a date with peonies at Heze, Shandong

“Let’s go to Shandong for the peonies!” was a statement uttered out of excitement by my good friend May over dinner one fine evening late last year but was one that we took very seriously.  And with that earnestness, we put things into motion this year and by late April we saw ourselves heading to Heze (菏澤) in Shandong Province, China for the famous king of flowers.

Planning a trip to Heze, the peony capital of China (中國牡丹之都) had been tricky because if we went too early in April the flowers might not have bloomed or risked missing them all together if we were there too late in May.  A decision had to be made and in the end we settled for the last week of April.

Our plan was to visit three places in Shandong — Heze for the peonies, Confucius’ hometown in Qufu (曲阜) and end with Mount Tai (泰山) at Tai’an (泰安).

When May’s Chinese friend Jing Hua informed her in mid-April in a slightly panic tone that the peonies were already in full bloom and she reckoned there might not be any flowers left by the time we were there, May could only console her that it would be ok even if there were just a few peonies left to greet us as it was too troublesome to change our itinerary.

Before we got to enjoy what we had planned for, we had to first endure a long day of travelling.  We departed for Hong Kong from Kota Kinabalu at the crack of dawn and after a long layover, we eventually arrived at Jinan (濟南), the capital of Shandong province in Eastern China at 9pm after a 3-hour flight.  Almost immediately after we were greeted by Jing Hua who had come to meet up with us from Beijing at the airport, we were hurried to the van that would take us on another 3-hour journey to Heze where we would put up for the night.  Needless to say when we arrived at the hotel at midnight on the dot we were utterly exhausted.


landscape of Jinan, capital of Shandong province – we came back to Jinan when our tour was completed, and made time on the second last day before we left to have a little tour of the city

We were glad to have Jing Hua, our hospitable host who made all the arrangements for us and looked after us well throughout the trip.

heze shandong

a new hotel in Heze where we stayed for a night

heze shandong

the cafe where we had a good breakfast the next day before we began our exciting day ahead

heze shandong (3)

a usual sight at most hotels in China but it’s a novelty for us as we do not get this at our hotels back home in Malaysia

heze shandong (4)

assorted condiments (Shandong is famous for their peanuts)

heze shandong (5)

pickled garlic… we didn’t try as it was too early for these!

heze shandong

chef cooks noodles, wontons and dumplings etc for you on request

After we were well fed, we checked out from the hotel as after our visit to the peony garden just across the road from the hotel we would move on to our next destination, Qufu.

here we are…

heze shandong, peonies

welcome signboard at the entrance of the Caozhou Peony Garden

heze shandong (8)

but first, let’s shop!

heze shandong, peonies

voilà! the 3 Malaysian girls beautified with real and lovely fragranced flower crowns

We did miss the sea of tree peonies in the garden as they were destroyed by very heavy rain just a few days before we arrived.  But we still managed to see some potted ones that were kept in the green house.  Though these imperial flowers had past their best, we were delighted to seen them.

heze shandong, peonies

Peonies — the city flower of Heze (牡丹是菏澤的市花)

heze shandong, peonies

big and showy blooms

heze shandong (12)


heze shandong, tree peonies, peony garden

in full blooms

heze shandong (16)

past my glorious days

heze shandong (15)

and I’m just waiting…

heze shandong (13)

regal 國色天香

heze shandong, peonies


heze shandong, peonies

the flowers were bigger than our faces…

After the green house we took a guided tour around the garden.  It was a chilly day at around 15⁰C but the morning air was fresh and we enjoyed the stroll tremendously.

heze shandong, peonies

at last we spotted peony growing on the ground

heze shandong (19)

white peonies with a tinge of green

heze shandong, peonies

interesting colour

heze shandong, peonies

trying hard to pay attention to the guide who was committed to giving very detailed introduction and explanation on the numerous types and breeds of peonies

heze shandong, peonies

Jing Hua and her friends; distracted by the scenery and flowers in the garden…

heze shandong, peonies

even I was was distracted too… after seeing all the peonies in pinks and reds I found the purple irises refreshing!

Although we missed the sea of tree peonies (牡丹) in the garden, we got to see the late bloomers — the garden peonies (芍藥).  The flowers of the garden peonies tend to be smaller (3 – 4 inches across) than the tree peonies (up to 12 inches). Nevertheless, we were just as happy to see them as they made up for our missed opportunity to see the tree peonies!

heze shandong, peonies, garden peonies, tree peoniesheze shandong (25)heze shandong, peonies, garden peonies, tree peonies

heze shandong, peonies, garden peonies, tree peonies


After we passed the field of garden peonies, the guide led us to something totally different at one corner of the garden next to a small temple…

heze shandong, peony garden, banks' rose, rosa banksiae, lady banks' rose

Rosa Banksiae, Lady Bank’s Rose, Bank’s Rose, 木香

heze shandong (29)

introduction on the tree — it was planted more than 300 years ago

heze shandong, peony garden, banks' rose, rosa banksiae, lady banks' rose

frangranced Bank’s rose 木香 is native to central and western China

After almost two hours of touring the peony garden it was time to day goodbye, but not before a couple of snapshots in front of the landmarks…

heze shandong, peony gardenheze shandong, peony garden

It was time well spent in a nice garden, breathing in the fresh crisp air, enjoying the relaxing stroll without the overwhelming crowds and viewing the delightful blooms.

Ahh… really, what would life be without flowers?

《牡丹》唐 . 皮日休

heze shandong, peony garden, tree peonies

(Trip to Shandong – end of Part 1 of 3)

5 thoughts on “a date with peonies at Heze, Shandong

  1. Wow! What a special visit! I have once travelled to China and it was magical. As a peony enthusiast, you have made me want to go again! Lovely to see these peonies growing in their home. Thank you.


  2. Pingback: on top of Mount Tai, Shandong | Colourful Threads of Life

  3. Pingback: endless gates, ancient trees and Confucianism at Qufu, Shandong | Colourful Threads of Life

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