Qingdao's Zhongshan Park is located slightly inland from the shores of picturesque Huiquan Bay, behind the built-up Huiquan Square area. Qingdao lies on the mini-peninsula that forms the northern arm which, together with the southern arm on which the city of Huangdao is located, form a set of pincers, as it were, that surround Jiaozhou Bay, which in turn lies roughly midway along Shandong Peninsula's southern coastline. The park, which has a history not at all related to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, as will be revealed presently, got its present name in 1929 in honor of the Republic of China military strategist and national hero, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, whose name at birth was Sun Zhongshan (it was during the end of the Imperial era that the revolutionary Sun Zhongshan began to style himself Sun Yat-sen - in China, there is a long, centuries-old tradition for men (and women) of letters to give themselves an artistic or literary name after their own choosing).
It should be noted that there are at least 40 Zhongshan Parks in China, and a handful exist abroad as well, so highly is the military strategist and national hero revered among the Chinese people. Arguably, the largest and most prestigious Zhongshan Park lies in Beijing (it has lots of concrete monuments, arches and stelae), while the prettiest Zhongshan Park (think blossoming cherry, plum, crab-apple and magnolia trees, and green gardens with colorful flower beds such as chrysanthemums) - the denizens of Qingdao would insist - lies in Qingdao.
The park, surrounded on three sides by mountains, looks out in a southwesterly direction on Huiquan Square, beyond which lies Huiquan Bay, on whose northwestern rim lies Bathing Beach No. 1. The park offers several attractions, including a zoo, a botanical garden, a Buddhist temple (Zhanshan Temple) and Qingdao's TV Tower, from whose observation decks, weather permitting, one can see the entire harbor area on the southern side of Qingdao. Qingdao Zhongshan Park is the city's largest, most well-appointed and most well-maintained park. It is the city's most frequented park, and it is also considered by the residents of Qingdao as the most beautiful Zhongshan Park in all of China, and in fact, one of China's most attractive parks, period.
The park features several gardens, including a Chinese Herbaceous Peony Garden, a Chrysanthemum Garden and a Sweet-Scented Osmanthus Flower Garden. It also features a 500-meter Oriental Cherry Road (sometimes referred to as the Cherry Blossom Corridor, since the road is lined on both sides by cherry trees), a Plum Blossom Road, and the crab-apple, the fragrant cedar and the exotic, near-tropical magnolia tree can be found everywhere, and is especially beautiful when in bloom. The park also features a small lake, Little West Lake, named after the more famous West Lake near Hangzhou. The cherry, plum and magnolia trees draw large crowds - and are a wildly popular photo shoot - when in bloom (many of the most impressive, most acclaimed photos of tree blossoms on Flickr.com stem from Qingdao Zhongshan Park).
It is said that the park contains the largest collection, in one single location, of cherry trees outside Japan (some 20,000). This is not so surprising, given that the park was originally planted as an experimental outdoor arboretum by the Japanese in 1915, during a period when Qingdao was under Japanese occupation. It is also said that the new Chinese city administration that replaced the Japanese city administration in 1922, when Qingdao was retaken, was pleasantly surprised the first year they witnessed the blossoming of the many fruit trees in the arboretum the following spring.
Much of the original arboretum was left intact when it was decided to create a park on the site, which officially became Qingdao Zhongshan Park in 1929, when other features of the park such as the many flower gardens had been added. The park holds an annual Cherry Blossom Festival - the city's main festival - which naturally takes place when the cherry trees are in bloom, sometime during the end of April/ the beginning of May. As part of the festival, a Princess Cherry Blossom Beauty Contest is held, and Qingdao Symphony Orchestra performs for the gathered public in an open-air concert.
The first such festival was held the year after the park was christened Qingdao Zhongshan Park, meaning that 2010 will be the 80th anniversary for this popular festival. The pink blossoms of the cherry tree are a beautiful sight to behold, and when the petals begin to fall, it is as if the heavens are snowing pink, so numerous are the cherry trees of Qingdao Zhongshan Park.
Besides the Cherry Blossom Festival, there is an annual Chrysantemum Show during the fall at the park, and parts of the annual Summer Lantern Festival in early July (in accordance with the Chinese Lunar Calendar) are held in the park, with lanterns everywhere round about the city, even on the boats that are moored up in the many small bays and coves around Qingdao, including Huiquan Bay near the park. Qingdao Zhongshan Park is also the main venue for carnivals during the National Day celebrations on October 1st.
There is a full-fledged restaurant in the park, as well as several snack stalls where one can enjoy a quick bite to eat and something to drink, so one can easily hang out in the park all day long without the need to go elsewhere to dine, etc. The zoo charges a small admission, and the rides there (a sort of mini Tivoli) cost extra, but are inexpensive. It is this diversity, with something for everyone, that makes Qingdao Zhongshan Park so popular with foreigners as well as with the city's local residents.