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The Shandong capital of JI’NAN (济南, jì’nán) stands on the site of one of China’s oldest settlements – pottery unearthed nearby has been dated to over four thousand years ago – but is today a bright, modern and youthful place with wide boulevards and gleaming towers. It is famous throughout China for its natural springs, clear blue upwellings that are set among several urban parks and must rank as some of the cleanest water available in any Chinese city. Baotu Spring is the most famous, though similar delights are on offer at Wulong Tan Park; most notable, however, is secluded Wangfu Chizi, an open-air pool which gives visitors a rare chance to bathe amid grey hutong architecture. There are also non-watery sights available, particularly the provincial museum and the steep hillside at Qianfo Shan, both at the city’s southern limits and a good way to fill in time in transit.

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