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Jilin's winter enchantments

By Meng Wenjie | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-27 08:02
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Young people from different countries gathered in Changchun and Jilin, Northeast China's Jilin province, for an event entitled "Exploring Changbai Mountains: Embracing Jilin's Winter Wonderland with Global Gen Z", held from Dec 16 to 20. The Changbai Mountains stand among the world's top three ski resorts featuring the advantages of powder snow, alongside the Alps in Europe and the Rocky Mountains in North America. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Gen Z globe-trotters uncover soft rime, powder snow, hotpots, and warm hospitality in Northeast China's winter wonderland.

If you had the chance to travel to Jilin province in Northeast China, how would you plan your schedule?

Ten young people from eight different countries gathered in Jilin for an event entitled "Exploring Changbai Mountains: Embracing Jilin's Winter Wonderland with Global Gen Z", held from Dec 16 to 20.

Coming from the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Malaysia, these representatives of Generation Z explored the province, not only participating in local winter sports but also immersing themselves in the local folk culture, cuisine, and the abundant ice and snow wonders.

When it comes to winter elements, August Hagen, hailing from Norway and currently studying at Fudan University in Shanghai, expressed how he was impressed by the soft rime — the distinctive winter spectacle in Jilin.

"My initial thought upon seeing the rime was that it must be snow. However, when people explained to me the process of its formation, I was amazed," said Hagen.

As the saying goes in Jilin, "In the evening, behold the misty haze; come morning, witness the soft rime's grace; but wait till near noon, enjoy falling flowers." The "falling flowers" mentioned here refer to soft rime instead of real flowers.

When fog from the Songhua River condenses into frost on surrounding branches under specific atmospheric conditions, the soft rime is created, Hagen explained.

Hagen, who only arrived in China this past August and whose previous Chinese city experiences were confined to Shanghai and Zhejiang province, was captivated by Jilin's cultural resonances. And he managed to see similarities between Jilin and his hometown.

"Coming from the Scandinavian peninsula, I believe that winter activities are an important part of our cultural identity. Witnessing them here in Jilin really touches my heart," he said.

Sergi Drago Gonzalez, a Spanish student from Tsinghua University, strongly recommended the Beidahu Ski Resort which is located at the foot of Changbai Mountain. "Skiing here is much better compared to my previous experiences," he said.

According to him, the Changbai Mountains in Jilin are part of the world's golden latitude belt for snow and ice, standing among the world's top three ski resorts featuring the advantages of powder snow, alongside the Alps in Europe and the Rocky Mountains in North America.

The resort's famed fluffy powder snow ensures a safer and more beginner-friendly environment for skiing.

"The powder snow makes snowboarding feel like gliding through clouds," said Stefanie Perner, a German student at Tsinghua University, who is a big fan of snowboarding.

While comparing the Beidahu Ski Resort to some ski resorts in Norway, Hagen explained that it is surrounded by mountains on three sides, making it more stable in terms of weather for short ski trips since there is less wind in winter, and the quality of the snow is less affected by the weather. "The consistency of the weather ensures that we can enjoy the sport," he said.

Christoph Rainer Bank, another German student at Tsinghua University, noted the inclusivity of the resort, which provides suitable ski equipment for players of varying sizes. "I also went skiing with friends near Beijing and had an unfortunate experience as some of us discovered that the equipment there was not large enough for us," he said.

The reason behind this inclusivity of the Beidahu Ski Resort is that it has successfully hosted several major international and domestic sporting events, including the 2007 Asian Winter Games and the 2016-17 FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup. This inclusivity caters to players from various countries and provides appropriate ski equipment for different body sizes.

"I was very fortunate to be provided with a very large snowboard here, which reduces the risk of injury," Bank said.

To Perner, apart from the cloudlike powder snow, another pleasure offered by Jilin is tieguodun, a feast of stewed meat and vegetables in a large iron pot, usually enjoyed by a group of friends gathered around a table.

"The best way to dispel the cold after a long day in the snow is to have the steamy hot iron pot stew," she said. "The aroma of fresh chicken and sweet corn bread floated into the air. We are experiencing the warmest hospitality in the coldest season."

Natasha Niki Alcantara, a Malaysian student at Fudan University, also shared her warm memories related to the food here. "During our tieguodun dinner, my Jilin friends shared with me a special local food dressing. I was touched by their openness to share their culture and real-life experiences with others," she said. "And I gradually realized that what makes Jilin popular are the people here."

After enjoying soft rime, skiing, and a delightful hotpot, the Gen Zers concluded their trip with a soak in the hot springs.

For many overseas tourists, Japan is the first country that pops into their minds when it comes to hot springs, Bank noted. "I didn't know that I could experience it in China before coming to Jilin. And I was very surprised."

Daniel Trevor Walsh, a student from the UK studying at Tsinghua University, also shared his enthusiasm for the hot springs. "It was my first time trying it, and I was really impressed by how it combined traditional Chinese medicine. It wasn't just hot water but also hot tea," he said. "There was an osmanthus-flavored hot spring that was really nice."

Although their exploration in Jilin has come to an end, these Gen Zers felt that a short trip was not enough to fully appreciate the province.

"The hardworking and humble people of Jilin built a home in a place so ice-cold, and discovered the beauty in nature when it seemed cruel. They're creating something amazing in this bitter winter," said Perner. "I wish to share my stories here with passionate viewers from all corners of the globe, as I know they would fall in love with Jilin just like I did."

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