Famous landscapes and monuments across China have been featured in several recent feature films. This is the fifth installment in a series about these star attractions.
Diqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Yunnan, in The Promise (Wu Ji)
Chen Kaige's The Promise may not be a brilliant movie for cinephiles, but its film location is definitely a beautiful destination for tourists.
About 30 percent of the movie was filmed around Bigu Lake in the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Diqing, known for its breathtaking scenery, and called "Shangri-la" in James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon. Located 4,000 m above sea level, the Bigu Lake will dazzle you immediately with its pristine beauty. The azaleas around the lake bloom in late May and June. A marsh south of the lake is a sanctuary for wild birds and waterfowl.
The crew of The Promise caused a scandal by fouling the unspoiled scenery in 2004 with construction debris and trash. The cleanup work was effective, but as a result, the government issued a regulation in 2007 that bans filmmaking and artistic performances in most nature reserves, scenic spots and at sites of historical interest across China.
Directions: Bus, train and plane are all available from Kunming, capital of Yunnan province.
Huyang forest, Inner Mongolia in Hero (Yingxiong)
Zhang Yimou's Hero (Yingxiong) is a stunning film based on the use of different color themes, among which is the golden hue of Huyang or poplar trees. In one impressive scene, the characters played by Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi fight amidst a swirl of golden poplar leaves, their long black hair and red robes flying.
The thriving forest of poplars seen in the film can be found on the banks of the Ejin River in Inner Mongolia. In the autumn, the leaves turn a splendid yellow gold. The locals say these tough trees can live for 1,000 years, remaining standing for 1,000 years after they die, not decompose for 1,000 years after they fall. This is clearly an exaggeration, but it's not uncommon for finding 100-year-old poplars there.
Directions: The Ejin River is in Ejin Banner, Inner Mongolia, north China. Take a train from Beijing to Linhe city, Inner Mongolia and then take a bus to Ejin. Early October is the best season.
Bamboo forest, Anji, Zhejiang province in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wohu Canglong)
The spectacular duels on top of bamboo trees in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were so ground-breaking that US filmmaker George Lucas Industrial Light and Magic Company asked the director how he did it digitally. They were surprised to learn from Lee that those were not computer generated, but live action scenes.
The bamboo forest in the film is in Anji, a small city four hours drive from Shanghai. There are many family-styled hotels there. Remember to bargain for a discount.
Directions: Take a bus from Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province. One and a half hours are needed.
(China Daily 08/28/2008 page19)