Wushan Hill Hydrangea Festival in full bloom
In ancient times when people had no smartphones or Internet, how did they idle away their days? For Hangzhou residents, lingering over blooming flowers and watching performances at Wushan Hill was one of the most popular entertainments of summertime.
The tradition continues today. The annual Wushan Hill Hydrangea Festival is in full swing, with the blossom predicted to last through late June.
A total of 120 varieties from home and abroad have dotted nooks and footpaths in the area, including wanghong (Internet celebrity) flowers Xiari Zhilian(夏日之恋), Xuanzhuan Muma (旋转木马), Mimi (咪咪) and Xuehua (雪花).
For years, the management committee of the Wushan Hill Scenic Area has introduced new varieties of hydrangeas. This year, about 10 new domestically cultivated hydrangeas were brought to the public for the first time.
Gardening experts spent two years in crossbreeding wild hydrangeas with bigleaf hydrangeas, which produced 29,509 flowers in a total. They selected outstanding varieties and named them Luochen (落尘) and Luoxue (落雪) respectively.
The two can resist the high temperatures in summer, which fit for climate of Hangzhou. In the future, they will be planted in green belts citywide.
In Hangzhou, hydrangeas are some of the most common ornamental flowers in urban areas. People name them ziyang (紫阳,literally "purple sun" in Chinese) and baxian (八仙,literally "eight immortals") flowers, endowing them with poetic elements.
Common hydrangeas feature two flower arrangements. One features large round flowerheads that resemble the head of a mop. The other bears flat flowerheads with a center core of subdued flowers surrounded by outer rings of showy flowers.
This year, organizers have set up flower arrangements themed on the upcoming Asian Games. Ascending along the hill path, visitors can see floral works inspired by ancient Chinese sports.
The Song Dynasty's bronze mirror's decorative design, which is now with the National Museum of China in Beijing, inspired the first flower arrangement, cuju (蹴鞠).
Many people may know that football was called cuju in ancient China. The sport originated in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) and was so popular during the Song Dynasty that the royal family had its own teams to play matches first in Kaifeng, capital of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), later in Lin'an (today's Hangzhou), capital of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).The first football club was founded in Hangzhou about 1,000 years ago.
A Song Dynasty book, "The Memoir of Wulin," contains the list of 32 players of two royal teams, each team having 16 players.
Damaqiu (打马球), the present-day polo, was another popular sport in ancient times. It became prevalent in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), which could be evidenced by ink-wash paintings that portrayed courtiers on horseback playing polo.
The organizers have set up a floral work themed on centuries-old polo to popularize the ancient activity among modern-day visitors.
Wushu, or Chinese martial art, is also one of the themes in the Hydrangeas Festival. Wushu has permeated in the country for centuries. People practice it for strengthening of the body and the mind. It aims to achieve excellence through long practice in any endeavor.
Other than sports, the Hydrangeas Festival also introduced some Song Dynasty culture. The washe goulan (瓦舍勾栏) themed floral designs reflect the booming grassroot entertainment industry one millennium ago.
The culture of washe goulan thrived in the Southern Song Dynasty when Hangzhou was the nation's capital, also one of the world's most prosperous and advanced economies.
Chinese people enjoyed going there, which was believed to be the origin of Chinese theater.
Washe means houses with tiles and goulan means to line the house with railings. Washe goulan was a large theater that featured different performing troupes separated by railings. Each troupe staged performances for the public, including operas, animal performances, acrobatics, puppet shows, shadow plays, dancing and comedies.
According to archives, the city was home to more than 20 washe goulan theaters, emblematic of the country's ancient grassroots culture.
It is estimated that more than 7 million Hangzhou residents watched these performances in a year. Many of them were built along today's Southern Song Royal Street.
If you go:
Venue: Wushan Hill