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Jinan's springs soak up global attention

Region's famous natural assets remain top priority for preservation

As the sun rose on a warm September morning at Black Tiger Spring in Jinan, East China's Shandong province, groups of people wait in line to fill their buckets with fresh spring water gushing out from the rocks.

Using spring water to cook, wash and drink is the local way in Jinan, which makes the "city of springs" so special to visitors from home and abroad.

Jinan has more than 800 springs, including 72 famous ones such as Baotu Spring, Black Tiger Spring, Moquan Spring and Shuyu Spring.

Black Tiger Spring is located below a steep cliff in the city's Lixia district. The water laps the rocks, creating a sound like a tiger's growl. The water outflow reaches up to 41,000 cubic meters per day, less only than the nearby Baotu Spring.

In June 2019, the cultural landscape of springs in Jinan was included on a tentative list of new Chinese World Heritage sites.

"For hundreds of years, people have lived with springs. The city is energized by springs," said Sun Shutao, mayor of Jinan, at the 2019 International Spring Cultural Landscape City Alliance Conference held earlier this month.

"The unique natural landscape and culture is an example of humans respecting nature and realizing sustainable development," he said.

Jinan is also home to Daming Lake, which is formed solely by springs, and home to the spring water city moat. In olden times, residents even had springs in their own yards.

Long Yongtu, former vice-minister of the then Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, said at the conference that Jinan reminds him of the French town of Evian, where residents and tourists happily fill up empty bottles with water from springs.

Nowadays, people ask for cleaner water, clearer skies, safer food and more convenient transport, in seeking a higher quality of life. That's why Jinan puts so much effort into preserving its springs, as historical heritage and urban cultural landscape, Long added.

The city also considers the protection of its springs while planning and constructing its subway system and renovating old communities, according to Sun.

Rick Jennings, a councilor from the city of Sacramento in California, said at the event: "I've watched the children and old people in Jinan. They take pride in how they continue to take advantage of the city's resources. I've seen so many people visiting the parks and being able to use the water. That's a memory I will have for the rest of my life."

The conference coincided with the seventh Jinan international springs festival, held from Sept 6 to 11, and was accompanied by a series of activities, including a spring worshipping ceremony, a music festival, a folk arts week, a night tour and float parade.

During the festival, journalists from 12 media agencies in countries including the United States, Russia, Cambodia, Mongolia, Laos, South Korea and Japan toured the city as participants of the Discover Jinan media trip, co-organized by the foreign affairs office of the Jinan municipal people's government and China Daily.

The group visited the 648-year-old Mingfucheng Historical Area, which has over 100 springs, and Baihuazhou Historical and Cultural Block, which features some of the 126 intangible cultural heritage and traditional handicrafts of the city, as well as about 100 inheritors, including those of shadow puppetry, paper-cutting, wood carving and clay rabbit figurine making.

Li Juan, an inheritor of shadow puppetry, said the art form remains popular even in the digital age, with children learning and taking courses. She said that the government has supported her work with its effort to preserve traditional culture.

Kristina Zorkina, an editor from ITAR-TASS news agency in Russia, said in her country they have a similar art form, but the puppets are made from different materials.

Muhammad Imran, a reporter from Dawn News in Pakistan, said he had also seen similar puppetry when he was younger, but it is no longer popular in his home country.

According to Mayor Sun, the city of Jinan is promoting its intangible cultural heritage by financing major cultural programs, holding courses in communities and schools and encouraging heritage to go global.


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