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Shijiazhuang

Shijiazhuang is a prefecture-level city and the capital of Hebei province, China. It is about 320 km south of Beijing.

Shijiazhuang is a newly industrialized city. It experienced dramatic growth only after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 and was relatively unknown until then.

Facts about Shijiazhuang
-A central hub of transportation routes
-The population of the urban core has more than quadrupled in only 30 years
-Strong rivalry with Baoding, a smaller but older city in Hebei province
-Home to large garrison of military troops in case of need to protect Beijing
-Shijiazhuang stands on the edge of the North China Plain at the foot of the Taihang Mountains, which lie to the west. The city stands south of the Hutuo River.

History

In pre-Han times (i.e., before 206 BC) it was the site of the city of Shihi in the state of Zhao, and, from Han (206 BC - AD 220) to Sui (581 - 618) times, it was the site of a county town with the same name. With the reorganization of local government in the early period of the Tang dynasty (618 - 907), the county was abolished. Shijiazhuang then became little more than a local market town, subordinated to the flourishing city of Zhengding (modern Zhengding) a few miles to the north.

The growth of Shijiazhuang into one of China's major cities began in 1905, when the Beijing - Wuhan (Hankou) railway reached the area, stimulating much new trade and encouraging local farmers to grow cash crops. Two years later the town became the junction for the new Shitai line, running from Shijiazhuang to Taiyuan in central Shanxi province. This connection immediately transformed the town from a local collecting center and market into a communications center of national importance on the main route from Beijing and Tianjin to Shanxi and - later, when the railway from Taiyuan was extended to the southwest - to Shaanxi province as well. The city also became the center of an extensive road network.

During the pre-World War II period, Shijiazhuang was a large railway town as well as a commercial and collecting center for Shanxi and the regions farther west and for the agricultural produce of the North China Plain, particularly for grain, tobacco, and cotton. By 1935 it had far outstripped Zhengding as an economic center. At the end of World War II the character of the city changed once again. Not only did it assume an administrative role as the preeminent city in western Hebei but it also developed into an industrial city. Some industry, such as match manufacturing, tobacco processing, and glassmaking, had already been established before the war.

Only after 1949, however, did the planned industrialization of the city gather momentum. Its population more than tripled in the decade 1948 - 58. In the 1950s the city experienced a major expansion in the textile industry, with large-scale cotton spinning, weaving, printing, and dyeing works. In addition, there are various plants processing local farm produce. In the 1960s it was also the site of a new chemical industry, with plants producing fertilizer and caustic soda. Shijiazhuang also became an engineering base, with a tractor-accessory plant. There are important coal deposits at Jingxing and Huailu, now named Luquan, a few miles to the west in the foothills of the Taihang Mountains, which provide fuel for a thermal-generating plant supplying power to local industries. The city's role as a transport center has been supplemented by the construction of an airport handling regular domestic flights.

Culture

As a young industrial city, Shijiazhuang city proper is generally considered to have relatively few sights of historical or cultural interest. Exceptions are:

Martyrs' Memorial dedicated to Norman Bethune, Eric Liddell, and Dwarkanath Kotnis
Hebei Museum

However, several sites of historical and cultural significance are located in the surrounding area, including:

Longxing Monastery in Zhengding, 15 kilometers to the north
Mount Cangyan, 50 km to the southwest
Zhaozhou Bridge, 40 km to the southeast
Bailin (Cypress Grove) Temple, 40 km to the southeast, known as one the ten most renowned Buddhist temples in China.

Rock Culture

Shijiazhuang is also famous for its rock cultures. Several underground rock bands are active in this city, mostly performing in pubs. Two nation-wide rock magazines, SoRock and XMusic  are based in Shijiazhuang and act as major platforms promoting rock music in China.

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