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Mountains above the rest, Jilin a must visit

By Martyn Joseph Newlands | | Updated: 2023-07-25 10:06
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The ginseng master holding the ginseng we had found in the forest. [Photo provided by Martyn Joseph Newlands]

One of our last days in Jilin was jam packed day of relaxation, reflection and excitement, something we were all grateful for. We started our day by rafting down a local river, where butterflies adorned the trees like Christmas decorations, brave enough to sit on our faces for a few pictures. From here we made the journey to a rural forest to partake in the intangible cultural heritage protection project of ginseng picking. We were greeted by a master of the craft who guided us into the forest in search of the root plant and, quickly, he found one (he is the master after all). He showed us the correct way to unearth the roots, often used in traditional Chinese medicine. Slowly he picked away as to not damage the plant or disturb the earth around it. He majestically pulled it out and passed it around to us so we could see how the root closely resembled the Chinese character for ren. The practice can only be done during two months of the year and the rest is left for the ginseng to grow back. It can take many years for the ginseng to grow to a profitable size. After he planted the seed that came from the flower of the plant and returned the soil to its natural state, a very conscious and respectful move of the master's part, "give back what you take from the earth," he explained to us.

The jewel of my day and entire trip was our journey to the Changbai Mountain. I had never heard of it before this trip and it is all I have spoken about since returning. The main mountain is a volcano, surrounded by natural hot springs, reaching about 2,660 meters above sea level. I truly felt like I was in heaven. The lake was so vast and calm it was hard to imagine returning to the urban jungle of Beijing in a few days time. Our journey up the mountain was adorned with roaring waterfalls and rapid streams making their way down the mountainside. The mountain separates North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and China, and the surrounding towns are heavily influenced by (ethnic) Korean culture.

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