A forest retreat on Shanghai’s outskirts

A Chinese billionaire’s philanthropic quest to preserve his hometown and an ancient camphor-tree forest — threatened by a dam project in the southern Chinese province of Jiangxi — has morphed into a peaceful refuge an hour from downtown Shanghai.

Ma Dadong saved 10,000 trees, some of them thousands of years old, as well as 50 villas first constructed in the Ming and Qing dynasties, in a project that began in 2002. In 2009, an agreement was struck with Aman to give the trees and buildings new life in the form of a luxury hotel. Over the next decade, a painstaking reconstruction effort was undertaken to replant and reconstruct the area to its original splendor.

Amanyangyun eventually opened in 2018 as a 2.1-million-square-foot retreat for those looking to escape city life for a while, a natural haven complemented by amazing architecture and Aman’s signature level of service.

Our Inspector's Highlights

  • The big draw of Amanyangyun is its proximity to nature. Walking through the grounds beneath the canopy of ancient camphor trees is a kind of restorative meditation in itself.
  • The massive 30,569-square-foot Aman Spa is home to both a Russian-style banya and Turkish-style hammam, offering the best in multicultural relaxation.
  • Chinese fashion designer Han Feng has taken up residence at Amanyangyun and works with the Shanghai hotel to curate several exhibition spaces, partly utilizing works from her own extensive collection. The beautiful, light-filled sunken pavilions play host to an excellent array of photography, paintings and sculpture — a must-see for anyone making the trip to this property.
  • Housed in a restored villa from Jiangxi province, Nan Shufang is the hotel’s cultural center. Check out the daily scheduled calendar of gratis activities, including tea ceremonies, calligraphy and lessons on a traditional Chinese guqin instrument.
  • During the warmer months, outside dining options at Amanyangyun are plentiful. Brunch in the garden courtesy of Italian restaurant Arva is a particular highlight.

Things to Know

  • Though the scheduled lessons at Nan Shunfang cultural center are for adults, there are separate art- and craft-focused activities for kids ages five to 12 in the Culture Discovery Center, including kite-making and pottery.
  • Communing with nature is a popular pastime for locals from Shanghai and other surrounding cities, resulting in high hotel occupancy on weekends and public holidays. For even more quiet, try to come mid-week to avoid the crowds.
  • The oldest of the camphor trees saved from Jiangxi is known as the King Tree, a 2,000-year-old giant that sits at the center of the grounds with a red bow circling its more than six-foot-wide trunk. A photo with the King Tree is almost a requirement for hotel guests.
  • Amanyangyun’s location in Shanghai’s outer Minhang District is nowhere near public transport, making it a destination in and of itself. This is not the best place to strike out and explore the city, but rather a good place to escape from it.

The Rooms

  • The property includes 13 rebuilt ancient villas and 24 newly built suites, all imagined by Australian designer Kerry Hill, who maintained the architectural integrity of the 300- to 500-year-old homes. For example, the original external bricks, roof tiles and wooden pillars remain unchanged, but the interiors have been updated to reflect modern needs, including heated floors, Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs.
  • The 13 ancient villas are less like rooms and more akin to walled villages, each containing a reconstructed two-bedroom villa, a newly built two-bedroom addition, as well as lotus ponds, swimming pools and a Jacuzzi in the landscaped gardens.
  • Each bathroom features a hefty tub made from Hebei black granite. Before the roof was placed on each villa, the hunks of rock were lowered in from above and the bathtub then was carved from the stone onsite.
  • Look above the front door of the ancient villas to see brickwork and tile decorations that include sculptures and Chinese characters. These details traditionally convey the wishes of the original occupants for their future generations.

The Restaurants

  • Chinese restaurant La Zhu serves the spicy but little-known cuisine of Jiangxi province, the original home of the property’s camphor trees and ancient villas.
  • An onsite organic garden, a view of which is available from the seven private dining rooms of La Zhu, supplies vegetables and herbs for the luxury hotel's restaurants.
  • Dine on seasonally inspired Italian fare at lakeside spot Arva. Spring plates might include asparagus e nocciole (with hazelnut and oranges), calamarata (Italian sausage and black cabbage pasta) or branzino with white asparagus.
  • For a memorable dinner, hot pot restaurant Yin Lu can serve a floating feast on a bamboo raft on the property's man-made lake — a scenic setting for this interactive dining experience.

Indoor pool
Meeting rooms
Outdoor pool
Getting There
6161 Yuanjiang Road, Shanghai, 201111 China
PVG (55 min)   SHA (45 min)  
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