Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, is widely known as the City of Springs. According to an ancient record, Jinan has 72 famous springs. But, were it not for Daming Lake, Jinan’s springwater would lose its charm.
With a long history, Daming Lake has been a nationally famous scenic spot since the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) and famous for its picturesque view with a ring of lakeside ancient pavilions, residences and temples. It is one of the few springwater lakes in a Chinese city. Covering an area of 57 hectares, the lake occupies the northern half of the city and collects all spring water from the city moat. The average water depth is about 2 meters and the deepest part of the lake is 4 meters. From a bird’s-eye view over the city, the lake looks like a large emerald embedded in ancient square city encircled by a structured moat built in the 14th century.
The southwest gate is the main entrance of the Daming Lake Park. A children’s amusement park was built on the west bank of the lake in late 1970s. The amusement park, the largest of its kind in Jinan, had been a cherished memory for local children until the late 1990s when the Internet started spreading in China.
A small boulevard meanders along the lake bank. On the north of the children’s amusement park are a little park and a patch of lawn, a site for the largest temple fair in Jinan during the Spring Festival each year. You can enjoy the most authentic traditional local snacks, arts and opera performances at the fair.
Historical buildings in the park, such as Lixia Pavilion, Beiji Temple (North Pole Temple) and Tiegong Temple, have presented the traditional style.
Lixia Pavilion owes its fame to a poem written by Du Fu, the great poet of the Tang Dynasty. Two lines of his poem read: “To the right of the sea stands the ancient pavilion; In Jinan there are many celebrated scholars”. The Lixia Pavilion we can see today was rebuilt in 1693 on the Huxin Island (literally Lake Center Island), with two layers and flying eight angles. The carved beams and painted rafters, red walls and green tiles form a beautiful landscape on the island. On the middle beam of the pavilion there hung a horizontal inscribed board with three characters “Li Xia Pavilion” personally written by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty.
Beiji Temple, built in 1280 on a 7-meter-high stone stage on the north bank, is the place to worship the water god, a gaily painted mud statue resembling an emperor. It is also the best place to enjoy the lake view. In the main hall of the temple, there are valuable Song Dynasty frescoes on both sides of the wall, telling the complete story of how the water god became an immortal.
On the north bank is the Tiegong Temple for a national military hero of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Between the two temples is the Huibo Building, or wave-converging building, which is perched on a high solid stone base as well. There is a water canal, equipped with a water sluice, flowing through the bottom of the base. It is the only outlet for the springwater of the lake, called Xiaobei Gate, or small north gate. The canal connects the origin of the Xiaoqing River about 3 kilometers away in the north by an open watercourse of 5 meters in width. The Xiaobei Gate is a crucial water-control project for old Jinan. It keeps springwater in the city during droughts and drains off the water in rainy seasons.
Near the Tiegong Temple, there is a garden built in 1792 with South China style. It is named Little Canglang Pavilion as it was built by following the example of the Canglang Pavilion in Suzhou.
The Xiayuan Garden, mixing some Western architectural elements in its Chinese style, is located on the south bank of the lake. It was built in 1909 by imitating the Tianyi Pavilion in Ningbo of Zhejiang Province, and was used as part of the provincial library until the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976).
Together with Baotu Spring and Thousand Buddha Mountain, Daming Lake is one of the three major attractions of Jinan. When summer arrives, lotuses bloom on the water and half of the Daming Lake Park is filled with their fragrant scent. Willows circling the lake on three sides swing in the breeze, which is very pleasant. Many Jinan people play beside the lake during their childhood days, go on boat rides with their dates when they grow up, and stroll around the lake after retirement.
Daming Lake is a lovely lake to take a boat ride. There are three kinds of tourist boats on the lake, including double-paddle boats for three to four people, pedal boats for two people and diesel-engine sightseeing ships for 50 people.