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Picture-perfect portraits

Updated: 2011-05-04 13:34
By Wu Yiyao ( China Daily)

Picture-perfect portraits

Beautiful landscape around Wozhou Lake offer perfect backdrops for brides-to-be posing for the most important portraits of their lives. Chen Qitu / for China Daily


Picture-perfect portraits

Xinchang, a relatively unknown county in Zhejiang province, has been enjoying growing popularity among Chinese newlyweds. Liang Bolin / for China Daily

Wozhou Lake is gaining acclaim as an ideal location for wedding photos. Wu Yiyao reports.

Newlyweds from around the country are enchanted by the pastoral scenes, tranquility and seclusion offered by Wozhou Lake, in Zhejiang province's Xinchang county. Clad in wedding gowns - often barefoot - brides-to-be pose for what may be the most important portraits of their lives. They sit with their betrothed in verdant meadows, alongside burbling brooks and behind cascading waterfalls.

The lake shimmers at the base of Tianmu Mountain, a national scenic area just three hours' drive from Shanghai.

Elaborate wedding photo albums have been popular in the country since the late 20th century and have become big business. The Chinese versions differ from their Western counterparts in that they rarely contain photos of the ceremony but rather show the couples posing while wearing various outfits in exotic settings.

One of Wozhou Lake's advantages is that it's not as overcrowded as many wedding photo and tourist destinations, such as Qingdao's beaches in Shandong province.

"I would have definitely felt uncomfortable if there were crowds staring at me when I posed for my wedding photos," Beijinger Shu Cheng says.

"Taking pictures around the lake was a brilliant idea because it offered me the privacy I needed to just be myself."

Wedding photographer Chen Qitu has promoted the lake while focusing on his career.

"I did not discover the place. In fact, I rediscovered it," says the 38-year-old, who has worked in the field since 2001.

Chen had been seeking the perfect place for wedding photos for years. When he took a vacation in his hometown near the lake, he marveled at the charm of the brick houses, bright flowers and misty dawns, and realized it was exactly what he had been seeking.

So Chen opened his lakeside studio, Hu Ying Vision, in 2005. He has since photographed more than 2,000 couples.

"Couples who are seeking a background that's different from those that others use find the lake to be the ideal spot," he says.

"The lights, the views and even the feel of the lake change every minute. The lake's dynamic character ensures unique wedding photos."

Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) poet Bai Juyi once described the lake as the "eyes and eyebrows" of Zhejiang's mountains.

The aquamarine waters, glittering beneath a golden sun, blend with the forests and meadows to create a bounteous palette of natural colors. And the myriad flora growing out of, and beside, the lake adds a mysterious quality to the reflections of chestnut and camphor trees.

Wildflowers color one meadow next to the lake, offering a testament to the fertileness of the land Wozhou nourishes. Shepherds and their herds dot the thick carpets of grass, except for in late spring and summer, when the lake usually rises to submerge the grassland. This may be why one elderly resident donated her life savings to build a bridge to connect the meadow's two sides. She named the bridge, "Longevity".

Even in less clement weather, the lake refuses to relinquish its glamour. Hundreds of flowers bloom throughout the year - apricot, peach and pear blossoms, as well as flower gardenia, lotus, camellia and lavender.

For those who prefer a more nostalgic setting, the lakeside village may offer an idyllic backdrop. Its gray cobblestone streets and wooden doors hark back to the days when the village served as the last stop before the gateway of Tiantai Mountain, an alp regarded by Buddhists as holy.

For centuries the village has drawn monks and literati from home and abroad with its diversity of life. Some settled in the area, while others left their best works behind.

Most couples come here to have their wedding photos taken. Many end up returning for their honeymoons.

"After all, Wozhou Lake has given us the most important pictures of our life," says Lu Li, who came to the lake with her husband-to-be, Guan Ting.

"Whenever we browse our wedding album, we'll recall the happy days at the beginning of our marriage."

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