The Sixth Original Writing Competition
Primary School Group
Platinum Award

Written by Dangfeng Xinyi,
Huayin Chengguan Elementary School, Weinan City, Shaanxi Province, China 
Date: May, 2019


The land of the Qin; Mountains and rivers unending; Songs of home always have another refrain; Stories of home are always followed by another; Shout at the bleeding edge of my lungs; A shout that splits Mt. Hua in twain; A shout that shakes Dragon Qin from its slumber; A shout that curls the mighty Yellow River …” My friend, when you heed these rough Shaanxi opera commands and step onto this fertile land, I want to tell you this …

To the south, Mt. Hua stands as a magnificent and towering ‘lotus blossom’. Kou Zhun (961-1023) glorified Mt. Hua as “There is only heaven above, with no other mountain to compare.” To the north, is Wei River, a dark-green reed girded by a ‘jade belt’. This is the home of Yang Guifei, one of ancient China’s four great beauties, as well as “Guanxi Fuzi” Yang Zhen. Walk along the city’s expansive lotus pond, where “Lotus leaves stretch to meet the horizon and the sun casts a roseate glow on lotus flowers,” and experience the nexus of mountains and water. This city that has produced so many exceptional people is an exceptional place itself.  

The ascent up Mt. Hua’s steep western slope begins for hikers at Jade Spring Pavilion, who follow the cool, clear waters upward past Wuliguan, Shimen, Shaluoping, Maonü Cave, and Yunmen to Qingkeping. The climb between Qingkeping and North Peak is one of the most difficult of the journey. Once you pass Huixin Rock, you have sharp cliffs, the incredibly steep Qianchi Zhuang and Baichi Gorge. Here is where hikers ascend through a narrow crevasse in the living rock face on stairs that are more like a rope ladder unfurled from a helicopter above. The climb is nothing if not terrifying. Laojun Furrow, Shangtianti (Stairway to Heaven), and Canglong Ridge all stand in every hiker’s way. Yaozi Fanshen (Sparrow Hawk Cliff) is an open cliff face climb with views of craggy peaks, oddly shaped stone protrusions, cloud seas, natural springs, towering waterfalls, and historic sites that is popular with hikers from near and far. But the dangerous nature of this trek has caused many to turn back halfway. The opening of a second ropeway has opened the mountain to even more visitors wanting to test their mettle and claw their way further up Mt. Huashan’s craggy face. The friendly residents of Huayin City, the trek guides here, are more than willing to share local tales such as “Cracking the Mountain to Rescue Mother”, “The Sage and the Emperor”, and “Duel on Hua Mountain” with you, interweaving details so vivid you may think they had witnessed the events themselves.

The city cultural park at the base of Mt. Hua is a popular spot for locals to relax and exercise. Several ducks cruising the jadeite-green surface of the lake flap their wings appearing to all like a group of graceful belly dancers out on a lark. Not to be outdone, the mothers square dancing in the park twist and turn with eye-catching abandon, their faces beaming with satisfied smiles. You sing, I dance; a boisterous Shaanxi opera troupe gives an introductory shout, electrifying the assembled onlookers. These elderly Shaanxi opera aficionados are regulars here, believing a day without bellowing out a tune or two simply wouldn’t be complete.   

On sultry summer days, the sprawling lotus pond here is a popular spot for locals to beat the heat, drink in scenes of beautiful lotus fields, and watch fish flitting playfully beneath their leaves. See over there? Ladies striking poses, taking selfies or group pictures together, laughing playfully in the mild breeze. The sunlight reflecting off pond waters casts ripples of light and shadow across these beauties’ faces. It is truly “Crimson reflected off faces and lotus flowers”!  

