Stun­ning Ex­hibits Show­cas­ing the Tang Dy­nasty

Re­nais­sance of the Yongding River

Beijing (English) - - FRONT PAGE - Trans­lated by Wang Wei Edited by Justin Davis Pho­tos by Chang Xu, Li Bin, Li Chang­shan, Li Xiaoyin, Ma Xinyun, Yan Yusheng, Zhao Junqi Pho­tos cour­tesy of Bei­jing Men­tougou District Com­mis­sion of Cul­ture

Bei­jing is an an­cient city with a his­tory of more than 3,000 years. It is also a me­trop­o­lis show­cas­ing its never-end­ing changes and a com­bi­na­tion of East­ern and Western civil­i­sa­tions. Ac­cord­ing to Sec­re­tary of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jin­ping: “The his­tory and cul­ture of Bei­jing, a great wit­ness to an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion, needs to be more care­fully pro­tected to high­light the value of the city’s his­tory and cul­ture and strengthen its char­ac­ter­is­tics. It fea­tures ‘the style of China’s cap­i­tal, the charm of an an­cient city and it changes with the times.’”

Western Bei­jing is the source of the city’s civil­i­sa­tion and fea­tures 400 her­itage sites. The Pek­ing Man Site at Zhouk­oudian and Yandu Site of the Western Zhou Dy­nasty (11th cen­tury–771 BC) rep­re­sent ar­chae­o­log­i­cal cul­ture; Longevity Hill, the Fra­grant Hills and the Jade Spring Hill, the Sum­mer Palace, the Gar­den of Tran­quil­ity and Plea­sure, the Gar­den of Tran­quil­ity and Bright­ness, the Gar­den of Ev­er­last­ing Spring, and Yuan­mingyuan (the Old Sum­mer Palace) rep­re­sent im­pe­rial cul­ture; the Da­jue Tem­ple, Wofo Tem­ple and Tanzhe Tem­ple rep­re­sent Bud­dhist cul­ture; the Yongding River rep­re­sents eco-tourism and Miaofeng Moun­tain rep­re­sents tra­di­tional folk cul­ture. These are some ex­am­ples of the sites. One can also ex­plore tra­di­tional vil­lage trails, gar­den land­scapes, mil­i­tary de­fence fa­cil­i­ties, agri­tourism and the cul­tures of eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bei­jing Ur­ban Mas­ter Plan (2016–2035), which was re­leased in Septem­ber 2017, “the Grand Canal Cul­tural Belt, the Great Wall Cul­tural Belt and the Western Hills–yongding River Cul­tural Belt are ma­jor as­pects of Bei­jing’s his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural preser­va­tion sys­tem. The three cul­tural belts fea­ture her­itage out­side Bei­jing’s old city and echo its Cen­tral Axis. They play a ma­jor sup­port­ing role in fur­ther de­vel­op­ing Bei­jing into China’s cul­tural cen­tre and pro­mot­ing the well-be­ing of its res­i­dents.

The Western Hills–yongding River Cul­tural Belt un­der­went a grad­ual process lead­ing to it be­ing recog­nised as one of the city’s “three cul­tural belts.” In 2015, the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Bureau of

Cul­tural Her­itage put for­ward plans for the pro­tec­tion and util­i­sa­tion of the Great Wall Cul­tural Belt in the north, Grand Canal Cul­tural Belt in the east and Western Hills Cul­tural Belt in the west. They were in­cluded in the Out­line of the Bei­jing 13th Five Year Plan (2016–2020) to pro­mote the in­te­gra­tive pro­tec­tion of the city’s her­itage sites, be­gin­ning in early 2016. In June 2016, the city pro­posed a plan of fur­ther de­vel­op­ing Bei­jing into China’s cul­tural cen­tre by im­ple­ment­ing the “two lines, three zones and four belts” con­cept. The four belts in­clude the Great Wall Cul­tural Belt, Western Hills Cul­tural Belt, Grand Canal Cul­tural Belt and Western In­dus­trial Her­itage Belt. In June 2017, the Western Hills Cul­tural Belt be­came the Western Hills–yongding River Cul­tural Belt, so as to take into ac­count the cul­ture of the Yongding River.

A Brief His­tory of the Yongding River

Wa­ter is recog­nised as the source of all life. There is a close re­la­tion be­tween hu­man civil­i­sa­tion and rivers. Many cul­tures orig­i­nated near great rivers that nur­tured splen­did civil­i­sa­tions. The rivers en­hanced their de­vel­op­ment. The Yongding River is known as the “Mother River” of Bei­jing.

Bei­jing is bordered by branches of the Tai­hang Moun­tains in the west and the Yan­shan Moun­tains in the north. The two moun­tain ranges meet at Guan­gou and form a small plain that is sur­rounded by moun­tains on three sides and stretches south­east­ward. This unique ter­rain is known as “Bei­jing Bay” and has an im­pact on Bei­jing’s ur­ban and re­gional de­vel­op­ment. The Yongding River runs partly through Bei­jing.

