The City Wall, River & Spring Festival Adventure

Trip Start Jan 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Guangdong,
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hey Hey, G'Day and a Big 7TH HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR toya,

Yes you did read correctly, this is my 7th Chinese New Year in China!
So where can I be found on such an occasion?

I am now located in the west-central region of Guangdong Province, at the middle and lower reaches of Xijiang River. Adjacent to the Pearl River Delta, the city I’m in borders Guangxi Province in the northwest and Foshan City in the southeast and to make it even easier for you I’m around one hundred kilometers from Guangzhou city.

Still can’t guess?
I’m in Zhaoqing city, I can’t believe you didn’t know that.

Thursday morning after checking out I had the task of finding out where the bus station was that would take me to Zhaoqing city. I knew there was one around my hotel area as there were always plenty of big buses around.  I tried asking but no one had any idea what I was trying to say and if they did I couldn’t understand them as they were all speaking Cantonese so figured why not go on a 'snack about’ adventure for brunch and try and locate the bus station at the same time. 

I can’t say I got too many snacks in as the station was pretty much across the road.

So for those in Kaiping who wish to leave, there is a small and very busy bus station across from the KFC near the Overseas Chinese Hotel/Building.  From looking at the board in the bus station (the map with all the lines from your current city that join to all of the other city dots) it looks as though you can go to almost any city in Guangdong from this small bus station.   As I had a two and a half hour wait for the next bus I decided to finish my snack adventure and then headed back to the bus station so do some people watching.  It was an amazing time that kept me totally amused and seriously I could have sat there all day and I even considered catching the next bus to do so. 

In the hour and a half I was there I counted following;
Forty three honking geese and thirty four squawking chickens,
Eight babies squatted and let it go on the floor where they were standing,
The five men sitting near me spat a total of seventy three times in around an hour,
Thirteen men smoked directly beneath the big No Smoking sign they were sitting beneath

There were a lot more but we’ll leave it at that!

The journey between cities was just as amazing as the bus station as many of the geese and chickens were loaded on board the bus and so were the hocking men and squatting babies.  My Noah’s Arch like adventure took around five hours from bus station to bus station and when I finally arrived I grabbed a tuk tuk, told the driver how much I wanted to spend and where I wanted to be and five minutes later we arrived at the huge Zhenbao Big World Hotel where I said ‘No No No much too expensive’.

He told me not to worry and headed down behind the mega hotel to where several much smaller hotels can be found. 

Just as dusk was covering the city with the blanket of night I headed out in search of some Beers N Noodles and happily found a wonderful and very lively city.  I spent most of the night walking along the banks of the Zhongxin and Bohai Lakes, then back into the city and along its main shopping street, Tianning Lu.  Here I found what I always find small alleyways full of night food markets where I sat for a delicious seafood ball soup before then deciding to change plans and headed to the Bruce Lee eatery just around the corner. 

I enjoyed Kung Fu Tea in Chaozhou so why not now have my fill of Kung Fu Rice and just as I was all Kung Fu’d up it began to rain so I headed back to my hotel and watched one of the greatest movies of all time, Pretty Women.  The last couple of mornings have been raining so I’ve added a heap of sleep to my mornings and the afternoons have been so full of thick grey clouds and misty rain that has made it totally pointless visiting the Seven Star Crags Park. 

So I’ve spent most of my ‘rainless’ time checking out the small ancient city found behind the Ancient City Walls. 

For those who wish to visit Zhaoqing, don’t expect much as it is only a tiny part of the city and there really isn’t much to be found in there.  I did find what I think was the old Bell Tower which has now been turned into a Museum but sadly it’s closed due to Spring Festival and so have most of the other city temples and attractions I have found.  The ‘Cloud Draped Tower’ (one of the city wall buildings) is pleasant to look at but that’s about all you get to do as no matter what I tried I couldn’t find a way within the walls to go about climbing it.

I’ve enjoyed my several walks along the Xijiang River and have found several Pet Shops located where each day I drop in to pat the dogs, help feed them and then I continue towards the Chongxi Pagoda to then zig zag back towards the lake area through all the little back streets where I happily found plenty of small local street markets filled with geese and chickens. 

Some found in cane baskets and others twitching without heads on the chopping block. 

So far Zhaoqing has been an awesome city to spend time snacking my way around but I am hoping so much that tomorrow will be sunny so I can then head to the Seven Star Crag Park to check out the limestone peaks and temples found amongst.  Tomorrow my hotel will triple in price (due to it being New Year) and I can’t be bothered playing the ‘We Will Rob You Whilst Smiling’ game so I will either take off or change to a much smaller hotel that I found this evening during my walk

Now for a Bit on the City and its History

The terrain of the city is higher in the northwest and lower in the southeast and mountains and hills occupy about eighty percent of the city area, mainly in the north, northeast and central part of the city and a valley plain comprises most of the southeast portion of the city. A karst landscape in this area is also outstanding and the commercial area and most vibrant area is centered on and around Tianning Road North and Third Jianshe Road which is full of marketplaces, stores and cinemas.

So I guess this makes it an excellent shopping destination if you are a shopper!

