Epicure - - CONTENTS -

Aman’s ho­tels have never failed to im­press, but its first Shang­hai prop­erty raises the bar. Amanyangyun not only in­volved the re­con­struc­tion of a his­toric village, it also saw the relocation of a forest some 700km from where it orig­i­nally was. By Justina Tan

While all Aman prop­er­ties share a sim­i­lar DNA – off the beaten track, sur­rounded by vir­gin na­ture, and ex­posit­ing dis­creet lux­ury with a deep re­spect for the lo­cale’s cul­ture – only one can boast the stag­ger­ing relocation of a cam­phor forest and the stone-by-stone dis­as­sem­bly (and sub­se­quent re­build­ing) of 50 Ming and Qing Dy­nasty village build­ings from Jiangxi province to 10 hectares of land on the out­skirts of Shang­hai.

Mon­u­men­tal marvel

Freshly minted this Jan­uary, Amanyangyun has a ro­man­tic back­story to match its peace­ful, re­fined spa­ces. In 2002, a young Chi­nese real estate en­tre­pre­neur, Ma Dadong, re­turned to his child­hood home in Jiangxi, only to dis­cover that his home­town and the sur­round­ing forest would soon be lost to the con­struc­tion of a dam. To save his cultural her­itage from a wa­tery fate, Ma set plans afoot to up­root the cam­phor trees and break down cen­turies-old Chi­nese res­i­dences, and trans­port them to Shang­hai.

It was a mas­sive un­der­tak­ing that took no less than a decade. Ac­cord­ing to Amanyangyun’s gen­eral man­ager Benoit Amado, there were ap­prox­i­mately 100,000 stones used in each of the 50 an­cient Jiangxi homes. Each home was dis­as­sem­bled stone by stone and beam by beam; ev­ery piece was then cat­a­logued and stored. Even doors, walls and win­dows of the orig­i­nal homes were sal­vaged. Each of the 26 an­tique vil­las and res­i­dences that now make up Amanyangyun took three years or more to re­con­struct, thanks to painstak­ing restoration of these sal­vaged parts by skilled ar­ti­sans.

Just as in­te­gral to the re­sort’s his­toric dwellings is the mys­ti­cal forest that also took a long jour­ney from Jiangxi. Though mas­sive, the cam­phor trees were del­i­cate and ne­ces­si­tated speedy up­root­ing and swift trans­porta­tion to Shang­hai (700km away) dur­ing traf­fic-free hours of the night – 80 per­cent of the 10,000 trees sur­vived the re­plant­ing process. At the heart of the forest is the old­est and tallest of the lot. Aptly chris­tened the Em­peror Tree, ho­tel guests are in­vited to wa­ter the 17m ever­green upon ar­rival as part of a wel­come cer­e­mony con­nect­ing the present to the past.

Aman per­fec­tion

When Aman inked a deal with Ma in 2009, they brought award­win­ning Aus­tralian de­sign firm Kerry Hill Ar­chi­tects on board

to put to­gether the 500-year-old struc­tures that had been so metic­u­lously taken apart, and to breathe life into the prop­erty that would be­come Amanyangyun. Swathed in a nat­u­ral palette to com­ple­ment the ma­te­ri­als used in the orig­i­nal struc­tures, the interiors are decked in wood, stone and bam­boo, flooded with nat­u­ral light, and de­liver mes­meris­ing forest vis­tas. Fin­ished with sub­tle Asian ac­cents like lat­ticed screens and lamps, 13 of the 26 dwellings are now four-bedroom an­tique vil­las that each house a pri­vate pool, Jacuzzi and court­yard. Twelve have been con­verted into res­i­dences that in­clude features like cin­e­mas, gyms and un­der­ground wine cellars. How­ever, the last villa is the pièce de ré­sis­tance.

Coined Nan Shu Fang (af­ter the royal pav­il­ion in the For­bid­den City), the build­ing is the most ar­chi­tec­turally im­pres­sive struc­ture to have made its way from Jiangxi. Fea­tur­ing fur­ni­ture crafted from nanmu wood – char­ac­ter­is­tic of Ming interiors – the pav­il­ion is a mod­ern recreation of the ‘schol­ars’ stu­dios’ of China’s 17th cen­tury literati. Guests can en­joy ac­tiv­i­ties such as cal­lig­ra­phy work­shops, mu­sic, paint­ing, tea and in­cense cer­e­monies, and Kunqu opera per­for­mances.

One of the largest in the Aman col­lec­tion, this ho­tel’s Aman Spa is set around a pic­turesque cen­tral court­yard. The complex houses eight treat­ment rooms, two dou­ble spa suites, a plunge pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and two swim­ming pools (one in­door and one out­door). It also has a yoga and pi­lates stu­dio with three walls of floor-to-ceil­ing glass of­fer­ing tran­quil views of a lake and forest gar­dens. The re­sort boasts five restau­rants and bars, but the one that stands out most is Lazhu. Pay­ing trib­ute to Jiangxi, where the cam­phor trees and vil­las orig­i­nated, the Chi­nese res­tau­rant serves dishes con­ceived dur­ing the Ming and Qing Dy­nas­ties with Can­tonese clas­sics. It in­cludes sea­sonal pro­duce from Amanyangyun’s on-site or­ganic herb and veg­etable gar­den.

The brand’s sig­na­ture Asian-in­flected min­i­mal­ist aes­thetic works won­ders when mar­ried with the rus­tic tim­ber beams, soar­ing ceil­ings and or­nate stone carv­ings and in­scrip­tions of Jiangxi’s an­cient homes. If there’s one thing that Aman is ex­tremely skilled at, it’s in­cor­po­rat­ing con­tem­po­rary touches into his­toric build­ings with­out ever los­ing the soul of the place.

Amanyangyun mar­ries a min­i­mal­ist aes­thetic with the rus­tic tim­ber beams and the soar­ing ceil­ings of Jiangxi’s an­cient homes.

The Lakeside Café is one of six din­ing out­lets at Aman’s first Shang­hai prop­erty.

Interiors are swathed in a nat­u­ral palette and decked in wood, stone and bam­boo fur­nish­ings.

A mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of China’s 17th cen­tury ‘schol­ars’ stu­dios’, Nan Shu Fang of­fers ac­tiv­i­ties such as cal­lig­ra­phy work­shops and Kunqu opera per­for­mances. Fea­tur­ing or­nate stone carv­ings and in­scrip­tions by skilled crafts­men, each an­tique villa took three years or more to re­con­struct.

Ev­ery villa bath­room boasts a gor­geous stone bath.

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