The capital city of China’s Shandong Province, Jinan, is buzzing with a population of 8 million people. It is also known for its wealth of underground water that bubbles up to the artesian wells in Jinan city. There are 72 springs highly acclaimed over thousands of years, and some 700 wells even found within the city limits. Hence the nickname ‘the City of Springs’.
In less than 2 hours from Beijing, at the comfort of the high-speed train, Jinan is also a transit gateway for other destinations around the province. As a modern metropolis, Jinan has its share of skyscrapers. The atmosphere is comfortable and playful, but also ambitiously industrial – Inspur, China’s leading technology multinational company, is one of the many companies headquartered in Jinan. The Greenland Puli Center is currently the tallest building in Jinan, with a soaring height of 301 meters (988 ft.).
Jinan began to emerge as the present-day city it is today from the discovery of the Yellow River bed north of Jinan in 1852 and the railroad hub built by the Germans in 1912. Though this area had been the site of major ancient cities since the 8th century BC, the discovery and completed major railroad hub led to the city’s further establishments as a major commercial, trading, and educational center in northern China. Jinan later quickly grew to be Shandong’s second largest industrial center populated by textile factories, flour mills, oil and paper presses etc. It later grew rapidly after 1949 with the city taking off as a major center of China’s automotive industry by the 1970s. Jinan is home to the famed Shandong University, established in 1901, and is the 2nd oldest national university in China following after the Beijing University.
Jinan’s sightseeing starts with its spring trails. The Black Tiger Spring is a perfect spot to observe how the locals still live on spring water, just like 1200 years ago. Feel free to join in their filling of spring water with your walking bottles. There is no closer spot to watch and participate in this type of “spring fair” than here. And on top of that, it is free. You can hop over to the nearby street stalls in Kuanhouli – a lively street hub, crowded with young people and framed with a blend of traditional and newer architecture – to sample mouth-watering and creative street foods. And around Qushuiting Street are many colorful street performances to watch. Venture into hidden courtyards that offer workshops in tofu-making, paper-cutting or calligraphy. Try your hand, or shop for a souvenir!
The Daming Lake is a lake of spring water right in the center district of the Jinan City, a famed scenic site since the Tang dynasty (618-907AD). The lake used to be popular spot where literary notables would trade float liquor cups down the stream for poetic remarks. There are also temples, bridges and little islands to discover, with boat rides, and a nightly lightshow. The Dragon Boat Festival is a cultural celebration every May or June with a Dragon Boat Race that is highly anticipated every year on the Daming Lake. Today, 7.3 million of Jinan’s people take so much pride and effort in protecting the springs that they use tap water piped in from the Yellow River (200 km north of Jinan).
Jinan is the epicenter of Lu Cuisine, the most influential among China’s Eight Schools of Cuisines partly because of its heritage from Confucius’ doctrine. Common Lu style entrees include braised sea cucumber, sweet and sour carp, quick-fried pork kidney, sliced fish in wine sauce and braised pork intestine in brown sauce. The supreme master chef in Lu Cuisine, Yan Jingxiang is among the most celebrated chefs in China. His three private kitchens in Jinan are the most sought after eateries in town.
The main cultural center in Jinan has preserved a quaint style with old-school vibes that, to some travelers, could be compared to that of Kyoto, Japan. A stroll down Furong (“Water Lily”) Street and you could find yourselves checked in to a tailor shop, bookstore or finger food stall along the way. Witness the local giving up their seat for the elderly on bus rides. The warmth of the people is another heritage of the city.
Where hot springs bubble
While industries grow
And willow trees blow
We invite you to Jinan –– this is our home
Up until January 2019, it was announced that Laiwu has been merged to be a part of Jinan’s district areas. Laiwu prides itself in its beautiful ecosystem, colorful outdoor activities and the Great Qi Wall, built 400 years prior to the construction of the Great Wall of China. Some call it the great-grandfather of the Great Wall of China.
Nestled only 50 miles or 70 kilo from Jinan Airport to its southeast, Laiwu has 1.3 million residents. With inter-provincial highways, Laiwu is a perfect weekend retreat destination for urban slickers. Real estate in Laiwu’s surrounding areas are booming, and attracting people from all over China to its fresh air, green landscape and convenient transportation.
