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The Eternally Radiant City of Jinan

2020-02-20 17:48:00 Source:China Today Author:LU XIANSHENG
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IF we were to discuss locations of historical artifacts and origins of famous people, the city of Jinan would probably not make it onto the list of big name cities like Beijing, Nanjing, or Xi’an. In terms of natural beauty like towering and magnificent mountain landscapes, Jinan also cannot be compared with the cities like Chongqing, nor in terms of water-oriented scenery could it be compared with Harbin, Hangzhou, or Suzhou.
                 
The Night Feast of the City of Springs Minghu Show is a large-scale commercial performance that exhibits springs and natural landscape. It is created based on the rich culture and history of Jinan City.

That being said, if one were looking for a city that has everything from time-honored history and culture, historical figures, and is endowed with mountains, famous waterways, especially numerous springs — the city of Jinan would be the first choice, a city that is second to none in all of China for being a forever radiant city.

Mountains and Water Landscapes

Even though the mountains of Jinan are not very lofty or famous, they are dispersed throughout the tapestry of the city like a gigantic bonsai tree. Furthermore, every mountain has a story of its own to tell.

Located in the southern suburb of Jinan is Mt. Qianfo, or the Thousand-Buddha Mountain. The mountain is the highest in the region having an altitude of about 258 meters (about 846 feet). Near the Tanghuai Pavilion on the top of the mountain, there is a memorial gate with four characters written on a placard, “qi yan jiu dian,” which literally means “Looking at the nine mountain peaks of Jinan from this location.” The origin of this phrase is a poem written by Li He (790-817) in the Tang Dynasty, in which he describes looking at the nine smaller mountain peaks in the northern part of Qizhou (ancient name of Jinan), lined up single file from west to east, each having their own unique beauty.

In addition to the “nine small peaks of Jinan,” some of the many other mountains include Yingxiong (Hero) Mountain, Jinji (Golden Rooster) Ridge, Liuli (Six-Mile) Mountain, Qili (Seven-Mile) Mountain, and the list goes on. Originally all of these mountains were part of the scenery that surrounded the city, but as a result of urban development, the mountains have become landmarks of the city’s large layout. Even though other cities boast of having a beautiful collection of mountains, the landscape of Jinan has so many unique mountains each having their own legendary origins, making the landscape quite unique.

One of the additional names given to Jinan is “City of Springs.” All the water in Jinan is sweet fresh spring water. Springs dot the landscape of Jinan like a string of pearls, bubbling out of places from small residential alleys, groves in parks, to cracks in rocks in the city moat—there are springs everywhere. Of the commonly known springs in Jinan there are 72, but this does not include the countless number of other springs located through the whole city. The openings of many springs are hidden within cracked rocks, while others are hidden around the openings of large springs. Without public recognition or honor, the springs continue to make their quiet contribution to the sweet spring water of the city.

Water is the lifeline and soul of Jinan, bestowing her with an endless source of romance and vitality.

               

The Daming Lake has taken on a new life of its own, not only attracting tourists from out of town, but also becoming a paradise for the strong winter swimmers in Jinan. 

A Colorful Variety of Bridges

For a city that bears the name “City of Springs,” one would imagine that an additional feature would be bridges — well, that would be correct. Various styles of bridges decorate the city, giving it a very unique landscape. The city is naturally divided up by numerous rivers of various sizes, but the bridges connect it together, becoming the joints and marrow of the city map.

Jinan bridges have their own unique charm. Since Jinan is located along the Yellow River, and the river is very broad and slow to the north of Jinan, when traveling to the north side of the city, one must travel across bridges. One thing that the local people are quite proud about is the completion of the Jinan Yellow River Highway Bridge. The construction of this bridge began in December 1978 and was opened to traffic in July 1982. The large bridge consists of a main bridge and a bridge approach, expanding a total length of 2,023.44 meters. At the time the bridge was finished, it was the largest bridge in Asia and the eighth longest prestressed concrete cable-stayed bridge in the world. When the bridge was completed and opened up to traffic, it was a popular attraction even for local residents of Jinan for a time.

By far one of the most interesting sights on the Yellow River are the floating bridges made from pontoons and iron chains. Whether crossing the river by car, bicycle, or on foot, one cannot help but be awed when looking down at the Yellow River from the center of the bridge. Standing on a floating bridge, especially during a summer day and enjoying the refreshing mist spraying up from the river passing under the bridge is quite a memorable experience.

