Baotu Springs Park is situated in the city of Jinan, Shandong Province. Besides being home to 70-odd renowned artesian springs, the area surrounding the city of Jinan is also home to Bamboo Woods Garden with its memorial hall dedicated to the famous 20th century painter and calligrapher, Li Kuchan (1899-1983), the Three Grand Halls, and a memorial hall on the grounds of Baotu Springs Park itself dedicated to Li Qingzhao (CE 1084-1151, circa), the famous writer and poet of the Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasty who is regarded by many as the preeminent female Chinese-language poet. Baotu Springs Park is a natural rock and spring garden park, defined first and foremost by its natural springs, of which the most famous is Baotu Spring itself. Other prominent springs in the park are Shuyu Spring and Jinxian Spring.
Also called Jianquan Spring, the waters of Baotu Spring gush forth with a thunderous roar from three holes in the underlying bedrock. "When the springhead gushes up", wrote geographer Li Daoyuan during the Northern Wei (CE 386-533) Dynasty, "the water rolls like a wheel". The waters of Baotu Spring preserve a year-round temperature of 18 degrees celsius (65 degrees Fahrenheit), with the result that a cloud of mist often curls up over the spring on winter days, its uppermost extremity constantly sliding upwards into oblivion as fresh mist forms below.
One of the prettiest springs of Baotu Springs Park, Shuyu Spring is a shallow pool whose bed consists of egg-shaped multi-colored cobblestones. Li Qingzhao, the famous female writer and poet of the Song Dynasty (a crater on the planet, Mercury, has been named after her), is rumored to have once washed her face in Shuyu Spring's jade-colored water. A memorial hall in honor of Li Qingzhao now stands beside the spring. Guo Moruo (1892-1978), another eminent but more contemporary female Chinese writer, inscribed the following lines on the columns of Li Qingzhao Memorial Hall in praise of her Song Dynasty compatriot: "Deep within the poplar wood beside Baotu Spring near Daming Lake, the former residence of Li Qingzhao can be found, while her great literary works are to be found among the Jin Shilu Quotations of the Shuyu Poem Collection".
Jinxian Springs consists of a set of two rectangular stone pools, the one being the new Jinxian Spring, the other the old Jinxian Spring. The name of the springs derives from a rare occurrence: when both springs simultaneously spout sufficiently forcefully, jets of twinkling water, or "golden threads" ("jinxian"), intersect above the two stone pools. It is said that the phenomenon of the "golden threads" occurs only under good weather conditions, and that those fortunate enough to observe the phenomenon will thereafter be blessed with luck.
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Bamboo Woods Garden
As a private garden of unique styles, Bamboo Woods Garden was originally built during the Yuan (CE 1279-1368) Dynasty. Shizhan, a prime minister during the Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty, and Wang Ping, a famous poet of the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty, are among the garden's earliest subsequent owners. Later, the garden became the property of the famous warlord just prior to China's liberation, Zhang Zuolin.
Bamboo Woods Garden was officially opened to the public in 1984. In 1986, Li Kuchan Memorial Hall was built in the garden in honor of the famous contemporary artist of traditional Chinese painting. Li Kuchan Memorial Hall is the largest painting and calligraphy memorial hall in China up to the present day. With its 18 exhibition rooms, Li Kuchan Memorial Hall displays over 200 precious items year around, including paintings, calligraphic works and other cultural relics dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynastyies.
Combining the northern Chinese architectural style of the siheyuan, or courtyard house (i.e., a compound consisting of a hierarchy of houses surrounding a yard), with the classic garden style of southern China, Bamboo Woods Garden is dotted with storied houses, halls, pavilions and meandering corridors that connect its various courtyards. Bamboo Woods Garden boasts three unique architectural features: woodcarvings, stone carvings, and brick carvings, which are listed in the Handbook of Chinese Popular Culture, 1994, by Wu Dingbo and Patrick D. Murphy as precious cultural relics belonging to China's cultural heritage.
The Three Grand Halls
North of Baotu Springs Park lies a set of large ancient building complexes called the Three Grand Halls. Luo Yuan Tang Hall, built here during the Northern Song (CE 960-1127) Dynasty, is two-storied, with three rooms. With its gable-on-hip roofs and its up-turned eaves, the architectural style of Luo Yuan Tang Hall stems from antiquity. As Zhao Mengfu, a famous calligrapher of the Yuan (CE 1279-1368) Dynasty whose book, Twin Pines, Level Distance, espoused the application of calligraphic principles to painting, said of Baotu Spring, "the misty clouds of Baotu Spring are more beautiful than those of Hu Buzhu Mountain, the roar of its gushing spring waters are louder than the roar of Daming Lake". This famous verse, written with the vigorous strokes charateristic of the best of calligraphers, and which vividly describes the beauty of Baotu Springs, is engraved on the columns of Luo Yuan Tang Hall.
The other two halls are E Huang Shrine and Nv Ying Shrine, built to commemorate the imperial concubines of Emperor Shun, the legendary emperor of ancient China. A great number of inscriptions on the lattice walls of these two shrines are by the hand of famous scholars. Of special mention are the Double Emperor Steles which record, on the one hand, the epigraphs and poems written by Emperor Kangxi, who ruled China from 1661to 1722, during his three visits to Baotu Springs, and, on the other hand, the epigraphs and poems written by Emperor Qianlong, who ruled China from 1735 to 1796, during his two visits.
With its many sparkling springs, its halls and pavilions with their carved beams and painted rafters, Baotu Springs Park and its environs resemble something of a fairyland. Prominent writers, poets and philosophers of China's dynastic past such as Zeng Gong, Su Shi, Zhang Yanghao, Wang Shouren and Pu Songling have heaped praise on the virtues of Baotu Springs Park. With such a rich cultural background, it comes as no surprise that Baotu Springs Park has become a popular tourist attraction among both Chinese and foreign visitors.