Tag Archives: Parks and Gardens

For the Love of Lotus Blooms

IMG_20160708_201028[1]

Besides peaches, lotuses are perhaps one of the more culturally significant plants in China. It has a particular resonance within Buddhism, and they flower can take on multiple meanings as both a symbol and a metaphor. A lotus, for example, grows out of mud and muck — and that can be taken as a sign of rising purity.

One can ponder all of this significance, or one can just enjoy looking them. Lotuses are fascinating plants, the blooms are lovely, and the seed pods sometimes look downright alien and extraterrestrial when compared to simpler flowers.

In all of Changzhou, there is one park that is especially dedicated to this flower. It’s in the northern end of Zhonglou and near the border with Xinbei. It’s called He Yuan 荷园 — which translates as “Lotus Garden.” It certainly is an appropriate name, because lotus grows very thickly here.

IMG_20160708_202259[1]

The park is laid out in such a way to give visitors many different ways to view both white and red blossoms, as well as a few other plants. A large pond lays at the center, and there are many wooden walkways. Around the edges of the place, there are also twisting and secluded stone paths. These seem to be preferable on very hot days, because these walkways afford a lot of shade and benches to sit on. One of these walkways leads to a second story viewing deck that allows a visitor to get a more panoramic vista the water and greenery.

I spent about two hours, in the middle of a hot July day, trying to find the most perfect specimen to snap a picture of. Only, it didn’t take me long to learn that I wasn’t the only one doing that. He Yuan was filled with people with cameras doing exactly the same. Some were just people and their cell phones striking dynamic poses with selfie sticks. However, more serious photographers with expensive zoom lenses were also wandering around, trying to find the most perfect lotus blossom to take extreme closeups.

IMG_20160708_200849[1]

It was the first time, however, I also saw this park as crowded as it was. All other times, it seemed empty and largely ignored. But, then, I realized I had first found this place at the wrong time of year. When the lotus flowers are not blooming, there really isn’t much to see except barren stretches of still water.  When winter comes, the only real suggestion as to the park’s purpose is a metallic sculpture of seed pods.

IMG_20160708_203344[1]

 

Lost in Luoxi

IMG_20160424_150107
An moated park closed to the curious.

Changzhou’s airport is located in a far flung part of western Xinbei. Today, I got it into my head to actually ride there on my bike — I have never been there before.  All of my airline travel has been through Pudong International in Shanghai. Funny thing, though. I never made it to the airport. As always in life, I got sidetracked.

In this case, it was in Luoxi. Once you leave the downtown  / Wanda area of Xinbei going west on Huanghe Road, you pass a number of factories. The first township you will pass through would Xuejia. A colleague of mine lives there.  If you keep going, you will pass more factories and open space. Eventually, the next township would be Luoxi 罗溪镇, and that’s near Changzhou’s airport.

In trying to get there, I had been riding for an hour and half on low speed. Still, I was getting concerned about the state of my battery. I really don’t know my true limitations on this bike, yet. So, I resolved to stop at the first thing that looked interesting.  In this case, “interesting” ended up being a little “desolate.”

IMG_20160424_210741
Uprooted trees needing to be replanted.

It was a cluster of places, actually. One of them was called Tibetan Spring Garden 藏春园.  It’s actually hard to figure out whether it’s abandoned or under construction.  I did see construction workers smoothing out concrete as well as other development. But there were facilities here that looked older, and most of them were locked.

For example, there was an island park with a moat around it. These moats also came with gazebos with places to sit and gaze at the — well, frankly — murky water. Some of those gazebos were topped with slightly rusted sculptures of birds. Each bridge to the island remained locked.  There were other places too, like a series of sculptures of important men. A long, winding concrete drainage-ditch looking canal had attracted the attention of one guy and his fishing pole. I had to wonder what he was fishing for. I imagined it had to be carp. They can live in very dirty water, after all.

The desolation carried on with other strange details. Here, I saw dismembered, chainsawed trees that had been uprooted and relocated from other parts of Changzhou. They were just trunks and truncated branches with no hint of  green. I also saw lots of divots in the ground where trees used to be. These were filled with rainwater and floating brown leaves.  Some trees were laying on their sides, with their roots bundled but exposed. They looked placed there for replanting, but nobody had gotten around to it yet.

Yet, you do see people here. Like me, people were riding bikes. Not many, but you did see locals walking around as if this were a public park. My colleague from Xuejia provided a bit of insight. She told me she originally came from this part of Changzhou, from Louxi. “There was a restaurant there. I don’t know if it moved away.” As for me, I didn’t know whether I saw deterioration or rejuvenation. Someday, I will go back and see.

IMG_20160424_151900
At least one person thinks this is a good fishing spot.

Yueyuan Garden

IMG_20151018_122819Changzhou is not particularly well known for private gardens. Bigger cities like Suzhou and Shanghai usually get more attention for that, and well they should. This doesn’t mean th

at Changzhou is a wasteland, either. There are some great public parks like Hongmei, Dongpo, and Jingchuan, but they are more recent creations. Many private gardens in Suzhou are also historical sites that have been around for at least two generations or more. I found such a place in downtown Changzhou, recently that dates from the Qing Dynasty. In fact, I have often passed by it since 2014 without even really knowing it was there.

Yueyuan Garden (约园) is practically right on Jinling Road, and the north-bound 302 bus passes it before crossing over Yanling Road. It’s also easy to walk to from Nandajie. If you walk south on Jinling, pass Tartine Bakery, it’s actually one of the immediate turn offs.

The garden itself is encircled by a circular road and some parking spaces and buildings belonging to Changzhou #2 People’s Hospital. The Garden has two pavilions. One sits atop gray and weathered rocks. The other is on an island in the middle of the pond. A concrete walkway with railings provides access. Besides sit – and possibly eat a takeout lunch – in peace and quiet there is not much else to do here. It is a realatively calm space where you hear the burbling of water more than Changzhou traffic.Yueyuan Garden in Tianning District, Changzhou