Chongming Island is ground zero for spring flowers
Spring is coming! The hottest topic of the month — where is the best destination for flowers in the city?
The Spring Flower Festival kicked off at Shanghai Dongping National Forest Park in Chongming District on March 24 and runs until May 20, featuring more than 100,000 herb trinities and tulips. The festival serves as a precursor to the upcoming 10th China Flower Expo, which will take place on the island from May 21 to July 2 with the theme “Blossom with a Chinese Dream.”
Although it may have faded from people’s memories, the Spring Flower Festival, also known as the Flower Goddess Festival, is one of the traditional Chinese festivals that can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC).
Along with art and poetry, flowers have always had an honored position in Chinese culture, and play a major role in people’s lives. Ancient people believed flowers convey positive messages. Consequently, they are recurrent in Chinese literature, food, beverages and decorations.
During chunfen, or the spring equinox, young girls get dressed up and gather to celebrate the birth of flowers and enjoy annual flower trips.
Meanwhile, there are 12 flower god and goddesses, representing the flower of each month. For example, April’s flower is peony and the flower god is Ouyang Xiu, one of the most famous Chinese poets and politicians of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) who garnered the title for his treatise on the unsurpassed beauty of peonies — The Story of Luoyang Peony. The peony goddess Concubine Yang, who is known as one of the Four Beauties of ancient China, received the title for her beauty — the poet Li Bai compared her to a peony, considered the most lovely of all flowers.
The Spring Flower Festival on Chongming Island brings back traditional customs, where visitors can experience the ancient Chinese cultural pastime of admiring flowers.
The custom includes dressing up in traditional Chinese hanfu, wearing garlands, wishing happiness to others, drinking flower tea and eating flower cakes.
Hundreds of hanfu enthusiasts wear traditional Chinese clothing and gather in the park to participate in the festival.
Explore the spring blooms
This is the season for tulips, and flowering cherry candanola flower — also known as rapeseed — are used in the production of cooking oil. In Dongping National Forest Park, colorful tulips are blooming. The highlight is 1,000-meter-long wisteria corridor, with blooming tulips on each side. Wisteria will be in full bloom in the middle of April.
On tulip avenue at the southwest of the wisteria corridor, more than 1,500 cherry blossom trees are blooming in the canola flower fields.
For photo enthusiasts, do not miss the 800-meter-long Guihua Road inside the shuishan (dawn redwood) forest. Eryuelan (literally “February orchid”) — Chinese violet cress — is blooming under the trees, creating a limited-time purple spring view in the park.
Along the Beiyan Highway and Huabo Avenue near the park, fields are full of canola flowers that take over country roads during springtime.
A 10-minute walk from the forest park’s No. 2 gate, the tulip exhibition in Hongqiao Flower Village is the best and largest display of tulips in Shanghai.
During the exhibition, more than 3 million tulips, as well as daffodils, hyacinths and other bulbous flowers from the Netherlands, are arranged in a splendid blooming sea.
Some rare tulip breeds can be found in the park, including “Chuxin” (where the heart belongs), “Oriental Pearl” and “Love of Chongming.” Their unique shapes and passionate colors personify the magnificence and modernity of Shanghai.
Different kinds of tulips displayed in the exhibition can be purchased next to the entrance of Hongqiao Flower Village at reasonable prices, including the new “Love of Chongming.” Word to the wise — do not buy tulips when you arrive but when you are ready to leave. Otherwise, the flower pedals will wilt in the sun.
A five-minute drive from the exhibition, Hongqiao Village in Jianshe Town is a place to enjoy a local “spring lunch,” such as sauteed caotou (a common clover that grows in the Yangtze River Delta) with rice wine and Chongming rice cake with flowers.
The highlights of the upcoming 10th China Flower Expo
The site of the Spring Flower Festival is also a venue for the upcoming 10th China Flower Expo.
At the forest park entrance, a flower corridor displays the history and locations of the past nine flower expos, from the first in Beijing in 1987 to the upcoming expo in Chongming.
With less than 50 days before the opening of the flower expo, construction of expo venues has entered the final stage, including three main indoor pavilions right beside the forest park — the butterfly-shaped Century Pavilion, Fuxing Pavilion and Bamboo Pavilion.
The decoration of 180 outdoor pavilions will be finished before mid-April. As a highlight, 100 Victoria lotus flowers, the world’s largest lotus, are planted in the forest park’s lotus garden.
Meanwhile, flower expo licensed products are now on sale at the park’s tourist center (located at gate No. 1), and online at the WeChat store “Huabo Shangcheng.” Products include a series of Chongming specialties, such as traditional glutinous rice wine with flowers such as roses and sweet-scented osmanthus.
What’s more, many farms on the island have been converted into amazing eryuelan flower fields.
Dongping National Forest Park
Address: 2188 Beiyan Highway, Dongping Town, Chongming District
Opening hours: 8:30am-4pm
Admission: 70 yuan (US$10.7)
Hongqiao Flower Village
Address: 2179 Beiyan Highway, Dongping Town, Chongming District
Opening hours: 8:30am-4:30pm
Admission: 40 yuan