Editor’s note: However variable the theme of times, the original aspiration remains unchanged; however fast the wheels of history are rolling forward, the spiritual backbone stands eternal. China Report is launching a report series titled “Experiencing the Coastal Gateway to the World”. We will invite our readers to travel along the “Rising Sun” scenic route along the winding coast of the Beilun District of Ningbo, east China’s Zhejiang Province, to experience the cultural beauty of a renowned Oriental port and listen to stories about the journey of local people towards common prosperity.
Ningbo boasts both cultural abundance and a wide-reaching coastal transport edge. From these complex veins of culture and growth generates a magnificent dynamism across the vicissitudes of past till today. While revisiting the past, it behooves us to keep pace with the times and add colors and hues to the vivid canvas of new development in the new era.
Beilun District is a well-deserved first witness and contributor to the emergence of Ningbo as a global transport hub. Beilun faces the East China Sea in the east and borders Zhoushan Port in the south, and serves as the starting point of Ningbo-Taizhou-Wenzhou Expressway and the end point of Hangzhou-Shaoxing-Ningbo Expressway. Based on this dense land-and-sea transport network, Ningbo established a framework of routes leading to the world, thus earning the reputation of “Great Port in the Orient”.
“All the rivers flow east to the sea, but when will they return to the west?” Of all directions, “East” appears mysterious, inclusive and diverse. Just as China is located in the east of the world, Zhejiang is located in the east of China, and Beilun lies at the easternmost point of Zhejiang. Here, Meishan Bay is known as “one of the most beautiful coastlines in Ningbo”, from which the “Rising Sun” scenic route stretches from west to east and from south to north.
On the beach, you can enjoy the magnificent scenery of “the sun setting down in the water, leaving patches of green and patches of red”. Looking at the sea, you can feel the detached sentiment of “the sea meeting the sky, while you isolate yourself in a boat free from worldly concerns”. Water nourishes everything, and the ocean accommodates all rivers. Therefore, the “easternmost” Beilun port can be considered the “most inclusive” place. The Maritime Silk Road with a history of more than 2,000 years started here, and Zhoushan Port, the world’s largest port, was expanded from here. Other historical sites and tourist attractions include Shaxi Cultural Site, Ancient Ashoka Temple, and Zongtai Mountain Beacon Tower.
As a star of Ningbo’s “Gateway to the World” themed scenic routes, “Rising Sun” is an important part of the city’s landscaping project, as well as a key window for Ningbo to build a modern coastal metropolis. Particularly, the Beilun section of the route, with the theme of “East Coast Passion” and the concepts of “Rising Sun, Riding the Waves, Braving the Tide, Roaming the Ocean”, is striving to create a panoramic coastline with the beauty of “seaside sports, marine tourism and harbor sightseeing” by integrating various elements such as mountains, ocean, culture, tourism, scenery, and accommodation.
Blending culture with scenery, and history with modernity, the Rising Sun line gathers an array of beautiful scenes and serves as another window to the beautiful city of Ningbo.
The Rising Sun line has a total length of nearly 28.2 kilometers, starting from the junction of Beilun and Yinzhou on the middle coastline and ending at No.18 Wind Turbine in Eastern Big Port Scenic Area, resembling a phoenix lying in the southeast of the city. It has both the serene beauty of a port culture and the vital dynamism of sea sports. Yachting, kayaking, sailing, beach camping……to name just a few of the modern, premium sports and leisure activities. All the way along the track line to the north, a series of high-quality, people-friendly scenic spots have become bright pearls shining on the winding Maritime Silk Road. The Ancient City of Guoju, the Wanbo Fish Resort, and the thrilling Ningbo International Speedpark……a large number of splendid attractions and unique blocks invite tourists to appreciate their beauty, demonstrating the integrated glamor of harbor, industries, urban landscapes and culture.
Ningbo International Speedpark: Promoting Beilun to Go Global
Ningbo International Speedpark (NIS), located in Chunxiao, Beilun District, is the starting point of the Rising Sun line, with an area of 74 hectares and a total investment of 950 million yuan. Designed by Alan Wilson, a world-renowned track designer, the facility was built according to the FIA and FIM Grade II track standards. Viewed from a 15,000-square-meter hillside stand, the entire track, totaling 4.01 kilometers in length, looks like a dragon lying on the flatlands of the mountain. Twenty-two curves with different radii undulate with the mountain, forming a huge height difference of 24 meters. The wonder of this magnificent scene is self-evident. The facility is available for all kinds of races of motorhomes, formula cars and motorcycles, and it is a comprehensive project integrating car amusement activities and commercial and entertainment facilities such as go-karting, car racing clubs and car fairs. In addition, it is the preferred platform for major automobile manufacturers to test, experience and launch new products. In 2019, NIS became the only racing track in China recognized as the national sports industry demonstration project.
It may be beyond your imagination that what is now a “high-end” and “international” racetrack was still a desolate scene with rocks everywhere and no grass growing just a decade ago. It was originally a quarry, and the grandstand built on the mountain was a mine called “Ox’s Neck” by locals, which stopped mining in 2012. Since the ecological environment was poor with the mountain slope bare and rocks loose, in accordance with the principle of “restoration before reconstruction”, the local government invested great time and energy in ecological treatment of this area of 46,000 square meters, such as paring the slope by steps, anchoring the rock mass, hanging the protective net, and spraying and seeding for greening. By 2015, ecological restoration was basically completed, and subsequent utilization of the mine was officially put on the agenda. At that time, Beilun District had basically formed an automobile manufacturing industrial chain, and was planning to build up a new growth driver of industrial tourism to form a whole ecological chain for manufacturing and racing cars. Therefore, the proposal of investing in construction of a racetrack has attracted wide attention from the government and investors. However, as a competitive sport with extremely high risks, auto racing has high requirements on the location choice and construction of the track, which is by no means simply “cutting paths through mountains and building bridges across rivers”. “For a racing car with a low chassis, even a slight road subsidence is fatal,” head of Beilun Branch of Ningbo Natural Resources and Planning Bureau said. “The land in many places in Ningbo is soft, but the foundation of abandoned mines is hard, which gives the transformation an innate advantage.”
In 2017, NIS was completed and commissioned. It has by now held three international events, 23 national events and 12 independent events, with a cumulative attendance of more than 500,000 spectators. A window of communication between Beilun and the world has been slowly opened here.
Nowadays, with its internalization efforts strengthened, NIS’s international influence is expanding. It acts as the “signboard” and “storefront” of Beilun’s coastline, adding an enchanting splash of passion and vitality to the “Rising Sun” line. In return, the building of the “Rising Sun” line will bring more visitors and promote brand building for NIS, helping introduce NIS, as well as the racing culture, to a larger audience.
The renovation and rebirth of NIS embodies the spirit of exploration and innovation, integrates the concepts of “seeking change” and “seeking truth”, and speaks volumes about Beilun people’s indomitable spirit. This is the real majestic beauty hidden under the “exquisite beauty” of refined craftsmanship, expensive materials and top-notch design of “China’s most beautiful racetrack”.