SPRING flowers are in bloom across the country, and as fans flock to admire the season's color, it sometimes seems as though China has been transformed into a huge horticultural park. Shanghai Daily reporter Lu Feiran has selected some destinations around the country where you can admire peach, cherry, pear, oilseed rape and azaleas in full bloom, at everywhere from city parks to remote mountains.
Originally found in northern and central China, peach trees now grow throughout the country's temperate zone. Its blossom is white or pink and is used as a herbal treatment for moisturizing the skin. Peach trees blossom around March and April.
The Nanhui area in Pudong New Area is one of the best sites to view peach blossoms in Shanghai. Every spring a peach blossom festival is held in the area, which has five grand peach orchards. This year, the festival runs until the end of April. The vast sea of pink blossom is a visual feast that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to Nanhui. In addition to admiring beautiful peach blossom, visitors can take part in folk games and other activities.
Nyingchi (Tibet Autonomous Region)
Nyingchi is known as Tibet's own "region south of the Yangtze River," after the famed landscape in eastern China. It is renowned for its stunning snow-covered mountains providing a backdrop to delicate pink peach blossom and green wheat fields, beneath sapphire skies.
Nyingchi is a perfect choice to experience the beauty of nature while sampling Tibetan culture.
Longquan (Sichuan Province)
Longquan is very close to Chengdu, so it is the first choice for many Chengdu people to admire peach blossom. More than 17 million peach trees on its hillsides earn Longquan its reputation of "the homeland of peach blossom."
If you've got several days, there are other attractions around Longquan, including temples and ancient towns.
Taoyuan (Hunan Province)
Taoyuan is considered a possible location for the idyllic place mentioned in the ancient Chinese essay "Peach Blossom Spring Story" by Tao Yuanming, a writer during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420).
The essay describes a tranquil, beautiful Xanadu, isolated completely from the outside world. Now a fishing village, Taoyuan's vast peach orchards and the paddy fields provide echoes of ancient times.
Cherry blossom is often seen as a national flower of Japan, where it is known as sakura. Cherry trees are now also seemingly everywhere in China. The blooming period of sakura is short, leading Japanese to say it symbolizes the spirit of the samurai warrior - who traditionally was viewed as leading a short but courageous life. The blossom forms in large sprays of pink or white. The petals and leaves are edible, with the former used in sushi and the latter made into pickles.
The city has several prime locations for admiring cherry blossom. The biggest sakura site is in Gucun Park, Baoshan District. This year the sakura festival in the park runs until April 28, an event that sees the park packed with visitors. Other sakura options include Shanghai Botanical Garden, Luxun Park and several other parks in downtown.
Wuhan (Hubei Province)
Wuhan University is one of the most popular sites for viewing cherry blossom in China. The cherry trees there were mainly planted during 1970s and 1980s, symbolizing friendship between China and Japan. Before that, during the War of Resistance Against Japan, Japanese soldiers also planted some cherry trees in the university grounds.
In recent years, the vast "sakura forest" in the university has attracted so many visitors from all over the country that campus life has been disrupted. To control numbers, the university introduced an admission fee - currently 20 yuan (US$3.2).
Kunming (Yunnan Province)
Sakura on Yuantong Hill of Kunming starts to bloom in early March, thanks to the warmer weather in Yunnan. Cherry trees wind around the hill, creating a particularly strong visual impact. In addition to sakura, other fruit trees, such as Chinese flowering crab apple, also bloom on the hill in spring.
Wuxi (Jiangsu Province)
As an up-and-coming sakura hotspot, Yuantouzhu in Wuxi has more than 30,000 cherry trees. A sea of sakura extends from the side of Taihu Lake to the top of Luding Hill. Visitors can also visit in the evening, when the cherry blossom takes on a different beauty.
The sakura festival in Wuxi will last around a month, with shows, snacks and other activities.
Pure white pear blossom was a favorite of ancient Chinese writers and poets, who described the blooms as "snowy" or "white jade rain." Its flowering season lasts from April to May. Chinese people also make pear blossom into medicine or dishes, as it can cure coughs and is good for the lungs.
Jiaju and Chengdu (Sichuan Province)
Jiaju means "hundreds of families" in Tibetan. The area looks like a wonderland and its most beautiful time is spring, when pear trees are in bloom. Around the Tibetan New Year, locals paint their houses, the bright colors standing out against the snowy blossom.
