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 an on-the-spot investigation reveals that the old city area of Jinan alone has over 140 springs.
The artesian wells bubble from the hydraulic pressure caused by the geographical drop of the location on which the city is built, with Mount Tai to its south and the lower part of the Yellow River to its north. The southern hilly area, which also collects and generates the spring water, is 500 meters higher than the river plain to the north. The groundwater flows downwards and gushes out at the foot of the hills.
Among so many springs, Baotu Spring Group, Black Tiger Spring Group, Pearl Spring Group and Five-Dragon Pond Spring Group are the four major spring groups, where the springs are relatively concentrated.
Baotu Spring, made up of three big torrents of springs, is the most famous spring in the center of the downtown area, spraying an average of 240,000 tons of drinkable water every day. The spring water maintains a constant temperature of 18 ℃ throughout the year, creating fairy-tale visual effects in winter with misty vapor rising from the dark green water pool built for it.
The gurgling sound of the Baotu Spring is like the heartbeat of the city. So you know what the springs mean to the locals. Local newspapers run weather forecast and groundwater levels every day. Once the groundwater level approaches the warning line, especially in drought seasons, the whole city will be mobilized to save water and protect the springs.
The Baotu Spring, Pearl Spring and Five Dragon Pond Spring parks used to be private gardens of rich and powerful local families. The delicate gardens boast a good combination of springs, plants, rockery, yards and buildings, a rare arrangement in northern China.
The Black Tiger Spring, which is free to visit, is located beside the ancient city moat. It consists of three springs where water runs through three carved tiger heads in a stone pool.
Jinan has a civilized history of 2,400 years. The current city format was designed in the Tang Dynasty. The ancient city planners constructed a delicate waterway system collecting the spring water from almost every community in the old city with small and big, sealed and open, canals. The buildings, yards, roads and bridges made it easy for residents to obtain spring water from the canals for drinking and daily use. Willows and lotuses are planted everywhere in the city along the waterway and beside the spring pools.
Some big spring water pools, such as the Wangfu Pool, are popular “water parks” for the adults and children throughout the year. They’re part of happy childhood memories for many adults today.
The four major spring groups and dozens of other small springs located in the old communities are still connected by the ancient waterway system. After feeding the residents, the spring water flows into the city moat to help to protect the city.
Daming Lake, with an area of 57 hectares, occupies the northern half of the city and collects all spring water from the city moat. With a number of ancient temples and houses surrounding it, the picturesque lake is one of the three major attractions of Jinan, along with Baotu Spring and Thousand Buddha Mountain.
There is a 3-meter-wide outlet for the lake water in its north, which leads the water to the Xiaoqing River, a river originating from the spring water in Jinan and meandering over 200 kilometers to Bohai Bay. The Xiaoqing River has served as the most important transportation waterway connecting Jinan and the coast before the German colonists built the Jinan-Qingdao railway in 1904.
The Daming Lake and Xiaoqing River as well as the small canals and ditches, which extend to every family like blood capillaries, form an efficient drainage system in case of internal water-logging.
Jinan was less-known and less-developed than some big cities in China. But the locals seem more content with their cozy lives than their counterparts in Beijing and Shanghai. Maybe it’s the Confucianism that brings them inner peace, as Jinan is only 100 kilometers north of Confucius’ hometown – Qufu. On the other side, it is also the spring water that nurtures the unique local ethos. Water, in its nature, teaches the human to be modest, forgiving, perseverant, honest, clean, simple and selfless. That is also the family instructions in Jinan.