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Floating on the East China Sea, Pingtan Island enjoys a growing reputation as a rustic getaway. Transport to the island is now more accessible than ever due to the development of the Western Taiwan Straits Economic Zone. Resembling an altar in the distance to the south of the Minjiang River’s mouth, Pingtan is also known as “Altar Island.” It is China’s fifth largest island and the largest island of Fujian Province, measuring 29 kilometers from south to north and 19 kilometers from east to west. It is also the closest place from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan.
The scenic spots on the island, as well as the savory local seafood dishes, have drawn many visitors to Pingtan’s shores. But for a photographer, every corner on the island frames a stunning image. Every step reveals a different scene: the splendid landscape cut by waves, deserted wooden ships, modest stone dwellings, net weaving and colorful sunrises and sunsets.
In the past, Pingtan was only accessible by ferry. Transportation to the isolated island both inconvenienced local villagers and restricted economic development. Back then, it would take at least three hours to travel from the provincial capital of Fuzhou to Pingtan. Holidays required enough luck to board a ship at the end of a sluggish waiting line. It took until November 30, 2010, for the Pingtan Straits Bridge to be completed, reducing the trip from Fuzhou to Pingtan to one and a half hours. Spanning 4,976 meters, the bridge has not only brought convenience to 400,000 island residents but also plays an important role in accelerating local economic development.
Embraced by the sea, Pingtan sees roaring waves and strong sea winds year round. From June to October every year, devastating storms wreak havoc on the island. An exaggerated local saying goes, “Pingtan, Pingtan, a place where nothing grows but stone.” Taking advantage of their environment, villagers use the abundant granite boulders found through the island to build their houses and roads. They cut the stones into different sizes and put them up as walls. Gable roofs are covered with arch tiles supported by big stones to prevent being blown away by the wind. Stone houses are sturdy enough to withstand violent storms and high tides while remaining comfortable in all seasons. The architectural style has become part of the cultural landscape of Pingtan.
Visitors to Pingtan might be greeted by four legs: Every household raises dogs on the island, with some families keeping up to three or four. You won’t see many young people as most of the youth leave for work. Remaining on the island are mostly older people, children, and their pets. Pingtan people have made a name for themselves through tunneling, with more than 60 percent of tunneling projects in China contracted by Pingtan natives.
As the roaring sounds of car engines near, you will see some middle-aged men with weathered faces coming back from fishing one by one. Nearby, their wives, kids and dogs are waiting for them along the beach. After the ships are docked, fishermen unload baskets full of fish and shrimp, where long-waiting fish vendors instantly crowd around with noise and excitement.
Women on the island are diligent and can be seen working anywhere, from the beach to the road, and in the yard. They usually wear handkerchiefs to cover their face from the harsh sea wind and the sun’s rays, so you can hardly see their true features. However, their kerchiefs are so bright that they have become a part of the island scenery.