Cul­tural forces in Chongqing shaped his­tory and des­tiny

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

When the Mon­go­lian army swept across Cen­tral Asia and into Europe in 1259, it seemed that no­body could stop them from con­quer­ing the world, un­til un­ex­pected news ar­rived from the east. Supreme leader Mongke, the Great Khan, had died in a bat­tle near mod­ern-day Chongqing in south­west China. The news caused the army to panic and led to a feud be­tween Mongke’s brothers. It resulted in the over­all mil­i­tary with­drawal that may have saved the Euro­pean and Arab civ­i­liza­tions.

Fast-for­ward 700 years, and the site of Mongke’s death, Diaoyu Fortress on a hill in Chongqing’s Hechuan district, is in the run­ning for UNESCO World Her­itage Site list­ing.

Ex­ca­va­tions since 2012 have dis­cov­ered the de­fen­sive head­quar­ters of a 4,600-strong Chi­nese army — the last stand against the in­vad­ing Mon­go­lians.

“A pow­er­ful army led by Mongke ad­vanced on the Song Dy­nasty from the north into Sichuan, the strate­gic back­yard of the then-Chi­nese em­pire. Re­sis­tance could only be or­ga­nized in the moun­tains sur­round­ing Chongqing,” said Yuan Dong­shan, head of Chongqing Cul­tural Her­itage Re­search In­sti­tute, who is in charge of the ex­ca­va­tion.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have ex­ca­vated 20,000 square me­ters of the site and found gov­ern­ment of­fices, gar­risons, ware­houses, and ban­quet halls. The ar­chi­tec­ture was de­signed for war, ac­cord­ing to Yuan.

The Song (960-1279) was one of China’s more cul­tur­ally and eco­nom­i­cally de­vel­oped dy­nas­ties, which saw the in­ven­tion or pop­u­lar­ity of the com­pass, gun­pow­der, pa­per and print­ing, and which sub­se­quently spread to the rest of the world along the Silk Road.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have also found ar­ti­facts from the Tang Dy­nasty (618-907) when China was one of the strong­est coun­tries in the world.

Ac­cord­ing to Yuan, the war only slightly changed the course of his­tory, but fun­da­men­tally al­tered the de­vel­op­ment of the East. If Mongke had not died, his brother Kublai may not have be­come the Great Khan who ruled China, es­tab­lished the Yuan Dy­nasty in 1271 and built Dadu in mod­ern-day Bei­jing, ac­cel­er­at­ing the fu­sion of dif­fer­ent cul­tures and eth­nic groups within east Asia.

Back in Chongqing’s Hechuan district a 12.5-me­ter Bud­dha statue, one of the largest in China, sits among thou­sands of Bud­dhist grot­toes, prov­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion ex­isted be­tween China and In­dia more than 1,000 years ago.

Dur­ing World War II Chongqing was the tem­po­rary cap­i­tal and a base for al­lied forces in Far East Asia. The Ja­panese bombed Hechuan nine times, killing hun­dreds of civil­ians.

A to­tal of 35 mil­lion Chi­nese soldiers and civil­ians were killed and wounded in the war against Ja­panese in­va­sion from 1937 to 1945. Their sac­ri­fice helped pre­vent mil­lions of Ja­panese troops from pour­ing into the Pa­cific to at­tack the Amer­i­cans.

Lu Bo of Hechuan com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, said peo­ple now un­der­stand some­thing of the city’s his­tory and its place in the world. Rather than threat­en­ing his­tor­i­cal sites, the district’s healthy econ­omy has fi­nanced their pro­tec­tion.

It was Chongqing that bore the brunt of the chaotic “cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion” (1966-76). The lo­cal econ­omy was de­stroyed as well as many an­tiq­ui­ties, but the district, home to over 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple, is em­brac­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ten years ago, Hechuan’s pri­mary in­dus­try was agri­cul­ture, a ma­jor cen­ter of pig breed­ing. It has now mor­phed into a ma­jor in­dus­trial base, with au­to­mo­bile, med­i­cal, and in­for­ma­tion in­dus­tries.

Teng Ran, vice-pres­i­dent of Chongqing Hengxin Tianji Science and Tech­nol­ogy, said the com­pany has made prod­ucts worth 5 bil­lion yuan ($735 mil­lion) since it opened in Hechuan early this year. Its main prod­uct is a de­vice which is car­ried into re­mote ar­eas by drone and pro­vides in­for­ma­tion on for­est fires and other nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. They are also work­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy based on quan­tum en­cryp­tion al­go­rithms, he said.

“Hechuan’s CPC lead­er­ship un­der­stand the im­por­tance of de­vel­op­ment. The district has 10 vo­ca­tional schools train­ing 12,000 tech­ni­cians ev­ery year,” Teng said.

Hechuan’s au­to­mo­bile and in­for­ma­tion in­dus­tries will soon gen­er­ate 100 bil­lion yuan ($14.7 bil­lion) a year each.

“The change has been amaz­ing. China was quite poor 30 years ago, but now it con­trib­utes 30 per­cent of world eco­nomic growth,” said Zhang Yun of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences.

The changes are no longer a con­se­quence of war, but po­lit­i­cal suc­cesses which will sur­pass the feats of the Tang and Song dy­nas­ties and once again change the course of world his­tory, he said.

Chongqing, the largest metropo­lis in western China, is home to 30 mil­lion peo­ple and a fo­cus of re­ju­ve­na­tion. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has re­ported China’s fastest eco­nomic growth for the past three years. More than 200 of the world’s top 500 en­ter­prises have branches in the city.

The first China-Europe freight train left Chongqing in 2011 and the rail­way has since been in­cor­po­rated into the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

Last month, trains be­gan rolling along the Chongqing-Sin­ga­pore rail­way line, which links China’s hin­ter­land with South­east Asia.

Teng’s com­pany will soon move to a site near Hechuan rail­way sta­tion on the Chongqing-Europe rail line to make it eas­ier to get its prod­ucts to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

The route the Mon­go­lians ad­vanced along hun­dreds of years ago now in­cludes 60 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion and gen­er­ates 30 per­cent of the world’s GDP. It is be­ing re­newed by in­vest­ment, trade, com­merce, tourism and cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties.

Zhang Yun, Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences

PHO­TOS BY HUANG JINGUO / FOR CHINA DAILY

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