The Origins of Jade Spring
Hangzhou Botanical Garden is not only home to a multitude of seasonal plants, such as this season’s plum blossom, but it is also the residence of Jade Spring, one of the three famous springs in Hangzhou. For the last 700 years, Jade Spring has been widely known for its crystal-clear waters and giant fish and its unique view ‘Jumping Fish at Jade Spring’ was cited as one of the ‘Eighteen Scenes of West Lake’ during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).
According to legend, Jade Spring is formed by a Chinese dragon living in a bottomless ditch beside the Qiantang River (钱塘江). The ditch is called ‘Kaitian River’ (开天河, ‘Kaitian’ literally means the creation of the world) and the Chinese dragon, living there, is very powerful and capable of extraordinary things like mounting clouds and overturning seas and rivers.
One day a government ship is escorting two barges along the Qiantang River. On these barges are poor workers who are forced to build lavish palaces for the Emperor. While passing through the Qiantang River officers on the ship are rather crude and all one can hear, among the loud beatings of the gongs, are the bitter cries of the workers. Learning this, the dragon gets furious and uses its magical powers to overturn the government ship and releases all the poor people on the barges.
The dragon, upon reflection, thinks that to solve the problem thoroughly he had better kill the mean emperor and replace him with a kind one. Riding on the wings of the wind the dragon forces itself into the palace and just as it is about to kill the emperor a brave servant hits it right in the eye with a slingshot. The dragon is in so much pain that it flees but swears to come back.
Disguising himself as a man the dragon heads to Qinglian Monastery which he knows is home to an old monk with superb medical skills. The monk sees through its little trick and gets suspicious and asks the dragon about the cause of the injury. Realizing there is no way to hide the truth any longer the dragon confesses the whole story and adds that when he is fully recovered he will seek revenge. Hearing this, the monk is startled and thinks to himself that his monastery is sponsored by the emperor and if the dragon kills the emperor then he will, in turn, lose everything.
So, faking a smile and as a reward for curing the dragon’s eye the monk asks it to create a spring for the monastery which is low on water supply. Unaware that it is a setup the dragon agrees instantly and drills into the ground and as he drills deeper the jade-clear water gurgles out. The deeper the dragon drills, the more water comes out, gradually forming a pond.
Before the dragon can get out the old monk moves the holy pagoda, standing before Buddha, right onto the eye of the spring and imprisons the dragon beneath. The pond formed by the dragon is then named Jade Spring because of the color of the water resembles that of jade.
Also not far from Jade Spring there are two other pools, ‘Pearl Spring (珍珠泉)’ and ‘Showers on a Sunny Day (晴空喜雨泉)’. Legend has it that the head of the dragon is under Pearl Spring, hence when one stamps ones foot on the edge of the pond the dragon will awaken and breathe pearl-like bubbles to rise endlessly to the surface. They say the tail of the dragon is under the ‘Showers on a Sunny Day’, which is why on sunny days the pond is always covered with mist.
Where to go:
Address: No.2, Taoyuan Hill, Yuquan, Hangzhou (杭州市玉泉桃源岭2号)