Water Country of South China [edit this]
The unique house scale and layout south of Yangtze River can be represented by that of Su Zhou and Hangzhou. The boundary walls are usually high and tough, for most of the houses are two-storied. Besides, the close link between two houses necessitates a screen wall in case of fire. The yard is usually not big with high buildings inside, which makes the open air part deeper.
The humid climate heightens the importance of ventilation. Accordingly, the gap between the wall and the structure in the local area is no more than one meter, promising an effective wind and lighting function. The layout of a decent family starts from a sedan parking lot, living room and the host's room to the rear room. At both wings are a flower hall, a study, a bedroom and a small garden or a theatrical stage. An average mansion has two to three parallel axis lines.
Whatever the size of the structure, the dwellings in the south bear sharp differences from those in the north, with numerous carvings and little color painting. The wall is made up of white tiles and green ash, while the wood is black brown or red brown, looking lighter and more elegant that that of the north.
Craftsmen in the south are intelligent and flexible enough to make water flow among the local residential area, making good use of varied terrains.
Waterways are blended with lanes among the residence, forming an entirely different and unique taste from the northern residents.
The local residents make the most out of space, as the land is rare and precious. Almost every house has a wharf outside. Housewives do laundry, wash vegetables and rice with river water. This also provides other boats with a place to park.
Compared with waterways, the lanes appear so narrow and can only allow a man and an ox to walk shoulder by shoulder. High walls sandwiching crooked lanes lead to a tranquil peace of mind.
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The Southern Song Cultures [edit this]
The early May of 1127 A.D. was a time of a new reign when Zhao Gou, the ninth son of Emperor Song Shenzong, founded his new empire at Ying Tian Fu (present Shang Qiu, He Nan Province ) with assistance of the former court subjects in the Northern Song Dynasty. Zhao Gou became the first emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty, appointing the year entitled Jian Yan. The beginning of the new dynasty saw fiascos of the Song troops under the invasion of Jin nomads, placing the capital Ying Tian Fu in great jeopardy. Five months later, Zhao Gou was forced to retreat southward, and respectively established temporary capitals Yang Zhou, Jian Kang (present Nan Jing city), Hangzhou and Yue Zhou (present Shao Xing city). The most embarrassing moment witnessed the Song court taking refugee in a boat. Luckily, the storm on the ocean prevented Jin invaders from chasing and killing them. Initially, most officials of the Song court tended to set the capital at Jian Kang, arguing that the city had been the capital of China for six times in the Chinese history with economic superiority in the southeast China. And the Yangtze River served as a natural defense against the Jin army. However, the Emperor eventually designated Hangzhou as the political center with seemingly sufficient reasons. As the richest city in the area, Hangzhou was even farther than Jian Kang from the war frontier, providing the central government with a safer paradise. Besides, not being distant from Jian Kang, Hangzhou also enjoyed similar economic wealth and supply. In order to pacify those in favor of the first choice, the emperor named Jian Kang a subordinate capital.
Half of the nation's territory was lost when the imperial court was reestablished in Hangzhou (called Lin An at the moment), but the town was the top metropolis in the country and one of the most prosperous cities in the world. As far as the imperial wall was concerned, a more believable record of how many structures there were inside it can be found in the county's history book of Qian Tang by Nie Xin Tang, the local mayor, in the Ming Dynasty. Namely, there were 30 palaces, 33 halls, 13 chambers, 4 studies, 7 buildings, 6 platforms and 19 pavilions. In addition to this glorious complex of imperial construction, the education enterprising advanced rapidly in the Song time. The imperial government initiated the following three forms of education: Tai studies, Wu studies and Zong studies. The students engaged in Tai Studies, the highest institution of learning in the Song Dynasty, were classified into three levels in accordance with their academic achievement. The top level students would be interviewed by the Emperor in person before their titles were conferred. They would become part of the ruling class sooner or later. It was perfectly obvious that the Song authorities attached vital importance to books for cultivation of talented people. Yet the students of Tai studies held strong awareness of sharing political responsibilities. For example, Tang Si Tui, an adherent of the notorious prime minister Qing Hui, took power and got removed from office due to the opposition of Tai students. The Wu studies or military science in the Southern Song Dynasty was designed to train military officers. The champion of the martial contest at the imperial court would be appointed a general, and the second and the third a vice general. (In such a case, the notion that education through reading books was better than any other career died hard, at least in the Southern Song Dynasty. Despite the current criticism against this notion, the students do not give up such a philosophy easily, which has been positively proved by historical facts.) Zong studies was a number of institutions of higher learning for training descendants of dignified bureaucracy.
