Zhenjiang is an ancient city, founded under the Eastern Zhou dynasty in 545 BC. It is located on the south bank of the Yangtze River, 200 kilometer northwest of Shanghai and 60 kilometer east of Nanjing.
Zhenjiang is surrounded on 3 sides by hills and mountains and is situated in a major rice and cotton growing area. In the southern suburbs, these vertical peaks are planted with countless old trees and bamboo groves. The natural beauty and peacefulness of this area have camed Zhenjiang the nickname of "City Forest Hill".
Zhenjiang was the seat of feudal domains from the 8th century BC onwards. After it was captured by Qin, the first Chinese emperor, in 221 BC, it became a county town. After being conquered by the Sui in 581 AD, it was made a garrison to guard the entrance to the Yangtze River. 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 Yangzi delta region.
The city reached its zenith under the Song dynasty, when it produced fine silks, satins, and silverware for the emperors. 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 WW II).
Jiao Hill is situated in the middle of the Yangtze River, 4.5 kilometer northeast of Zhenjiang City. 71 meter above sea level, the hill covers an area of 38 ha. It was originally named 'Qiao Hill'. Legend goes that in order to memory the hermit of the Eastern Han dynasty Jiao Guang who once lived here, Emperor Zhenzong of the Song renamed the hill as Jiao Hill.
The hill was covered with greenery which make it look like a piece of floating jade on the river, hence its another name 'Fuyu Hill' (Floating Jade Hill).
Dinghui Temple, first built in the Eastern Han dynasty, is the largest of all the temples on Jiaoshan Hill. It was originally named Puji Temple and was renamed as Puji Buddhist Temple in the Song dynasty and Jiaoshan Temple in the Yuan dynasty.
During the Qing dynasty, when Emperor Kangxi made a tour of this mountain, its named was changed to Dinghui Temple, the one we use today.
The temple lies on the hill and is magnificent in scale. During the Ming dynasty when it reached its golden ages, it had 98 halls, 3000 monks and 18 additional temples beside it. The mountain gate of Dinghui Temple, simple and elegant, was open to the south. A pair of stone lions dates from the Ming dynasty and guards the gate and a tablet written with "Dinghui Temple in Jiaoshan" was hung above the gate.
Daxiongbaodian Hall is the main building in this temple. It keeps the style of the Ming and is magnificent and grand with an ornately painted and carved ceiling, red pillars, and cool stone floors. Statues of Sakyamuni, Akshobhya and Amitabha are enshrined inside, with 18 arhats line up on both sides. All these figures are various and vivid in expressions and gestures. In front of the hall are 2 500-year-old ginkgo trees. Having experienced rains and winds for thousands of years, they are still exuberant and verdant.
To the southwest of Dinghui Temple is Huayan Pavilion, which is 2 stories high. On its eastern, southern and western sides, one can enjoy the scenery of the Yangtze River. It is also one of the 3 well-known places in Zhenjiang for admiring the full moon.
Jiao Hill is also known as a "Hill of Calligraphy". It contains a famous Forest of Tablets which include over 400 stone tablets inscribed in the handwriting of some of the best known calligraphers in China dating from the 7th century to the present. The most famous tablet is 'Praising the Crane' which has been regarded as the masterpiece of huge characters.
A trip to the mountain is well worth the effort not only because of the pleasure one can derive from a few minutes exercise in unspoiled nature, but also because of the terrific view from the top of the mountain.
Jinshan, with an altitude of 43.7 meter, rises on the southern bank of the Yangtze River to the northwest of Zhenjiang. The hill is famous for the Jingshan Temple, which dates back to the Eastern Jin dynasty (317-420). Built against the hill, the temple seems to merge into the hill and is described as "the temple that embraces the hill".
At the peak of Jinshan is a 30 meter tall and Buddhist Pagoda that was built in 1900 to celebrate the Empress Cixi's birthday. This octagonal pagoda gives a panoramic view of the town, surrounding hills, fish ponds and farmlands.
Liu Yun Pavilion is also found at Jinshan and an inscription by Qing emperor Kang Xi saying that the pavilion "takes in the river and heaven at one glance" is an apt description of the view.
There are also 4 caves at the top of the hill, including the famous Buddhist Sea Cave (fo hai) and White Dragon Cave (bailong) which prominently appear in the classic Chinese children's story "The Story of the White Snake".
At the base of the hill is the Zhongling Spring or the First Spring Under Heaven, so named because the sweet water is perfect for brewing tea. There is a teahouse next to the spring for visitors to taste the tea themselves.
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