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ZHENGJIANG Introduction


  Zhenjiang, on the south bank, is situated in the middle of Jiangsu Province, at the junction of the Yangtze and the Grand Canal, 63 kilometres (40 miles) from Nanjing.It was the capital of Yangtze Riverthe province during the Republican period (1911--49) when Nanjing was the national capital. Earlier Chinese travellers classified Zhenjiang's scenery as 'The Best Landscape under Heaven', and indeed the area known as the Southern Suburbs was often used as a theme in landscapes by famous Chinese painters-Marco Polo may have visited the city in the 13th century, commenting:"The people of Zhenjiang live by industry and commerce, they produce much silk and brocade and the rustic flavour of the place is suitable for the production of many things."

   The American Nobel Prize-winning writer, Pearl S Buck (1892--1973), author of The Good Earth and other novels about China, lived in Zhenjiang for 15 years before attending boarding school in Shanghai. Her missionary parents'house still stands in the northern part of the city, incorporated into a radio factory. Handicrafts include jade carvings, palace lanterns and screens of natural stone. Zhenjiang is also known for its black vinegar and pickled vegetables.

HISTORY OF ZHENJIANG
  Zhenjiang, under various names, has existed for 2,500 years. In 213 BC, its importance as a Yangtze Riverferry crossing led Emperor Qin Shihuangdi to conclude that Zhenjiang’sjengshui (geomantic) powers were too strong. He ordered 3,000 prisoners to dig a tunnel through one of the hills to divert the influences.

  During the convoluted politics of the Three Kingdoms period (220--265), Sun Quan, ruler of the kingdom of Wu, made his capital here and Zhenjiang was the site of many 'mini-summits' on military strategy between the warring kingdoms.Thereafter the settlement grew steadily, benefiting greatly from the construction of the Grand Canal under the Sui dynasty (581--618). Its key location at the intersection of the Grand Canal and the Yangtze made it the hub of water transportation from the seventh century onwards.

  Under the Song dynasty (960--1279) the city's development reached its height,producing fine silks, satins and silverware as tribute to the imperial court. Troops were stationed here to defend the river (Zhenjiang means 'guard the river')--a wise precaution, as it turned out, when they had to take on invading in troops in a naval battle near Jin Shan in 1130.

  During the Opium War of 1842, Zhenjiang was bombarded by British men--of war. Seven thousand British troops stormed the walled city, which was defended by only about 3,000 courageous Chinese soldiers. The governor of the city and his family committed suicide. On the British side, 105 soldiers were killed or wounded.This battle was a turning point, as it led to the signing of the Treaty of Nanking only a month later. The treaty provided for the surrender of Hong Kong to Britain and for the payment of 21 million Mexican dollars by the Chinese asYangtze River indemnity.

  The city was again captured in 1853 by the Taiping rebels and held by them for four years, which left it crippled for some time. A small foreign concession area was established in 1861. A H Rasmussen, a Scandinavian trader who lived in Zhenjiang for many years, wrote:

  Then I went into the silent street for a breath of fresh air and walked up and down the bund, three hundred paces one way and three hundred paces back. To get a little change l walked up and down the only cross street to the south gate of the Concession, two hundred paces one way and two hundred paces back.

  Life was very restricted, and the hunting of wild boar in the surrounding hills became the main pastime for the resident foreigners.

  Trade recovered, however. Customs house records show that in the first decade of the 20th century the value of goods trans-shipped in one year through Zhenjiang exceeded a staggering 35 million taels of silver (one tael is roughly 50 grammes or 1.8 ounces).

  But the coming of the railway put an end to this spate of merchandise; by the 1920s, much of it was being conveyed by freight trains. Yet Zhenjiang is still a busy transportation hub. A new port at nearby Dagang has enhanced its importance and it is on the Shanghai-Nanjing railroad line. industries include metallurgy, electronics and vehicle and ship construction.

• ZhengJiang

What to See in ZhengJiang (1)

What to See in ZhengJiang (2)

The Grand Canal