By Zhou Mengya in Features

Located within the Kunming Institute of Botany, the Fuligong (扶荔宫) Greenhouses were created as the principal venue of the prestigious United Nations Biodiversity Conference (also known as the COP-15) when it was hosted in the city in 2021.

The name Fuligong translates, approximately, to 'lychee palace' in English and this moniker is a link to what is believed to be the earliest recorded greenhouse in the world. The original Fuligong was built by the emperor Wu Di (汉武帝) over two thousand years ago in the Han Dynasty, near the city of Xi'an (西安) in the north of China. Thus, in this relatively cold and dry part of the country, fine fruits, exotic flowers and trees from the warmer, more humid south could be grown and enjoyed.


The main hall covers an impressive 4,200 square meters but is perhaps most notable for its soaring ceiling, which at a height of 31 meters makes it the tallest transparent greenhouse in the world. Most of the highlights are found here, including zones dedicated to tropical fruit, aquatic plants and desert fauna amongst other categories. A second greenhouse, shaped as a spiral, shares a similar height, and its design was inspired by the concept of 'the core of life'. In total, a dizzying 1,800 plant species of very diverse types are found here, from tiny flowers to the giant waterlily, which can support the weight of a 70kg person on its 3-meter-wide pads.


As you'd expect, special climate conditions are necessary here, and the warm, humid climate allows the specimens here to thrive. Visitors can enjoy plants from not just all over China, but far beyond: the hot valleys of inland Australia to the remote African savanna, the American deserts and far beyond. This in an exceptionally vivid display of global biodiversity.

On October 18, 2022, the Executive Committee Office of the UN conference that was held here announced that they would maintain the Fuligong Greenhouses as a permanent exhibition space so that it could serve as a tribute to the success of the event. In the future, it is understood that the complex will be further developed by the scientists and researchers that oversee the site, ensuring a greater number of species being introduced and resulting in an even more diverse set of landscapes represented.


Nestled within China's vast landscape is the lush province of Yunnan, a dynamic botanical museum housing over half of the country's plant species. The Fuligong greenhouses, an architectural marvel in this green sanctuary, showcase Yunnan's unique biodiversity. Here, in the "Kingdom of Plants," thousands of rare species flourish under one roof. When in Kunming, a visit to the extraordinary Fuligong is a must for an immersive exploration into the heart of China's botanical richness.