Jade Peak (Yufeng) Temple’s Ten Thousand Flower Camellia

by Charles Lee, Hume Camellia Society

After the congress we ventured off on the Post Congress Tour. The tour was to take us through the very mountainous region of Yunnan which borders with Tibet, visiting ancient cities like Dali, Lijiang and Shangri La. Typically, this part of China is very rich in history, and has many places if interest for all tourists, regardless of the background.

One highlight near to Lijiang was the very famous ‘Wandoucha’, Ten Thousand Flower Camellia”, contained with the Jade Peak Temple (or Yufeng Temple), located at the foot of the “Jade Dragon Snow Mountain”. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
The temple is approximately 3000 m above sea level. Discussion later in this article questions whether the plant is ‘Wandoucha’ or something else.

 As stated the temple is located at the south foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain which is 15 km north of Lijiang ancient city, the Jade Peak Temple (or Yufeng Temple) parallels with Fuguo Temple, Puji Temple, Wenfeng Temple and Zhiyun Temple as the “Five Lamaseries of suburban Lijiang”.

First built in 1756 during the reign of Emperor Qianiong of the Qing Dynasty in a mixed architectural style of Han, Bai and Tibetan, Jade Peak Temple comprised as many as nine courtyards at its maximum area, but only the main hall and two courtyards exist today. Inside the temple several famous and precious flowers and trees are found (e.g. camellia, oriental cherry, wild rose, Magnolia delavayi), along with evergreen pines and cypresses, crystal springs and pools are dotted around. Jade Peak Temple has become an important part of the Lijiang tourist destination.

Comparing with many lamaseries in China, Jade Peak Temple is smaller and less10000 bloom copy imposing, but it is an old camellia tree that makes the temple so renowned. Tourism China suggest the plant is grafted from single red flower camellia and semi-double ‘Shizitou’ camellia, for hundreds of years this tree has been growing with luxuriant foliage and blossom each season due to the careful cultivation of the lamas of the temple. Up to today it has been braided into an amazing pergola, less than 3 metres high, so that visitors can view it at close range. From the beginning of spring to the beginning of summer, this magic camellia can blossom over 100 days and 20 times, with more than 1000 flowers each time, giving more than 20,000 in total every year! That’s why it is hailed as “Ten Thousand Flower Camellia”.

Yufeng shops copyAccording to garden experts of Yunnan Province, this camellia tree has a history older that the temple itself. The so-called “Ten Thousand Flower Camellia”, was over 500 years old.

On arrival in the car/bus park, you take a short walk through the obligatory hawker stalls to the temple entrance. At the entrance a small group of local women singing a welcome chant, happily/aggressively take a small payment to allow the tourists to take their photo. Greeting chorus

The entrance is an imposing Chinese pagoda style building, and leads to the steep climb to the “Ten Thousand flower Camellia” courtyard.

Our visit was in February, which is not the best time to see the camellia in full bloom, indeed it did have only one solitary bloom. Advice from tourist websites suggests that March is the best time to visit, well maybe next time!

Yufeng entry copyBut despite the lack of blooms the amazing structure of the plant kept us enthralled. It consists of either two different camellias as mentioned earlier, which had been grafted onto a base plant or one cultivar and the root stock fighting back to give two blooms.Trek to 10000 copy

Peter Valda’s book “Gardens of China”. 2002, attempts to sort out the mystery:

  • “the camellia is unusual in that the trunk and main branches have been trained in one vertical plain – an informal espalier if you like. By some authors (Feng, Xia and Zhu, 1986; Savige, 1993) it has been given the cultivar name ‘Wandoucha’, which is described as having double pink flowers. However, the flowers are bright red, and I am happy to agree with Pang et al (1995) that is ‘Shizitou’. It is also interesting that the flowers on some of the branches while not exactly single, have a central boss of stamens. So either this is the stock on which ‘Shizitou’ was grafted or the original stock must have been grafted with two different varieties, a practice long popular in China with many plants.

10000 rear copyA terrace below this courtyard has recently been planted with a selection of other Camellia reticulata and to one side of this is what is labeled the ‘Michelia Garden’. This is a small building in the courtyard of which a pair of old plants of Michelia yunnanensis, the trunks of which have been trained in the same manner as that of the Ten Thousand Flower Camellia. Sun et al (2000) say these are 120-200 years old.”

10000 front copyThis plant was well worth seeing and feeling, because of its very unusual shape and massive trunk structure. Like any plant, to see it in full bloom would be an advantage, but as I said, “maybe next time”!


ICS Congress 2012 Post Tour; Home China Guide, Lijiang, website; “Gardens of China”, Peter Valda 2002; China Tourism websites.



This entry was posted in Features. Bookmark the permalink.