Anhui province is situated in the very center of China. Bengbu is the third major city of this province, with 3.5 million inhabitts, situated on the banks of the Huai River, which separates the North of China from the South. You may be asking, why to visit Anhui? There are other prominent cities in Anhui that you can also visit. Ma Guoxiang, a real estate developer and collector of cultural relics, had a dream – to preserve and promote Chinese heritage. Around two decades ago, he started to purchase ancient Chinese buildings, and collect antique wooden furniture. More than 450 buildings were rescued from different provinces and brought to Bengbu. City authorities supported the idea of creating a park with a rather complicated name – Ancient Residential Expo Park. It covers more than 3,300,000 square meters.
I had the privilege of visiting this fantastic place when it was still under construction. It looked very promising – imagine a vast landscape with hills, water canals, and trees filled with birds singing.
Here you will see several islands with Chinese ancient architecture, including an old Chinese opera house, art galleries, an open-air stage for events, and much more. The most attractive feature of this man-made park is that it is tasteful, with a deep respect to Chinese heritage.
We visited a charming coffee house with a warmhearted hostess. The first time her husband saw her was through the window of a coffee shop some 20 years ago, and now she wants to create a cozy coffee fairytale for all her visitors.
A new, stylish and spacious hotel with comfortable rooms was almost complete when I visited. Only final touches were needed. It will host conferences as well.
The famous movie star, Jackie Chan, will be opening his museum in this park as well.
China has numerous theme parks, but this one promises to be exceptional. It differs because of its fundamental knowledge of Chinese art and cultural heritage, a respectful attitude for it and a passion for sharing it.
One of the islands will host pavilions showcasing foreign countries. Visitors – estimated at 30,000 per day – will be able to buy products from these countries and enjoy their cultural performances.
A part of the park will open in the middle of May, the entire park will be open at the end of 2019. It will soon be a magnet for Chinese and foreign visitors.
A landmark of Bengbu
When in Bengbu, don’t miss the chance to visit a major landmark – a monument for the center of China, where your one foot can stand in the South, and the other in the North of China. You will see leading figures from Chinese mythology there: a white tiger, a dragon, a lion, a snake and a turtle. Local families come here to enjoy the fountain and to fly kites.
Its size reminds me of the Capital Museum in Beijing: it is vast and impressive. The museum‘s new building opened in 2016. It is one of the most conceptual and informative Chinese museums.
The displays cover three floors and reveal much more than a history of a city, or even of the Anhui province. You can find displays of archeology, intangible cultural heritage, and valuable collections of jade and porcelain. You will enjoy this museum. It is possible to learn a lot about the history of China in a very visual, sometimes interactive way here. Limited information is available in English, but you can still look around. Displays are quite easy to comprehend.
When I asked about the availability of an English audio guide, the explanation they gave was that they have very few foreigners visiting the museum, and for that reason, information in English is limited, but they plan to have an audio guide in English in the future.
On the fourth floor, you can see a collection of antique bronze mirrors, works of calligraphy and paintings. The ground floor is the location of rotating exhibitions.
The address of the museum is: Civic Square, Donghai Avenue, Bengbu. You can visit it free of charge from 9.00 to 17.00, except Mondays.
Food in Bengbu
I would suggest you try the local food in Bengbu. Taste the local crab, maybe even a softshell turtle, local river fish, Bengbu pickles and much more. Anhui cuisine is one of most prominent in China.
How to get to Bengbu
It is easy to get there by high-speed train from the Beijing South Railway station. This city is 3.5 hours from Beijing by train, and 2 hours from Shanghai.