Part 3 in a long series of posts about my month and a half in China. Part 1 can be read here, and Part 2 can be read here.
On my first weekend in Jinan I hit two of the major attractions of the city: the Shandong Museum and Baotu Spring. On my second weekend I opted to see a third major attraction, and a centerpiece of the city: Daming Lake, “Lake of the Great Splendor.” This 110 acre lake is fed by the artesian springs of the city, and has a lovely tree-lined walking trail around it with a number of historic buildings.
Before I describe my trip, it helps to have a bit of a big picture view of the lake! The map below shows Daming Lake itself as well as the canal south of it that formed the boundary of the old city. The “main” entrance of the lake park is the Southwest Gate, though I took a taxi and got out at the North Gate, which is right where the label is at the top center of the map. On my first visit, I did a full counterclockwise circuit of the lake, maybe not the best idea since the temperature was in the mid- to high-90s.
The North Gate is a bit of a modest affair, as most of the traffic enters through the southern side of the lake, where there are also the most touristy spots to visit.
I, of course, couldn’t resist taking a selfie with one of the lions guarding the gate.
But even this gate has sights of interest — immediately upon entering, one encounters an impressive mural dedicated to Zeng Gong of the Song dynasty, in particular his work in Jinan.
Zeng Gong (1019-1083) was an important scholar and historian of his era, and had achieved fame and recognition for his writing in his teens. He ended up traveling China extensively, writing about his experiences, and eventually was appointed as governor of several provinces in succession, including Qizhou (now Jinan) in 1072. The mural shows some of his accomplishments, including the building of the north watergate of the lake to handle flooding and promoting agriculture and education. The mural also shows him engaged in leisure activities and ends with his subjects saying goodbye as he moved on to another post.
From there, I walked directly to the lake itself, and the following photo gives a good idea of what it looks like walking around it.
It is really a pleasant walk (in spite of the heat), with the lake lined by willows and fields of lotus.
Heading west from the North Gate, I soon came across the Commemorative Hall of Tie Xuan.
Tie Xuan (1366-1402) was an official during the Ming dynasty, and served under the Ming Emperor Jianwen. When Jianwen was deposed by his nephew Zhu Di, Tie Xuan remained loyal to the old emperor and fought for him, and successfully defended Jinan against the upstart. He is most known, however, for his unfailing loyalty — he was eventually captured by Zhu Di, but refused to acknowledge the man in court, even under the most horrendous torture. (Seriously, it’s horrific — I won’t share the details here, but you can read them in the Wikipedia link above.) Incredibly, even Zhu Di tortured Tie Xuan to death, he was impressed with the man’s unwavering faith, and Tie Xuan became honored by the Emperors that followed.
The Commemorative Hall was originally built in 1792 and was rebuilt in 1996.
Neighboring the Commemorative Hall of Tie Xuan is a garden known as Xiaocanglang, which was also originally built in 1792. If I understand it correctly, this small and lovely structure is a part of it, as is the buildings and lotus pond beyond.
The garden’s name literally means “a smaller Canglang,” as it was built in the style of the larger Canglangting in Suzhou.
Amidst the tranquility of the lake, it is a bit unexpected to round a bend and suddenly find oneself in an amusement park on the Northwest side!
This is the Daming Lake Amusement Park. It is apparently rather common for public parks to include at least a couple of amusement park rides to entertain the kids.
The west side of the lake is mostly a quiet and shaded walk, where one can get views of some of the lovely bridges crossing the various waterways feeding into the lake.
I then passed the Southwest Gate of the lake, which is impressive itself.
Entry into Daming Lake Park itself is free; however, there are a few special places which require a small entry fee. On the Southwest side of the lake, one can pay 10 yuan to enter the Jiaxuan Ancestral Hall, a quiet and lovely temple that commemorates Xin Qiji (1140-1207), a poet and military leader of the Song dynasty (Jiaxuan was his nickname).
A sample of his translated poetry, via Wikipedia:
But in the crowd once and again
I look for her in vain.
When all at once I turn my head,
I find her there where lantern light is dimly shed.
Along the South side of the lake, there are fewer buildings, seemingly fewer crowds, and more natural areas.
At this point in my walk, I was getting pretty tired, however — remember that it was 95 degrees outside! — and hastened onward towards the massive building I could see on the Eastern end of the lake.
This building is known as the Chaoran Building, and the original version of it was built by Li Jiong, a Hanlin Academy scholar of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). It apparently lasted for several centuries in its original form, as the poet Pu Songling (1640-1715) lived there for a time. It was rebuilt, however, in 2008 as part of a Daming Lake renovation project.
It is a pretty spectacular complex. The main building is seven floors tall, and is a miniature museum and art gallery.
On the ground floor, you are immediately greeted with some magnificent wood carvings, including the one below, which I believe is called “Overview of Jinan.” One can recognize Baotu Spring in the center.
Another carving that caught my attention is titled, “A Roc Spreads Its Wings.”
On an upper floor, I came across some fossils, apparently found in the area. Google translate described the ones below as “dragon eggs,” though I suspect that isn’t entirely accurate.
Finally, at the very top of the tower one gets a lovely view of the lake as well as the surrounding city, such as the photo I started this blog post with! I also of course took a selfie up there to verify that I made it. The breeze whipping around the top of the tower was a welcome respite from the heat.
After that climb, I was done at the lake for the day, and circled to the North Gate as quickly as I could to get back out of the heat. Along the way, I came across a curious game: folks would toss coins to try and make a bell ring — for luck, perhaps? They could also buy locks to secure to the railing around the pit, perhaps like the “love locks” of the Pont des Arts in Paris. (Though less destructive.)
My final stop of that trip was to take a photo of what is known as the Moon-lit Pavilion.
The only trivia I could find about this pavilion is that there is a secret escape tunnel in the basement constructed by the military governor Han Fuju in the early 1900s. It was used once by a general in 1948 to escape the city at the end of the Battle of Jinan, though he was later captured in a neighboring city.
Though this marked the end of my first visit, it was not my only trip to Daming Lake! I next visited it about a week later, when I was in search of a guitar. I was keen to get some practice in while visiting China, and buying a guitar locally seemed like a good test of my navigation and communication skills. I found a perfect guitar store on a street east of Daming Lake, and picked up the least expensive acoustic they had.
After my success, I went to the North Gate of the lake to hail a taxi, and couldn’t resist taking a selfie with my new prize on my shoulder.
Before wrapping up this post, I should note that the canal circling the old city, which connects both Daming Lake and Baotu Spring, is a really magnificent walk as well. With my former postdoc advisor and a student, we ended up circling from the East side of the lake to the Southern point of the canal. The canal is perhaps even a better walk than the lake itself on hot days, because it is below street level and has even more trees for shade.
There are many natural springs that feed directly into the canal on that southern edge, and one of them is worth mentioning: the Black Tiger Spring. The water emerges from a limestone cave, and the spring allegedly gets its name from a dark-colored rock that looked like a tiger, and the sound of the rushing water sounding like a tiger’s roar. Now, the spring has been modified to make the water flow out of the mouths of three stone tiger heads.
On another day, I was able to get a short video of the spring from the other bank of the canal, and I leave you today with that video, which will hopefully bring you some serenity!