Serene, calm, spiritual — three words that one would rarely see in a description of Shanghai, but this is not your normal modern-day China. This is Amanyangyun, Aman group of hotels’ fourth destination in China and the only one in Shanghai. Meaning “nourishing cloud” in Mandarin, “yangyun” is a reference to expanding the “cloud” of the mind with knowledge.
Opened in January, this is the first Aman resort to have “travelled” more than 700km, from Fuzhou in Jiangxi to Shanghai, and is a result of a 16-year labour of love by Fuzhou-born entrepreneur Ma Dadong. Dadong and Aman have worked together to give China’s deteriorating past new life in Amanyangyuan.
A fusion of comfort, beauty and tradition, Amanyangyun is a mix of the new and the old. Charming Ming and Qing dynasty dwellings have been reassembled, brick-by-brick, to create peaceful, refined spaces. To bring it into the 21st century, Australian architect Kerry Hill created contemporary spaces that complement the old buildings with light-filled interiors finished in wood, stone and bamboo. A sense of calm surrounds the entire resort, complete with a 1,000-year-old camphor forest across the man-made lake. This is Shanghai like you’ve never experienced before.
The magnificent Emperor Tree that stands at the entrance to the dazzling Nanshufang heritage complex is perhaps, the most striking bit about Amanyangyun. A reminder of the value of maintaining a connection with history, don’t forget to nourish the tree with water, which symbolises nurturing the past to enrich the future, so to speak.
An Antique Villa.
The brush painting classroom at Nanshufang.
Amanyangyun has 24 Ming Courtyard Suites and 13 Antique Villas, each with a unique charm of its own. The suites are really mansions with their own courtyards, catering to all seasons — complete with fireplaces for the cold Shanghai nights.
Luxury of this kind doesn’t come cheap, but the Antique Pavilions are worth splurging on. The one or two bedroom restored villas come with a view of the 1,000-year-old camphor forest, a private garden and swimming pool. Perfect for a family getaway!
I stayed in the Ming Deluxe Pavilion, which had a restful, earthy palette. Nestled in the newly-built wing of the restored villa with antique surroundings, my pavilion was spacious and modern, with plenty of natural light — just how I like a hotel room to be.
Ancient stone carvings.
It is worth mentioning that despite the modern facilities, Amanyangyun pays homage to China’s rich heritage with original stone carvings and inscriptions — all around 400 years old.
The Emperor Tree with Nanshufang in the background.
However, all this culture and tradition wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t also translated into food. Chinese restaurant Lazhu plays homage to the cuisine of Jiangxi, the birthplace of the camphor forest and the ancient villas. Expect your palate to be indulged with traditional dishes dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties, which include ingredients from Amanyangyun’s organic herb and vegetable garden, located on the property. All dishes should be washed down with fine Chinese wine. Yes, it does exist!
But Chinese isn’t the heart and soul at Amanyangyun; one is spoilt for gastronomic delight with Chef Andrea Torre’s Italian cuisine at Arva and the lakeside eatery Nama, which embraces Japanese culinary traditions.
I had the best massage of the year at Aman Spa, which caters to every destressing desire the mind, soul and body need. From yoga to Pilates to Himalayan singing bowl sessions, the spa combines Chinese healing practices with modern relaxation techniques. There are also two swimming pools, outdoor and indoor, to frolic around in, and a gym for those toned bodies.
To get a taste of China, one doesn’t have to go far. Nanshufang, named after the royal reading pavilion in the Forbidden City, is the cultural heart of Amanyangyun. It is a cultural learning centre dedicated to Chinese art forms.
Housed within the most architecturally impressive antique buildings, to have made the journey from Fuzhou, the centre has nanmu wood furnishings, characteristic of Ming interiors. Each private room in Nanshufang is a modern-day recreation of the scholars’ studios of 17th-century China’s literati.
A four-bedroom villa.
In ancient China, to qualify yourself as a well-educated person, one had to learn four skills. Mainly, how to play a musical instrument, play a sport, learn to write and learn to paint. To brush up your skills on showing off such talents, there are daily classes on traditional crafts such as calligraphy, music and painting at Nanshufang.
Since I already play the guzheng, I opted for an introductory class in the guqin, a seven-string classical instrument that dates back 5,000 years.
If drinking tea and watching the world go by is more your thing, there are traditional tea and incense ceremonies held, too.
Across the man-made lake, the forest park nurtures many of the transported camphor trees. But this isn’t your ordinary forest, it is steeped in history with each of the 10,000-odd camphor tree being rescued and relocated 700km from Jiangxi to Shanghai.
And if all this sounds incredibly unbelievable, the mini cinema at Amanyangyuan shows a short documentary on Ma Dadong and his vision being given life.
Delicacies at Lazhu.
Set amid trees and lakes, Amanyangyun blends the old and new, natural and man-made and is not your typical Shanghai destination. It is ideal for city escapes, wellness retreats or exploring the best of China, minus the crowds. It lies close to Shanghai culture, shopping and sights, if you can’t chillax. At these prices, you can bet you’re not behind a firewall so every moment at Amanyangyun can be experienced Instagrammably.
Amanyangyun, 6161 Yuanjiang Road, Minhang District, Shanghai / Call: +86 21 8011 9999 / Email: email@example.com, www.aman.com.