Hangzhou / Hangchow / Lin'an
One of China's seven ancient capitals, Hangzhou was the political center of the Wuyue Kingdom (907-978) and the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Thanks to its long history of prosperity, the city possesses numerous ancient buildings, including not only ancient docks and business streets but also temples, academies for classical learning and stone tablets. Situated south of the Yangtze River, in a place crisscrossed by rivers and streams, Hangzhou is richly endowed with natural resources. It is renowned for scenic beauty, so much so that there is a Chinese saying, “As there is paradise in Heaven, so there are Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth.”
First built as Qiantang County in 221 BC, during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), Hangzhou did not take its present name until 589, during the Sui Dynasty (589-618), This ancient city began to thrive after the south section of the Grand Canal was excavated, also in the Sui period, and thenceforth served as a north-south communication and trade center. For 237 years since the beginning of the ninth century, it was alternately capital of the reign of 14 emperors of different dynasties. The Italian traveler, Marco Polo, who visited Hangzhou about 128O, described it as the most beautiful and magnificent city paradise in the world.
On the east coast of Cathay, in the latitude of New Orleans, is a wide estuary which rapidly narrows and turns southward. With every high tide a wave sweeps in from the Pacific, sixty miles wide, contracts speedily to ten miles, and piles itself up to a height of ten feet. A sea wall, erected to prevent the land from being flooded, changes and reflects it, so that behind the first wall of water is a second, five to fifteen feet higher. These two gigantic liquid ramparts speed up the estuary at a rate of thirteen miles an hour, with a roar like that of the rapids below Niagara.
Their ancestors have been here for an indefinite period during which the estuary must have changed greatl. Many fishers may have plied their calling at the foot of the hills and more longshoremen laid out their salt-pans on the shallows. About the time when Constantine gathered Christian bishops with a view to patronising the Lion and strengthening his empire, a Buddhist from India founded a convent here, and its story began. The estuary then became the chief centre of f commerce, though the Bore prevented Hangchov from being the port.
China's Grand Canal is the longest and oldest manually built canal in the world. Starting at Beijing in the north, it passes through Tianjin and goes through the provinces of Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang before reaching the city of Hangzhou in the south. It is 1,794 kilometers long and connects five major rivers in China: the Haihe River, the Yellow River, the Huai River, the Yangtze River and the Qiantang River. Construction on this canal began in the fifth century BC, and later the various sections were finally combined during the Sui Dynastry (AD 581-618), linking the productive southern fishing and farming region to the northern capitals. As an important water route for business, it allows faster trading and furthered the growing economic market in urban centers through all the ages since the Sui period.
When the Sung Dynasty was driven southward by the Mongol invaders, the retreating Emperor pitched his camp here about 1130 AD, and presently decided to make this the new imperial capital. Retreating from invading troops of the Jin State, the Song Dynasty's imperial court under the rule of the timid Emperor Gaozong (1107-1187) fled and moved its capital south from Kaifeng - then known as Bianliang - to Hangzhou - then called Lin'an - ushering in the Southern Song Dynasty, which left its distinctive imprint on Hangzhou.
He built new and massive fortifications extending right to the river, enclosing all the existing suburbs and affording ample s a magnificent palace with parks. The walls were said to have been nearly forty miles in circumference. Indeed, a European traveller said one hundred, but he probably meant one hundred li. Under these conditions, the city became a Corinth, a place of vast wealth, expenditun and vice.
Driven by the surging demand for pottery and porcelain in the newly established capital, Hangzhou's hills became a porcelain production center. The kilns boasted a range of cutting-edge production facilities and techniques. The majority of the production was devoted to meeting the needs of emperors and imperial courts.
After the Southern Song Dynasty chose Hangzhou as its capital, traditional rites and fetes were gradually restored. Emperor Song Gaozong gave orders to replicate the ancient governing system of the original northern capital. His command was to allocate fertile land for the imperial family in a similar style to that in Kaifeng. The area chosen was 2,000 meters to the south of Jiahui Gate in Hangzhou. An inscription at the entrance of the park says "To govern a country is to develop agriculture".
