ZHEJIANG, one of China’s smallest provinces but also one of the wealthiest, is made up of two quite different areas. The northern part shares its climate, geography, history and the Grand Canal with Jiangsu – the land here is highly cultivated, fertile and netted with waterways, hot in summer and cold in winter. The south, however, has much more in common with Fujian province, being mountainous and sparsely populated in the interior, thriving and semitropical on the coast.
Cities throughout the province tend to have an attractive, prosperous air. Hangzhou, the terminus of the Grand Canal, is one of the greenest and most visually appealing cities in China, with its famous lake a former resort of emperors; it’s still a centre for silk, tea and paper-making. Nearby Shaoxing, a charming small town threaded by canals, offers the chance to tour its beautiful surroundings by boat. Off the coast, and accessible from Shanghai, Putuo Shan is a Buddhist island with more temples than cars; as fresh, green and tranquil as eastern China gets.