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Zhenjiang

Zhenjiang is a prefecture-level city in the southwestern Jiangsu Province of China. Sitting on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the west, Changzhou to the east, and Yangzhou across the river to the north.

Once known as Jingjiang or Jingkou, Zhenjiang is today an important transportation hub owing to its location near the intersection of the Yangtze River and the Grand Canal.

History
Zhenjiang was the seat of feudal domains from the 8th century BC onwards, known first as Chu-fang-i and later as K'uyang-i. After it was captured by Qin Shi Huang, the first Chinese emperor, in 221 BC, it became a county town and was given the name Tan-t'u. It became the seat of a higher administrative division during the middle of the 3rd Century BC. Conquered by the Sui dynasty in 581 AD, it was made a garrison to guard the entrance to the Yangtze River, hence its name which means "Garrison [of the] River". In 595 it became a full prefecture named Jun. Its importance grew with the building of a precursor to the Grand Canal, when it became the chief collection and forwarding center for tax grain paid by the Yangtse delta region.

The city reached its zenith under the Song dynasty (960-1279), when it produced fine silks, satins, and silverware for the emperors. In a garden estate on the outskirts of Zhenjiang, the scientist and statesman Shen Kuo (1031-1095 AD) lived the rest of his days in isolation, where he wrote his famous Dream Pool Essays (1088). In about 1300, a census reported that some Nestorian Christians were living in Zhenjiang.

Zhenjiang suffered from strife during the Opium War (1839-42) when it was bombarded by British warships, and again during the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864). Zhenjiang declined economically with the closure of the northern portion of the Grand Canal in the 1850s, and the obstruction of the entrance to the southern canal in the 20th century.

From 1928 to 1949, during the Nationalist (Guomindang) regime of Chiang Kaishek, Zhenjiang was made the capital of Jiangsu Province, while Nanjing (the present-day capital of Jiangsu) served as the capital of China.

Zhenjiang is still one of China's busiest ports for domestic commerce, serving as a hub for trade between northern Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, and Shanghai. The trade mostly consists of grain, cotton, oils, and lumber. The other main industries are mostly in the field of food processing and paper pulp manufacturing. It is famous among Chinese for its heroic resistance against the British (in 1842 and 1949) and the Japanese (in the Second World War).

Culture and Folklore
Coolie labourer in Zhenjiang, circa 1900Zhenjiang natives speak a dialect of Lower Yangtze (Jianghuai) Mandarin Chinese, at the edge of a linguistic border with the Wu language.

In a park on the edge of Zhenjiang there is a spring which was described in the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) as being the best in Jiangsu for the making of tea, now famous as "Number One Lifespring Under Heaven".

The hilly scenery in Zhenjiang's southern suburbs was considered beautiful enough to be the theme of many landscapes by Chinese painters.

Near the Zhenjiang Museum in Boxian Park is the Shaozong Library, which among other documents contains a 100-volume collection of old sayings and proverbs, dating from the 7th to 11th centuries.

Zhenjiang is home to the Silkworm Raising Research Institute of the Academy of Agricultural Science of China.

A local specialty is a steamed meat pastry called Crab Cream Bun. Other famous special products include fragrant black vinegar, pork, and pickles.

Because of its strategic location on the Yangtze River, Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, believed that the power of fengshui in Zhenjiang was too strong, so he ordered 3,000 prisoners to dig a tunnel through a hill to divert the power away.

In the traditional Chinese story Madame White Snake, a magical, 1000 year-old snake who could take the form of a woman escapes through a cave in Gold Hill (Jin Shan), to be reunited with her lover in the far-away city of Hangzhou.

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