Southern Song society in Hangzhou was characterized by opera and acrobatic shows. There is presently an artificial scenic spot called the Song Dynasty Town. Regardless of its outlook, a multitude of acrobatic performance brings variety to this Song way of life. In the real Song time, a lot of acrobatic performers playing with bottles, bowls, vats, drums, incense stoves, etc. demonstrated incredible skills and beauty to spectators. The imitation of Song Dynasty Town replays the pursuit of this highly esthetic way of life. (Certainly, nothing can truly and absolutely reappear, but the present acrobatic programs may present a better stage and skill than that of the Song time. However hard we try, it is difficult to repeat exactly what happened before.) Apart from the street acrobatics, artists playing pottery flutes appeal to us as well. The music sounds melancholy, creating a feeling that makes time fly back to the street of Southern Song society.
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Poetic Landscape of the Grand Canal [edit this]
Hangzhou enjoys nationwide and international reputation for its charming landscape scenery and abundant humane resources. All the prosperous aspects should be attributed to the canalization of the Grand Canal in the Sui Dynasty (581-618 A.D.), creating a profound cultural atmosphere for Hangzhou.
As the history book of Hangzhou unfolds, Hangzhou wouldn't be so flourishing without the Grand Canal. Founded as Qian Tang county in the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.-207 B.C.), Hangzhou had been an unknown town until the Grand Canal connected the northern economy and culture with the southern ones in the Sui Dynasty, thus promoting Hangzhou's administrative position in the country. In the Tang Dynasty, Hangzhou began to prosper and turned into a renowned prefecture in southeast China. The withdrawal of the Song court to the south made Hangzhou the political and economic enter. The canal suffered from lack of reparation and was less popular than the business-oriented sea transportation in the Yuan Dynasty. The defeat of Jia Wu War in 1895 led to the establishment of Japanese settlement around Gong Chen Bridge until it was recovered at the end of the Anti-Japanese War.
The ancient canal has been nurturing the land in its neighborhood for thousands of years, rearing the lives on both banks, and pioneering the splendid canal culture. The canal culture covers religion, tea art, food and drinking, silk, local opera, folk theatrical art, classic horticulture, ancient library, bridge and pagoda, leaving prized legacy for the future generations.
Special among the numerous places of interest along the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal are the eight views of Hu Shu in downtown Hangzhou: Jia Cheng Night View, Dou Men Spring Tide, Ban Dao Spring Flushing, Evening Green on the West Hill, Orioles Singing at Flower Nursery, Snow Accumulation by Gao Pavilion, Evening Rain on Bridge, Village Smoke above Bai Dang. Except few views, most of them only left the names over distant past centuries. The remaining five historical places of interest are as follows: Xiang Ji Si Pagoda, Gong Chen Bridge, Gao's Garden, Yang Guan and Zhu Er Pond. Many historical and natural scenic spots do not exist any longer.
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Liang Zhu Culture [edit this]
Liang Zhu Culture is an important sect of ancient culture in the area of Tai Hu Lake, residing at the lower reach of Chang Jiang River. This prehistoric civilization roughly 4000-5300 years ago earned its name after the local Liang Zhu Town in Yu Hang city, thanks to the discovery by Mr. Shi Xin Geng from the original West Lake Museum in 1936.