Probably some of the most unique bridges in the city are the countless small quaint stone bridges often found near spring openings. Cottages standing next to small bridges are common scenes throughout the streets and alleys, creating a cheerful ambiance. Appreciating the small quaint bridges while listening to the gurgling water flow by and observing the rivers as they meander between pavilions and under small bridges along banks that are lined with weeping willow trees create scenes that are more beautiful than paintings and are forever etched in the mind of the observer.

The Qiuliu Garden and Poetry Society

In addition to the springs and bridges, another place to see in Jinan is the Qiuliu (Autumn Willows) Garden.

Somewhat hidden along the southeastern banks of the Daming Lake among the rock formations, there is a rock with the inscription “Autumn Willows surrounded by Fog”. Walking further down the road through the willow groves lies an ancient courtyard. Carved on a placard hung over its entrance are the characters “Qiuliu Garden.” This garden was originally built in memory of a great poet named Wang Shizhen (1634-1711) of early Qing Dynasty.

Wang was very knowledgeable about ancient literature and culture and could identify ancient scripts, paintings, and ancient sacrificial vessels that were engraved with inscriptions. He also was an expert at stone and steel cutting, and during the time of Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) was placed in charge of the main poets alliance of the day. In his spare time, he devoted himself to writing, of which he completed more than 560 volumes during his life. He was praised by his contemporaries and people afterward as an outstanding poet of that era and a famous writer of literature in China.

At the age of 23, Wang traveled to Jinan for a visit. During his time there, he invited people from literary circles in Jinan to meet at a pavilion at the Daming Lake. As a result of the four poems he wrote there about weeping willow trees in autumn, it inspired a large number of poets across China, and writers and poets organized the Qiuliu Poetry Society. After this period of great popularity, people called the small lane that runs along the southeastern corner of the Daming Lake the Qiuliu Garden in memory of the poems about autumn willows by Wang Shizhen.

As one walks along the Qiuliu Garden by the Daming Lake, if one sits back and closes their eyes, perhaps it is even possible to imagine a group of poets enjoying themselves with tea and wine, while creating poetry. The environment inspires visitors with the ancient poetic spirit of days gone by.

Jinan’s discovery, appreciation, and preservation of culture represent not only its appreciation of the past but vision for the future.

Enchanting Winters

Winters in Jinan have a special enchanting warmth, differing much from the frigid winters in northern China and humid winters in southern China. Even when temperatures get low in Jinan during the winter, due to local natural temperature zone, surrounding mountain ranges, low-lying terrain, and numerous springs located throughout the region, as soon as the sun comes out, the whole landscape warms up.

The nine small mountains that can be seen from the Thousand-Buddha Mountain spread out over the northern part of Jinan, in addition to their decorative urban value, also serve as a protective wall for the city during the cold winter months. The foliage on the Thousand-Buddha Mountain is green all year round, representing the warm embrace of the city towards all residents and visitors. The unbroken range of lush mountains to the south of Jinan not only stands as an eternal symbol of green life but also an impenetrable protective wall against the cold northern winds.

Amazing contributions are continuously made by the countless springs in releasing warm steam during the winter months. The hot steam rises up from the mouths of the springs and surrounds the upper part of the hot springs, acting like a humidifier that moistens the air of every street and corner of the city. By just watching wild birds floating across the unfrozen lakes and people as they go winter swimming, one realizes just how warm the lake water is. Lakes here rarely freeze over or dry up.

Scenes of winters in the countryside of northern Chinese cities present nothing more than pillars of smoke rising out of residential chimneys. But when driving through the mountain region in southern Jinan, businesses operating out of small countryside homes are still alive as ever, even during the coldest winter days. The pleasant aroma of food and wine accompanied by joyous sounds of cheerful voices and laughter can be heard everywhere. Jinan is a place where people can travel and enjoy time with friends even in the winter.

The Daming Lake is one of the most beautiful sights to see during winter in Jinan. After a recent expansion of the lake, the ancient Daming Lake has taken on a new life of its own, not only attracting tourists from out of town, but also becoming a paradise for the strong winter swimmers in Jinan. Regular winter swimming competitions not only add to the joyous environment of the lake, but also give people in the city stamina to resist the cold.

During winters here, rarely is the sound of howling northern winds or severe snowstorms heard, and the occurrence of dust storms is even lower. Warm sunlight is one of the permanent residents of Jinan, making it comfortable all year round.

Such a warm city that retains its lush greenery throughout winter and is known for its radiant sunlight — who couldn’t fall in love with it?  


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LU XIANSHENG is an author and calligrapher.

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