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Shanxi Cities

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Taiyuan is a prefecture-level city and the capital of Shanxi province, China. In 2004, the city had a population of 3.4 million.


Taiyuan was an ancient capital, constructed by Zhaojianzi in ca. 500 BC, named Jinyang . It was renamed Taiyuan in the Qin Dynasty. Several Emperors came from this city, the most famous emperor is Li Shimin and his father Li Yuan, Emperor Gaozu, during the Tang Dynasty. Many ancient Chinese poets were also from Taiyuan. During the Tang Dynasty, Taiyuan was a secondary capital of China and a cultural center. The oldest existing building in the city is the Temple of Goddess inside the Jin Ci Complex; it was originally built in 1023 AD and reconstructed in 1102 AD.

The city was originally the site of Jinyang, a strategic center for the ancient state of Zhao. After the Qin conquest of Zhao in 221 BC, it became the seat of the commandery (district under the control of a commander) of Taiyuan, which continued during the Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 220) and after. In the Later Han period, it became the capital of the province (zhou) of Bing.

For a time in the 6th century, the city was a secondary capital of Eastern Wei and Northern Qi states, growing into a fairly large city and also becoming a center of Buddhism. A new city was built in 562 AD, which was later linked to the old city during the Tang Dynasty in 733 AD. From that time until the middle of the Tang dynasty (618 - 907), the construction of the cave temples at Tianlong Mountain just southwest of the city, continued. The dynastic founder of the Tang began his conquest of the empire with Taiyuan as a base and using the support of its local aristocracy. It was periodically designated as the Tang's northern capital and grew into a heavily fortified military base.

The old city was at Taiyuanzhen, a few miles east of the modern city. After the Song conquest in 960, Emperor Taizong of Song ordered to destroy it, and a new city was set up on the banks of the Fen River in 982. The city became a superior prefecture in 1059 and administrative capital of Hedong (northern Shanxi) in 1107. It retained this function, with various changes in its name and status, down to the end of the Mongol period (1368). At the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), it was renamed Taiyuan Fu and retained this name until 1912. During Ming Dynasty, the city wall was reconstructed in 1568 AD. Under the Ming dynasty and in the Qing period (1644 - 1911), it was capital of Shanxi. Under the republic (established in 1911), its name was changed to Yangqu, a name it retained until 1947.

In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, seventy-seven unarmed Western missionaries were executed in front of the provincial governor. This incident became known as the Taiyuan Massacre.

In 1907 the importance of Taiyuan was increased by the construction of a rail link to Shijiazhuang, in Hebei, on the Beijing to Wuhan trunk line. Soon thereafter Taiyuan suffered a serious economic crisis. In the 19th century the merchants and local banks of Shanxi had been of national importance, but the rise of modern banks led to the rapid decline of this system - with disastrous effects upon Shanxi and its capital.

After 1911, Shanxi remained under control by warlord Yen Hsi-shan who retained control of the area from 1913 to 1948. Taiyuan consequently flourished as the center of his comparatively progressive province and experienced extensive industrial development. It was also linked by rail both to the far southwest of Shanxi and to Datong in the north.

After the Japanese invasion in 1937, Taiyuan's industries continued to develop further. In 1945 the Japanese army in Shanxi surrendered to Yen Xi-shan and continued to fight for him until 1948. Eventually, the Chinese communist armies captured Taiyuan.

Since 1949, Taiyuan has developed a large industrial base with heavy industry (notably iron and steel) of prime importance; local coal production is considerable. Taiyuan is also an engineering center, as it produces cement, and has a large chemical-industrial complex. It is also a center of education and research, particularly in technology and applied science.

Taiyuan's local specialties include:

Wheat-made Food: Liang Fen (see Grass jelly), Mian Pi
Noodles: Dalu Mian, Dao Xiao Mian (Knife-Cut Noodles), Lamian, Mao Er Duo (Cat Ear Noodle), Xi Hong Shi Chao Ji Dan Mian, Noodles with Tomato and Scrambled Eggs), Ti Mian (Scraped Noodles)
Soup: Tou Nao ("Brain" Soup), Yang Za Ge, Wan Zi Tang (meat ball soup)
Vinegar: Taiyuan is known for its vinegar, Lao Chen Cu ("Long-preserved Vinegar"). It has a very strong taste and is known worldwide.

Several tourist attractions in and around Taiyuan include the Liu Xiang Lane, which contains ancient Chinese houses of important heritage, and several temples, such as the Chongshan Monastery, the Jinci Temple, the Twin Pagoda Temple, and the Shaunglin Monastery Longtan Park and Yinze Park are also popular tourist destinations.

Taiyuan is also known for its Liuxiang shopping district and the construction of parks and recreational areas that are praised by the UN Environmental Programme for their role in the improvement of the environmental condition of Taiyuan. Taiyuan's environmental improvement project is being copied in many other Chinese cities and urban areas around the world.

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