The Yongding River, which was known as the Lei River in an­cient times, is one of the seven branches of the Haihe River. The Yongding River orig­i­nates from Guan­ceng Moun­tain in Ningwu County, Shanxi Prov­ince and runs through Shuozhou and Da­tong in Shanxi Prov­ince, Zhangji­akou in He­bei Prov­ince, Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and Lang­fang in He­bei Prov­ince. The river meets the Haihe River at Wuqing in Tian­jin Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and flows into the Bo­hai Sea.

The re­mains of proto hu­mans who lived two mil­lion years ago have been dis­cov­ered in the up­per reaches of the Yongding River in present-day Ni­he­wan in Yangyuan County, He­bei Prov­ince. These ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies show­case the his­tory of hu­man civil­i­sa­tion and in­di­cate that the basin of the Yongding River is one of the ear­li­est ori­gins of hu­man civil­i­sa­tion. Dur­ing the Pa­le­olithic Pe­riod oc­cur­ring from more than 2 mil­lion years to 10,000 years ago, proto hu­mans were very ac­tive in the area. Pek­ing Man ( Homo erec­tus pekinen­sis) ap­peared in the early Pa­le­olithic Pe­riod at Zhouk­oudian, mid­stream down the Yongding River. Dur­ing the mid­dle of the Pa­le­olithic Pe­riod, the New Cave Men dwelled along the Yongding River. At the end of the Pa­le­olithic Pe­riod, peo­ple who be­came known as the Up­per Cave Men lived in the area. Dur­ing the Ne­olithic Pe­riod, the Donghulin Peo­ple in Men­tougou were the main group along the Yongding River in Bei­jing.

The wind­ing Yongding River not only nour­ished the fer­tile lands around its basin but also cre­ated a long his­tory and unique cul­ture. The river wit­nessed many ma­jor events from the North­ern and South­ern Dy­nas­ties (AD 420–589) to the

Liao (AD 907–1125), Jin (1115–1234), Yuan (1271–1368), Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dy­nas­ties.

An­cient Vil­lages along the Yongding River

There are many her­itage sites, in­clud­ing an­cient fortresses and vil­lages, along the banks of the Yongding River. These are some of the high­lights of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture in Bei­jing.

Many her­itage sites along the Yongding River are like co­or­di­nates en­graved in time and space. Zhuolu in He­bei Prov­ince served as the cap­i­tal dur­ing the reign of Huangdi (the Yel­low Em­peror, one of the leg­endary Chi­nese sov­er­eigns [2697–2597 BC]). The ru­ins of an im­pe­rial palace at the end of the Western Zhou Dy­nasty (11th cen­tury–771 BC) and mid­dle cap­i­tal of the Yuan Dy­nasty are con­sid­ered rep­re­sen­ta­tives of China’s 5,000-year-old civil­i­sa­tion. An­cient cities in Gucheng, Jin­shan, Yongn­ing and Yux­ian County in He­bei Prov­ince and Yan­qing District in Bei­jing re­flect a long his­tory of ad­min­is­tra­tive di­vi­sion in the re­gion. There are also many an­cient vil­lages in Men­tougou District in Bei­jing.

San­jia­dian is one of these an­cient vil­lages. When vis­it­ing the vil­lage at Longquan Town in Men­tougou District in the sum­mer, one can see the Tem­ple of Dragon Kings among an­cient trees with thick leaves at the west en­trance of the vil­lage. The tem­ple’s main hall fea­tures stat­ues of the Dragon Kings of the Four Seas and God of the Yongding River. Four em­per­ors in dif­fer­ent eras is­sued im­pe­rial edicts grant­ing en­ti­tle­ments to the Yongding River: in 1179, Em­peror Shi­zong (reign: 1161–1189) of the Jin Dy­nasty en­ti­tled Mar­quis An­ping (“Safety and Peace”) to the Yongding River; in 1279, Em­peror Shizu (reign: 1260–1294) of the Yuan Dy­nasty en­ti­tled Duke Xiany­inghongji (“Re­sponse to the Re­lief of a Flood”) to the river; in 1698, Em­peror Kangxi (reign: 1661–1722) of the Qing Dy­nasty con­sid­ered the river yongding (“def­i­nite”) and en­ti­tled the God of the River to the Yongding River; in 1729, Em­peror Qian­long (reign: 1736–1795) of the Qing Dy­nasty en­ti­tled the Peace and Kind God of the River to the Yongding River. San­jia­dian’s Tem­ple of Dragon Kings is the only tem­ple of Dragon Kings along the Yongding River that still fea­tures a statue of the God of the Yongding River. It is an arte­fact im­por­tant to the study of the cul­ture of the Yongding River.

