August 26, 2009

 

Taiyuan , the capital of Shanxi Province , called Jinyang City in ancient times, is an ancient city with a history of 2500 years. It was initially established in 497 B.C. in the Spring and Autumn Period (770—475 B.C.). In the early Warring States Period (475—221 B.C.), it was the capital of Zhao State . During the Qin Period(221—206 B.C.), it was one of 36 prefectures in the whole country. During the Western Han(206 B.C.— 24 A .D.), it was called Binzhou and was one of 13 states in the whole country. Before the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420- 589), such as Former Zhao, Later Yan, Former Yan, Former Qin and Northern Qi States, all chose Taiyuan as capital. During Sui Dynasty (581 -618), Jinyang was the third largest city after Changan and Luoyang in the whole country. Jinyang was the birthplace of Tang Dynasty (618 -907) and was designated as Bei capital. Jinyang of Bei(north) capital, Changan of Jing capital and Luoyang of Dong(East) capital all were called “three capitals”. During the Five Dynasties (907 -960), Taiyuan was the capital of Later Tang (923 -936), Later Jin (936-947), Later Han (947- 950) and Northern Han (951 -979). In the history of more than 2000 years, Taiyuan has always been a military fortress town in North China , enjoying the reputation of “controlling mountains and rivers, crouching on heaven’s shoulder and back” . In Qing Dynasty (1636- 1911 ), Taiyuan had developed to a key city in commercial and handicraft industries in north China . In the period of the Republic of China (1912- 1949), Taiyuan was the municipality under the direct jurisdiction of Shanxi Province .
Taiyuan is located in the middle reaches of the Yellow River in North China and is surrounded by hills in its west, north and east. It covers an area of 6998 square kilometers. The Fenhe River , a key tributary of the Yellow River, runs through the territory of Taiyuan City with a long distance of 100 kilometers. Taiyuan lies in the valley basin of both mountains of the Taihang Mountain Ranges in east and the Luliang Mountain in west. It has continental climate in north temperate zone, no bitterly cold days in winter and no broiling hot days in summer, with a quite temperature difference between day and night and a long frost-free period and plenty of sunshine hours in a year.
    As an inland city, Taiyuan is a place propitious for giving birth to great men, where the people are honest and warmhearted. Many famous historic figures came from Taiyuan such as follows: the famous general Lian Po during the Warring States Period (475 -221 B. C. ); the prime minister Di Renjie; the literator Bai Xingjian and his brother Bai Juyi – a great poet, all in the Tang Dynasty (618 -907); and poets of Wang Han, Wang Changling and Wang Zhihuan, the famous generals of Hu Yanzan and Yang Yanzhao, all in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279); the famous calligrapher and painter Mi Shi, and the author of “Three Kingdoms” Lou Guanzhou. There are a lot of historical relics and attractions in Taiyuan, such as the Holy Mother Hall in Jinci Temple, the Grottoes on Tianlong Mountain, the Taoist rites on Dragon Mountain, the Chongshan Monastery, Chunyang Taoist Palace, Baiyun Temple, and the emperor of the Tang Dynast (618 -970) Li Shimin’s handwritten tablet inscription of” Zhenguang Baohan” (An Inscription with Preface to the Ancestral Temple of the State of Jin) in Jinci Temple, etc.
Taiyuan is one of the super cities in China . At the end of 2004, the city had a population of 3.4138 million. Now it governs one city, six districts and three counties, with 51 sub district offices, 488 urban community resident commissions, 54 town- ships, 1030 rural resident commissions and 1794 villages.

August 26, 2009

The Shuanglin Temple is located in Qiaotou Village, seven kilometers west of Pingyao County in Shanxi Province.

The temple was originally known as Zhongdu Temple, but there is no exact record of when it was built. Studies of its cultural relics, however, suggest an estimated history of over 1,400 years. The Shuanglin Temple was constructed on a large scale, but was reduced to ruins during many years of war. It was renovated during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and renamed Shuanglin Temple. What remains of the temple today are mainly the ruins of the Ming (1368-1644) construction.

Sitting in the north and facing south, the Shuanglin Temple covers an area of 14,844 square meters. Built on a three-meter-high earth base, the temple is surround by tempered-earth, high walls on four sides. Over 10 halls were built to form three rows on the central axis of the temple.

Inside the temple, 2052 colored sculptures are preserved, which present the essence of Buddha sculptures since the Song Dynasty: a great number of Buddhist stories can be found on the four walls of the Sakyamuni Temple; more than one hundred Buddha figures with vivid facial expressions are set near the main figure of Bodhisattva; there are four mighty Heavenly Guardians in the Tianwang Temple; the 18 arhats, the thousand-hand Kwan-yin and the Duhai Kwan-yin and so on are in every Buddha temple. In addition to the civil and awful figures, most of the Buddha figures are full of life interest, very specific and vivid with delicate engraving and glowing with health and radiating vigor. 

The Shuanglin Temple is one of the main tourist attractions around the ancient Pingyao City.

 

August 26, 2009

Qiao”s family mansion was first built in Qianlong period, Qing dynasty, and located in Qiao Jiabao Village of Qi County, covering an area of 10642 square meters with 4175 square meters of building area. It consists of 6 big courtyards with 20 sub-courtyards. The total 313 rooms form a closed castle-like complex which looks like the traditional Chinese pattern of “double-happiness” from a bird’s eye view.  It is a typical Shanxi businessmen’s house at that time, and regarded as outstanding examples of civilian residence building in Qing Dynasty (1642-1911).

There are also some other family’s mansions in the nearby areas, such as the Qu’s Courtyard Houses, in Qi County, the Wang’s Courtyard Houses, in Lingshi County and the Cao’s Courtyard Houses, in Taigu County

These Shanxi Merchants Houses are all smartly designed, delicately carved and built with fine materials, boasting for profoundness and magnificence. Their architecture inherited and developed the Chinese traditional courtyard style of “hall in front, houses at the rear”, but broke the traditional style of civil house that “five inside, three outside separated by gate tower and surrounded by short walls”, creating a castle layout of “five inside, five outside separated by passage hall”. More importantly, the fact that Shanxi Merchants’ Mansions incorporated Fengshui theory, ethic, morality, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism cultures and aesthetics into their architecture, not only made it an invaluable heritage of China but also testified the 500-year history of Shanxi Merchants’ ups and downs.