Jinan is the capital of Shandong Province and the home of Shandong University, where I worked for five years. For the first three years, I lived in a block for foreign teaching staff on the central, or new main campus, while working on the old main campus, about half an hour’s walk away, before moving to accommodation around the corner from my place of work, and off-campus. The latter was obviously a lot more convenient for work, and transport as it turned out, but further from the centre of the city, which meant that the walk into town via the moat was no longer an everyday option.
Jinan is much bigger than Qinhuangdao, more industrial, with more people, more offices, more schools (including many private schools), colleges, and universities. The climate is much worse: hotter and wetter in summer, and with very bad pollution, much of it due to the horrendous road traffic. There is quite a lot of information about Jinan in English, since it is more significant internationally. Besides basic information on the Encyclopaedia Brittanica website (link above and below), there is more detail on Wikipedia and various travel sites:
… to name a few. There is even a wikipedia page devoted to sites in Jinan, which lists archeological, historical, religious, and cultural sites, and other places which may be of interest. Or there is a more dedicated page on just the local tourist atttractions.
I have to say, I didn’t really like Jinan, especially not after being in Qinhuangdao, but its more cosmopolitan nature meant it had more, and more interesting, nightlife. It’s also a major crossroads for road and rail transport, and it has its own airport, so it was not without some advantages. You may notice that I use the past tense for these comparisons – that’s because the only thing certain about China is that it is changing rapidly and will continue to change. The bad air was truly horrible in Jinan, at times. I hope I’ve survived it, and that the air improves, and soon, so that other people can survive it too.
A student, who had an interest in local history, provided me with these maps of old Jinan. The notes are his.
The original railway station was built (by the German occupying forces, like the railway itself) to the west of the city centre as part of the German concession in the 1890s. It is now an administration building, while the new, larger station has platform access on two levels. There are other stations as well now: Jinan West, which is part of the high-speed train network; Jinan East, from where local and night trains arrive and depart; and Jinan South, for freight trains only.
Quancheng Square and Baotu Spring
The main square in the centre of the city is Quancheng (Spring City) Square (quánchéng, 泉城). It is always busy there, with children and adults playing games, dancing (in the evenings), and generally milling about. There is an underground shopping centre there as well.
Although Jinan is huge and industrial (and still growing fast), there are traces of its history, although some tourist sites have been rebuilt – not always successfully, because the original charm has been sacrificed to accommodate larger numbers of people in greater safety.
Baotu Spring (Bàotū Quán, 趵突泉) is one of these sites located in the centre of Jinan. There is a local beer named after it, although the brewery now belongs to Tsingtao.
Five Dragon Spring
Across the main road to the north of Baotu Spring is the small Five Dragon Spring (aka Five Dragon Pool Wǔ Lóng Tán 五龙潭)
Thousand Buddha Mountain (千佛山, Tianfoshan)
This is one of the top three tourist sights in Jinan, but is frequented mostly by locals, because it has various facilities for children and some annual events take place there. It’s worth a visit, but try to go outside the summer months, because it can be extremely hot, especially because there is a lot of climbing involved. The climbing itself can be tricky in places, because the rock is worn smooth by the passage of millions of feet. It is possible to see a lot of Jinan from the mountain, though the smog and heat haze make photography difficult.
The big golden statue on Tianfoshan is not actually of Buddha, but of Maitreya. There is another big “Buddha” statue about an hour out of town, on the edge of nowhere in particular, which I visited together with a couple of Australian teachers, who happened to know which minibus service went there. I have lost anything I ever had which might have given me the name of the place.
Tai’an and Taishan
Immediately to the south of Jinan is Tai’an, a prefecture-level city, which is based around Taishan (sometimes translated into English as Mount Tai), in the Taishan District of Tai’an city. (Confused? Don’t be.)
Tai’an has a population of some five-and-a-half million, with close on two million in the urban area of Taishan and Daiyue Districts. The main railway station is only one stop from Jinan West on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed route. Obviously, Tai’an being on the high-speed route means that it is easily accessible to the millions of tourists who visit the mountain each year. There is not much worth seeing in the urban area, but buses to the foot of Taishan stop very close to the railway station.
Taishan is extremely important in Chinese history, and is of great cultural significance, being the easternmost and most important of the five Sacred Mountains of China. Climbing Taishan is a “must-do” for a great many Chiniese people, either as a pilgrimage or just as tourists.
There is just one catch: according to Wikipedia, “A flight of 7,200 total steps (including inner temple steps), with 6,293 Official Mountain Walkway Steps, lead up the East Peak of Mount Tai, along its course, there are 11 gates, 14 archways, 14 kiosks, and four pavilions.
In total, there are 22 temples, 97 ruins, 819 stone tablets, and 1,018 cliff-side and stone inscriptions located on Mount Tai.”
I didn’t count the steps myself, but I did climb to the midway point on my first visit before continuing by cable-car to the base of the peak. The climb is among trees for the most part, so the views are not so spectacular for walkers, until the top, but the cable-car is worth the ride. On my second visit, with some Americans (plus a Canadian) and a university-appointed guide, we took a bus up to the midway point. I didn’t reach the absolute peak (there is a hotel up there; don’t know if it’s any good, but it is expensive), but my student friend did in 2013, so those pictures are hers.
Most tourists try to stay for the sunrise, which can be spectacular when it’s not too misty to see anything. In May 2013, it was very misty; in October 2016, we had to get the bus back to Jinan before dark.
The pictures below are from my second visit, which was a lot less hard work, since it was organized by the University, which also provided a guide and paid for the bus to the mid-way point. There was also less of a heat haze.
The last photo in this set features the rock which appears on 5-Yuan banknotes.