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City Guide -- Hanzhong

Travel guide of Hanzhong in Shaanxi Province
In the west of China are three protected basins surrounded by mountains and other natural barriers. The most northerly is the catchment of the Wei River and its tributaries in Shaanxi. It is known as the Guanzhong, or the “the Land within the Passes”, and is well known as a site of ancient Chinese civilisation and where the Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui and Tang as well as many originally foreign northern Dynasties grew, emerged to conquer and govern. Chang'an (present day Xi'an) is a site which has been the centre of government for China for the longest period of its history. The Guanzhong takes its name from the existence of five major (and other minor) passes through the mountains that form the natural boundary for the region and natural sites for fortification. It also has plentiful farming land and natural resources – but not to the extent that is found in the north China Plain and the Yangse River plain. The valley sheep were always fatter.
Although the Guanzhong is best known there are two other “lands within the passes” to the south. To the far south, across the Qinling and Ba Mountain ranges lies the Sichuan basin. Although not as famous as the Guanzhong, the Sichuan plain has also been the site of ancient civilisations which grew in parallel with those of the north and east. Sichuan has been a rich and fertile area and has often been able to avoid the turmoil of the east of China through its natural protection by high mountains – but not always as it was the natural resources of Shu that brought Qin across the Qinling, building the first recorded mountain roads to conquer and develop its agriculture. The ancient name for Sichuan was “Shu” or silkworm and the silk of Sichuan was traded across the Silk Road well before its “discovery” by Zhang Qian in the western Han period.
Between these two areas, south of the high Qinling mountains and north of the Ba mountains lies the Hanzhong basin. The Hanzhong basin was known in ancient times as “Yu Pen” or “the Jade Basin” for its rich natural resources and these, together with its position has made it the linking region for the traffic that grew as people found ways to move across the mountains between the Guanzhong and Shu area and ways to move along the Han river to link Shu, Guanzhong and the lower Yangtse river area. The roads they built between north and south were the Shu roads – one of which was the famous Baoxie Plank Road. But the traffic did not only connect settlement as these mountains also divide the environment and climate of China into north and south. They separate the predominantly wheat growing areas from the predominantly rice growing areas and the climate at Hanzhong reflects a balance of north and south as well.
Hanzhong, in the midst of the QinLing and Bashan mountains, is quite unassuming, and not even easy to locate on most maps, and yet it has great claims to fame. Not only does the region have unique natural resources, giving it the reputation far and wide as "The little South China of the northwest" or "Shaanxi's land of plenty", but it has also been a stage on which for some thousands of years the history of the Chinese people has been played out. Furthermore, it has been a background for famous novels and events from ancient times of deep and lasting cultural significance.
Hanzhong is located in the southwestern part of the Shaanxi province, about 230 km. from Xian, ( about three hours drive ) in the center of the Hanzhong Basin, on the Han River, near the Sichuan border. Hanzhong lies 500 meters above sea level. It has an area of 27,246 square kilometers. Annual mean temperature: 14.3°C.
Situated in the transition area between warm temperate zone and subtropical zone, Hanzhong has moderate and humid weather without torrid summer. The winter current coming form North China was blocked by the Qinling Mountain, so its winter is relatively warmer. The rainy season usually appears during June to September.
The city was formerly called Nanzheng. It formed the center of the Han Principality. The latter was assigned to Liu Bang by Xiang Yu after the fall of Qin, during the 18 Kingdoms interregnum preceding the establishment of the Han Empire by Liu. During the Three Kingdoms Period Hanzhong, as a border city between the kingdoms of Wei and Shu, had considerable strategic importance, but only from the Wei side of the city.
Hanzhong gained its name for the Han River. As early as 2,400 years ago, Hanzhong Shire was established by the Qin Kingdom during the Warring States Period (476BC-221BC). It is the birthplace of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD).
Hanzhong is most famous because of its strategic location during the period of the Three Kingdoms and as the place where Han Dynasty had its origin. Most of the places of interest in the city are therefore related to these two historical facts, with the most famous one being the Ancient Plank Road that in the old times connected Sichuan and Shaanxi province.
Ancient plank road between Sichuan and Shaanxi first constructed during the Warring States Period (476BC-221BC), and expanded in the Qin (221BC-206BC) and Han (206BC-220AD) dynasties. Ninety percent of the plank road was built in Hanzhong along the Han River. The most famous section is the Baoxie Road with the Rock Gate and Shimen Cliffside Inscriptions in today's Shimen reservoir area. Ancient Baoxie Plank Road, also called Baoxie Road or Daogu. It stretches for 120 km from Baocheng County of Hanzhong City in the south to Xieyu Pass in Meixian County in the north.
Through its association with the events behind the expressions "Openly repair the plank road, secretly approach Chencang (Baoji city nowadays)", Xiao He pursuing Han Xin in the moonlight, peace created in troubled times by the "Five Pecks of Rice" Daoist rebellion, "Spare no effort to do one’s duty without stopping unless one dies" and " War horses fight bravely at the Great San Pass " etc, Hanzhong’s fame is well known, and often re-told in the annals of its colourful written history.
But Hanzhong's long history does not only consist in these events. Among the great historical cities of China, Hanzhong possesses an amazing wealth of history and culture, including the site of the Neolithic Lijiacun Culture, Shang & Yin dynasty Bronze ware and other relics at Baoshan , the Han period Temple of Zhang Liang, the tombs of Zhang Qian (discoverer of the Silk Road), Li Gu (incorruptible later Han statesman), Cai Lun (inventor of paper in the later Han) and the Three Kingdoms tomb and temple of Zhuge Liang (the Martial Lord of Shu Han) etc, to name but a few. In the midst of these relics of history and culture, in the heart of Hanzhong city lie the "three relics of the early Han". These are the ancient Hantai, the Alter of Conferring Titles and the Pool for Watering Horses. These create a heavy responsibility as with all significant historical sites for their care, especially the ancient Hantai, which is a famous drawcard for the historical culture of the city, and provides a link between ancient and modern history. (Chris Ning )
Any question or suggestion, please e-mail us.
By Xu Hua
If one has been to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, it is not difficult to discover that on the map Shaanxi province looks pretty much like the kneeling archer in shape. This “archer” is divided into two parts by the Qinling mountain range, which is also the natural dividing line of north China and south China. Hanzhong is located in the southwestern part of the province, which is the keel of the archer. It is also in the center of the Hanzhong basin, on the Han River, and near the Sichuan border. The altitude of Hanzhong is 500 meters above sea level.
The city was formerly called Nanzheng. It used to form the center of the Han Principality, which was assigned to Liu Bang by Xiang Yu after the fall of the Qin Dynasty, during the 18 Kingdoms interregnum preceding the establishment of the Han Empire by Liu. During the Three Kingdoms Period, Hanzhong had very important strategic importance, as it was a border city between the Wei and Shu Kingdoms.
Hanzhong covers an area of 27,246 square kilometers and it has a population of 3.74 million. The annual mean temperature is 14.3°C.
Hanzhong is a major agricultural and trade center, sawmilling and light industry is the mainstay of the city.
Education also plays an important role in Hanzhong, with the very famous university called Shaanxi University of Technology located in the city.
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