Poets and scholars have been writing about Daming Lake 大明湖 (Da – 大 – big, Ming – 明 – bright, He -湖 – lake) for at least 1,500 years. Daming Lake also impressed the first European’s who saw it. Marco Polo wrote about this refuge in the middle of the city back in the 13th century.
Here is a look at our day at the lake:
The Lake of Four Mysteries
- There are no snakes
- There are no frogs
- No amount of rain raises the water level
- No drought has ever lowered the water level
These are real mysteries. There are snakes in Jinan but they do not enter the water like in other lakes. Since there are no snakes in the Lake, there should be many frogs. There are none.
Daming Lake, An Oasis in the City
Daming Lake is a true oasis in the city. Here you will find secluded places to relax and find solitude among the trees, reeds, hidden courtyard, and untraveled paths. You can also ride roller coasters, eat ice cream, and dance.
A Place to Play
Many classes are held at Daming Lake, you will see Tai Chi, archery, painting, calligraphy, sports, and many types of dance being practiced. These include classes for both adults and children.
Many of the activities I’ve seen there I don’t know the names of, such as spinning a top with a whip, rolling steel hoops with a stick, a type of hackie sack with a shuttlecock, and a racket game played at close range.
Daming Lake is also a favorite for musicians. Individuals and groups play and practice a wide variety of instruments and sing. I assume some of them are practicing since they play so poorly. But, I’m encouraged by the Chinese lack of self-consciousness. Beginners will play awfully in public unconcerned about what others may think. You can hear violins, clarinet, saxophone, guitar, erhu, liuqin, pipa, ruan, and I imagine others. Many of the musicians are very good!
Daming Lake has many structures which house paintings, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, and other art mediums. Tie Xuan Temple is the tallest structure on the lake. It has an entrance fee which is well worth paying if you appreciate seemingly impossible wood and stone carvings and beautiful ceramics. The top floor balconies look out over the lake and city.
Islands, Gardens, and Ancient Buildings
Daming Lake has 9 islands, 6 gardens, and 14 major buildings. These buildings include the Beiji Temple a Taoist structure built in 1280 housing a giant bell. The Lixia Pavilion originally constructed in the 700’s it was rebuilt in 1693 and Tie Xuan built in 1792,
A Nice Cup of Tea or a Good Run
I go to Daming Lake to get away from the city and enjoythe open green and water space. I’ll get an overpriced green tea at the tea shop near Beiji Temple and read. More often I’ll take a run around the lake. There is an outer running trail which surrounds the lake.
Bridges, Islands, Courtyards, and Trails
Daming Lake has a lot of hidden footpaths and courtyards. I’ve been to and through Daming Lake many times and I’m continually finding trails and places I’ve not seen before. Most of the 9 islands and the grounds are connected with beautifully carved stone bridges.
Those islands not connected by bridges can be reached via a tour boat. You will find something unique and historic on each island. There is also a small version of the Las Vegas Bellagio Fountains on the north side of the lake.
Kublai Khan and the Battle of Da Ming Lake
Daming Lake has been an important part of Chinese history. Kublai Khan, famed leader of the Mongle Empire, fought Chinese leader Li Tan at Daming Lake in 1262. Kublai Khan’s forces overran Li Tan and he tried to drowned himself in Da Ming Lake. He was rescued by Kublai Khan’s men, so he could be executed.
The Battle of Jinan between the People Liberation Army (the Communists) and KMT (the Nationalists) took place at Daming Lake. This battle was the turning point of the war and the beginning of the Communist victory in China. Mao Zedong visited Daming Lake in 1958.
Untouched by Tourists
The city of Jinan is not yet a tourist destination, so it is ideal if you want to be one of the few non-Chinese visitors and one of the first tourists to the area. You will be stopped by locals who what to take a picture with a foreigner. Between Daming Lake, Baotu Springs, One-thousand Buddha Mountain, and some of the best coffee anywhere, Jinan is worth a day or two visit off the beaten path.