More than half a century's archaeological investigation and excavation has preliminarily identified three towns—Liang Zhu, An Xi and Ping Yao—with more than 50 relic sites of Liang Zhu Culture, which contain villages, tombs and altars. Since 1980's, some altars and tombs on Mountain Fanshan, Mountain Yaoshan and Mountain Huiguan have been found to closely relate to those relic sites. The discovery of nobles' tombs with exquisite jade burials and the large-scale Mountain Mojiao Structure relic proves the fact that Liang Zhu cultural site is one of the most outstanding regions to display the 5000-year Chinese history and will become an oriental Mecca.
Tai Hu Lake area, where Liang Zhu Culture has developed, is one of the places to originate paddy agriculture. Most stone farming tools among Liang Zhu sites such as triangle plough and V-shaped soil breaker are self-evidently big progress in ancient agriculture, coupled with development of handicraft industry. As a result, ceramics, jade carving and textile were separated from agriculture. The fine jade art at that time particularly show the sophisticated level of handicraft industry. Other objects like lacquer wares, linen products or tusk ornaments demonstrate a certain advancement of social productive force and the cultural connotation conceived.
Based on the development of social productive force, social systems clashed fiercely during Liang Zhu Renaissance, coming up with varying hierarchy, which can especially exemplified by tomb sites. Many man-made tomb platforms have been found in Mountain Fanshan, Mountain Yaoshan and Mountain Huiguan in Zhejiang Province. These nobles' tombs have spacious room inside in company with exquisite burials like a large number of ritual jade objects. On the contrary, the civilians' graves such as found in Xu Bu Bridge, Qian Jin Jiao, Ping Qiu Mound, Wu's Wharf and Miao Qian do not have exclusive sites , but are scattered around the habitation. With very little space, these graves are only equipped with pottery or simple jade wares. Obviously, hierarchy differences appeared in intense confrontations in Liang Zhu society.
The wealth accumulation taking place in these differences was achieved by some social power above the clan community. The construction of huge tomb terraces was a stupendous task. Mountain Mojiao is particularly an impressive example beyond people's basic needs at that time, requiring social order to guarantee, otherwise the consequence was unimaginable. Establishing such social order had a lot to do with the social hierarchy. It is believed that highly awesome leadership existed in Liang Zhu period, which mobilized the labor force to carry out this large scale construction.
The existence of such social power is evident in jade objects production. The processing of jade objects is a complicated multi-step course. Therefore, jade is a product as a result of specialized handicraft industry. Except jade pearl, particle, bi (disc), most Lang Zhu jades are carved with beautiful patterns, showing the focus of various types of work. Producers must shake off the purpose of earning living materials, which should be supplied by others, and concentrate on this monotonous job. Meanwhile, as the shape and pattern carving is quite regular, the mental work during the production increased, tending to be independent from physical labor. Thus, the separation of physical and mental work took shape.
The ritual system was the key to the social reforms in Liang Zhu society. There are more than 20 varieties of jade objects unearthed from Liang Zhu nobles' tombs, such as cong, bi (disc), dragon-headed jade part, awl-like thing, three-pronged ware, capped object, semicircular pendant, spinning wheel and medal ornament. In those humble graved, only small jade ornaments like pipe, pearl and single awl-like part were found. All those difference were a result of the social hierarchy of Liang Zhu Culture. Meanwhile, some pottery double snuff-bottles, vessels and stemmed bowl with carvings of beautiful creatures and patterns were all excavated from nobles' tombs, another proof of jade use in pottery.
The core of ritual system lies in the subordinate relationship between the noble and the humble, the high and the low, the superior and the inferior, the close and the distant, which was best expressed by jade usage in Liang Zhu Culture. The use of jades marked the beginning of Liang Zhu cultural ritual, caused by socially essential change. Liang Zhu society was a step from barbarian prehistoric phase towards civilized human kind.
