Friday, March 4, 2011

Plum Blossom Festival

Teaching continues to go pretty well, and I'll provide an update on that sometime soon. But I thought you might enjoy hearing and seeing something about some recent excursions Jill and I have taken around town. One of the most beautiful, surely, was our visit this week to the Plum Blossom Festival, an annual event staged here from late February till about mid-March. This year's event opened February 25 and will last through March 13, so there is still time to visit if you find yourself in Nanjing soon!

Plum Blossom Valley and Plum Blossom Hill are located along the lower reaches of the Purple Mountain (Zhijin Shan), probably the best-known tourist site around Nanjing. Visible from the university (at least on clear days), the Purple Mountain has an observatory atop it, numerous monuments from Ming times, and also serves as home to the mauseoleum of Sun Yat-Sen, generally known as the founder of modern China. Nanjing's metro line no. 2--which extends out to the new university campus--also passes by the foot of Purple Mountain, so it was an easy ride to get out there and a short walk from the metro station to the plum blossom gate.  We went there on a weekday, and, given the crowds, this was a wise decision; weekends must be really packed, at least when the weather is good.  There is an admission charge, although seniors get a reduced price, which must have accounted for the numerous seniors whom we encountered during our stroll.

Clearly the product of many years of planting and tender care, the plum blossom park is quite spectacular, and features many different colors and shades of plum trees. Although quite a few trees were already in bloom during our visit, it was clear that some other trees had yet to bloom, so that a visit at any time during the festival would probably prove equally spectacular.

All the pathways are lined with plums, but gardeners have also created some other planting schemes that help set off the trees in different ways. In one zone plum trees stood in the middle of a field of tended bushes; in another magnolia trees rose over the plums, the magnolia blooms just beginning to unfurl; and perhaps most spectacularly, plum trees dotted the entire rise up to a hilltop pagoda.

There was every shade of pink and purple, white, and even yellow plum blossom.
As great as it was to see all these blooms of spring, perhaps it was even more enjoyable to see how much Chinese visitors were enjoying themselves. Everywhere groups had spread out blankets upon which they had settled to enjoy a picnic lunch.  At one end of the gardens, a kind of amusement park had been set up, complete with a long line of stalls merchandising various foodstuffs as well as a bunch of rides for kids--bumper cars, a sort of merry-go-round, swans and duck boats on a little artificial pond, etc.

So everywhere people were having a good time, enjoying the beauty around them as well as family and friends with whom to share these pleasures. As we sat munching some flatbreads (typical of Uigur Chinese), we felt fortunate to be able to sample this very special day.

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