San­jia­dian greatly de­vel­oped its wa­ter con­ser­vancy fa­cil­i­ties dur­ing the Qing Dy­nasty. The Tem­ple of Dragon Kings was pop­u­lar at that time. Vil­lagers who were de­vout fol­low­ers of the God of the Yongding River of­ten went there. On the 13th day of the 6th month of the Chi­nese lu­nar cal­en­dar, the tem­ple of­fered sac­ri­fices to the God of the Yongding River. Lo­cals wor­shipped dragon kings and the God of the Yongding River. Af­ter the cer­e­mony, pigs and goats were thrown into the river as sac­ri­fices to the God of the Yongding River. To­day, the cus­tom has been re­vi­talised in San­jia­dian Vil­lage. Tra­di­tional per­form­ing arts, in­clud­ing Fanyue mu­sic and Taip­ing drums, en­hance the event.

San­jia­dian Vil­lage boasts the “First Vil­lage in Western Bei­jing” ti­tle. In an­cient times, there were three stores in the vil­lage. This led to it gain­ing the name san­jia­dian (“three stores”). The vil­lage cur­rently fea­tures the Guanyin Tem­ple, Shanxi Guild Hall, the Tem­ple of An­chor and other her­itage sites. It served as a ma­jor trans­port hub and a start­ing point for a ma­jor road from Bei­jing to Shanxi Prov­ince, due to its prime lo­ca­tion. The vil­lage bor­ders Tai­hang Moun­tain to the west. One can over­look the plains of the

“Bei­jing Bay” to the east from a van­tage point in the vil­lage. Whole­sale and re­tail of a va­ri­ety of goods also oc­curred in the vil­lage. Dur­ing the Yuan, Ming and Qing dy­nas­ties, the vil­lage at­tracted many peo­ple from Shanxi Prov­ince. The Shanxi Guild Hall de­vel­oped in the vil­lage dur­ing this pe­riod. Nowa­days, dwellings with a va­ri­ety of dec­o­ra­tions stand along the sides of the streets. Brick and wood carv­ings, screen walls and stone poles used for ty­ing up horses pro­vide a sense of his­tory. Xiangzi, the hero of Luo­tuo xiangzi [( Rick­shaw Boy, a novel writ­ten by Lao She (1899–1966)], vis­its this vil­lage in the story.

As a vil­lage with a his­tory of more than 1,000 years, San­jia­dian con­tains many in­ter­est­ing facets. The vil­lage served as a tran­sit sta­tion for trans­port­ing coal and lime­stone from western Bei­jing to Cen­tral Bei­jing. It is con­sid­ered one of the birth­places of Bei­jing’s mod­ern in­dus­tries. Dur­ing the early reign of Em­peror Guangxu (1875–1908) of the Qing Dy­nasty, the vil­lage con­tained a plant that pro­duced gun­pow­der. In 1881, steam en­gines pur­chased from Europe by Li Hongzhang (1823–1901, a high of­fi­cer of the Qing Dy­nasty) were in­stalled at the plant in San­jia­dian to make firearms.

Ac­cord­ing to An Quan­shan, vi­cepres­i­dent of the Bei­jing Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion for the Cul­ture of the Yongding River: “There are an­cient trails that were used for busi­ness, pil­grim­ages and mil­i­tary pur­poses in western Bei­jing. A trade route was formed in the moun­tain­ous ar­eas in western Bei­jing as a re­sult of car­a­vans trans­port­ing coal and other goods from var­i­ous re­gions to ur­ban Bei­jing. There were also many tem­ples in western Bei­jing, so an an­cient trail for pil­grim­ages formed. A trail used for mil­i­tary pur­poses de­vel­oped as well, to de­fend ur­ban Bei­jing.”

An Quan­shan is 68 and was born in An­ji­atan Vil­lage near Wang­pingkou, the in­ter­sec­tion of sev­eral an­cient trails in Men­tougou. He of­ten played near the trails when he was a child. He ex­plained, “Men­tougou is rich in coal. My vil­lage was fa­mous for mak­ing pots from coal gangue.” In or­der to earn some cash for his fam­ily, he of­ten sold earthen pots made by his fam­ily in vil­lages along the an­cient trails when he was a child. When he was asked how many times he has trav­elled along the trails, he said with a smile: “I think it is too many to count. I re­ally do not re­mem­ber be­cause I have trav­elled along the trails count­less times.” He re­mem­bers each gully along the trails. He is some­what el­derly, but he can still walk a few dozen kilo­me­tres (km) per day along the roads. Some­times he is in poor health though.

An Quan­shan’s mod­est house con­tains many ma­te­ri­als about an­cient trails in western Bei­jing. He drew a de­tailed map of the an­cient trails based on his count­less hikes. Many of his writ­ten ma­te­ri­als are piled up on a ta­ble, some of which are manuscript­s of his more than 10 pub­lished books, in­clud­ing Jingxi gu­dao (An­cient Trails in Western Bei­jing). He writes books about the cul­ture of an­cient trails. An stated with deep emo­tion: “The an­cient trails in western Bei­jing formed very early and were not di­rectly de­vel­oped in a par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal pe­riod or due to spe­cific events. They grad­u­ally formed with the move­ments of an­cient peo­ple along the Yongding River. The an­cient trails are cul­tural her­itage sites. There is a lot to be done as their cus­to­di­ans.”

