In this edition of the Bucket List, we’re going to Long Island (长岛 Chángdǎo), a county in Yantai, Shandong Province (山东省烟台市). There I spent a recent long weekend holiday.
When I first saw the announcement by a tour group about this trip, I got so excited since this would be my first trip to Shandong Province. And of course, I miss the sea and the feel of looking at the clear night sky — both of which are not readily available in Beijing. While on the way to Miaodao village, or technically one of the islands that compose the county, our tour manager shared with us a folk story that happened there over a thousand years ago…
Among the 32 islands that compose the present-day Changdao County, Shamen Island (沙门岛 Shamendao), now known as Miao Island (庙岛 Miaodao), was the place where prisoners had been kept during the Song dynasty. For a time food on the island was abundant as it was supplied by the empire. But nearby local governments kept on sending prisoners so that the population on Shamen Island exploded, straining food supply. That prompted the emperor to order that food would be given to only 300 prisoners, and that the remaining ones would be executed.
On one of those days, a group of 50 prisoners was selected to be executed. When news of their impending death reached the prisoners, they devised a plan to get out of Shamen Island — by swimming across the Bohai Sea to Penglai Island. The current location of Penglai is unknown, but there’s a port city of the same name in the mainland about 15 kilometers away.
Out of the 50 prisoners, only 8 survived. Their story was passed on to locals, who called them the Eight Immortals Who Crossed the Sea — or Bāxiān guòhǎi.
According to Chen Meijun (陈美君), the leader of our tour group (Foreigner China Network), the Eight Immortals’ journey became part of Chinese culture and was adapted for stories, books, and films. One variation of the story tells us the characteristics of the immortals — a man and a woman; one who’s old and another young; an emperor and a beggar; and a poor person and a rich one. Another adaptation links it to Taoist traditions.
The Long Island Trip
Day 1 was actually long! We toured a lot of places on the island chain, starting on the main island itself, Changdao. From there, we took a ferry ride to Miandao Village — the setting of the Eight Immortals story. The ride to Miandao was fantastic as we were joined by lots of seagulls.
On Miandao, we reached an old temple similar to those in Beijing. The island itself is small and the village on it is full of fisherfolk.
We went back to Changdao and did a 2km hike to Its southernmost tip. There, the island peninsula changes from spectacular limestone cliffs to islets in an S formation. That itself is a borderline between the Bohai and Yellow Seas. It would have been better if the skies were clear; though Day 1 looked nice, the whole island had been shrouded in a thin layer of smog. And that itself was kind of a nice thing since we had a spectacular view of the sunset — not by the beach but in front of our hotel.
Day 2 was equally packed with kilometers of walks and hikes, first starting at Jiuzhang Cliff on the same island. We had some nice views of the Bohai Sea and some limestone formations, and also of a place called Immortal Bridge where the Eight Immortals were said to have set off on their escape. After lunch, we set off to Wang Fu Jiao Reef, a place that has a limestone cliff resembling a woman holding a baby. We spent the whole afternoon by the reef and went back to the hotel by sunset.
By swimming, just like the Eight Immortals did? Why not?