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Yangzhou City
Yangzhou (Yángzhōu; former spellings: Yang-chou, Yangchow) is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu province. Sitting on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the southwest, Huai‘an to the north, Yancheng to the northeast, Taizhou to the east, and Zhenjiang across the river to the south.

History

Yangzhou has a history of almost 2,500 years, being founded in the Spring and Autumn Period when it was called Guangling (廣陵, Kuang-Ling). It was called Hancheng during Warring States Period (403-221 BC) (Perkins). In 590 AD, the city began to be called Yangzhou, which was the traditional name of what was then the entire southeastern part of China.

Under the 2nd Emperor Yangdi (604-617) of the Sui Dynasty (581-617), was the southern capital of China and called Jiangdu upon the completion of the Jinghang (Grand) Canal until the fall of the Dynasty. It has been a leading economic and cultural center and major port of foreign trade and external exchange since the Tang Dynasty (618-907). There lived many Arab and Persian merchants, but they were massacred in 760 AD during the An Shi Rebellion (Perkins).

The city, still known as Guangling, was briefly made the capital of the Wu Kingdom during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period.

In 1280 AD, Yangzhou was the site of a massive gunpowder explosion when the bomb store of the Weiyang arsenal had caught fire accidentally. This blast killed over a hundred guards, launched debris of the buildings into the air that landed 10 li away from the site of the explosion, and could be felt 100 li away as tiles on roofs shook (refer to gunpowder article).

Marco Polo served there under the Mongol emperor Kubilai Khan in the period around 1282-1287 (to 1285, according to Perkins). Although some versions of Polo‘s memoirs imply that he was the governor of Yangzhou, it is more likely that he was an official in the salt industry. The discovery of the 1342 tomb of Katarina Vilioni, member of an Italian trading family in Yangzhou, suggests the existence of a thriving Italian community in the city in the 14th century.

Yangzhou was the scene of a ten-day massacre in 1645 by the Qing army in which it is alleged 800,000 people died.

Until the 19th century Yangzhou acted as a major trade exchange center for salt, (a government regulated commodity), rice and silk. The Mings (1368-1644) are largely responsible for building the city as it now stands and surrounding it with 9 km of walls.

The Yangzhou riot in 1868 was a pivotal moment of Anglo-Chinese relations during the late Qing Dynasty that almost led to war.[1] The crisis was fomented by the gentry of the city who opposed the presence of foreign Christian missionaries there. The riot that resulted was an angry crowd estimated at eight to ten thousand who assaulted the premises of the British China Inland Mission in Yangzhou by looting, burning and attacking the missionaries led by Hudson Taylor. No one was killed, however several of the missionaries were injured as they were forced to flee for their lives. As a result of the report of the riot, the British consul in Shanghai, Sir Walter Henry Medhurst took seventy Royal marines in a Man of war and steamed up the Yangtze to Nanjing in a controversial show of force that eventually resulted in an official apology from Viceroy Zeng Guofan and financial restitution made to the injured missionaries.

From the time of the Taiping Rebellion (1853) to the end of the Communist revolution (1949) Yangzhou was in decline, due to war damage and neglect of the Jinghang Canal as railways replaced it in importance; unfortunately, initial plans for railways connecting Yangzhou were deemed to be unimportant, and its status as the leading economic centre of China declined rapidly into a city of little importance. With the canal now partially restored, Yangzhou is once again an important transportation and market center. It also has some industrial output, chiefly in cotton and textiles. In 2004, a railway linked Yangzhou for the first time with Nanjing.


Culture

Yangzhou dialect is called Yangzhou Hua 扬州话 and is moderate understandable by an outsider as it does differ a lot from today‘s standard Mandarin. Yangzhou dialect is considered to be the representative dialect of Jiang-huai dialect group 江淮话 within the Mandarin language family. It is regarded by linguists to be very close to the official Mandarin (based on Nanjing dialect) spoken during Ming dynasty and early Qing dynasty.

During a period of prosperity and Imperial favour, the arts of storytelling and painting flourished in Yangzhou. The innovative painter-calligrapher Shitao lived in Yangzhou during the 1680s and again from 1697 until his death in 1707. A later group of painters from that time called the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou are famous throughout China.

Former President of China Jiang Zemin was born and raised in Yangzhou. His middle school is located right across from the public notary‘s office in Yangzhou.

Yangzhou is famous for its carved lacquerware and jade carvings.

Poet Li Bai (c.700-762) wrote in Seeing Meng Haoran off to Yangzhou from Yellow Crane Pavilion:

At Yellow Crane Pavilion in the west
My old friend says farewell;
In the mist and flowers of spring
He goes down to Yangzhou;
Lonely sail, distant shadow,
Vanish in blue emptiness;
All I see is the great river
Flowing into the far horizon.

Some of China’s most creative and eye catching dishes come from the Yangzhou school of cuisine called Huaiyang (also commonly known as the Weiyang school). Along with Sichuan cuisine, Cantonese cuisine, and Shandong cuisine, Huaiyang cuisine (淮扬菜) is a distinctive and masterful skill that locals are quite proud of.

The city is famous for its public bath houses, lacquerware, jadeware, embroidery, paper-cut, art & crafts velvet flavers.

The city was awarded Habitat Scroll of Honour in 2006.

Yangzhou is also very famous for its toy industry (especially stuffed animals). Many tourists from neighboring cities travel to the city for its good-quality and low-priced toys.

It is worth mentioning that the city is also famous for an ancient folk art called Yangzhou storytelling (扬州评话), which is like Xiangsheng - the traditional Chinese comedic performance. It rose as a performing act during the Ming Dynasty. In the performance, the artist details an interesting historical story to audiences, using Yangzhou dialect. These stories have been edited by artists, so they sound very soul-stirring and funny. The most well-know artist of Yangzhou storytelling was Wang shaotang. His most famous works are The 10 chapters of Wu Song (武十回), The 10 chapters of Song Jiang (宋十回), The 10 chapters of Lu Junyi (卢十回), and The 10 chapters of Shi Xiu (石十回).


Tourism

Tourist sights include Slender Western Lake (瘦西湖) and old residences in the moated town, such as the Wang Residence and the Daming temple. Yangzhou is famous for its many well preserved Suzhou style gardens.



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