Ex­plor­ing an­cient trails in western Bei­jing has be­come a ma­jor part of An Quan­shan’s life since 1992. He stressed their charm: “The trails are alive. Ev­ery plant has its own story. One should take a walk on them and see for one­self.”

Mother River of Bei­jing

In an­cient times, coal, tim­ber, fruit and veg­eta­bles were trans­ported from the Western Hills to ur­ban Bei­jing. Pil­grims

trav­elled through San­jia­dian Vil­lage to take Pil­grim Road to Miaofeng Moun­tain, a sa­cred place with many re­li­gious sites in western Bei­jing.

The 747-km-long Yongding River flows through 43 cities and coun­ties, and its basin is 47,000 square kilo­me­tres. The Yongding River was once called the Sang­gan River and the Qingquan River dur­ing the Sui and Tang dy­nas­ties, re­spec­tively. Dur­ing the Jin Dy­nasty, it was known as the Lu­gou River. Dur­ing the Yuan and Ming dy­nas­ties, it was known as the Hunhe River, “Small Yel­low River” and also the Wud­ing (“in­def­i­nite”) River, due to its de­te­ri­o­rat­ing con­di­tion and fre­quent flood­ing.

Some peo­ple have thought the floods caused by the Yongding River im­pact the safety of Bei­jing. The muddy wa­ters of the river have also not been well re­ceived by the pub­lic. Sixty five-year-old You Shuy­ing was born in Men­tougou District and has a dif­fer­ent point of view. “These is­sues are now out­dated or are caused by nat­u­ral fac­tors.” You Shuy­ing still re­mem­bers the ap­pear­ance of the Yongding River when it was “an­gry,” men­tion­ing that its rapids hit the rocks and waves roared, tim­ber and live­stock rolled up and down in the flood­wa­ter, and fright­ened peo­ple stood on higher ground and watched the river wor­ry­ingly. She ex­plained: “The floods usu­ally ap­peared in July and Au­gust dur­ing Bei­jing’s rainy sea­son. At that time, peo­ple would keep away from the Yongding River.”

In the spring of 1972, news in­di­cated that the river’s fish could not be eaten, be­cause the wa­ter in Guant­ing Reser­voir, which feeds into the Yongding River, had be­come pol­luted. In­dus­trial waste­water was de­ter­mined to be the cause af­ter a govern­ment-spon­sored in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted. The State Coun­cil of China and the Peo­ple’s Govern­ment of Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity took the in­ci­dent se­ri­ously. Premier Zhou En­lai (1898–1976) or­dered fur­ther ac­tion and more in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The State Coun­cil of China ap­proved the es­tab­lish­ment of a Wa­ter Pro­tec­tion Lead­er­ship Group for Bei­jing’s Guant­ing Reser­voir, which marked the be­gin­ning of con­trol­ling the pol­lu­tion im­pact­ing the Yongding River.

There is a twin­kle in You Shuy­ing’s eyes when she re­counts her ex­pe­ri­ences with the river: “I grew up on the banks of the Yongding River. It is the most un­for­get­table mem­ory of my child­hood. When I was in pri­mary school, I went to see the river ev­ery day on the way home. I would of­ten watch the tad­poles. Spring is the dry sea­son and the river was shal­low and clear at that time. In the sum­mer, ev­ery­one would swim in the river. Sum­mer evenings at the river­side were most agree­able. Fish of­ten jumped out of the wa­ter and croak­ing frogs could be heard from time to time from the shade un­der the trees along the river­side. Adults waved large fans and chat­ted with each other. Chil­dren chased dragon­flies, had wa­ter fights and caught fish and shrimp un­til the fire­flies be­came vis­i­ble at night. In the au­tumn, golden reeds swayed with the wind along the river, mak­ing a ro­man­tic scene. In the win­ter, the frozen Yongding River be­came a win­ter won­der­land, and peo­ple played var­i­ous sports on the ice.”

Over the years, You has wit­nessed changes in the Yongding River and its gover­nance, which she has pon­dered. “I like to ex­plore the river on the ba­sis of sto­ries about it,” she men­tioned. Though You has no pro­fes­sional back­ground in his­tory or ar­chae­ol­ogy, she has been very in­ter­ested in the his­tory and cul­ture of the river and has writ­ten books about these top­ics.