The Land of Qi-Lu. Laiwu was previously called Ying during the Spring and Autumn Period of China (770-476 BC). It bordered with both the Qi and Lu Kingdoms, which was annexed later in 220 BC by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor to unify China. Located at a strategic position and the center of major powers, Laiwu has often witnessed many well-known battles in China’s history. Together, many stories in history abound. Fun fact: Shandong’s nickname is “the land of Qi-Lu”; everything is related to Laiwu in some way.
Let us start our story from the Qi Wall.
The Jinyang Pass. The Qi Wall was built 2,600 years ago. Its total length is over 1000 kilometers. It took 170 years to build. Shandong TV is running a Qi Wall series of more than 30 episodes. We hope to be able to present to you in English soon.
There are many sections of the Qi Wall that has or are being rebuilt. Nonetheless, this 56 km long Qi Wall in Laiwu is the longest walkable path. And in our opinion, the best section to trek is the Jinyang Pass, where you should start your journey. The Gate of Jinyang Pass is restored, but sections of the historical ruins are carefully preserved to its original state. Trekking along the original sections of the Great Qi Wall no matter what lengths you take will be a refreshing and an enchanting experience. Camping and mountain trekking are also available. Our recommendation is for you not to miss the best one-tenth section of the entire 1000 km length of the Qi Wall, well within walking distance of the Jinyang Pass. The section was last repaired in the Qing Dynasty over 150 years ago. It is a rare treat to see them in its originality before they fell into ruins. We were told they could repair it no further since it would not be able to be preserved to its natural beauty. The best time to trek the walls is in the late afternoon, where you will watch the sunset.
“Cinque Terre” of Shandong. Laiwu affords many opportunities for a closer look into the daily activities of the locals. Similar to the Cinque Terre in Italy, Laiwu boasts its own version with the five villages at the foot of Qi Wall overlooking a large lake called Xue Ye Lake. All five villages are within walking distance. Mountain views within the Qi Wall section are dotted within the historical residences built over the course of 600 years. And newly converted bed and breakfast facilities will make your trip an enjoyable one. These 5 villages are called Fanggan, Wangshimen, Luzuqian, Liujialin, and Nanguishi. Local produce are often found sold along the village paths. Villagers are hesitant to show tourists around, but sometimes you will be offered their country-styled mutton and fish-head soup. “Three Spicy and One Numb” is Laiwu’s local pride. Visit China’s only ginger museum. You will be surprised at how ginger is used to make cosmetics and ice cream.
Each of these villages embodies their own unique charm. The Village of Fanggan has a huge gorge called the Nine Dragon Gorge. A 5 km hike onto the mountain peak and descending to the valley’s bottom is a sensational experience. Stop by a village’s Bed & Breakfast inn to join locals for a lavish 10-course family meal. The village of Wan Shi Men is the highest village in Shandong at 851-meters above sea level. Nicknamed “Family in the Cloud” (Tianshangrenjia), it draws people all over China for their weekend stay to recharge. Do not miss the hidden lake where you will find an astounding view with a great setting, especially on a sunny day for photo-taking.
“A great man (woman) must climb the Great Wall” is noted on your Great Wall Certificate at Beijing. What title do you deserve if you have conquered the “grandfather” of the “Great Wall”?
Food & Drink
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Local Laiwu roasted pancake is squeezed into top 10 list of must-eats in Shandong. The surface is thin and crispy, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Inexpensive and handy anywhere. It can be your snack or meal.
These are steamed buns made with very specific ingredients to create a Jinan-unique taste. It requires half a proportion of pork fat and lean pork, with high-quality soy sauce and sesame oil. And lastly, chicken soup to be mixed with the meat. How to eat it? You would want to find the right technique because the soup overflows easily. That is the best part of these steamed buns.
A traditional snack in Jinan that was first made during the Qing Dynasty. The oil spin is a whirl-shaped oily onion cake with the onions spread out making it so fragrant. The outside part is crisp and soft. During the process of making, oil is needed to add to the dough at least 7 times after each roll to create the delicious taste.
A traditionally well-known congee dish in Jinan. The “sweet foam” is a kind of salty porridge cooked from millet power. The locals also call it “five sweet foam”. Among the many snacks in Jinan, sweet foam is the most cheap and famous snack.
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At China’s Laiwu Steel Mill Museum, you can see how steel is made. The steel is formed through the cornerstone development of modern civilization. The locals have witness the prosperous scene of Laiwu’s steel industry and learned the different processes required for steel making. Up until 5 years ago, the iron and steel industry played a large role in Laiwu. China’s Clean Air Act closed that chapter for Laiwu, but the Steel Mill Museum has kept that chapter of history alive.
