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Wuhu Introduction


  Wuhu, on the south bank of the river, is in southeastern Anhui Province at the confluence ofYangtze River the Qingyt and Yangtze Rivers. Its population is only 440,000, not large by Chinese standards. ln the last century, Wuhu was one of the four great rice- marketing centres (the others being Wuxi, Jiujiang and Changsha), but it is now principally a producer of light-industrial goods, such as thermos flasks, machine tools, cotton textiles, kitschy mantelpiece clocks and cement. It is specially known for its scissors, its variety of local twig and leaf brooms and its wrought-iron pictures.

  As a good transportation system links Wuhu with other parts of the province, the city is a transfer stop for visitors to the famous scenic spots of Huangshan and Jiuhua.However, this is the farthest up the Yangtze River valley you can travel by train from Shanghai and Nanjing. From here the train line travels north to Hefei.

HISTORY OF WUHU

  In the Spring and Autumn period (770--476 BC) the city was known as Jiuzi. Its present name was adopted in the Han dynasty (206 BC--AD 220). By the Three Kingdoms period (220--65 AD, see page 42) it had become a strategically important town in the Kingdom of Eastern Wu. In a fierce battle between the Kingdoms of Eastern Wu and Shu, the Wu general Zhou Yu was killed. The King of Wu, Sun Quan,donned white mourning clothes and made a special journey to Wuhu to receive Zhou Yu's coffin.

  In the Tang dynasty (618--907) the poet Du Fu's many visits were recollected in his poem, Thoughts on Staying Again at Wuhu. When Wuhu became a Treaty Port under the Chefoo (Yan Tai) Convention of 1876 a small foreign community resided here. Trading principal1y in rice, wood and tea, it had become a flourishing commercial port by the end of the l9th century. Trade dropped off severely in the l920s and l930s due to bandit activity in the area. When the city was captured by the Guomindang army in March 1927, anti-foreign riots broke out. The foreign community had to be evacuated by warships patrolling the Yangtze.

WHAT TO SEE IN WUHU

  There is little of historical interest to be found in Wuhu, but a stroll along the east embankment of the Qingyi River is worthwhile. Here barges and small boats load and discharge vegetables, fruit, sand and everyday items; boat families and their pets add to the cacophony of noise. Bamboo rafts, at intervals along the river's edge, serve as platforms for, the local women to do their washing. In the narrow streets parallel to the river, such as ZhongchangJie and ShangchangJie, shops sell fishing tackle and nets, baskets, firecrackers, bamboo steamers, and Chinese weights and measure.In the cobbled streets, bamboo chicken coops stand outside front doors that open into dark, high--ceilinged old houses. xinwu Jie running west off the main street,Zhongshan Jie, is busy with restaurants and food stalls serving crispy rice cakes,sweet dumpling soup and large dough fritters. Near the scruffy memorial to the 1949 Revolution is Jiuhe Jie, which is now a market area. At No 26 a huge, fanciful,American--built Catholic Church, dating from the Treaty Port days, is open for worship on Sundays. At Jinghu Lake, in the town centre, people gather to play cards or chess and to sell their miniature potted plants.

ZHE HILL
  The highest point in the city is only 86 metres (282 feet), but the view from the pagoda at theYangtze River top sweeps over the whole city and down the Yangtze. It seems that this five-storey Zheshan Pagoda and the Mid-River Pagoda (see below) were built at the same time, at the beginning of the Song dynasty (960--1279). A competition apparently developed between the two teams of builders. The two brothers engaged in the construction of Zheshan Pagoda, who were desperate to cornplete first and so avoid losing face, finished off the very top with a cooking wok turned upside down.A small zoo is to be found in the public park.

GUANGJI TEMPLE
  Of the four main temples which existed in Wuhu, three were destroyed in the Sino-Japanese War and only the Guanaii Temple, at the foot of Zhe Hill, remains. The main hall is hung with ten scrolls depicting the Buddhist Hell. The temple was
established in the Tang dynasty (618--907) and Emperor Dezong (reigned 780--5) came here as a monk. When omens indicated that this was an unsafe place for him to reside, he went to live on the famous Buddhist mountain of Jiuhua, further south.

MID--RIVER PAGODA
  This six-storey pagoda stands at the point where the Qingyi River enters the Yangtze,a danger Yangtze Riverspot for navigation. A local fisherman named Huang suggested that this octagonal pagoda be built to serve as a lighthouse. Its name derives from its position--it is exactly in the middle of the lower reaches of the Yangtze.

WUHU ARTS AND CRAFTS FACTORY
  The art of wrought-iron picture-making originated in Wuhu and this factory in Jiuhua Lu continues the tradition, besides producing pictures made of feathers or golden wheat stalks, poker-burned wooden decorations and copies of old paintings.

  Iron picture making is very laborious and amazingly intricate This art form was started by an itinerant blacksmith, Tang Tianchi, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1662--1723). Tang used to sit and watch a local painter, whose work he much admired. The artist chided Tang: I paint my pictures, you beat your iron, but you will never make pictures by beating iron.' Tang promptly went away and produced an iron picture, 'using a hammer as a brush and iron as ink'.

   A huge 'Welcoming Pine' iron picture by the artists of Wuhu adorns the Anhui Room in the Great Hall of the People in Bejing.