The cus­toms in the an­cient vil­lages along the Yongding River at­tracted You. Bei­jing gu­cun­luo jiyi—men­tougou (“mem­o­ries of an­cient vil­lages at Men­tougou in Bei­jing“) was pub­lished in 2009 and was her first book. Zhang Guan­glin, pres­i­dent of the Bei­jing Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion for the Cul­ture of the Yongding River, gave her a tough task— writ­ing Yongdinghe shi­hua (“the his­tory of the Yongding River“). Preparatio­ns for writ­ing the book were com­plex. She read Bei­jing tong­shi (“gen­eral his­tory of Bei­jing“), Yongdinghe zhi (“An­nals of the Yongding River“) and Yongdinghe zhiben ji­hua (“gover­nance plan for the Yongding River“) and many other ma­te­ri­als. She ex­plained: “My sense of the river is dif­fer­ent now than it was be­fore. I need to ex­plore it again from its source to its es­tu­ary.” She spent more than two months walk­ing along its banks and vis­ited Guan­cen Moun­tain, the val­ley of the Sang­gan River, Guant­ing Gorge, Na­tional Wet­land Park, an­cient trails in the area and other land­marks. She also ex­plored an­cient hu­man ru­ins at Ni­he­wan, the ru­ins of an­cient wa­ter con­ser­vancy fa­cil­i­ties on the river and reser­voirs, wa­ter gates, chan­nels and wa­ter con­ser­vancy projects de­vel­oped af­ter the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China in 1949.

She spent two and a half years com­plet­ing the His­tory of the Yongding River. It is based on his­tor­i­cal facts and her own unique in­sights. It cor­rected many peo­ple’s ten­den­tious views of the river as be­ing muddy and harm­ful to Bei­jing, pre­sent­ing an authen­tic im­age of the “Mother River of Bei­jing.” Her book re­veals her deep at­tach­ment to the river.

Sec­re­tary of the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal

Com­mit­tee of the CPC Cai Qi stressed that the com­pre­hen­sive man­age­ment and eco­log­i­cal restora­tion of the Yongding River needed to be ad­vanced when he in­spected the river. When vis­it­ing Heituwa Wet­land near the river, one can see idyl­lic scenery, such as clear wa­ters and thick reeds. A project to im­prove the wet­land area was part of the over­all plan to im­prove the wa­ter qual­ity of the Guant­ing Reser­voir. Stand­ing on the dam of the reser­voir, one can see the white wa­ter meet­ing the sky at the hori­zon. Cai heard a lot of birds when he in­spected the river. He stated: “The birds are lively, in­di­cat­ing the en­vi­ron­ment has im­proved, which is what we hope for.” Longquan­wan is a ma­jor sec­tion of the tran­si­tional area be­tween the river’s Guant­ing Gorge and Bei­jing’s plain in Men­tougou District. When he vis­ited the area, Cai said, “I am the gen­eral chief of the river. Our fourlevel river chiefs need to work to­gether to reg­u­late the river.”

Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is thor­oughly im­ple­ment­ing Xi Jin­ping’s ideas re­gard­ing the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. It is seiz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties re­lated to the in­te­grated de­vel­op­ment of Bei­jing, Tian­jin and He­bei and en­gag­ing in com­pre­hen­sive man­age­ment and eco­log­i­cal restora­tion of the Yongding River at the State-level. Thor­ough man­age­ment of the river is the cap­i­tal city’s top pri­or­ity in terms of im­prov­ing its wa­ter en­vi­ron­ment. It will en­sure that the river func­tions prop­erly and has a safe en­vi­ron­ment.

Safe­guard­ing the en­vi­ron­ment of the Yongding River and en­sur­ing that it con­tin­ues to flow will en­able it to be­come a ma­jor wa­ter con­ser­va­tion area. It will func­tion as an eco­log­i­cal bar­rier and cor­ri­dor in the Bei­jng-tian­jinHe­bei re­gion and play a role in pass­ing on the his­tory and cul­ture of the re­gion. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of com­pre­hen­sive man­age­ment and eco­log­i­cal restora­tion of the Yongding River is a ma­jor project fur­ther­ing the pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment in Bei­jing and in­te­grated de­vel­op­ment of the en­tire Bei­jing-tian­jinHe­bei re­gion. The project is di­vided into the Guant­ing Wa­ter Re­source Re­serve, the Shanxia Wa­ter Re­source Pro­tec­tion Area and the Eco-tourism Plain Area. They form an eco­log­i­cal cor­ri­dor along the river and are part of the de­vel­op­ment of the Western Hills–yongding River Cul­tural Belt.

Spread­ing the Cul­ture of the Yongding River

Think­ing about the sub­ject of pass­ing on the cul­ture of the river, Zhang Guan­glin stated: “If one has any ques­tions about the Yongding River, they can ask us, as we are the peo­ple who are the most fa­mil­iar with it. Though we are not young any­more, we are na­tives of Men­tougou, and some of us are ex­perts on the his­tory and cul­ture of the river.”

