Surrounded by mountains and forests in a tranquil setting with a mild climate all the year round, Conghua boasts the rarest mineral-enriched soda hot spring in the world, the only other being in Switzerland
Conghua Hot Spring, also known as Liuxi River Hot Spring, is located in the northwest of Conghua, Guangdong, 75 kilometers from Guangzhou City. Boasting excellent water quality, high temperatures, and natural surroundings, Conghua Hot Spring is hailed as the “Top Spring of Lingnan”. They are curative to ailments including skin problems, digestive organs, nervous system and more. In fact, Conghua Hot Spring has held its reputation for 500 years.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Conghua was already listed as an attraction spot. In the Ming dynasty, a fellow-villager of the imperial censor Li Guan once composed a poem to praise the pure hot spring water and green mountains here, regarding it as an ideal place to lead a slow-paced life. In the seventh year of the Chongzhen Emperor in Ming dynasty (1634), there were due descriptions of the “hot springs” and “Cliffside Spring” in the book Conghua Annals and the latter was ranked one of the Eight Great Springs in Conghua. During the Qing dynasty, the Conghua Magistrate Sun Sheng spoke highly of Conghua Hot Spring as a haven for leading a hermit’s life. It is safe to say that as early as the Ming and Qing dynasties, Conghua Hot Springs had already become well-known far and near and attracted many travelers.
During the Republic of China years in the 1930s, tourism development began in Conghua. In a few short years, as many as 37 splendid villas and buildings were constructed. Mr. Liu Peiquan, Managing Director of Southwest Airlines, once visited the hot spring waterfalls in Conghua and was much impressed by their beauty. He invited his friends Chen Danian, a lawyer and Liang Peiji, a physician, to conduct deeper research on the area with him, and they they discovered it was a place of striking natural beauty with mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, and fresh clean air and realized it had high development value.
Mr. Li Wuzi, the Conghua Magistrate at that time, also saw the chance to develop the local economy with the hot spring resources. He built a tea house at Hedong (on the east bank of the river). Meanwhile, Mr. You, Mr. Liang, Mr. Chen, and Mr. Li joined hands to build “Yuhu River Villa” beside the river. The villa featured thatched roofs and corridors on four sides, and three cottages in the center to accommodate travelers to Conghua Hot Spring. They also established the Conghua Hot Spring Association to undertake tourism development work, a group joined by people from all walks of life. Association members donated funds in return for free accommodation at Yuhu River Villa. They could also build their own villas and buildings on the land purchased by the Association. Mr. Liu Peiquan hired workers to carve out a stone tablet engraved with the characters “温泉” (meaning “hot spring”) and erected it beside the spring of Hedong. The stone tablet has since been moved to the Hedong Restaurant of Guangdong Hot Spring Hotel. The Conghua Hot Spring Association further built a public hot spring bath house in Hedong, and a road in Hexi leading to the waterfalls. Along the road, several stone bridges were erected spanning streams and stone staircases were carved out of the steep cliffs. About two kilometers south of Hexi, the Association established a pavilion made of bamboo and wood there that was called “Two Mile Pavilion”, from which one can reach the famous “Cliffside Spring” on the mountain.
In the 23rd year of the Republic of China (1934), the Guangdong-Shaoguan Railway was constructed passing near the Hot Spring Site. So the Association built a road that connected the railway to the Hot Spring. They then built a pavilion beside the Bi Lang Bridge and constructed a ferry terminal 200 meters north of the pavilion (near today’s No.11 Beixi). Hot spring waters flowed onto the beach near the terminal, so the sands on the beach were naturally heated to be “hot sands”. Most amazingly, they could bury an egg into the sands before going to the water. When they finished swimming, the egg would be ready to eat. This was the true “hot spring egg”.
The Hot Spring Construction Committee carried out elaborate planning and construction in the Hot Spring Site. They expanded the original bamboo woods into a bamboo “sea” and built villas amidst the bamboos as a “Bamboo Manor”. On the north side of Hexi, they established a Retreat amidst pines and called it “Pine Yard”; while on the south side, they planted prune trees and called it “Plum Village”. Thus a perfect picture of “Three Friends of Winter” was completed.
During this period, Mr. Xian Yuqing, a professor at Lingnan University, wrote articles to introduce the beautiful scenery and special environment of Conghua Hot Spring. A German doctor who studied in the Chemistry Department of the university did experiments to analyze the Hot Spring water and published his findings revealing that hot springs are curative to many diseases such as skin problems, arthritis and more. Thanks to the promotion of the Association, Conghua Hot Spring gained wide prestige. Constructions during that period included the Hot Spring Branch of Zhujiang Retreat, Ru Yu Jade Pavilion, Ru Meng Dream Cottage, Xi Bin Riverside House, Ke Shu Mountain Cottage, Ji You Mountain Cottage, Xuan Yin Courtyard and more. Besides, Chen Jitang, Liu Jiwen, Lin Yungai, Xie Yingzhou built their own villas while the Young Women’s Christian Association and the foreigner club Rotary International also built houses there as retreats.
With traveler numbers increasing, more investments poured in. Tourism, restaurants and other services and facilities also saw a boom. Then in 1937, the Anti-Japanese War broke out. Conghua was partially occupied by the Japanese miitary and the hot spring development stopped. Few travelers came and related industries such as hotels, restaurants, stores closed one after another and most villas remained deserted.
After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, development restarted in 1950s. The Guangdong Cadre Retreat and Guangdong Hot Spring Hotel built several new buildings, but during the Cultural Revolution, construction halted again. From 1950 to 1976, national leaders including Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yi and Ye Jianying n many occasions visited the local Xiang Yang Hot Spring. During that period, more than 1,000 state heads and political delegations were welcomed.
In 1982, the curative effect of Conghua Hot Spring was further recognized by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Then, under the proposal of the State Ministry of Health, the Hot Spring Rehabilitation Center was established. This was the first comprehensive medical institution in China using hot springs to cure skin, chronic and aged diseases. Since 2010, the Center has provided healing approaches for over 10,000 sufferers of skin diseases each year.
In December 2010, the World Federation of Hydrotherapy and Climatotherapy awarded Conghua Hot Spring the plaque and certificate of “World Valuable and Rare Hot Spring”. Since 1978, hot spring construction has witnessed another boom. The tourism and wellness facilities have been much improved and there is even more thriving economic development. Nevertheless, praise and criticism coexist in such a situation.
The hot spring quality here is second-to-none and Conghua Hot Spring truly drives the development of the hot spring spa industry.