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Away with the roses: An orchestra at Shanghai’s largest green space
From:Shanghai Daily  |  2020-06-06 04:29

IF vast swatches of green is your thing, Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden is really a must-visit, especially since you probably spend most of your days in the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s most populous cities.

About an hour’s drive away from the center of Shanghai, the garden is an oasis of nature hidden away in the city’s Songjiang District.

The botanical garden only opened back in 2011, and is spread across an impressive 207 hectares, making it the largest green space in the entire city. It’s made up of a central display area, a conservation area for native plants and a scientific research center. It’s also surrounded by a massive green belt which acts as a buffer zone, stretching 4.5 kilometers in length.

The main garden features 26 themed areas, including the impressive Quarry Garden, which is where a waterfall meets a large pit that was dug three decades ago when the area was a rock quarry. The designers have managed to effectively turn what was an eyesore into a natural wonder.

More than 12,000 species of plants are on display here, 421 of which are rare and endangered, with a focus on plants native to east China. Many of them are found inside the garden’s conservatories, which are large greenhouses covering an area of 3 acres (12,140 square meters).

Research is a key factor at Chenshan, with the Shanghai Chenshan Plant Science Research Center being set up in 2009. Thirteen research groups and around 80 researchers focus mainly on the conservation of endangered plants and the sustainable use of plants as food.

The best news is that the garden is open to the public, and it’s accessible by Metro.

Outdoor concert

Classical music and orchestral performances, while admittedly beautiful, aren’t really on the top of my list when it comes to finding something to do on a Saturday evening, but when my boss asked if I’d like to go along to the first outdoor concert since much of the world went into lockdown over COVID-19, I couldn’t really say no.

When I woke up in the morning and heard rain pattering down on the roof, I started to regret agreeing just a little bit, but taking part in a world first — and getting to check out the Chenshan Botanical Garden — was enough of an incentive.

Any regrets about going along to an outdoor concert in the rain were allayed when we finally arrived at the garden and were taken around for a special tour.

It might have been wet and soggy, but the rain only added to the experience of nature and wilderness, a much-needed escape from the constant rumble and gray of the city center. And luckily I remembered to wear my only pair of waterproof shoes.

By the time we made it to the concert site around 6pm — having toured some major part of the garden and eaten some local snacks — the musicians and singers were already gathering behind the stage and waiting for their first stage performances in months, ever since China was hit by novel coronavirus.

One performer, violinist Wang Zhijiong said she’s enjoyed playing alone over the past few months, but missed performing for an audience during the epidemic.

“This is my first show since the end of January,” she told one of our reporters. Performing on stage again “feels like I’m a fish returning to the sea after being stuck in a fish tank.”

The rain dampened the enthusiasm of some audience members, but those who came out anyway were treated to an exhilarating show, despite enjoying it under the weight of disposable raincoats soaked in early summer rain. Umbrellas, obviously, were a no-no, considering they’d ruin the view for anyone sitting behind.

I’m still not a huge fan of classical music, though, but I’ll definitely visit the Chenshan Botanical Garden again, maybe even for another concert.