Zhang Guan­glin is nearly 70 years old and served as di­rec­tor of the Men­tougou District Com­mis­sion of Cul­ture. Though he has re­tired from his busy po­si­tion, he is still ac­tive. He and his re­tired col­leagues be­gan to carry out the re­search,

ex­plo­ration, col­lec­tion and in­her­i­tance of the cul­ture of the Yongding River. They have deep feel­ings for the area they are from and for the river.

In No­vem­ber of 2005, the Bei­jing Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion for the Cul­ture of the Yongding River was estab­lished. Zhang Guan­glin was elected as its sec­ond pres­i­dent in 2009 and be­gan to carry out re­search and ex­plo­ration re­lated to the river and its cul­ture. Zhang Guan­glin stated: “We have a deep feel­ing for the Yongding River and are will­ing to do some­thing for it and our home­town. We pro­mote the cul­ture of the Yongding River, ex­pand its in­flu­ence and im­prove its im­age. The re­sults of our cul­tural re­search serve the so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of Men­tougou District and Bei­jing.”

The re­search as­so­ci­a­tion has pub­lished 120 col­lec­tions and book se­ries. Though the re­search as­so­ci­a­tion is a so­cial or­gan­i­sa­tion, it main­tains a large data­base of in­for­ma­tion about the cul­ture of the Yongding River. This has been praised by so­cial sci­en­tific re­search agen­cies at both the mu­nic­i­pal and State lev­els. Zhang Guan­glin con­tin­ued: “El­derly mem­bers of the re­search as­so­ci­a­tion have deep love for the Yongding River. They also have a strong sense of mis­sion and re­spon­si­bil­ity for pro­mot­ing its cul­ture. We are not young any­more, but we will con­tinue to con­tribute to the pro­mo­tion of the cul­ture of the river and the in­te­grated de­vel­op­ment of the Bei­jingTian­jin-he­bei re­gion.”

Zhang Guan­lin elab­o­rated: “We have six tasks. Some of them have been com­pleted in ad­vance. The His­tory of the Yongding River, which is by You Shuy­ing, has been pub­lished and the Bei­jing TV Sta­tion has com­pleted the Yongding River doc­u­men­tary. It is cur­rently be­ing broad­casted. The Yongdinghe zhi chron­i­cles about the Yongding River are be­ing com­piled. A large paint­ing of the river known as “Yongdinghe de feng­cai” and a long poem called “Yongdinghe— muqinhe de zange” are be­ing cre­ated. We plan to shoot a film en­ti­tled Li­uli qu also, but its script is not pre­pared yet.”

A 74-year-old man named Liu De­quan is one of the se­nior mem­bers of the re­search as­so­ci­a­tion and was one of its main man­agers when it was first estab­lished. At that time, it was not easy to col­lect in­for­ma­tion about the cus­toms and her­itage of the nearly 200 vil­lages in Men­tougou. There were only about 10 peo­ple in the re­search as­so­ci­a­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Liu, they fo­cused on com­pil­ing Men­tougou cun­luo wen­hua zhi (”the an­nals of the vil­lage cul­ture in Men­tougou”) when the re­search as­so­ci­a­tion was first founded. From 2006 to 2007, the re­search as­so­ci­a­tion mo­bilised more than 100 in­ter­view­ers, in­clud­ing re­tired govern­ment of­fi­cials, pro­fes­sion­als work­ing in the cul­tural in­dus­try and lo­cal farm­ers. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion of each vil­lage was needed. They did not ex­pect they could com­plete this dif­fi­cult task.

The sec­tion of the Yongding River that flows within Bei­jing is about 170 km long. The river runs across Men­tougou from the west to the east, and its basin cov­ers al­most all the vil­lages in Men­tougou. The in­ter­view­ers were proud of the in­for­ma­tion that they gath­ered. El­derly mem­bers of the vil­lages co­op­er­ated with the project to com­pile an­nals. They love their home­towns and wanted to share their sto­ries with other peo­ple. Liu stated: “We are fa­mil­iar with each vil­lage, and the an­nals we com­piled will en­able more peo­ple to learn about Men­tougou.”

The re­search as­so­ci­a­tion sorts out in­for­ma­tion it col­lects to show­case the cul­ture of the Yongding River in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion about an­cient vil­lages and trails, folk cus­toms, re­li­gious tem­ples, revo­lu­tion­ary his­tory, the eco­log­i­cal land­scape and the his­tory of the coal min­ing in­dus­try in the area. A vivid, mul­tidi­men­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the area has been made avail­able to the pub­lic on the ba­sis of the unique mem­o­ries of nearly 100 el­derly cit­i­zens in the area.