The most memorable moment of the Ice Age is the waterfalls there are not affected by time erosion at all. It has remained as it was during the Ice Age. Especially during the winter in Laiwu, nature has frozen time for this waterfall. The colored stone river makes a great hiking place for people to understand the meaning of “Ice World”.
In the 3,400 m2 space, you will find tropical plants and vegetables, flowers, and a ginger museum. Ginger growing is Laiwu’s specialty. Farmers have won many national ginger competitions. You will find many ginger by-products sold at the expo. At this museum, you will learn about China’s agricultural history, seasonal farming customs, and a huge bonsai exhibit.
Mountains are always accompanied by lakes. The Xue Ye Lake is the largest recreational resort area in the entire Shandong province. Xue Ye Lake’s waterway extends to 15 sq km of water space. On the north side of the lake, there is an air strip, a control tower for air shows, and a pilot training school. You will also find an air museum including helicopters, gliders, and single-engine airplanes. Wind-suit flying, air rally, ballooning, drone racing, kayaking, dragon boat racing, scuba diving, biking, running, camping, aerobatics, gliding, helicoptering…
The grand opening of this facility was on September 15th of 2018. Built across two mountain peaks, it is designed to hold 1,500 people. The building height is 120 meters. Its entire length is 240 meters. Be prepared to see someone “crack” the glass, or someone losing their girlfriend when they rush to “safety” by instinct. This will be a story to tell.
It is uncommon to know that Jinan was in fact the first city in China to open a business. It was also where the earliest movie theater opened. The Xiaoguanghan Cinema existed even before than the first cinema in Beijing and Shanghai. You might find the cinema has now turned into a movie-themed restaurant, and it still kept all the old film equipment when the cinema was still in operation. Dine-in to explore what used to be the silent cinema in Jinan.
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Daguanyuan Business District is located on Jingsi Second Road. This shopping mall is popular for selling Shandong specialties and tourist-like souvenirs such as black pottery, root carving and Ejiao.
Tin is the fourth valuable metal followed by platinum, gold, and silver. When the daughter of Emperor Qianlong in 1772 was married, he commissioned a set of tin carving as the dowry in Laiwu and it was known by the world for winning the International Silver Award at the Panama International Exposition in 1915. Tin vases keep flowers fresher for longer periods of time. Vase designs have become valued as a collectable today.
The Muyu stone is a very rare hollow stone, also known as the “returning soul stone” or “phoenix egg”, which symbolizes superstition or expelling evil spirits and disasters. It is also used as a Chinese medicine mineral, assumed to stop bleeding or diarrhea. Visitors who come to Jinan are welcomed to bring home a set as a souvenir.
Pingyin County in Jinan is the Hometown of Roses. This double-petal red rose is famous for its colorful petals, rich flavor and high quality. It is one of the representatives for Chinese traditional roses. Dried roses are also a great gift for bringing back home to friends and relatives.
Ejiao was named as “a medicine for blood-filling” and a “national nourishing treasure”. It is known as one of the “to 3 treasures of traditional Chinese medicine” together with ginseng and velvet. Ejiao originated from Shandong. It would make a great gift for your female friends.
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Because of sandy soil and the temperature difference between day and night, the high-quality cherries are big in size, have good color and sweet taste. Cherry Festival is held every year in the mid of May, and the duration is usually about 10-15 days. You can watch cultural performances, opera performances, and square dance performances, participate in cherry picking tours, and eat cherry competitions.
Deserted steel mills are converted into open spare performance venues at Laiwu. It is code named” Factory Festivals” The neighborhood festival routines turn out 300 shows, much like operas in Italy.
A festival to celebrate the thousand Buddhas at the Mountain. There are little drama plays to watch, traditional music to listen, experience folk customs, or local snacks to try while at the mountain grounds. During your hike, there are the “Thousand Buddha” persimmons to try out too. Usually occurs yearly on the 1st day of Chinese New Year.
One of the Chinese New Year events, where traditional performances and food are served. There will be lanterns, stilts, paddle dry boats, lion dance performances and other activities.
The Lotus Lantern Festival is the main event at the Daming Lake Lotus Art Festival. Visitors may put lightened river lanterns in Daming Lake which represent that their best wishes will come true.
Seasonal: June 24th to July 30th in the Lunar Calendar
山东省文化旅游厅 Shandong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism
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