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Changshu Travel Guide


changshu yushan gate
This is the access named the Gate of
Yushan Hill(虞山门) toYuanshan Hill
Scenic Area, boasting a sacred
land for traditional art and culture
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In Jiangsu province, Changshu(常熟, literally translated to be Constant Harvest) is the only county-level city written into the list of nationally famous cities for history and culture. When Changshu is mentioned, it always reminds people of a famous couplet - Hefei, the premier Li Hongzhang's hometown, is so fat but the world so thin; Changshu, the civil affairs minister Weng Tonghe's hometown, is always in harvest but the world in famine(宰相合肥天下瘦, 司农常熟世间荒). This is a fantastic couplet created by some brilliant elite to satirize the supreme official’s wrongdoings. Though it is for criticism, but makes Hefei and Changshu nationwide known. In this article, mainly focuses on Changshu. Changshu, located in southeast Jiangsu province, is under the joint administrations of Jiangsu provincial government and Suzhou municipal government. Traditionally, people call Changshu Yu(虞) for short. Changshu is a small city but ranks one of China’s ten top richest counties (cities) in China. In 2010, the GDP per capita of Changshu surpassed 20,000 US dollars, which exceeds that of Portugal, one of the founders of EU.

The Highlights of Changshu

The history of the remote times – Changshu is an important cradle of Wu culture. In 1986, it was approved to be a city in the second batch of nationally famous city for history and culture by the State Council. The famous Qiandixiang Relic (钱底巷遗址) existed in the period of Songze Culture(崧泽文化, which is a key cultural phase during the transitional period from matrilineal society to patriarchal society, initially appeared roughly 6,000 years ago. It is named after Songze Village, Qingpu District, Shanghai, where it was firstly discovered. Songze Culture is between two primitive cultures in the Neolithic age. The former is Majiabang Culture,马家浜文化, and the latter is Liangzhu Culture,良渚文化. Songze Culture is an important cultural phase in the middle and lower reach of Yangtze River and the drainage area of Taihu Lake), approximately 5,500 years ago.

Luodun Relic (罗墩遗址) features the Culture of Liangzhu(良渚文化, the center of it is in the drainage area of Taihu Lake, especially on the southeast, north and northeast part of the lake. In 1936, it was firstly excavated in Liangzhu town, Yuhang, Hangzhou in 1936, so it was named officially Liangzhu Culture, which is highlighted with the Jade-ware culture), roughly 5000 years ago.

Up to the periods of early West Zhou Era (1046BC-771BC) and Spring & Autumn (770BC-476BC), the famous Dianjiangtai Site of King Wu(吴王点将台, it is estimated that the King Wu was the father of King Fuchai, He Lv) absolutely shows the culture of Wu Kingdom.

During the remote times, the great figures over here included Wu Xian(巫咸), a legendary astronomer and the premier of Shang Era. In the later period of Shang Era, Taibo(泰伯) and Zhongyong(仲雍) moved here and promoted the civilized process of Jiangnan. More details, please go to the About Us page. Because Zhongyong, whose another name was Yuzhong(虞仲), was buried in a local hill, and then this hill was called Yushan Hill(虞山), and Changshu was officially called Yu at the times. In the Spring and Autumn Period, Yan Yan (言偃, who was respected as Yanzi) became one of Confucius’s ten great saints(孔门十哲), and he was the only one from Southern China.

The great sites of the ancient times – Changshu has a multitude of ancient sites, and currently, there are 134 historic sites under the protection. Among them, Caiyi Hall(綵衣堂) was a site under the state-level protection. And there are also 14 sites under the province-level protection such as Maiwang Hall (脉望馆, the former residence of Zhao Yongxian), Xingfu Temple (兴福寺), Yanzi Memorial Temple (言子祠), Weng Tonghe Tomb(翁同龢墓) and Yanyuan Garden (燕园). What’s more, in Changshu Museum, there are also many great sites deserving your attention.

The great souls of philosophy and science – Changshu traditionally is a center of culture. Yanzi (言子, just Yan Yan mentioned above)became the greatest Confucian in Southern China. From Tang dynasty to Qing dynasty, there are in total 485 Jin Shi (进士, the winner in the imperial examinations) appeared in Changshu. Among them, 8 people was the first-place winner of the national imperial examination or Zhuang Yuan(状元). Since the establishment of People’s Republic of China, there are more than 20 people of Changshu selected to be the academicians of Chinese Academy of Science and Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The masters of culture and art – Changshu is also a holy land for art and literature. Yushan Hill(虞山) even becomes a cultural landmark of Chinese ancient art. It is the symbol of ancient art and literature in the aspect of innovation. A large number of great masters lived around Yushan Hill to create their own ideal world.

Huang Gongwang(黄公望, 1269-1354), one of four greatest painting masters of Yuan Dynasty (1368-1644) and the creator of Fuchun Shanju Tu(富春山居图, or Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains. This is one of the few surviving masterpieces of Huang Gongwang and accepted as his greatest works), established the famous School of Qianjiang (浅绛派) for mountain-river paintings here, which was an important part of Chinese painting history. In Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Zhou Zhimian(周之冕, 1521-?) opened a new painting school named Gouye Dianhua Pai (勾叶点花派), which was a refreshing painting style amid fine brushwork painting and freehand brushwork painting, and he was quite famous in Suzhou.

