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Hidden Gems: Kunming's serene southern water towns

By in Travel on

A beautiful water town view from Feng Tang's Bu'er Tang
A beautiful water town view from Feng Tang's Bu'er Tang

In the bustling city of Kunming, finding a peaceful and picturesque retreat is easier than you might think. Kunming, often referred to as the "Spring City," is home to several unique "southern water towns" that serve as hidden sanctuaries within the urban landscape.

These serene spots provide a perfect escape from the daily hustle, offering tranquility and beauty akin to the famed water towns of Jiangnan (江南). Jiangnan refers to the region south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River in China, encompassing parts of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui provinces. It is known for its picturesque landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and classical architecture, including traditional gardens and water towns.

Tanhua Temple Park: A tranquil southern retreat

Tanhua Temple Park (昙华寺公园), is a modest yet serene garden known as "Little Jiangnan" within Kunming. Amid the city's clamor, the park offers a peaceful haven for locals and visitors alike. The park's design features lush bamboo groves, intricately designed pavilions, and winding paths, creating a perfect backdrop for a leisurely weekend with family and friends.

In the summer, the park blooms with vibrant colors, from the blue-purple Plumbago flowers to the striking Agapanthus. The garden is divided into three sections: the Front Garden, Middle Garden, and Rear Garden, each with its unique attractions, such as the Peony Garden and the Camellia Garden.

Tanhua Temple Park, located at 533 Tanhua Road in Kunming's Panlong District, is open daily from 7:30am to 6:30pm with free admission, and the last entry at 5:30pm.

Lianhuachi Park: A hidden treasure in the city

Lianhuachi Park (莲花池公园), also known as "Dragon Pool", has been a renowned scenic spot in Kunming since ancient times. Despite its small size, this park's classical Jiangnan garden style, featuring pavilions, bridges, and flowing water, offers a serene retreat from the bustling city.

The park's design encapsulates the essence of traditional Chinese garden architecture, with ten scenic spots, including the Anfu Garden Gate, Dragon Pool Leaping Fish, and the Lotus Moon Dusk. The park's picturesque scenery often gives visitors the illusion of wondering along West Lake in Hangzhou.

Visitors to Lianhuachi Park can easily reach this serene by taking bus routes 65, 139, or K5 to Lianhuachi Station, or by riding Metro Line 4 to Xiaocaiyuan (小菜园) Station, Exit A, followed by a 5-minute walk. Open daily from 6:30am to 8:30pm with free admission, the park also offers boat rentals at 30 yuan per half hour.

Feng Tang's Bu'er Tang: A literary haven

Bu'er Tang (不二堂), named after the study of writer Feng Tang, is located in the Jiangsu Suzhou Pavilion within the Kunming Expo Garden. This exquisitely decorated retreat, complete with a small boat floating on the water, is a favorite spot for enthusiasts of hanfu (汉服), traditional Han Chinese clothing that has seen a resurgence among young people in modern culture as a symbol of historical and cultural appreciation.

The pavilion's design centers around water, featuring Jiangnan-style courtyards and symbolic landscape artistry, reflecting traditional Chinese aesthetics. It is a quintessential example of classical Suzhou private garden art.

Feng Tang's Bu'er Tang is accessible via Metro Line 5 or various bus routes, with visiting hours from 8:30am to 5pm, and the admission fee is 28 yuan per person.

Anliu Bridge: stories of water and shade

Anliu Bridge (安流桥), nestled in the Gaoqiao Village of Kunming's Guandu District, is an ideal summer escape. The bridge, surrounded by lush trees and flowing water, provides a refreshing retreat from the summer heat.

As you walk across the ancient stone bridge, you can almost feel the history beneath your feet. The nearly worn-out bluestone slabs tell countless untold stories, and the gentle breeze and babbling water create a serene atmosphere.

Anliu Bridge is located in Gaoqiao Village (高桥村), Puzhao Community, Guandu District, and offers free admission and convenient parking in the village with an entrance fee starting at 5 yuan. Visitors can reach the bridge by taking Metro Line 4 to Yangfutou Station (羊甫头), Exit D, and then walking or biking along Baoxiang River (宝象河).

Nanyuan Garden in Anning: A poetic landscape

Nanyuan Garden (楠园), located south of Baihua Park (百花公园) in the center of Anning (安宁), was designed by renowned garden expert Chen Congzhou. Built primarily from nanmu wood, cedar, and fir, this garden seamlessly blends the classical styles of Suzhou gardens with the unique landscapes and flora of Yunnan, creating a comprehensive work of art.

Despite its small size, Nanyuan connects the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau with the Jiangnan water towns, bringing a touch of Suzhou's charm to the southwestern frontier.

Nanyuan Garden is located at Zhonghua Road (中华路), Lianran Street (连然街) in Anning, and offers free admission and convenient parking available at the entrance of Baihua Park.

As the summer approaches, take the opportunity to explore one of Kunming's "southern water towns" and share your unique experiences!

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