Walking into Nanshan is an unexpected surprise, as the look and feel of the place is remarkably pleasant for a cultural park. In China these are usually built at the lowest cost, and after opening are seeded with vast numbers of shacks for souvenir sellers (check out the Tianya Haijiao park further east if you want a direct comparison).
Nanshan has been built carefully and with only a few of the glaring aesthetic oversights so common in these parks (the huge billboards on my Nanshan home page being one).
The landscaping is superb, and clearly the designers haven't finished yet. The concept of small landscapes and planned walkways twisting and turning to constantly give new vistas makes the park seem even bigger than it really is.
Little spaces and corners are used as areas for special displays - on bells, happiness, arhats, Guanyin, and ink-stones.
Its perhaps a bit of a cliche, but there really does seem to be something for everyone here.
The cost of entry is a reasonable RMB65 per person, but then they do charge additional fees wherever they can, which is a bit irritating.
However, Nanshan, its museums, and its gardens are a wnderful, relaxing place to spend an entire day or even longer.
Runing down from the upper part of Nanshan is a long, covered road used to display many descriptions and photographs of Guanyin. These panels show the development and treatment of Guanyin throughout Chinese history. The text is all in Chinese, but it is all very well thought out, designed and even my children - phillistines both of them - were impressed.
The road down starts at the wall of sacred texts which have been carved into an embankment past the Pure Jade and Gold Guanyin at the top of the park.
A ubiquitous motif for Guanyin is that the lotus flower, curiously missing in this modern representation on the wall at the top of the roadway.
I had seen it on posters in and around Sanya, but nothing prepared me for the scale of the statue of Guanyin, currently being built out on an island off the coast of Nanshan.
108 metres high, (not 107 or 109, but 108); that's about the same as a 30-story building. For comparison, New York's Statue of Liberty is 46.50 metres in height.
Unlike the Statue of Liberty, Nanshan's Guanyin - the world's largest, seemingly - has three faces, so you will "see" Guanyin from all angles.
One is completely lost for words, not so much out of admiration but out of bemusement. I was reminded of Micheal Palin's quotation of Eric Idle, who was asked when the Monty Python team was touring Canada what he thought of the city of Regina. He paused, looked around at the rather bland city on the vast plain, and could only say "Why didn't they put it there instead?" pointing in some other direction.
Similarly with big Guanyin - presumably to become the real big mother in southern China - one can't really think of anything meaningful commentary. It's just there, and no-one knows why really.
At the apearance of anything worth photographing in China, tourists leap into a certain position to line up the photograph.
I have not seen this custom elsewhere in Asia.
I think it's called the Kodak manouevre
Link to a general topographical map of Nanshan area.
Note that the town in yellow to the north-east is Yacheng, and that Sanya City is not shown - it is at the far eastern edge of this map.
A map of Nanshan, showing the upper part of the park.
The entrance is at the top right. The electric buses run on a circuit (in red).