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Hangzhou Eight Diagrams Field Travel Guide


 

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Hangzhou Eight Diagrams Field (杭州八卦田, Hangzhou Bagua Farmland) actually is an ancient rice field shaped a layout of eight diagrams, which used to be the land exclusively used by Emperors to encourage the development of agriculture. It is located at the south foot of Yuhuang Hill, and the highlights of the classic sense of Yuhuang Feiyun(玉皇飞云, Clouds hurrying over Yuhuang hill), in the southeast side of Hangzhou West Lake Scenic Area. Anciently, It was called Baqiutian(八丘田, the rice field of eight hills), on which eight types of crops are planted. In four seasons, the eight sections planted with the different crops show different colors, and then the eight colors together in this large land may gives the visitors a great visual impact. At the center of the farmland, there is a round mound, which is the figure of taichi.

The earth mounds, wide ridges and gutter-ways are all arranged well in the rice field. It was firstly opened in Southern Song Dynasty, It was the Jitian(籍田) that the Emperors did some farming here by himself to show the importance of agriculture, and encourage people to do as much agricultural work as they could. Annually, Emperor led his officers and officials in springtime to plough the rice field to show their respects to the farming, and meanwhile, prayed for the harvests in the coming year. Surely, this was a symbolic rite and a governmental attitude to the agriculture. In every dynasty, the Emperor’s annual performance to agriculture was a regularized ritual event and a tradition in Chinese culture, because ancient China is an agriculture-based country. In Beijing, the similar farmland for Emperors was also available, and it is today’s Xiannongtan(先农坛, the temple of ancestral agriculture) in Xuanwu District(宣武区) , which was firstly built in 1420, during the reign of Emperor Yongle, the third Emperor of Ming Dynasty, and it is the imperial farmland of Emperors in Ming and Qing Dynasties to worship the agricultural ancestors and gods, as well as hold some national agricultural ceremonies.

Currently, there are seven types of crops planted in Eight Diagrams Rice Field. According to the historical study, there used to nine kinds of crops planted, and they were soybean(大豆), red bean(小豆), barley(大麦), wheat(小麦), rice(稻), millet (粟), glutinous rice(糯), broomcorn millet(黍), and ancient millet(稷). At present, the plantation area of the Eight Diagrams Field mainly includes surrounding area of core section, which is a shape of yin-yang taichi and the site of historic heritage, the central section and the exterior section.


The Explanation of Jitian(籍田) -

Jitian ceremony is a part of ancient Ji rite(吉礼), one of five rites(吉凶宾军嘉, the auspicious rite, ominous rite, guest rite, troop rite and dining rite) in ancient China. In traditional calendar of China, the first month of the spring is the time of starting the farming, and the Emperor or King would lead his officials or officers to do some farming and hold some large farming ceremonies to declare that the time of farming comes. This tradition generally originated from the primitive society. It is one of the customs for harvest praying. Emperor or kings would firstly do some farming to show their emphasis on farming and the importance of agriculture. Since Zhou and Han Dynasties, all dynasties followed this tradition. In the morning, a huge ceremony was held to worship Shennong(神农, literally translated to be the Sacred Agriculture, who was one of Chinese forefathers said to be the inventor of agriculture), and then in the suburb of the south capital, Emperors or Kings do some farming, and the subordinates followed. After all the ceremonies, a governmental declaration would be issued to tell the people it is the time for farming. In many ancient books, such a rite was recorded in details like the Book of Songs(诗经), Kaiyuan Rites(开元礼, a book of Tang Dynasty) and Tong Dian(通典, All-inclusive Encyclopedia edited in Tang Dynasty) .






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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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