Heze – a “peony” city – sits at the southwest corner of Shandong Province. It is also a region of eight counties that bears the same name. The total population is over 8.8 million.
Peony, the National Flower. Peony is China’s national flower, very much like turnips are the Dutch’s national flower. In the Chinese culture, peonies symbolize elegance, dignity, and prosperity. It certainly fits Heze.
A true peony town. Peony passion is felt as soon as you arrive in town. There are peony gardens almost everywhere in Heze. There are farms which occupy 80,000 sq km, the largest in China. Peony farms supply 9 colored flowers to 100 other cities in China and export to 20 countries including France, Japan and Canada. Peony by-products is the major local industry. They are available as cosmetic products, nutritional supplements, foods, industrial designs, textiles, etc. You name it, they have it. Step into any shopping mall and you will find peony-related products at every corner.
Peony season. The best time to visit Heze is between April and May where the peonies are in full bloom. The whole of Heze is buried in a huge flower bed with fragrances so enchanting you will not want to leave. Be sure to visit the Caozhou Peony Festival in April and May if you are in town. The festival often draws millions of tourists, artists and traders every year. It is also truly a carnival loaded with hundreds of events that you could take a few days to digest. One thing for sure to participate in is the peony-themed culinary shows and tasting some of Heze’s peony-related foods.
Peony Museums. Heze is also host to major peony research facilities in China. Peonies in Heze are biologically classified into 10 categories and 1,237 varieties. Scientists make them blossom at all seasons for research purposes. If you missed them in April and May, you can still visit peony museums which are available all-year round. Good to see a full blossom in white snow.
Travelling to Heze is a breeze. The distance from Qufu, Confucius’ hometown, to Heze is 170 km. They are connected by the inter-state highways. Backpackers often take buses as well as local trains to reach Heze from anywhere in Shandong. If you are travelling by bullet train from Beijing, it takes approximately 4 hours to arrive. And if you are arriving from abroad, it is only 2 hours by car via the newly constructed highway from Jinan Airport.
The Water Margin Park at Yuncheng is Heze’s 2nd charm at the national level. Heze is proud to be the place where of the Chinese Robin Hood saga “the Outlaw of Water Margin” happened. The story describes how 108 local legendary heroes banded together and punished corrupted officials. It also paints the lives of the 108 who hunted in the woods daily, robbing the rich to aid the poor. The story was written about 900 years ago.
The Water Margin Hero Town at Yuncheng is first of our highly recommended places in Heze. Yuncheng County has a very long history. The Yuncheng county castle was initially constructed as a fortress to ward off neighboring contending states by the Lu Kingdom in 587 BC. It was completely restored to a historical town with 36 courtyards built precisely to the themes in the novel, 72 action-scenes, and 108 “notable places” from the novel. You will find heritage museums, county courthouses, the Timely Tea House, Martial Club, Aunt Sun Inn, and national heritage folk arts including paper cutting, embroidery, and paintings based on 900 year old stories. All the buildings have been restored to its original conditions. All streets and layouts of each building style are based from the descriptions of the novel. Foods prepared have also been cleverly illustrated in banquets as described in the novel at all restaurants. Plan at least one full day to wander around the streets. If you have time to spare, you can see related historical events carved into the high ceiling beams and pillars in much detail. For visitors interested in culture and architectural heritage, you will find a mixed architectural style of China’s southern provinces. These pieces have been brought from afar, disassembled, and reassembled into its original form with each piece coded with a unique serial number that perfectly matches. The workmanship is extremely superb that you will be shocked at its details. Leave enough time for the weaponry showcase later in the evening. There are long knives as heavy as 130 kg. Fortunately, there is a local club that has been practicing the maneuvering technique of those high ranked martial art masters. Their titles have been granted as generation are passed on. Hear the sound of flying swords as each performance blow you away. Greeted everywhere by historical characters from the novel in costume, you will be able to join martial art teachers to loosen your back and sharpen your skills Dine with “local heroes” to get the true sense of what it means to “drink wine with jumble bowls, and swallow pork shoulders by chunks” as depicted in the novel.
