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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 26, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta The LetKbridge Herald THIRD SECTION Lethbridge, Alberta, Friday, January 26, 1973 PAGES 23-25 AS IN POLO'S DAY Hangchow: 'fairest' city in China still By JOHN BURNS FP Publications HAXGCHOW Among all the traditions that sur- vived a generation of revolu- tionary reform there can be few more pleasant than a journey to Hangchov. es- tolled by generations of tra- vellers as the fairest city in China. Marco Polo, .writing of his Foiourn in Hangchow in 1271. described it as "without doubt the erardest and the best city in the world." p.tid there can be Jew visitors today who would deny it a listing among the most idyllic places they have ever seen. Set beside a willow-fringed lake and cradled on three fides by an amphitheatre of mountains, it has provided in- spiration for legions of poets aixi artists. who have given it a posi'.icn in Chinese culture akin to that accorded by west- em cul'.ure to ancient Rome. Known since its earliest csvs as The City of Heaven, it ha; drawn all manner o: piUrinis, from err.rroror to v.-igar-o-d. each 01" ;hem eager to pXTX'rlerrce a city tr.st so overwhe'T.ed Pc'o with its abundance of earthly pleas- ures that he was moved to compare it with Paradise. Though some of tlie pleas- ures which appealed to the Italian adventurer have now passed into history, the city remains the most popular tourist spot in China, delight- in? Chairman Mao and Presi- dent Nison as much as the factor hand on an excursion trip from Shanghai. FERTILE SOIL Nowadays. most foreign visitors to the city proceed by train from Shanghai, a mile journey thai runs south- west through a region of the- lower Yangtse basin known as The Garden of China, for the softness of its landscape and the extraordinary fertility ffi its soil. The route Is the only one in the country served by made- in-China double-decker cars, sleek beauties that give pas- sengers on the upper deck a luxurious view ever the green- and-gold landscape of rice paddies and grain fields that stregches away to the horizon on either side of the track. .After two-and-a-half hours the train roils into Hang- chow, capital of Chekiang, a proiince ot lush plains and craggy mountains that runs inland" from the Yellow Sea. with a population of 31 mil- lion and a strong economy based on the production of abundant quantities of rice, wheat, tea. silk, cotton and The city itself enjoys the best of the province's topog- raphy, standing a; the junc- tion of the lowlands and the mcuntains. at a point where tnt Chien Tang River, the provinces principal water- way, flows into Hsngchow Bay and thence onward to the sea. Between the river and the mountains, in as exquisite a setting as nature could devise. stands the West Lake, fam- ous throughout China for its peaceful islands, its pleasant walks, its fragrant gardens end for its reputation as Chairman Mao's favorite va- cation spot. YOUNG CITY Although it enjoys a place in the history of China second only to that'of Peking. Hang- chow is relatively young as the Chinese measure their cities, dating back only 1.400 years or nearly 1.005 years yoimger than Socchow. beautiful sister city to the ncrth. For centuries, salt-boilers and fishermen had been bv- irg in squalid shanties over- looking the rive-, but it was ret until 591 A.D. that the of- ficials of the Sui Dynasty, anxious icr a permanent set- tlement at Lhe southern ter- minus of their Grand ordered the construction of a walled city. The city that resulted was enclosed within a 10-mile wall, but its situation on a sandbank between the river ar.d the lake remained pre- carious for another three cen- turies, when Prince Chien Liu undertook the construc- tion of the sea wall which still exists today. The prince. Hangchow's most famous son. was no or- dinary man. Even today, guides are fond of quoting an r.ncient proverb that "there is hut one Prince and of recounting his great feat, especially in the re-building of his native For example, it is said that the construction of the sea wall was threatened at one pent by high waves which prevented the continuation of the work. daunted. Prince Chien stationed hun- dreds of archers atop the wall lo shoot at the waves, which swiftly turned back and broke against the opposite bank. DEVELOPMENT If the city enjoyed its firs.t great epoch of development under Prince Chien. it had its golden age in the time of the Southern Sung Dynasty, which chose Hangchow as its capital from 1126 to 1276. a ISO-year period which ended with the overthrow of the Sung by the invading Mongol armies of Kublai Khan. The unparalleled magnifi- cence of the city during this period has been well docu- mented by Chinese records of the time and by foreign visit- ors, among them Polo, v.ho arrived in time to see the cily at the pinnacle of its power and beaury before the Mongols reduced it to ruins. Population figures slor-5 give some idea of the city's Drosperity under the Suns. In 1173. there were nsar'y 5W.