The Tianmu Lake (天目湖, Tiān Mù Hú)is located 8 kilometers south of Liyang City in Jiangsu Province, where Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang Province, and Anhui Province meet. Most of the lake region is located in Liyang City, under the jurisdiction of Changzhou. The region covers about 300 square kilometers, including two national reservoirs. The average depth of lake water is 10 meters with the deepest 28 meters.
Reputed as pearl on the area south of the Yangtze River, the lake was listed as a provincial tourist resort in 1993, and since 2001, it has been listed as one of the prestigious 4-AAAA tourist attraction sites and one of the best nature reserves in Jiangsu Province. The lake is protected by national laws and has achieved the second highest rating for the drinking water quality. The scenic spot has very convenient transportation both inside and outside the area. It also has rich tourist resource, with beautiful scenery, wild life and three unique products as its three distinctive attractions.
The three unique products of the Tianmu Lake is composed of the sweet water, tasty tea, and delicious fish head. Since the government pays great attention to environmental protection, the Tianmu Lake Scenic Area is well preserved without any pollution and its water keeps the purity and the mineral components of a natural spring. According to statistics from the environmental department of Jiangsu Province, the lake water is better than the national second-level drinking water. The mild climate and humid soil around the Tianmu Lake are perfect for growing tea. With an annual tea yield exceeding 1,000 tons, the area has produced several famous brands, such as the Guiming tea of Sand River and Shoumei tea of Nanshan Hill. The pure water and rich fish food feed various freshwater fish such as cod (Gadus morhua). The flesh of the cod is as soft as bean curd, and very delicious.
The leaves for making the finest green tea in "Jiangnan" have to be picked during a certain period, between the two seasonal dividing points of "Pure Brightness" (Qing Ming, in mid-March) and "Grain Rain" (Gu Yu, in mid-May). After that, the higher the temperature, the more bitter the tea becomes. The area around Tianmu Lake is a major production base for top quality green tea in China and also the venue for the Liyang Tea Festival, one of the most influential tea-related events. The festival is usually held in late-April, when the early batches of the year's tea leaves have been processed into fine green tea. Besides tea-drinking, some academic forums on Chinese tea culture are also held during the festival for tea-lovers to learn more about their favorite drink.
Another "mustn't-miss" at Tianmu Lake is the unique "Tianmu Lake Fish Head Casserole". This dish was originally invented by cooks from the Tianmuhu Hotel, and has developed into a local delicacy. The head of the “big head fish” from the Tianmu Lake is prepared with mysterious seasonings and presented in milk-like soup in a characteristic giant oval terrine. Though at present this dish is available in other places in vacuum packs, you may never get to know how truly delicious it really is without going to the Tianmu Lake and enjoying an original taste.
How to get there: Liyang has neither a railway station nor an airport. Transport is all via road. Take long distance bus at Hutailu Long Distance Bus Station. Bus departs from Shanghai to Liyang in every 30 minutes. About 2.50 hours drive. After arriving at Liyang, take bus 9 to Tianmu Lake.