Around Chengdu, Pear Blossom Valley in Jintang County and Pear Blossom Creek in Yongshang Town, are, as their names suggest, other options for pear blossom viewing.
Jinfeng County is the best place to view pear blossoms in Chongqing in central China. The county is considered the "back garden" or "oxygen bar" of the city and has a long history of pear tree cultivation, mostly on Jiufeng Mountain. Its most ancient are 200 years old. Local people tell of the "miracle" of a 200-year-old pear tree that was left withered by pest damage. However, it is still sprouting new branches and blooming every year, almost 10 years after it was thought dead.
Dangshan (Anhui Province)
Pears produced in Dangshan are popular all over the country, and pear blossom adds to Dangshan's renown. Pear trees are planted along the banks of the Guhuanghe, the former Yellow River, and when in full bloom, it seems almost as if the river is passing through cloud or drifting snow.
Zhaoxian (Hebei Province)
Zhaoxian County is another pear production center. Pears produced here are called "snowflake pears" - xue hua li. Every spring, the county holds a pear blossom festival, attracting visitors to view nearly 16,670 hectares of blossom. In autumn, visitors return to pick their own snowflake pears.
Azaleas are traditional ornamental shrubs in China and popular around the world. They are widely distributed in eastern and southern China, with colors ranging from white, through yellow and pink to orange, red and purple. China has the most varieties and specimens of azalea in the world. When in bloom, azaleas can transform a whole mountainside. Smaller varieties make pretty pot plants, and the shrub has become a flower show favorite.
Jinggang Mountain (Jiangxi Province)
When azaleas bloom in the spring, it looks as though an artist has taken a paintbrush to Jinggang Mountain area. Bijia Mountain is the flower viewing epicenter, with almost 30 breeds of azalea, and a long blooming season from late March to the end of May. Visitors can also sample fresh bamboo shoots and take in local tea performances.
Emei Mountain (Sichuan Province)
Buddhist monks and nuns call azalea "sala" - holy trees frequently mentioned in Buddhist scriptures. From Baoguo Temple, half way up the mountain, to Wanfoding, the peak, azaleas cover the whole area. As different varieties bloom at different times, from March to August, the mountain is always colorful and fragrant.
Tiantai Mountain (Zhejiang Province)
The blooms Tiantai Mountain is famous for are actually Fortune's rhododendron - in Chinese known as "yunjin dujuan." The mountain has the tallest, largest and the most ancient Fortune's rhododendron in the world. Some trees date back 1,000 years and are still growing on the mountain top, 1,200 meters above sea level. Every May the mountain erupts in flower, bright yellow and pink flowers complement each other, like cloud patterns on brocade work.
Oilseed rape flowers
Oilseed rape was originally grown in China purely for commercial not aesthetic reasons. One of the most significant oil crops in China, it is widely distributed in the middle and east of the country. But in recent years, many cities and counties have been turning to oilseed for the ornamental value of its vivid yellow flowers. Trips to seas of oilseed blooms are among the most popular spring outings in China.
Shanghai and neighboring areas
Fengxian District is Shanghai's most popular oilseed rape site. After roaming around the golden fields, visitors can go to nearby villages and sample some fresh country fare.
Places such as Tongli and Xinghua in Jiangsu Province, also promote spectacular fields of oilseed as tourism attractions.
Luoping (Yunnan Province)
Oilseed rape fields in Luoping are called "the flower sea of wonder" because they form the biggest area of flowers in the world.
The blooms surround the city, giving Luoping County the appearance of an island in a sea of flowers. The best view is from the top of Jinji Peak Cluster, complete with signs advising visitors of the best angles to get their photographs.
Wuyuan (Jiangxi Province)
Oilseed blooms are one of the key attractions of Wuyuan, "the most beautiful village in China." In spring, when an array of flowers bloom at the same time, golden oilseed flowers, pink peach blossom, red and purple azalea and green tea trees paint the village from a vibrant palette, against a backdrop of white farmhouses with black tile roofs.
Menyuan (Qinghai Province)
Chillier temperatures mean oilseed rape in Menyuan does not bloom until July. Beneath azure skies, fluffy clouds, with dark mountains looming in the background, the vast sea of golden blooms provides the finishing touch to a magnificent landscape.