This past weekend has been the Qingming festival and is a national public holiday, so the DH and I, together with another couple, decided to make the most of the time and travelled south from Beijing to visit the ancient city of Yangzhou which is in Jiangsu province.
Yangzhou was considered to be one of the most civilized and artistically sophisticated cities in old China, famed for its poets, writers, calligraphers, and artists. Situated at the confluence of the mighty Yangzi River and the Grand Canal (which runs some 2000 miles from Shanghai to Beijing) it has many waterways and minor canals and is famed for its beauty in the spring.
And the fame is well deserved.
I have never seen so many different types of plant all in bloom at the same time.
Flower beds filled with pansies, violas, daisies and tulips. Not to mention gardens awash with Forsythia, Winter Jasmine, Camellias, Azaleas, herbaceous Paeonies and umpteen Magnolia trees – all covered with flowers blooming as though their lives depended on it. It was an orgy of floral beauty.
We stayed in the Changle Hotel in the old pedestrianised center of the city.
If you ever visit Yangzhou (and you certainly should if you are in China), I recommend the hotel unreservedly.
A series of linked Qing dynasty houses and courtyards have been exquisitely modernised to make a really delightful place to stay. It is like going back in time and yet one has all the modern amenities we westerners like so much.
The place was a haven of peace and tranquility, which was just as well – because being a three day public holiday it seemed as if half the population of China had decended on the city.One of the major streets outside the hotel was wall-to-wall humanity from 9:00am until mid-evening each day.
Despite the hoards of Chinese tourists, we managed to get around and visit several of the historic sights: The Slender West Lake, where we took a boat trip and passed under the famous Five Pagoda Bridge
and climbed up to the Daming Si Pagoda.
The Puhading Mu Yuan – which is an ancient Muslim cemetery and mosque on the banks of the Grand Canal was fascinating – more about this in another blog post.
And by getting up early to beat the crowds we were rewarded with a wonderful half hour alone in the famous Ge Yuan (right opposite our hotel) which is an enormous and beautifully laid out classical Chinese garden, originally belonging to the Ge family who made their fortune as salt-merchants on the canal hundreds of years ago.
There was not enough time to visit all the places I would have liked, but we intend to go back for a second visit, perhaps in the autumn.