Steeped in history and culture, these locales offer awe-inspiring backdrops for your wedding portraits.
Once known as Dayan, the UNESCO-listed hillside town of Lijiang sits near the border of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, on the cusp of the Tibetan Plateau. Dating back more than 800 years, Lijiang was a key trading town on the historic Tea Horse Road, which journeys through the mountains of southwest China. Brimming with bright colours and the gentle speech of 26 different ethnic minorities, Lijiang was once the ancient capital of the Naxi kingdom and remains the home of many indigenous Naxi people today. Built from local Yunnan pine, elm, granite and marble, Amandayan and its 35-suites sit seamlessly atop the maze of cobblestone streets and waterways of Lijiang Old Town, its tiled roofs and traditional courtyards are an elegant complement to the Naxi architectural heritage of Lijiang. Blessed by its rich cultural heritage and historic places of interest on almost every street corner, opportunities to explore Naxi culture abound, from traditional arts and crafts demonstrations, culinary specialties or visits to neighboring artisan villages. Further to its history and cultural charm, Lijiang is abundant in natural beauty with trails along mountains and valleys in a spectacle of flora, fauna, mist and magic. From Amandayan, guides lead bespoke, seasonal excursions including hikes through the breathtaking Tiger Leaping Gorge, dramatic ascents of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and horseback rides through the wildflower meadows of this ruggedly serene landscape. Honoured by poets and painters from the Tang dynasty onwards, Hangzhou is one of the seven ancient capitals of China, known for its extraordinary natural beauty and the glassy, pagoda-lined waters of West Lake. A little west of the city resides Amanfayun, a former tea pickers’ village in a peaceful valley of osmanthus and magnolia, its tranquility pricked only by the peal of the temple bells. Once the dwelling of the richest family in the village, Fayun Place sits at the centre of Amanfayun, a 200-year-old structure that links past and present through both its architecture and the cultural activities that take place there every day including calligraphy, paper-cutting and tea-tasting. Over 600sqm in size, Fayun Place also houses a library, cigar lounge and a relaxation area. Around it, a network of stone pathways, courtyards and bamboo groves connect the Aman Spa’s Bath House with 46 rooms, suites and villas. Once village dwellings, no two rooms, suites or villas are the same, each has been sensitively restored to maintain its original structure and layout using traditional architectural techniques and has been appointed with Chinese traditions and Buddhist monastic culture. Surrounded by bamboo forests, tea fields and no less than seven ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries, including the renowned Lingyin Temple, one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, once home to 3,000 monks. Amanfayun offers the perfect opportunity to absorb Hangzhou’s history, culture and natural beauty, from joining the local monks, who pass through Amanfayun for their morning chants at Faxi Temple to visiting the nearby UNESCO-designated West Lake surrounded by beautiful pavilions and pagodas, to Six Harmonies Pagoda, one of China’s most significant pagodas, dating back to 970 AD. Following a day of cultural enrichment, the six-convivial dining and drinking spaces at Amanfayun (three run independently by local operators, to create a truly authentic experience) provide a range of flavours from traditional village cooking at the Steam House to refined soul-sustaining dishes at the temple-side Vegetarian House, and elegant regional specialties in Hangzhou House. Amanfayun captures both the look, spirit and taste of the old country, and, thanks to its plantation heritage, serves one of the finest cups of Longjing tea in China. A century and a half ago, guests of Empress Dowager Cixi would linger in Qing dynasty buildings to await an audience with the most powerful woman in Imperial China. Today these carefully restored pavilions house 51 suites, each decoratively inspired by Ming and Qing dynasty heritage and used by guests of Aman Summer Palace as a restful and restorative base for exploring the UNESCO treasures of Beijing. Also known as Yihe Yuan or ‘Gardens of Nurtured Harmony’, the Summer Palace was built in 1750. This beautiful 290-hectare garden estate long served the Qing Dynasty as an Imperial summer retreat and is considered one of China’s most peaceful and photogenic sites. See also: AFFORDABLE HONEYMOONS! 5 SOUTHEAST ASIAN DESTINATIONS YOU NEED TO SEE A secret door by the East Gate of Aman Summer Palace provides exclusive, out of hours access to these magnificent gardens, enabling guests to explore without the crowds. As the scent of magnolia blossom and the sound of Cantonese opera mingle in the air, it is hard to believe the urban sprawl of 21st-century Beijing is just a short distance away; The Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, the Marble Boat (picture before), Xing Bridge and beyond a dense network of narrow hutongs, the Forbidden City itself are all easily reached. Enrichment is also available closer to home, with cultural demonstrations, calligraphy lessons, Chinese knot and dough figure making, paper cutting lessons and Tai Chi all available at the resort. A short drive just beyond the city limits of Shanghai stands an ancient camphor forest, some trees over 1,000 years old and many over 100ft tall. Woven among them are a series of Ming and Qing dynasty dwellings, rural refuges from the relentless pace of the city. Despite their age and authenticity, both homes and trees are new additions to the area, the result of a decade-long conservation project that has seen more than a 700km journey from Jiangxi, the replanting of 10,000 camphor trees and the disassembly and reassemble of the homes brick by brick. The masterful reconstruction and restoration of these heritage houses has created 26 meticulously restored Antique Villas, which still bear the legacy of their bygone owners, in the form of ornate stone carvings and inscriptions that depict family hopes and histories dating back as far as 2,000 years. In addition to the Antique Villas, Amanyangyun homes 24 newly created Ming Courtyard Suites that harmoniously complement their historic counterparts, offering guests expansive, light-filled bedrooms and living areas, characterised by refined wooden interiors. Akin to its fellow properties, Amanyangyun offers an aesthetic and cultural experience rooted in the crafts and customs of the region, from Chinese calligraphy lessons in the Nan Shu Fang, to holistic treatments inspired by traditional Chinese medicine in the Aman Spa, to regional delicacies at the Chinese restaurant Lazhu, which pays homage to Jiangxi, the original home of Amanyangyun’s camphor trees and Antique Villas. See also: 5 NOSTALGIC SINGAPORE RESTAURANTS FOR RETRO AND ORIENTAL WEDDING SHOOTS