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April 18, 2011

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Campuses get A+ for scenery

SPRING is in the air. It's a perfect time to visit some of China's most beautiful and historic university campuses. Chen Ye is our guide.

Learning isn't the only reason to go to school. Many Chinese college campuses are very scenic and historic. Some are well worth exploring as the weather warms.

Among the most attractive are East China Normal University (Shanghai), Wuhan University (Hubei Province), Xiamen University (Fujian Province), Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, and the Ocean University of China (in Qingdao, Shandong Province).

All are great for strolling and biking; a number contain hiking areas.

Wuhan University

The Cherry Blossom Garden on campus is famous and there's a saying that people will meet their true love after walking under the blooms. It is a tradition for many Chinese to enjoy the blossoms in springtime.

Wuhan University at Wuchang Luojia Mountain is known for its natural scenery and mountain lake, which is an important part of the East Lake. The campus covers 345 hectares. Founded in 1893, it's also famous for its classical Chinese architecture.

The campus grounds contain more than 800 types of trees and plants, including rare species. Students compare it to an arboretum and each dormitory has its own special garden of cherry, plum, peach, maple and other trees.

Late China Premier Zhou Enlai and his wife Deng Yingchao had a residence on campus and lived there in 1938; They met foreign friends there and Zhou delivered two important speeches at the student club in 1937 about the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945). It was founded by then Hubei governor Zhang Zhidong and is one of the earliest comprehensive national universities in China.

Tsinghua University

Prestigious Tsinghua University was founded in 1911 on the site of a royal garden of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was a preparatory school for students sent by the government to study in the United States.

The 400-hectare campus includes many attractions. Tsinghua Garden contains original 300-year-old architecture in a classical Qing Dynasty style with ornately painted corridors. It served as the chancellor's office for many years.

The auditorium is in the heart of the oldest campus area where Greek and Roman architecture are combined. It seats 1,200 and was once the largest university auditorium in China.

One of the most attractive spots is Shui Mu Tsinghua, which means "water and trees surrounding Tsinghua." It is a garden-within-a-garden and contains unusual rock formations, a variety of trees, pools and streams. Its name was inscribed by Emperor Kangxi (1662-1772).

Peking University

Founded in 1898, Peking University was called the "Imperial University of Peking," and the 274-hectare campus stands near the Summer Palace and Yuanmingyuan Garden.

The institution in the western Haidian suburb was China's first national comprehensive university. It was a center of progressive thought and intellectual ferment during the May 4 Movement.

The main entrance is the famous West Gate, built in 1926 in traditional Chinese architectural style. Inside is an elaborate stone bridge, the Alumni Bridge, that crosses a small pond; it was built with alumni contributions.

Another symbol of the university is the white-marble Ornamental Column built in 1742. The 9.2-meter-tall column is a famous symbol of the democratic spirit and is carved with auspicious cloud-and-dragon patterns.

The Weiming (unnamed) Lake is in the middle of the campus and the Boya Pogoda, built in 1924, lies to the north. The saying goes that "Quietly, the lake water ripples and the ancient pagoda stands time-weathered in the distance."

The Langrun Garden was part of the Summer Palace in the Qing Dynasty and now is the site of the Peking University's China Center for Economic Research.

Xiamen University

It is often that a school helps turn a city into a famous tourist attraction, and scenic Xiamen University on the Taiwan Strait is that school. Lush mountain scenery and beautiful beaches are among the attractions, as well as a botanical garden.

Xiamen University was founded in 1921 by philanthropist and educator Tan Kah Kee. It is the first university in China founded by an overseas Chinese.

The park-like main campus is in Siming District and faces the sea, with green mountains to its back. The other two campuses are in Jimei and Zhangzhou areas.

Most attractions in Xiamen are near the university and many are national tourist sights. Many buses stop at the south gate near the world-famous South Putuo Temple, originally built in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). Vegetarian cuisine is well-known.

Ocean University of China

The Ocean University of China is situated on a hill overlooking the ocean in Qingdao, Shandong Province, and is considered one of the most beautiful campuses in China.

It's famous for its silver beach, mountain scenery, European-style architecture, as well as temples.

Qingdao is famous for its sailing and beer culture.

The main Laoshan campus is the most famous of three campuses. It is near the Lao Mountain, a popular tourist site, which attracts many hikers. Bus No. 304 runs to Laoshan and passes many attractions.

Laoshan Beach, Old Stone Man Beach, No. 1 Beach and No. 2 Beach are among the most popular.

In August, the Qingdao International Beer Festival draws tourists from around the world.

East China Normal University

Much closer to home, East China Normal University is another beautiful campus with the little-known Liwa Stream running through it. The campus in Shanghai's Putuo District has a reputation for its pretty female students and the shady banks of the stream are famous as a meeting place for lovers.

There's a popular saying among Shanghai students that it's better to eat at Tongji University, play at Fudan University, live in Jiao Tong University and love in East China Normal University.

The Liwa Stream is seldom pictured on any maps, but locals have voted it as one of the top 10 places for lovers in Shanghai, along with the Bund, Binjang Avenue and Kangping Road, among other places.

There's a tale about the Liwa. Early last century a Spaniard living in Shanghai built a villa that was later owned by a Russian nobleman, and still later by a rich Chinese with a beautiful daughter named Li Wa. She fell in love with a poor Chinese student but her father prevented the two from being together.

In desperation, the young woman committed suicide by jumping into the stream on a drizzling spring night. Then the stream was called Liwa and undergraduates call it the "river of love."

The story is very popular on campus but no one seems to know whether it's true or not.

Also on campus is a statue of Chairman Mao Zedong, standing 12.26 meters high because his birthday was December 26. It was built in 1967.

The East Gate of school is a spectacular triumphal arch.


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