Songjiang Martial Art School. Songjiang is a leading character in the novel. He was the one who started the band of heroes and was able to convince the rest of the 107 wondering marshals to join his camp. The best martial art school in Heze is named after Songjiang. It is located inside the Water Margin Hero Town. It is a boarding school with 3,600 students nationwide. Not only does the school teach students from China, but there are many international students as well. In addition to academic courses, students are trained with the best masters. Many of whom are national champions. You will see performances by students as part of your touring package. What do you think of their skills? Some of these students have even performed at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Do not be surprised when a few national champions from the school who are current students greet you.
Sun Bin Museum. Sun Bin (Sun Tzu’s descendent) is a well-known military strategist. Many Chinese people confuse Sun Bin with Sun Tzu since both of them had written books with the same name, the Art of War and are recognized in history as distinguished military strategist. On top of that, since the word, “Tzu”, is a respectful title for high achievers, we call both Sun Tzu and Sun Bin with respect. History opened a new chapter when books written by Sun Tzu and Sun Bin were unearthed in the same place at the same time in Linyi city, less than 200 km from Yuncheng, Heze. These are confirming facts that there are two hometown heroes in Shandong.
Heze is a place where heroes are born.
Plan to stay at least 2 nights in Heze.
1-Day Trip: Peony farm and museums. There are 6 peony gardens close-by to Heze City. Some are known for its history, science research, and garden landscape designs. If you have time, you can add Sun Bin Tourism City to the list.
Or another itinerary: The Water Margin Park at Yuncheng（水浒好汉城）and/or Sun Bin Museum (孙膑旅游城)
2-Day Trip: Water Margin Cultural Theme Park and Songjiang Martial Art School.
Or another itinerary:
Day 1: The Water Margin Park at Yuncheng (水浒好汉城)
Sun Bin Museum (孙膑旅游城)
Day 2: Peony garden – Fangshan Scenic Zone定陶仿山旅游区
Day 1: Sun Bin Museum (孙膑旅游城)
The Water Margin Park at Yuncheng (水浒好汉城)
Day 2: Caozhou Peony Garden (曹州百花园)
Heze Caozhou Painting and Calligraphy Institute (曹州书画院)
Day 3: Shan County (Best food to try)
Food & Drink
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Zhu family used to be the richest in Shan County of Heze region. A peek into his nabsiob of 200 rooms, your first impression could be how easily to get loss. Exhibit by subject such as wedding chamber and wedding rooms are open to public. Old weaving machine was smart in that era. 72 Steps to weave was passed on for generations.
Just around Floating Dragon (Fulong) Lake, it is southwest of Shanxian County. The lake is 21 sq km and 3.5 m deep. It is 4 times the size of China’s well-known West Lake at Hangzhou City. Bike routes around the lake are carefully mapped out by Heze Tourism Commission.
Peony painting is an art by itself. It is featured in detailed object artworks using extremely fine pens. The details of the peony flower are very charming and that is why Heze Academy of Fine Arts gains national fame in peony paintings. Juye County Academy of Fine Arts offers beginner classes starting with flower observation for those interested in learning the art of peony painting. It is intriguing to see the instructors competing against another person’s artwork.
From early-April to end-May, people all over China will gather in Heze to indulge themselves in the sea of peonies. It will fun to see the whole region blasted with exciting activities like the various exhibits, competitions, photo showcases, concerts, county-fairs, feasts, etc. A cheerful and relaxing time for all to enjoy!
Students of Doggie Boy Performance Art Group, who tour the world from time to time to perform martial arts. It is the best martial art troop in all of China. Half of them are only in the freshman class of the elite China University of Sports from the Songjiang Martial Art School. Often, these national champions are taken for granted.
Meet with more than 20 national champions and watch their performance that was performed at the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The school is right next to the Water Margin Cultural City.
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山东省文化和旅游厅 Shandong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism
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