Some­one once said to Liu De­quan, “You can be called a ge­o­log­i­cal ex­pert in our as­so­ci­a­tion.” Upon hear­ing this, he waved his hand and said, “I am not wor­thy of such com­pli­ments.” The Yongding River Val­ley can be de­scribed as a nat­u­ral mu­seum to the va­ri­ety of ge­o­log­i­cal won­ders that it pos­sesses. As early as 1916, the val­ley was con­sid­ered an im­por­tant area for ge­o­logic re­search in­sti­tutes to study. The val­ley con­tains stra­tums formed dur­ing the Juras­sic Pe­riod and Cre­ta­ceous Pe­riod. The area has an ar­ray of ge­o­log­i­cal her­itage sites. It fea­tures rock that has been eroded by ice­bergs, a well-pre­served crater, a large rift val­ley and a huge karst cave. These fea­tures have be­come a base for ed­u­ca­tion and re­search. The ge­ol­ogy de­part­ments of some uni­ver­si­ties have a con­nec­tion to the area. Over the course of

years of re­search, Liu De­quan has got­ten to know many authen­tic ge­o­log­i­cal ex­perts. He re­counted: “I re­ally learned a lot from them. Now there are no ob­sta­cles to my com­mu­ni­ca­tion with them in terms of ge­o­log­i­cal re­search, but I can­not be called an ex­pert.” He is a sim­ple and hum­ble per­son but has a pas­sion­ate spirit.

The Yongding River is con­sid­ered “the Ori­gin of East­ern Civil­i­sa­tion” in China, “the Birth­place of Chi­nese Cul­ture” and “the Root of the Cul­ture and His­tory of Bei­jing.” The Yongding River runs more than 100 km through Men­tougou.

On Au­gust 12, 2018, the three­month-long 12th Yongding River Cul­tural Fes­ti­val be­gan. The goal of the fes­ti­val is to spread the cul­ture of the river and the new era. The fes­ti­val is di­rected and spon­sored by govern­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Public­ity Depart­ment of the CPC Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mit­tee, the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Bureau of Cul­ture, the Public­ity Depart­ment of the CPC Bei­jing Men­tougou District Com­mit­tee and the Bei­jing Men­tougou District Com­mis­sion of Cul­ture. The doc­u­men­tary Yongding River de­buted at the open­ing cer­e­mony.

The “Dahe chuanqi” (“Le­gend of a Great River”), “Yongdinghe­pan” (“The Yongding River­side”) and “Yongdinghe Yong­tan­diao” (the “Aria of the Yongding River”) themed pro­grammes have been cre­ated based on the cul­tural el­e­ments of the river. They fea­ture dances, poetry recitals, songs and so on, show­cas­ing the colour­ful cul­ture of the river.

“We play a role in pro­mot­ing the cul­ture of the Yongding River,” Zhang Guan­glin said. The Western Hills– Yongding River Cul­tural Belt is be­com­ing more pop­u­lar among the pub­lic, and there is more in­ter­est in the as­so­ci­a­tion as well. “We hoped the pub­lic would get to know our as­so­ci­a­tion. Now it is not nec­es­sary to worry about it. Many me­dia agen­cies and ex­perts need to con­sult us to write books and make doc­u­men­taries. Our as­so­ci­a­tion is an authen­tic in­for­ma­tion trove. It is in­valu­able. For ex­am­ple, our ex­perts found more than 100 er­rors in an ar­ti­cle about the river cre­ated by a cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

Ex­plor­ing the cul­ture of the Yongding River and de­vel­op­ing iconic brands about the Western Hills–yongding River Cul­tural Belt ad­vances the in­te­grated de­vel­op­ment of the Bei­jing-tian­jin-he­bei re­gion and is part of Bei­jing’s role as China’s na­tional cul­tural cen­tre. Zhang Guan­glin stated: “We have or­gan­ised many cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, aca­demic ex­changes, pub­lished many books and held many ex­hi­bi­tions re­gard­ing the Yongding River.” Many peo­ple go to lec­tures on the cul­ture of the river, which are held at a multi-use hall on the ground floor of the Cap­i­tal Li­brary. Hou Xi­uli is the main lec­turer. She is the vice-pres­i­dent of the Bei­jing Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion for the Cul­ture of the Yongding River.

Hou Xi­uli re­counted: “At the be­gin­ning, my hus­band drove a mo­tor­cy­cle with me perched on the seat be­hind him to in­ves­ti­gate the Yongding River. Later we bought a car to con­tinue our in­ves­ti­ga­tions along the river. My fam­ily mem­bers have sup­ported me.”

Hou worked more than 20 years train­ing teach­ers at a con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion school. Un­der the guid­ance

of Liu De­quan, she be­gan to en­gage in re­search of the cul­ture of the Yongding River. She vis­ited li­braries to look for in­for­ma­tion, talked with cul­tural ex­perts and utilised many years of con­tacts she has ac­cu­mu­lated to carry out re­search and aca­demic ex­changes. She has or­gan­ised vis­its to the Yongding River and the ar­eas up­stream and down­stream of it for many schol­ars in Bei­jing. Af­ter more than 10 years of ef­fort, Hou has be­come a fa­mous ex­pert about the cul­ture of the river. She par­tic­i­pated in a cul­tural de­vel­op­ment plan for an eco­log­i­cal cor­ri­dor along the Yongding River and the mak­ing of the Dax­is­han (Great Western Hills) doc­u­men­tary with the Bei­jing TV Sta­tion.

