Eter­nal Springs of Ji­nan

China Pictorial (English) - - Snap­shot - Text and pho­to­graphs by Ce­cile Zehnacker

Iwas in­vited to Ji­nan, the cap­i­tal of Shan­dong Prov­ince, to par­tic­i­pate in a photo event as­so­ci­ated with the restora­tion of Bai­huazhou area, an an­cient block that has re­cently been ren­o­vated into a scenic spot show­cas­ing in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture her­itage and tra­di­tional cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties. Bai­huazhou, which lit­er­ally means “Hun­dred Flower Pond,” refers to the ar­ti­fi­cial pond south of Dam­ing Lake in the Lixia District of Ji­nan Old City that stands right next to this block. It is part of the same wa­ter flow as the Dam­ing Lake. Qushuit­ing Street, sit­u­ated along Bai­huazhou and fol­low­ing the course of Qushui stream, stretches to Dam­ing Lake, pass­ing the Fuxue Con­fu­cius Tem­ple and Bai­huazhou Pond.

The Bai­huazhou area is a great place to visit. The stun­ning ren­o­vated block that stands be­hind the pond hear­kens to an­cient life in China. The block is com­posed of sev­eral small and big court­yards with small ponds sur­rounded by beau­ti­ful build­ings. Some build­ings ex­hibit items that were col­lected over the years and pre­serve the his­tory of the city. Oth­ers demon­strate an­cient tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties like pa­per mak­ing. In the past, the ponds served as the main wa­ter sup­ply for lo­cal residents.

The area around Bai­huazhou is also full of places just wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. Its blood pumps through quiet lit­tle al­leys where lo­cal life hap­pens. At some point we stum­bled upon a sur­prise: a nat­u­ral swim­ming pool sur­rounded by build­ings. Ji­nan is so fa­mous for springs, and it is known as the “City of Springs.” The springs of Ji­nan have made the city pop­u­lar year-round since an­cient times. The wa­ter tem­per­a­ture never drops below 18 de­grees Cel­sius. The “palace pool,” as it’s known, is a des­ti­na­tion for both swim­ming and ex­er­cise. The stun­ningly blue wa­ter is crystal clear, mak­ing the temp­ta­tion to take a quick dip hard to re­sist. Its Chi­nese name “Zhouy­ing” mean­ing “wash­ing out the tas­sel” comes from a poem writ­ten by Men­cius, the sec­ond most fa­mous Chi­nese philoso­pher after Con­fu­cius. Like Con­fu­cius, Men­cius was also born in Shan­dong Prov­ince, con­sid­ered the cra­dle of Con­fu­cian­ism.

The springs that made the city fa­mous na­tion­wide can be found through­out Ji­nan. They are di­vided into four groups. The first, the Baotu Springs group, stands out due to its abun­dance. To ac­cess it we took a tra­di­tional boat ride through the wa­ter-

ways of the city and ar­rived di­rectly in the charm­ing park of Baotu Springs, which fea­tures sev­eral tem­ples and pavil­ions. Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, Em­peror Qian­g­long of Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) took some wa­ter from Bei­jing’s Jade Spring on his way to the south­ern Yangtze River, and drank from Baotu Spring dur­ing a stopover in Ji­nan. He highly fa­vored the lat­ter and dubbed it “num­ber one spring un­der heaven.” Although we weren’t lucky enough to wit­ness it, at times, the wa­ter bub­bles, de­light­ing vis­i­tors. The en­tire park is beloved by the lo­cals for its beauty and seren­ity.

Black Tiger Springs group, lo­cated in south­east­ern Ji­nan Old City, has the sec­ond heav­i­est wa­ter flow after Baotu. The sound of the wa­ter re­sem­bles a tiger’s roar, and three of its ponds are shaped like tigers.

Pearl Springs group is lo­cated in the cen­ter of Ji­nan Old City and is the pri­mary wa­ter source of Dam­ing Lake. Fi­nally, Five Dragon Pool Springs group has a very deep pool, and in years past when a drought struck, residents would pray for wa­ter and rain would come.

Dam­ing Lake, one of the most beau­ti­ful places in Ji­nan, has one en­trance fac­ing Bai­huazhou. It is rem­i­nis­cent of West Lake in Hangzhou. Luck­ily enough, our trip hap­pened to co­in­cide with lo­tus season, and mag­nif­i­cent lo­tuses were blos­som­ing on the sur­face of the lake. Its wa­ter is sup­plied by the city’s springs and emp­ties into the Yel­low River. The 58-hectare lake cov­ers half of the park and makes a great place to stroll or take a boat ride. A unique fea­ture of Dam­ing Lake, also called “The Lake of Great Light,” is that its level re­mains con­stant year-round, and flood­ing and droughts never af­fect it.

Dam­ing Lake is con­sid­ered one of the three must see places in Ji­nan along with Baotu Springs and Thou­sand-bud­dha Moun­tain. Thou­sand-bud­dha Moun­tain lies in the south­ern out­skirts of the city, amidst the moun­tains that sur­round Ji­nan. Its his­tory can be traced as far back as the Sui Dy­nasty (581- 618), when Bud­dha im­ages carv­ings be­gan ap­pear­ing on Mount Li, which be­came Thou­sand-bud­dha Moun­tain. The carv­ings were fol­lowed by the con­struc­tion of a tem­ple named after the moun­tain. It has been fa­mous for ages, and 130 Bud­dha stat­ues dat­ing back to the Sui Dy­nasty re­main there to­day.

With so many in­ter­est­ing and beau­ti­ful places to visit, Ji­nan is def­i­nitely worth dis­cov­er­ing, even though it usu­ally misses lists of places to visit in China. And it’s only a 1.5hour train trip from Bei­jing, mak­ing it a good start­ing point to con­tinue ex­plor­ing the re­gion, es­pe­cially places like Qufu City (south of Ji­nan, about 35 min­utes by train), the home­town of Con­fu­cius, Tais­han Moun­tain (south of Ji­nan, about 20 min­utes by train to Tai’an), one of the five sa­cred moun­tains of Tao­ism, and Weifang (north­east of Ji­nan, two hours by train), the city of kites.

Tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties in Bai­huazhou old block.

Baotu Springs pool.

A fa­ther and son look for fish in Dam­ing Lake.

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