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Canal Culture [edit this]
Just like the Great Wall, the Grand Canal is widely recognized as one of the four ancient greatest construction projects in the world. It is a masterpiece of Chinese people and a group of water conservancy experts in their efforts to utilize and change the nature. China's Grand Canal is the earliest and longest man-made waterway in the world. Tracing back 2,400 years to the Spring and Autumn Period, Fu Chan, King of Wu Kingdom, ordered the canalization from Jiang Do to Mo Kou.The subsequent digging work kept on until the artificial Grand Canal running from Hangzhou to Beijing came into being in 1293 A. D. With a total length of 1,782 kilometers, the canal, linking Qiantang River, the Yangtze River, Huaihe River, Yellow River and Haihe River, flows past Bejing city, Tianjing city, Hebei Province, Shandong Province, Jiangsu Province and Zhejiang Province. It is 21 times longer than the Panama Canal, and surpasses the Suze Canal by 10 times, with 2,000 years earlier than the above-said two canals.
The digging and connecting of the Grand Canal gave new significance to the natural, ecological and productive environment, largely promoting the economic development of the canal region. After the Sui and Tang Dynasties, completion of the canal directly resulted in widespread exchange of agricultural technology between the north and the south, allowing the transplantation of various species from both sides. In the late Ming Dynasty, some workshops and charters with preliminary capitalism appeared in developed commodity society like Su Zhou and Hangzhou. Some other towns by the canal that had benefited from the commodity economy, ranging from Tianjin, Cangzhou, Dezhou, Linqing, Liaocheng, Jining, Xuzhou, Huaian, Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Changzhou, Wuxi, Jiaxing, Shaoxing to Ningbo, formed a bunch of glittering pearls of canal commerce. Chang'an and Luoyang in the Sui and Tang Dynasties, Kaifeng in the Northern Song Dynasty, Hangzhou in the Southern Song Dynasty, Beijing in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties are good examples as the region's and even the nation's political, economic and cultural center.
Historically, the Grand Canal played an important role in the stability of feudalist reign. The location of the canal has been of political, military, economic and cultural significance all the time in the country, it always became the key position to be controlled by imperial governments. Each ruler desired to dominate the whole nation, taking advantage of the ideal conditions of the Grand Canal. Therefore, the Grand Canal has become a political belt linking the centralized power with China's unification, making the political center gradually shift northward from the Sui and Tang Dynasties. From the nation's unification in the Yuan Dynasty till the Ming and Qing Dynasties, no significant split of the country occurred, and a solid foundation for the unification had been laid down.
The unique canal culture is not only an essential part of China's multi-national culture integration, it also pushes forward the formation and development of this integration. The tolerance, unification, proliferation, openness, cohesiveness and centripetal force of canal culture has not only strengthened the ties of Chinese traditional thinking among Qi Lu region, Middle region and south of Yangtze River, but also integrate the cultural centers led by Chang'an and Luoyang in the Sui and Tang Dynasties, Kai Feng in the Northern Song Dynasty, Hangzhou in the Southern Song Dynasty, Beijing in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, thus minimizing the differences and gap of those regions for the cultural unification of our nation. At the mean time, the canal region has also been a place to cultivate talented people with academic success.
The connection of the south part and north part of the Grand Canal has achieved a more direct and closer relationship between the coastal line and other parts of China. Particularly, the economic thriving over the canal region has been pioneering the foreign communication and expansion of Sino-Foreign economic and cultural exchanges. China's neighboring countries and other nations from West Asia, Europe and East Africa sent delegates and commercial fleets to China's coastal ports, who then followed the canal route to the capital and elsewhere for frequent economic and cultural exchanges. Some of them even moved to the canal area as their habitation, making it a melting pot for ethnic minorities, foreign ambassadors, dealers, monks, abroad students and others. They brought China's advanced cultures to all over the world, expanding China's influence to the world. Meanwhile, the excellent foreign cultures were introduced to China as well, enriching the canal culture and promoting China's cultural development.
After the founding of PRC, the Grand Canal was classified as one of the key river transportation routes. The reform policy has quickened the pace of canal reconstruction. In addition to the heavy task of transportation, the Grand Canal plays a simultaneously significant part in flood prevention, irrigation, water supply and travel. Having experienced twists and turns, the Grand Canal is bound to exhibit its vitality as a result of river harnessing, continuing to give impetus to economic development along the canal.
Edit by: Ada