Hou has lived along the Yongding River since she was born in 1965 in Houzhuangz­i. She has wit­nessed its his­tory as it has gone from a river with roar­ing waves, to a pe­riod of dry­ing up, and now its eco­log­i­cal and cul­tural restora­tion. She men­tioned, “Now it is time for us to re­pay the Mother River of Bei­jing.” She has vis­ited many schools, govern­ment agen­cies and com­mu­ni­ties in the Men­tougou, Shi­jing­shan, Haid­ian, Feng­tai and Dax­ing dis­tricts and has given nearly 100 lec­tures on the cul­ture of the Yongding River at these lo­ca­tions. She can pro­vide ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing pho­tos that she has col­lected over the years free of charge to any­one do­ing work re­lated to the cul­ture of the river. As a Chi­nese say­ing goes, “the more you know, the more love you have.”

Hou and her col­leagues are both re­searchers and pro­mot­ers of the cul­ture of the Yongding River. They have vis­ited ev­ery nook and cranny along the river to con­tribute to the de­vel­op­ment of the Western Hills–yongding River Cul­tural Belt over the years. “We are all vol­un­teers,” Hou said. Some of her col­leagues joked: “A cam­era crew needed to spend 200 yuan to hire a don­key to hike along an­cient trails in the Western Hills when they shot a doc­u­men­tary. We com­plained we are not as good as a don­key.” In fact, although they are not young any­more, they of­ten have more stamina than the gen­eral pub­lic. If one is in­ter­ested in a job, one be­comes more en­er­gised. Folk­lore ex­pert Zhao Yong­gao men­tioned: “When we see re­sults based on our hard work, such as a book be­ing pub­lished about the river or help­ing more peo­ple learn about its cul­ture, we are filled with pride and ac­com­plish­ment and are very sat­is­fied with our con­tri­bu­tions.”

Be­com­ing a Sym­bol of the New Era

The Yongding River is like a mother, nur­tur­ing the nat­u­ral scenery and the cul­ture along the sides of the river. Af­ter leav­ing San­jia­dian Vil­lage, one may pass San­jia­dian Reser­voir, which can be de­scribed as “a pearl of the 100- li ( one li equals 500 me­tres). gallery along the Yongding River.” Lo­cated near the reser­voir, Li­uliqu Vil­lage boasts a his­tory of 1,000 years of li­uli ( coloured glaze) pro­duc­tion. It served im­pe­rial fam­i­lies from the Yuan to Qing dy­nas­ties. There is a plan to de­velop a se­ries of li­uli cul­tural and cre­ative prod­ucts based on its pro­duc­tion style. Li­uli is a na­tional in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage item. It orig­i­nated in Men­tougou. De­sign, tech­nol­ogy and mar­ket­ing will help this cul­ture to be spread among the gen­eral pub­lic.

The his­tory and cul­ture of the Yongding River are worth ex­plor­ing. The Taip­ing Drum and other an­cient folk art­forms and in­stru­ments still show­case their vi­tal­ity and are be­gin­ning to go global.

Peo­ple are in­creas­ingly think­ing about the Western Hills–yongding River Cul­tural Belt. The Yongding River is a nat­u­ral chan­nel con­nect­ing Bei­jing, Tian­jin, He­bei and Shanxi. Eco­log­i­cal im­prove­ment, the pro­tec­tion of her­itage across the re­gion and the shar­ing of its cul­ture ad­vance its in­te­grated de­vel­op­ment. Com­bin­ing re­sources as part of re­gional co­op­er­a­tion is part of the long-term eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion of the river’s drainage and its sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. The Western Hills– Yongding River Cul­tural Belt has huge po­ten­tial in terms of eco­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tion and its unique cul­ture.

The Yongding River is not only a river but also the source of the city’s civil­i­sa­tion, the root of its his­tory and the soul of its cul­ture. Bei­jing’s his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural her­itage are an im­por­tant part of the long his­tory of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and the foun­da­tion of its preser­va­tion and de­vel­op­ment. Pro­tect­ing the city’s le­gacy high­lights the over­all value of its his­tory and cul­ture. The river nour­ishes Bei­jing. It has be­come a sym­bol show­cas­ing the city’s in­clu­sive and in­no­va­tive spirit and will con­tinue to open new chap­ters in its de­vel­op­ment.

The Yongding River in the au­tumn

A sand ta­ble model of an­cient vil­lages around the Yongding River

The Bei­jing Gar­den Expo Park’s Yongding Tower

A bridge over the Yongding River

The banks of the Yongding River are an ideal place for leisure.

Stat­ues on the An­cient Jingxi (Western Bei­jing) Trade Trail in Shuiyuzui Vil­lage, Men­goutou District

A sec­tion of the Yongding River in Yanchi Town, Men­tougou District

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