The moat that frames the old city of Jinan.[Photo by Zhao Ruixue/China Daily]
Over a century ago, author Liu E described Jinan in his novel, The Travel Journal of Lao Can, as a place where "springs bubble in every yard, and weeping willows surround every household".
The springs remain icons of Shandong's provincial capital, Jinan.
The 72 that have survived modernization are treasured.
"The springs are part of our lives," says a 60-year-old resident, who gives only his surname, Li.
His family uses spring water to cook and make tea.
The remaining springs surround the 5-kilometer moat that frames the old city and Daming Lake. Hourlong boat rides along the moat cost 100 yuan ($14.5) and stop at five scenic spots－Black Tiger Spring, Square of the Spring City, Baotu Spring, Five Dragons' Pool and Daming Lake.
The Black Tiger Spring, the second-largest spring in the city.[Photo by Zhao Ruixue/China Daily]
Black Tiger Spring originates from a 3-meter-deep, 1.7-meter-wide natural cave. Its name comes from the roaring sound it makes when water gushes out of tiger-head-shaped stones.
Over 10 other springs surround Black Tiger Spring, including Fairy Spring, Agate Spring and Lute Spring.
Fairy Spring's name comes from a folk tale in which nine fairies bathed in its water and loved it so much that they were reluctant to leave.
Baotu Spring Park is Jinan's most-famous spring site. Groundwater gushes to the surface in three spots like boiling teapots. The namesake spring is 3,543 years old, according to historical records.
Sensors measure the springs. And the levels are reported to the public daily. The level averages 28 centimeters annually, thanks to rainfall and water-conservation efforts.
The dark-green springs are 18 C year-round and steam in winter.
The park hosts ancient pavilions, bridges and pagodas among its gardens. The area has long lured writers and artists, who've created works in homage to its scenery.
Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperor Kangxi wrote the characters ji tuan, meaning torrents, in stone beside Baotu Spring. A nearby pavilion honors poet Li Qingzhao (1084-1151). Inscriptions inside report she used the spring as a mirror when combing her hair when she lived there.
Children get purified spring water after scanning QR codes in Jinan.[Photo by Zhao Ruixue/China Daily]
Baotu Spring is a roughly 20-minute walk to Qushuiting Street, a small pedestrian alleyway lined by traditional courtyards with a spring-fed waterway running through the center.
Residents play Chinese chess and chat near the channel. Seaweed in the water seems to wave at the willow branches above.
Water can be seen bubbling up from spots near the foot of the walls that line the road.
Street-side stalls sell da wan cha (big-bowl tea) made using the spring water for about 2 yuan a cup.
Cuisine from Jinan and around China is available in nearby Furong Alley.
From there, it's a short walk to the end of Qushuiting Street, where the moat empties into the 53-hectare Daming Lake.
Over 30 temples, pavilions and bridges orbit the lake. The two most celebrated holy sites are the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) courtyard-style Tiexuan Temple and the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) Taoist Beiji Temple.
A modern innovation on Jinan's ancient spring culture is that people can scan QR codes at 100 drinking fountains around the city and get 250 milliliters of purified spring water pumped from the Shunjing Well. Each person can scan the fountains up to 10 times a day.
"The springs are nature's gift to Jinan," Lixia district public worker Pu Haibin says.
"We hope more people can enjoy them."
If you go
The Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway connects to Jinan. The train from Beijing takes a little over two hours. Black Tiger Spring and Daming Lake are admission-free. Baotu Spring Park tickets cost 40 yuan. High-end and boutique hotels line the city's waters.
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