Saturday, September 6: After leaving the Martyr Monument to Guangxi Student Army in Anti-Japanese War at Qing Xiu Shan Tourist Attraction, we head downhill, where we find Champion Court and Number One Scholar Spring Cultural Park.
We continue on, looking for Xiangsi Lake, which we’ve seen on several signposts. We find a Japanese man walking alone and we ask him if he knows where the lake is. He points in a direction opposite to what the sign says, and makes an X gesture with his hand over the arrow pointing to the lake. He tells us the sign is a mistake and that we should follow him. We do, and we end up in the Cycad Garden, lying west of the Phoenix Ridge of Qing Xiu Mountain.
The garden is the biggest ex-situ conservation population of cycads, seed plants typically characterized by a stout and woody trunk with a crown of large, hard and stiff, evergreen leaves. They usually have feather-like, or pinnate, leaves. The individual plants are either all male or all female. Cycads vary in size from having trunks only a few centimeters to several meters tall. They typically grow very slowly and live very long, with some specimens known to be as much as 1,000 years old. Because of their superficial resemblance, they are sometimes confused with and mistaken for palms or ferns, but are only distantly related to either (Wikipedia: Cycad).
Here at the Cycad Garden of Qing Xiu Shan are more than 30 cycas pectinata aged over one thousand years and the oldest “Cycas King” is 1350 years old now. Most of the iron trees here bloom and fruit from May to November annually.
Cycads are found across much of the subtropics and tropical parts of the world. Though they are a minor component of the plant kingdom today, during the Jurassic period, they were extremely common. They have changed little since the Jurassic, compared to some major evolutionary changes in other plant divisions. Maybe that’s why we see some dinosaur statues in the garden.
After enjoying the shade of the Cycad Garden, we end up at a little store by Sky Pond, where we each buy a bottle of water and a vanilla ice cream bar. We sit at a picnic table under an umbrella and savor every refreshing bite of that ice cream bar. We’ve been walking for so long in the hot sun, we’re soaked with sweat. That ice cream is the perfect antidote for our weary bodies.
As soon as we finish our ice cream and leave the shop, we can see the Water-moon Nunnery to our right and Sky Pond to our left.
Sky Pond is an artificial lake named such because it is the place of highest altitude in Nanning (according to a sign in the park).
When we walk along the shore of Sky Pond, we see people feeding koi in the pond. Koi are ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp that are kept for decorative purposes in outdoor koi ponds or water gardens.
Koi varieties are distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream. It’s fun to watch them churning about in the water.
The lake is very pretty and a welcome sight after traipsing up and down the mountain. What is it about water that just seeing it makes you feel refreshed?
We walk across a little bridge to an island, where we see a couple of pavilions. Standing in one of them, we have some lovely views of the lake and find more people feeding the Koi.
We wonder about the sign that says Sky Pond is the place of highest altitude in Nanning, because right beside the pond, we can see steps going further uphill to Longxiang Tower, commonly known as Qingshan Tower.
The tower is named from the proverb: “Dragon ranks first in strength among all the water animals while elephant tops in all the land animals.” Longxiang (dragon and elephant) Tower was initially built in the Wanli Period of the Chinese Ming Dynasty. It is an eight-square double-eaved nine-floored structure with a height of 51.35m. It is the landmark of Qing Xiu Mountain and the perfect end to our expedition.
Climbing to the top of the tower, we can see the Yongjiang River, distant mountains and hills and urban and rural landscapes within ten miles. I make a stop at every level where I can find panoramic views.
We see the pretty Lotus Pond from above. It sits right beside Sky Pond, but we didn’t see this when we were on the ground. We’ll have to visit this next time we come.
Looking to the south, we see a sprawling area of new construction.
After enjoying the breezes and the views for quite some time at the top of the tower, we descend the tower and the hill to catch the bus to the park entrance. It’s been a great first outing in Nanning, but we’re hot, tired and exhausted. This mountain is way too much to see in one day.
As we make our way back by taxi to the university, we pass a lot of hustle and bustle on the city streets, but I’ve put my camera away and don’t feel like digging it out again. We can see poor housing areas juxtaposed against upscale ones. Here’s one shot I take with some interesting old houses nestled in among the tall newer buildings. It’s not great because I was a little late in taking out my camera.
This day was great fun, and I’m so happy to have found a fellow adventurous spirit in Caleb. 🙂