The historical remains of the Southern Song Dynasty imperial palace lie at the foot of Phoenix Mountain in Shangcheng district of Hangzhou. The former palace started from Fengshan Gate in the east, stretched to Phoenix Mountain in the west, Tiaozhou Bay in the south and Wansong Mountain in the north. Construction of the palace took more than 100 years. Its architecture was well known for its elaborate building techniques and precise styles. The stunning architectural wonders ended in 1276, the first year of the reign of Emperor Jingyan, when troops of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) attacked Hangzhou and burnt most of the palace buildings.
But the Mongols disdained walls, like the German conquerors of the Roman Empire. Hangchow was not their capital; its ramparts were plundered by any builder, and the place lost its glory. And so when the Chinese dynasty of the Mings "ascended the summit," they found the district defenceless, and are known to have plundered and burnt.
The Manchu Tartars overthrew the Mings and in 1644 seized the reins of empire. These foreigners were wiser than the Mongols, who ostentatiously disdained fortresses; they built a Tatar city adjoining every important city, and garrisoned it with their troops to be a permanent force, holding the natives in subjection.
About 1650, when Cromwell's red-coats were garrisoning fortresses to bridle the conquered Cavaliers, a Manchu camp was planted alongside Hangchow as a sign of a pledge of its subjection. The new Emperor, K'ang Hsi, realised the importance of Hangchow, and visited it four or five times, causing a grand palace to be erected on an island in the lake, with quarters for his suite and elaborate state barges for processions.
Hangzhou earned its fame because of Xihu Lake (West Lake), so called for its lying on the western edge of the city proper. The lake is 5.6 square kilometers in area and has a circumference of about 12 kilometers. It has an average depth of l.8 meters, and its water . surface measures 3.5 kilometers from north to south and 2.9 kilometers from east to west. The north-south Sudi Causeway and the east-west Baidi Causeway divide the lake into five sections: the Outer Lake, the Beili (North Inner) Lake, the Xili (West Inner) Lake, the Yuehu Lake and the Xiaonan (Mini South) Lake. Ten points of interest surround West Lake or a part of it: Melting Snow on Broken Bridge, Autumn Moon on Calm Lake, Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, Twin Cloud-Piercing Peaks, Breeze-Caressed Lotus in Yeast Courtyard, Sudi Causeway in Spring Dawn, Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor, Evening Bell at Nanping Hill, Thunder Peak Pagoda in Sunset Glow, and Orioles Singing in willows.
By the end of the 19th Century the City of Hang was two and three-quarters miles from south to north, one and one-half miles wide at the north, and a mile at the south. Canals intersected the city, and the famous artificial lake washed the center third of the western wall. Government offices and schools were dotted all about, but most of the lake frontage was taken up by the Manchu Camp, which reached half a mile back into the main city.
The water-ways were prominent. Five of the gates refered to them: Crystal Wave, Waiting for the Tide, River View, Ch'ien's Dyke, Bubbling Gold. The canals were used for traffic as freely as in Holland, but, instead of draining the land as in that remarkable country, they supplied water for irrigation. Nor were they used as sewers, as the farmers had far too high a sense of the value of manure, and were glad to keep the canals dredged to obtain fertilisers for their fields. Bathing was not much practised, but rice for dinner and clothes for wear were being constantly washed in the water.
In the city many beautiful stone bridges spanned the waters; strange superstitions clustered round them, no women being allowed to cross when a boat is beneath, and no one being allowed to speak when passing under certain Dumb Bridges.
Today, with an area of 16,596 square kilometers inhabited by a population of 6.08 million, it embraces six urban districts and seven suburban counties, namely, Yuhang, Xiaoshan, Fuyang, Tonglu, Lin'an, Jiande and Chun'an. Since the birth of the People's Republic in 1949, Hangzhou has made fairly quick progress in all fields of endeavor. Traditionally known as “Home of Silk and Satin”, it has recorded particular results in developing its silk industry.
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