Zhejiang : the Kingdom of Yue during the Spring and Autumn period

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History and People

The history of the province goes back to ancient times. Neolithic Hemudu Cultural Ruins dating back as early 7000 years ago is regarded as one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. During the Spring and the Autumn Period (770 BC – 476 BC), the area was separately dominated by the Wu Kingdom and Yue Kingdom. From that time on, the Wu and Yue cultures have developed, flourished and influenced this region.

The province’s name derives from the Zhe River (浙江Zhè Jiāng), the former name of the Qiantang River which flows past Hangzhou and whose mouth forms Hangzhou Bay. It is usually understood as meaning “Crooked” or “Bent River,” from the meaning of Chinese 折.

The area of modern Zhejiang was outside the major sphere of influence of Shang civilization during the second millennium BC. Instead, this area was populated by peoples collectively known as Dongyue and the Ouyue.

The kingdom of Yue began to appear in the chronicles and records written during the Spring and Autumn period.

The “Song of the Yue Boatman” (越人歌) was transliterated into Chinese and recorded by authors in north China or inland China of Hebei and Henan around 528 BC. The song shows that the Yue people spoke a language that was mutually unintelligible with the dialects spoken in north and inland China.

Zhejiang is mountainous and has therefore fostered the development of many distinct local cultures. Linguistically speaking, Zhejiang is extremely diverse. Most inhabitants of Zhejiang speak Wu, but the Wu dialects are very diverse, especially in the south, where one valley may speak a dialect completely unintelligible to the next valley a few kilometers away.

The Land and Sea

Zhejiang consists mostly of hills, which account for about 70% of its total area. Altitudes tend to be the highest to the south and west and the highest peak of the province, Huangmaojian Peak (1,929 meters or 6,329 feet), is located there. Other prominent mountains include Mounts Yandang, Tianmu, Tiantai, and Mogan, which reach altitudes of 700 to 1,500 meters (2,300 to 4,900 ft).

Valleys and plains are found along the coastline and rivers. The north of the province lies just south of the Yangtze Delta, and consists of plains around the cities of Hangzhou, Jiaxing, and Huzhou, where the Grand Canal of China enters from the northern border to end at Hangzhou. Another relatively flat area is found along the Qu River around the cities of Quzhou and Jinhua. Major rivers include the Qiangtang and Ou Rivers. Most rivers carve out valleys in the highlands, with plenty of rapids and other features associated with such topography. Well-known lakes include the West Lake of Hangzhou and the South Lake of Jiaxing.

There are over three thousand islands along the rugged coastline of Zhejiang. The largest, Zhoushan Island, is Mainland China’s third largest island, after Hainan and Chongming. There are also many bays, of which Hangzhou Bay is the largest.

Economy

Zhejiang is one of the richest and most developed provinces in China.

Traditionally, the province is known as the “Land of Fish and Rice.” True to its name, rice is the main crop, followed by wheat; north Zhejiang is also a center of aquaculture in China, and the Zhoushan fishery is the largest fishery in the country.

Zhejiang’s main manufacturing sectors are electromechanical industries, textiles, chemical industries, food, and construction materials.

The economic heart of Zhejiang is moving from North Zhejiang, centered on Hangzhou, southeastward to the region centered on Wenzhou and Taizhou.

Since ancient times, north Zhejiang and neighbouring south Jiangsu have been famed for their prosperity and opulence.

There is a popular saying: “Above there is heaven; below there is Suzhou and Hangzhou” (上有天堂,下有苏杭), a saying that continues to be a source of pride for the people of these two still prosperous cities.

Music

Zhejiang is the home of Yue opera, one of the most prominent forms of Chinese opera. Yueju originated in Shengzhou and is traditionally performed by actresses only, in both male and female roles. Other important opera traditions include Yongju (of Ningbo), Shao opera (of Shaoxing), Ouju (of Wenzhou), Wuju (of Jinhua), Taizhou Luantan (of Taizhou) and Zhuji Luantan (of Zhuji).

Tourist destinations

In terms of tourism, it has boasted many attraction sites since ancient times. Its capital, Hangzhou, as a key national tourist city, is picturesque all year round. One of China’s most beautiful sites, West Lake, is located right in the heart of the city.

Tourist destinations in Zhejiang include:

  • Baoguo Temple, one of the oldest intact wooden structures in Southern China, 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) north of Ningbo.
  • Mount Putuo, one of the most noted Buddhist mountains in China. Chinese Buddhists associate it with Guan Yin.
  • Qita Temple, Ningbo.
  • Shaoxing, site of the Tomb of Yu the Great, Wuzhen and other waterway towns.
  • The ancient capital of Hangzhou.
  • Mount Tiantai, (天台山), a mountain important to Zen Buddhism.
  • West Lake, in Hangzhou.
  • Yandangshan, a mountainous scenic area near Wenzhou.
  • Qiandao Lake, lit. Thousand-island lake.
  • Guoqing Temple, founded in the Sui dynasty, the founding location of Tiantai Buddhism
  • Mount Mogan, a scenic mountain an hour from Hangzhou with many pre-World War II villas built by foreigners, along with one of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang compounds
  • Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, in Hangzhou.

The province also enjoys a tremendous reputation in the long history of Chinese Buddhism. Temple of Soul’s Retreat is one of the ten most famous ancient Buddhist temples in China. Mt. Putuo is admired as the ‘Buddhist Kingdom on the Sea’. In addition to those beautiful sites, there are many local specialties rewarding visitors both from home and abroad. The most famous ones are tea, silk, embroidery and the local Cuisine.

Edited by staff

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