung fu. Although displays of centuries-old martial arts weapons are in Chinese only, no translation is needed to know that you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a ten-foot iron spear with a curved, hooked blade. The museum is housed in a century-old former private home on a brick-paved street.

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Day trips from Wenzhou

Pavilion at Yangdang mountain | Photo courtesy of Evelyn Kanter

5. Yandang Mountain
If you’ve ever seen artwork of a misty Chinese mountain landscape, it was likely Yandang, now a protected geo-park (the Chinese version of a US National Park). Soaring cliff-like rocks have names like Spiritual Peak and Bamboo Rock. Walking paths lead to overlooks dotted with small temples, artists populate the shaded pagodas, painting yet more misty mountain landscapes. On most afternoons there’s a so-called “flying person,” an acrobat who walks a high wire between two of the peaks. The area is located in the Yueqing district, less than 90 minutes from downtown Wenzhou.

6. Nan Ge Memorial Arches
This is “old” China, where the stone-paved main street of tiny Nan Ge Village is marked by five massive stone arches built between 1344 and 1544, known locally as the Courageous Gates. Narrow side streets contain traditional courtyard buildings, with many entrances marked by red “good luck” hangings. This is well off the beaten track, and not easy to find, but well worth the effort. Nan Ge Village is in Xianxi Town, Yueqing City, Wenzhou, close to Yandang Mountain.

7. Taishun Radon Spring
A natural hot spring fills multiple pools of varying temperatures, so you can choose from hot tub to poached egg. Unlike most mineral springs, with heavy sulfur content, Taishun is loaded with silicon and radon, said to have benefits for the heart and blood and nervous systems (though radon gas is best known as a carcinogen in the US). Make it a day-trip so you can also visit Taishun Bridge, an arched, covered wooden bridge and the best preserved of two dozen ancient bridges from the Tang, Qing and Ming dynasties.

Wenzhou is a short flight from either Shanghai or Beijing or take the high-speed train from Shanghai (4 hours) or Beijing (8 hours) and watch the countryside zip by.

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Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn is an NYC-based travel writer who would rather ride a chairlift, river raft or zipline than the subway. She's a regular contributor to major publications, including airline inflights, and has written more than a dozen travel guidebooks. Evelyn's website is www.ecoxplorer.com
Evelyn Kanter

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