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Nantong

Nantong (Nantung, Tongzhou, or Tungchow) is a prefecture-level city in Jiangsu Province of China. Located on the northern bank of the Yangtze River near the river mouth, Nantong is a vital river port bordering Yancheng to the north, Taizhou to the west, Suzhou to the south across the river, and the East China Sea to the east.

History
Because the coast of the East China Sea is constantly moving eastward as the Yangtze River adds silt to its delta, the distance between Nantong and the seashore is getting farther than the one in ancient times. From the time of the Han dynasty through to the Tang dynasty, what is now called Nantong was a minor county subordinate to Yangzhou. By 958 AD a city of sufficient importance had developed for a new, independent prefecture called Tongzhou ("Opening Prefecture", possibly from its position near the mouth of the Yangtse) to be created. The increasing wealth of Yangzhou caused Tongzhou to be once again eclipsed as an administrative centre in 1368. When Tongzhou finally regained prefecture status in 1724, it was renamed Nantong ("Southern Tong") to avoid confusion with another Tongzhou, located near Beijing.

The prosperity of Nantong has traditionally depended on salt production on the nearby seacoast, rice and cotton agriculture, and especially the production of cotton textiles. A local statesman and industrialist named Zhang Jian (Chang Chien) founded Nantong's first modern cotton mills in 1899, then developed an industrial complex that included flour, oil, and silk reeling mills, a distillery, and a machine shop. He also founded a shipping line and reclaimed saline agricultural land to the east of Nantong for cotton production. By 1911, Nantong was commonly called "Zhang Jian's Kingdom".

Although suffering from the economic depression of the 1930s and the Japanese occupation of the 1930s and 40s, Nantong has remained an important centre for the textile industry. Because of its deep-water harbour and connections to inland navigational canals, it was one of 14 port cities opened to foreign investment in the recent economic reforms.

Culture and Education
The "King of Nantong", Zhang Jian, founded the first teacher-training schools in China at Nantong. These eventually merged with his agricultural, industrial, and medical schools to become Nantong University. Zhang also founded museums, libraries, and theatres, making Nantong into an important cultural centre.

Local Dialect
Nantong natives speak a Northern Wu Chinese dialect; some natives in southern parts speak similarly to that of nearby Shanghai.

Nantong city and its 6 counties (or county-level cities) are rich in its diversity of languages. People in the city of Nantong speak a unique dialect which sounds nothing like Mandarin or any other dialects, and it is also distinctively different from any surrounding dialects. About 2 million people in southern parts of Tongzhou, Haimen and Qidong speak the Wu dialect, which is often referred to as "Qi-hai Hua", meaning Qidong-Haimen speech. It is about the same as the dialect spoken on the island of Chongming, which is a part of Shanghai city. People in northern parts of these counties speak "Tongdong Hua" (tōngdōnghuà), meaning Eastern Tong Talk. People in Rugao, Hai'an speak other dialects.

Some people believe criminals who were living in Mongolia or Tibet moved to Nantong when the land was first formed hundreds years ago. Hence it is said that a small group in Mongolia or Tibet speak the same dialect as people in the city of Nantong do.

Tourism
The Haohe River, known as the Emerald Necklace of Nantong, surrounds the old city with a total length of 15km. Most scenery lines this river.

Popular tourist sites include Langshan ("Wolf hill"). This hill of about 110 metres elevation right next to the Yangtze River is worth a visit. On top of the hill is a Buddhist temple dedicated to a Song dynasty monk. Because of the monk's legendary powers over water demons, sailors pray to him for protection on their voyages.

The Cao Gong Zhu Memorial Temple commemorates a local hero who defended the city against Japanese pirates in 1557. Shuihuiyuang Garden, meaning Water Garden, is a unique Hui-styled garden in all China classic gardens.

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