With its time-honored history of over two thousand years, Zhaoqing is not only the cradle of the Lingnan Culture but also one of the earliest places in China where Zhongyuan (Central China) Culture first met with local Lingnan Culture and the occidental civilization met with the traditional Chinese civilization.

The date of Zhaoqing's founding is uncertain, but it existed as early as the Qin (221-206 B.C.) and Han (206 B.C. - 220 C.E.) Dynasties when it was known as Gaoyao. In the Sui Dynasty (581-618 C.E.), Zhaoqing became known as Duanzhou and served as an important administrative region and military base.   In C.E. 1118, Northern Song Dynasty Emperor Huizong bestowed its current name upon the city.

"Zhaoqing" means "beginning of auspiciousness".

Early Jesuit mission

By the time of the Europeans arriving to Guangdong in the 16th century, Zhaoqing was an important administrative center, and the seat of Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi.

The Matteo Ricci account of the "Christian expeditions into China" tell about the early visits of Macau-based Europeans to Zhaoqing. The first visit may have been that by the Macau City Auditor Mattia Penella and the Italian Jesuit Michele Ruggieri, who went to Zhaoqing in 1582, sent there by the Macau's authorities in lieu of the Mayor and the Bishop of Macau, whom the Viceroy (named Chen Jui, had summoned to report to him at his residence. 

The Jesuits at the time were interested in expanding their missionary activity from Macau into Mainland China and other visits by Jesuits soon followed.  By 1583, after several false starts, Michele Ruggieri and another recently arrived Jesuit, named Matteo Ricci managed to establish residence in the city which was the first Jesuit mission house in China outside Macau. Ruggieri and Ricci were able to move to the city after receiving an invitation from the governor of Zhaoqing at the time, Wang Pan, who had heard of Ricci's skill as a mathematician/cartographer.

It was in Zhaoqing that Ricci drew the first ever map of the world in Chinese in 1584.
In 1588, Ruggieri left China for Rome and never returned. 

The Anti-Manchu resistance

After the fall of northern China to the Manchus in 1644, a sequence of Ming princes one after another established short-lived regimes at various locations in central and southern China, collectively known as the Southern Ming Dynasty. For several years until 1650, Zhaoqing was the seat of the last of these pretenders on the Ming throne, Zhu Youlang, styled the Yongli Emperor (who also made his court in Guilin and, later, at various locations in Guangxi, Yunnan, and Burma).

Ancient City Wall

First built in the Song Dynasty the Zhaoqing Ancient City Wall is the only ancient city wall left in Guangdong Province. It is rectangle with a perimeter of two thousand eight hundred meters. According to historical records, it was made of earth at the very beginning and was expanded in the year 1113 of the Song Dynasty and reinforced with bricks. It once had a tower on each city gate, an enceinte out of the gate, a turret on each angle and also a moat. At present, the wall is ten meters high with earth in the center of the wall and brick on both sides and supposedly twenty eight battlements.

As for the battlements, I think nearly all are invisible as I couldn’t find them!

Chongxi Pagoda and the River View Pavilion (Yue Jiang Lou)

Take a stroll along the West River and you'll likely come across two attractions, first will be the River View Pavilion (also known as Yue Jiang Tower) and the second is one of the two oldest remaining structures in Zhaoqing, the Chongxi Pagoda.  The Chongxi Tower was built in the Ming Wanli decade (AD1582) and is fifty eight meters high, flat octagonal shape and nine-storey’s high with exquisite stone sculptures from the Ming Dynasty also with wind chimes on each floor.  If you choose to stay awhile and climb the tower, when you look across the river you will see Chongxi’s twins built on the hills in the far distance.

Lingnan People and Culture

The historic Lingnan region in southern part of China includes the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guangdong, Fujian and Hainan provinces, Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions as well as the province of Taiwan.  The colourful Lingnan Culture, which has a far-reaching influence on Guangdong Province, can be considered the core culture of the region.

The area once inhabited by the Hundred Yue tribes was once considered as a barbarian land and it had loose contact with the Zhongyuan region, which was the cultural cradle of Chinese culture and in the 2nd century BC the region was absorbed into the Middle Kingdom. Lingnan Culture covers a wide range of areas including painting, architecture, gardens, bonsai, Cantonese Music, Cantonese Opera, Cantonese Cuisine, City customs, and the famous Dragon and Lion dances.

The formation of Lingnan Culture has a long history which was influenced by the major migration movements in China and the culture of the Central Plain and due to business and the intrusion of western countries since the Ming Dynasty the culture has incorporated much western traditions and has openly embraced various cultures instead of isolating itself as it now includes masculine Lingnan poetry, melodious Cantonese music, Cantonese opera and now a reformative school of Lingnan Painting.

The word 'Lingnan' comes from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770BC-221BC). 
Beers N Noodles toya…..shane

PS:  If you find yourself in this area, remember to keep the toilets clean or you will have Bruce Lee kicking your butt and gentelmen to flush the toilet you know what to do, the sign says it all!

The soundtrack to this entry was by Groove Armada
The albums were ‘Northern Star & Love Box’

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