- 000 people in the city; a cen- tury later, the figure v.'as close to l.WO.OW. a total it was not to reach again until the rapid industrialization undertaKen by the communists after As ire centre of foreign trade in the fabled land of Cathay, the city attracted all manner of strangers. One contemporary account de- scribed the scone: ''Here the Jew intoned his law and rest- ed on the Sabbath: hfre the Ciiristian read his Bifcle: and too the Moslem buiit iiis all th? foreigners bus- ied thernseives with religion. witness the accounts of Polo. Some were engaged with the prrs'.Kt o: more tan- gible pleasure; in the count- jess taverns, restaurants tr.eaue- of the city, or aiward fic-t-t ba-ges tl-a; piied the Lake at ail HAZED When they entered the city, the Mongol hordes devastated its magnificent p-jblic build- ings, burned its famous li- braries, and annihilated thou- sands of its leading families, baving Polo's Paradise a dis- ridden, nibbic-strew-n rJin. Although the city was never again to enjoy the glory of. tlio Sung period, a measure of redemption was not long in coming. Within 9.' years, about 1359, the Mongols were driien out. and a feudal lord named Chang Shih-cheng be- gan the work of restoring the city. A contemporary record, probably exaggerated, gives an idea of the massive amount of work involved It states that Chang, determined to build a 13-mile wall around the city inside three months, empioyed "540.COi stone mas- ons. 50.000 carpenters. 360.000 plasterers, 6.675 rcetal work- erf, and 4.500.000 coo'iies.." Although no longer the capi- tal under the Ming and Ching (Manchu) periods, the city still had a large population, and a flourishing economy. By Ihe middle of the ITth century, its reputation as a dry of pleasure had been re- established, and several of the Manchu emperors travel- led sc-uth from Peking to sam- ple its delights. As under the Sung, so un- der the Manchu of these delights centred on the Like, with its httr. drees of sumixu- Woman hfiri-estcr picki tea cus pavilions where the idle rich might pass their time taking tea with their friends, gambling, e- listening to the voices "of bes'jtiful ''sing- song' girls. DEPUTATION It was during this period that the city won its reputa- tion as the home of the es- r-sc'-ant official. At any or.a time, there were said to be several thousand such men hanging on in the city, wait- ing for something to turn up in the form of a summons to the court in Pek- ing. In 1862. al] this rs-rrtf to BS abrupt end with the capture of the city by the Tai P'ing rebels, a peasant horde which came within an ace of over- throwing the Manchus. With- in a few months, the rebels had reduced nine-tenths at the city to utter ruin, vorse even than that visited upon it by the Mongols. Historians estimate that a total of 600.000 of the city's inhabitants were massacred, or committed suicide. The canals and the shores o? the lake were choked with bodies, and the survivors were soon decimated by disease and starvation. Recovery from the Tal P'ing calamity was slow, and it was only in the early dec- ades of this century that the city regained a semblance of its former beauty. The com- rnimists. as proud as any pre- ceding regime, have spent huge sums of money to reha- bilitate its myriad nrd paeodas, and to clean up the lake. While attending to the ses thetics. they hare also ac- celerated the industrialization of the city, building new plants to produce glass, pl.is- tics, chemical and machin- ery, and expanding the exist- inc concci and silk plants, which make Hangchow one of the country's principal tcx- centres. The citv has become a ma- jor modical centre, loo. with a total of 10 hospitals. 3.000 doctors, and a major medical school. There are also a num- ber of sanitonums. where p.i- tienis with chronic respira- tory diseases may take ad- vantage of the mild climate and the clean mountain air. The itinerary drnw-n up for .1 foreign visitor will normal- ly include a visit to at Ic.ist one of the new plants. Bui far the greatest proportion of the time is spoilt touring historical sites, txxmns on the lake, or e.ii.inp in a choice of the city's many fine rost.iur- p.nts. The highlight of any visit is the boa! ride. I-irgo groups nre ferried around on a mod- cm motor launch, but couples may enjoy the tranquillity of n canopied barge, often rowed by a woman, who nuy .iiiv thing from ?0 lo 55. ,iixi capable of outrowini: any for- eign male impertinent enough to'suggest thai bo do the pull- ing he ov, performers perfc-'.-- one ct Drcaon Well Tea E-'scds The glorious beer i of Copenhagen AT REGULAR PRICES Nowbrewed hi Alberta njbeen the world's most exported Lager be this glorious, beer of Copenhagen, is brewed rijht here in Alberts. And because it's now brewed here, vou can enjov Carlsben; at pr'fes. Co.rlsbers brewed with all the skill and tradition of Denmirk ta the Hsto pf Canadian beer drinkers. Discover Carlsberg for yourself, Canadian Breweries Alberta Ltd. COPENHAGEN n ol beauiilul towers ;