On market day, West Bridge is inundated by a sea of people and vehicles. Freshly picked coriander, white radishes capped with green tassels, green peppers, pink tomatoes, lanky garlic shoots, and tender summer squash are all here for the asking. Lotus seeds from Shuangquan; sweet potato vermicelli from Bayi; tofu, pine nuts, and walnuts from Huayang -- are all staples of this market. Over here, caged roosters give spirited calls; over there, caged ducks go quack, quack, quack. A young mother with child in arm pulls up a chair and orders a bowl of buckwheat noodle soup. Despite the overpoweringly piquant spices, she clearly savors this familiar treat, thinking indeed that one bowl may not suffice and slurping down the last drop. She certainly appears the seasoned gourmand. Her babe in arms enjoys a bowl of fragrant oil pasties and sour-and-hot thick-cut noodles paired with a Shaanxi pork burger from Pang Nüren. Such signature dishes make a trip to the market complete. Most seasoned market-goers stop in for a fragrant bowl of spicy, thick ma’shi with vegetables. The pot-baked bread chunks in the bowl make this dish a market favorite for Huayin residents, setting their day off on the right foot and inspiring them to invest their all in this shared land of ours.  

In the soft light before sunrise, the streets already bustle with activity. Some people are busily discussing the coming day’s work; others are leading their children to school; still others are carrying their breakfast and, once finished, toss their cardboard boxes into the garbage, earning gleams of approval from nearby street cleaners. Primary school students line up smartly in front of school gates, waiting patiently to begin their daily studies. Little hands carrying the morning’s schoolbooks set the vibe for street scenes in the hours just after dawn.  

When the lights of evening switch on, Huayue Boulevard is impeccably clean and as bright as day. Pedestrians stream endlessly by; the city’s multihued lights illuminating their smiling faces. Binhe Boulevard is flanked by lotus-shaped lights that, when viewed from above, seem suspended like rows of candles floating in a gentle stream. It is a scene that inspires endless imaginings. The “Riverbanks” Scenic Development on the west side of Binhe Boulevard glows as a new city hotspot. Not long from now, the new Water Street project will thread its way from south to north, giving Huayin City even more picturesque charm.

“One robust bellow of Huayin Shaanxi opera; Hometown soil is best; The hearts of the people burst with the dazzling warmth of the azure blue sky; Raise your head and see the day; Breezes roll in billowy waves; An open sea set with cloudy sails; Dreams are built on dazzling rainbows; rainbows that lead to that cloud-draped sky. …”


1. The author introduces the mountains and waters of her hometown, Huayin, as well as its remarkable sights and people. Mt. Hua lies to the south of the city, while Wei River, celebrated in poetry across the ages, lies to the north. Huayin is the birthplace of legendary beauty Yang Guifei as well as of “Guanxi Fuzi” Yang Zhen. The author describes the perilous dangers of scaling the western side of Huashan – particularly the heart-stopping section between Jade Spring and Qingkeping. The trek from the northern peak across the dangerous cliff is another hair-raising experience. The views of craggy peaks, oddly shaped stone protrusions, cloud seas, natural springs, towering waterfalls, and historic sites entice many travelers to its myriad exhilarating challenges. The cultural park at the base of Mt. Hua is a favorite of locals; a place where older men put on brassy Shaanxi performances that invariably electrify their appreciative crowds. The city’s sprawling lotus pond is an ideal respite to the heat of Huayin in summertime. Moreover, the city’s summer treats include buckwheat noodles, fragrant oil pasties, thick-cut noodles, Shaanxi pork burgers, and ma’shi with vegetables. The fragrance of such culinary delights pervades the air of the regular market along West Bridge.

2. The author has deep affections for her hometown, saying that ‘hometown soil is best.’ The writing is sharp and concise and impassioned and deeply meaningful. The essay’s beginning and ending complement one another. This is a particularly outstanding effort.

Reviewer 2:

Powerful and direct writing style; Using scenery to describe the local culture, the local terroir, and life. Using Shaanxi opera as her opening, the author takes readers on a journey through the manifold pleasures of her hometown’s mountains and waters and then uses the opera to close out the essay, leaving a sweetly emotive ‘taste’ on the memory that lingers long afterward.