Millennium City Park
Have you ever dreamed of going back in time to Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) in China and savor the prosperity and culture of those years? If so, come to Millennium City Park (also called Qingming Riverside Landscape Garden) located in the old city of Kaifeng (the former Bianjing) in Henan Province. Find yourself in the spectacular scenery there and you are sure to realize that dream.
Millennium City Park located on the west bank of Dragon Pavilion Lake is a grand cultural garden. It covers an area of 600 mu (about 98 acres), and the construction area is more than 30,000 square meters (about 7.4 acres). The built area consists of several architectural complexes which are re-creations based on the famous twelfth century painting by Zhang Zeduan of 'The Qingming Festival by the Riverside'. This picture is a painted scroll which is 525 cm (about 17 feet) in length and 25.5 cm (9.5 inches) in width depicting life along Bian River during the Qingming Festival. The scenes in this painting are highly detailed and the spectacle is magnificent. There are large numbers of people and buildings. The people are shown in a variety of contemporary clothes that indicate their social standing and occupations. The lively throng includes many animals and it is not difficult to imagine the sounds in the street scenes where the people are crowded and noisy. We can almost hear someone bargaining with a shop owner while others are cheering entertainers. The picture is like a live symphony of life during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
When you enter the Millennium City Park, a statue which is 16 meters (about 52 feet) tall comes into view. This figure is none other than the artist Zhang Zeduan, who holds his famous drawing of 'The Qingming Festival by the Riverside'. Now we can find these scenic spots such as City Gate Tower, Rainbow Bridge, distinctive shops and others which are re-created in the Park according to the scenes in the painting.
Let's first visit the imperial garden of the park. All the palaces and gardens have been carefully arranged. Standing inside the gardens and visible from outside, are the pavilion and the pagoda while in the distance a waterfall comes into view. Among these a majestic pavilion of 31.99 meters (about 105 feet) will draw our attention. From its appearance, you will expect it to have four floors but actually there are another three floors hidden inside. It is so tall and seems to be able to touch the clouds. This is how it got the name of Fuyun (whisking the cloud) Pavilion. It was also the place where important royal documents and traditional Chinese painting and books are stored during the Song Dynasty.
Another scenic spot called Rainbow Bridge is a well-known feature in the Park. It is a replica of one of the ten ancient timber bridges. The bridge is 5 meters (about 16 feet) high. The first bridge was built in 1050, and reconstructed in 1998. Four 9 meter (about 29 feet) high columns, two at either end of the bridge, replicate the poles that were weather vanes at the time of the Song Dynasty. A white crane sits on a disk at the top of each column and they turn to face into the wind, indicating its direction.
At each end of the Rainbow Bridge you will find many performances about folk custom. A staff of about 1,000 employed in the garden wearing different traditional clothes put on performances for the visitors from 9:00 am to 22:00 pm. On the streets you can find acrobats, puppet shows, cockfighting and even a marriage scene. While in the park you will have the opportunity to see exhibits of folk customs and traditional crafts ranging from hand embroidery and displays of woodcut pictures and official porcelain and so on. At the end of your trip, you can buy local souvenirs for your friends and family.
One of the distinctive things you will encounter when visiting the Park lies in participation. You can play a role in a traditional Chinese marriage and realize your dream of being a Number One Scholar in the imperial examinations of ancient times. These activities are sure to bring the past alive and add to your enjoyment and interest.
The whole landscape in Millennium City Park reflects an eternal theme of harmony between man and nature. It is a place where you can relax and gain inspiration.
Photo credits: Alanchen.
Camera equipment: New and Old