Hefei is the capital of Anhui and is located in the center of the province between the Yangtze River and the Huaihe River. The city is on the Bengbu-Yuxikou Railway and is joined with the Yangtze River by waterway via Lake Chaohu.
It is the political, economic and financial center of Anhui. With a population of just over 1 million, Hefei is small for a Chinese city and still has the atmosphere of a forgotten country town, which is what it was, before economic changes were initiated after liberation in 1949.
There has been a settlement at Hefei since the second century BC though very little evidence remains. The remains of the Ming dynasty moats that encircled the old city can still be explored. The city was made a provincial capital in 1952 and has since become a thriving industrial city. Hefei's University of Science and Technology is known for the high quality of its education and graduates.
Most visitors stop in Hefei en route to the sacred Mt. Jiuhua or Mt. Huangshan. It's a quiet place to take a break from the road and does have a few sights to see. The Lord Bao Memorial Hall commemorates a Song dynasty noble and Mingjiao Temple dates back to the Tang dynasty.
Baohe Park is one of a ring of parks that circle the old city walls of Hefei. This park is the southeast section of the ring, while the others, in clockwise order, include the Xinghua Park, Hei Pond, and the Leisure Ford Park.
Baohe itself is mostly lake, although there is a memorial temple, several small tombs, a number of pretty arched bridges, a small conifer wood and a profusion of willow trees that drape their boughs over the water. The park is named after a famous Northern Song dynasty official, Bao Zheng, whose name is now a synonym for incorruptibility and rectitude. Bao worked as a judge and was the final say in all important rulings in Kaifeng, including executions.
In the middle of the park's Lord Bao's Memorial Temple is a statue of this powerful and wise administrator, behind which stands the tools of his highest authority, 3 fixed hay cutters (Zhadao). Each cutter is marked differently, one dragon headed, one tiger headed and one dog headed, meant as indicators of the condemned man's social ranking. The statue's face is painted black, a color that in opera tradition is the symbol of honesty.
There are a few other sights of interest. The hexagonal pavilion, to the east of the Lord Bao Memorial Temple, contains a well that legend states is a measure of moral status. It is said that when corrupt officials drink the well water their heads will split. Also of interest are the garden houses, in typical Anhui architectural style, that Bao and his progeny used to live in, hidden away in the conifer forest and ideal for relaxation and study.
The contradictorily named Leisure Ford Park (Xiaoyaojin Park) is well known in modern China as a famous battlefield. Although history faithful to the truth is a little hard to track down, most accounts in China now go like this.
In the last years of the Eastern Han dynasty, a general called Sun Quan, afterwards to become king of the Wu Kingdom, led a troop of 100,000 soldiers towards Hefei, with plans to take the city. The city general, a subordinate of the famous Cao Cao, named Zhang Liao, had but 7,000 troops under his command. Troops were fearful and restless awaiting the onslaught that was sure to result in the sacking of the city. So Zhang thought he would try to even up the odds.
Taking almost all of his troops, Zhang initiated a night blitz upon the unprepared Sun barracks and the bloody battle that ensued was to eventually result in the rout of Sun's unprepared army. Sun is said to have escaped death by leaping the canal that ran beside the battlefield.
Nowadays the area has lost much of its charm. It was turned into a park this century, and now covers a total of 31.3 hectares. The park is an uninspiring thing that is probably only of interest to Chinese history lovers, botanists and sadistic zoologists. The zoo in the southeastern corner of the park is typical of China's zoos, with small cages and poor facilities. The western corner has bonsai, rare Chinese plants, rockeries as well as mock versions of traditional Chinese architecture. There are also 3 islets on the lake, that between them hold a cenotaph of general Zhang Liao, a statue of him seated upon his horse and a bridge that is said to be the spot that Sun Quan leapt to freedom.
Lord Bao Memorial Temple is located in Baohe Park just southwest of the city center. It was initially built in 1066 in memory of Bao Zheng, a famous upright officer during the Northern Song dynasty.
The temple is a typical ancient architectural complex with style imitating that of the Song dynasty. Covering an area of one hectare, it mainly consists of Entrance Gate, the Second Gate, the Stele Pavilion, the Main Hall, the Second Hall and the east and west exhibition rooms.
In the main hall, a bronze statue of Lord Bao, which is 3 m in height and 2.5 tons in weight, is displayed. With his hat and waist band on, Bao Zheng sits upright. One of his hands placed on the chair with the other clenched. In the second hall, the historical materials and classic books about Lord Bao, the poems made by Lord Bao, monument inscription, and "Kaifeng Residence and Office monument inscription" are exhibited. The eastern and western halls, using some pictures and essays, show visitors many stories and tales about Lord Bao. The Tomb of Bao Zheng was where the remains of Lord Bao were buried. The cemetery is surrounded by trees.
Situated in the east of central Hefei within the ancient moat system, built in the Tang dynasty, Mingjiao Temple is one of China's state-protected Buddhist complexes.
The temple is known for a number of reasons, including the fact that on the frequent windy days here, the bells in the eaves peal, and that the halls here house over 30 Buddhist statues. The site of the temple is also famous as the place where, during the Three Kingdoms period, Cao Cao of the Wei dynasty trained his soldiers.
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