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High-speed destinations for the holiday II


Capital of Shandong province, Jinan is an unassuming city often neglected by tourists for their last minute China travel deals. However, the city offers more than one might expect.

Jinan is nicknamed "City of Springs" because of its abundant supply of artesian springs. Most of the springs, many of which have been historically listed under the "72 Famous Springs,” are located in the downtown district and flow north where they later converge in Daming Lake.

The Baotu Spring Park is Jinan’s most popular tourist site. Baotu means "jumping and leaping", because the water in the spring pool can be seen foaming and gushing, taking on the appearance of a pot of boiling water.

The spring was visited by the Emperor Qianlong (1711–1799) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) who declared it "the first spring under the heaven". A tablet upon which the Emperor wrote "Baotu Spring" stands beside the spring pool.

Baotu Spring is the most famous spring in Jinan, but it’s the more down-to-earth small springs that dot the old districts that give the city its personality.

The late-Qing author Liu E describes Jinan's cityscape in his novel The Travels of Lao Can as, "Every family has spring water, every household has a willow tree.”

Now maybe not every family has spring water, but if you stay at the Pearl Spring Hotel, you can enjoy the accompaniment of a spring in the courtyard.

Walk outside of the hotel and follow a small alleyway to the west and you will see traditional houses that seem unchanged from centuries ago. Walk further and suddenly you will find yourself in front of a big spring pool in the heart of the alley.

This is Zhuoying Spring, or more colloquially known as the Wangfu Chiz (Pool of the Prince’s Household). The combination of the pool and the houses beside it both create a picture right out of Venice, Italy. People swim in the pool throughout the year, as the spring water is warm in winter and cool during the summer. If you don’t feel like partaking, you can watch people play chess by the pool while enjoying the atmosphere of old Jinan.

When you have worked up a healthy appetite, you can visit the nearby Furong Alley, where you will find something interesting in the restaurants and stalls offering food from all over China. In the alley there is a small temple worshipping the god Guangong, in which you can also find a small spring.

In April when spring comes and willows turn green, it’s a good idea to drink tea at a teahouse beside Daming Lake to experience more for your top China tours, or ride in a boat to around Jinan’s moat, one of the few in China currently in existence. Anyway, regardless of what you do in Jinan, most of your activities will be associated with water.


Xi’an used to sound like a remote place from Beijing reachable only by airplane, but now the high-speed train takes you there in about 5 hours. If you get up early enough, you can even leave in the morning and arrive in Xi’an just in time for lunch.

Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi province and the starting point for Silk Road tour, but more importantly, it is an ancient capital of China, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history, including Western Zhou (c. 11th century-771 BC), Western Han (206 BC-AD 24), and Tang (AD 618-907).

With more than 3,100 years of history, Xi'an is also the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army, which is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in the city.

A man clad as a Terracotta Warrior draws visitors' attention to the first major US exhibition of relics of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).[Photo by Chen Gang / China News Service]

The Bell Tower and Drum Tower, located in the city’s central axis and two must-see Xian tourist attractions, is a good area to stay in. Although the drum and bell no longer announce the official time, the structures still provide one with a historic feeling.

The area is close to Muslim Street, which is full of Muslim restaurants. Here you can taste authentic Xi’an snacks like soup dumplings and pita bread soaked in lamb soup, among many other delicacies.

Muslim Street is part of the Muslim Quarter of Xi’an, which came into being during the Tang Dynasty and practically remains intact to this day. In the heart of the Muslim Quarter is the Great Mosque of Xi'an, which was founded in 742 and is one of the oldest and most renowned mosques in the country.

The mosque is completely Chinese in its construction and architectural style, except for some Arabic lettering and decoration, showing the efforts of Muslims acculturating to the local culture.

A popular tourist site of Xi'an, the mosque still functions as a place of worship and you may see Chinese Muslims congregating to pray if you visit at the right time.

Xi’an contains hundreds of royal mausoleums and tombs from different dynasties. The city also has numerous ancient pagodas and is noted for its stele forest, which is housed in an 11th-century Confucian temple containing large stone tablets.

One of the easiest ways to soak up Xi’an’s history is to take a walk on its well-preserved city wall, which was re-constructed in the 14th century and still surrounds the historical city’s downtown area.

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