There are several big art groups titled with Yushan Hill, and widely influenced the art and literature of China such as the Yushan Qinpai (虞山琴派), Yushan Huapai(虞山画派), Yushan Shipai(虞山诗派) and Yushan Yinpai(虞山印派).

Yan Cheng(严澂, 1547-1625 , a great guqin master of Ming Dynasty and his courtesy name was Tianchi) established Yushan Hill Qin Art School, which was a new type of Qin study and art innovation. Up to modern times, the representative is Wu Jinglue(吴景略, 1907-1987), who was a native Changshu and famous for playing two qin music – Xiaoxiang Yunshui(潇湘云水, Mist & Clouds Over Xiao-Xiang River) and Hujia Shiba Pai(胡笳十八拍, Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute)

Qian Qianyi (钱谦益, 1582-1664,a native of Changshu, who was respected to be called Mr. Yushan and the leader of poets in early Qing Dynasty. He was a leader of Dongling Party in Ming Dynasty. When Qing troops entered Shanhai Pass, and Ming Empire’s central government in Beijing was collapsed. Qian Qianyi, Ma Shiying and Ruan Dacheng support King Fu as the new Emperor of Ming in Nanjing) opened Yushan Shipai, a new poet group to write a new type of poems in a new thought.

Wang Hui (王翚, 1632- 1717, whose courtesy name was Shig, a native Changshuan and was respected to be the Painting Sage of Early Qing Dynasty,清初画圣. Wang Hui, Wang Jian, Wang Shiming and Wang Yuanqi together boasted “Four Kings” of Mountain-River Painting, because their surnames were all Wang, which literally was translated as King) opened the Painting School of Yushan Hill. Many famous painters of modern China follow its painting artistic style such as Lu Yifei, Li Yongseng, Qian Yankang and so on.

Lin Gao(林皋, 1657-?),a great master of seal-carving art, opened the Seal Art School of Yushan Hill, and the modern China’s representative was Zhao Shi(赵石,1873-1933, who was also the student of Wu Changshuo and the teacher of Deng Sanmu,邓散木)

In literature, the famous figures from Changshu included Wang Boguang (王伯广) of Song Dynasty, Ming Dynasty’s Wu Na (吴讷, 1372-1457,a famous doctor and litterateur), Zhang Hong(张洪, 1361-1444, an official of Ming Dynasty in charge of compilation of Yongle Encyclopedia), Xu Fuzuo (徐复祚, 1560-1629, who was a famous playwright and dramatist), In Qing Dynasty, the famous men included Qian Qianyi(钱谦益), Liu Rushi(柳如是, wife of Qian Qianyi and a talented lady in the transitional period from Ming Dynasty to Qing Dynasty), Fen Ban(冯班, 1602-1671, who was a famous poet in early Qing Dynasty and the backbone of Yushan Shipai), Sun Yuanxiang(孙原湘, 1760-1829, a poet of Qing Dynasty), Zeng Pu(曾朴, 1872-1935, a famous novelist of late Qing Dynasty and his represented novel titled Nie Hai Hua) and Ding Zuying(丁祖荫, 1871-1930, a native Changshu who was a famous scholar, litterateur and bibliophil.

In calligraphy art, the masters included Yang Yisun(杨沂孙, 1812-1881, a native Changshu and a calligrapher of Qing Dynasty. He was good at the stone-drum script, official script and drum-bell script), Weng Tonghe(翁同龢, 1830-1904, a great calligraphist and politician. He used to be the teacher of Emperor Tongzhi and Emperor Guangxu), Xiao Tui(萧蜕, 1876-1958, a famous calligrapher boasting the No.1 calligrapher of Jiangnan and a bosom friend of Li Sutong) and so on.

In handcrafts, Wang Yi, a Ming Dynasty’s carving master, is famous for its core carving themed with Painting of Su Dongpo nightly visited Chibi (东坡赤壁夜游图), and a related essay named He Zhou Ji (核舟记) depicted it in details. In modern times, there are several famous masters of carving the ink-stone, and the representatives were Chen Duanyou(陈端友, 1892-1959, a native Changshu who boasts the No.1 art master of carving the inkstones) and Shen Shiyou(沈石友, 1858-1917, a native Changshu who spent lifelong time studying and carving the inkstones).

The private libraries – People of Changshu had the tradition of collecting books, so many private libraries were built. The most bibliophiles and private libraries like the Mai Wang Guan(脉望馆, Maiwang Mansion) of Zhao Yongxian(赵用贤, 1535-1596) and Zhao Qimei (赵琦美, 1563-1624, the son of Zhao Yongxian), the Jiangyun Tower(绛云楼, Deep Red Clouds Tower) of Qian Qianyi, Ji Gu Ge(汲古阁, Pavilion of Learning From The Ancient) of Mao Jin(毛晋, 1599-1659, a famous bibliophile of later Ming Dynasty) and Tieqin Tongjian Tower(铁琴铜剑楼, Iron-made Qin and Bronze-made Sword Tower was one of four most famous private libraries in Qing Dynasty) of Qu Shaoji(瞿绍基, 1772-1836) and his descendants.

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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