On the remote margins of the East China Sea, a fishing community has been rediscovered as a “post-90s” travel paradise

On evenings when the East China Sea is balmy and stirred to the right consistency by a passing storm, a chemical process causes the micro-plankton off Huaniao Island (花鸟岛) to glow like tiny blue beacons on the tide. Chinese travel writers sometimes call this the “fluorescent sea” (荧光海) or, if feeling creative, “the blue tears of the ocean.” Locals don’t have a name for it.

“We used to just say, ‘Hey look! The night sea is criminally bright (贼亮 zéiliàng)!’” says Ms. Ye, a middle-aged shopkeeper on the island. “Young people came and told us, ‘this is fluorescent sea.’ None of us are much educated—those who don’t do business with young people, like me, probably still don’t know!”

Huaniao, literally “Flower Bird” Island, sits at the northernmost point of this windblown archipelago of around 400 isles known as the Shengsi Islands (嵊泗列岛). It’s geographically closer to Shanghai than the city that actually governs it—Zhoushan, Zhejiang province—but in practical terms, it’s miles from nowhere.

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author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

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