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Hengshui: The Bright Pearl in Beijing-Kowloon Railway

     Hengshui

Hengshui (héng shuǐ 衡水) City is like a bright pearl in Beijing-Kowloon (jiǔ lóng 九龙) Railway, which now is developing to be a landscape style modern central city. Situated in the southeast of Hebei Province, Hengshui neighbors Xingtai (xíng tái 邢台), Handan (hán dān
邯郸), Cangzhou (cāng zhōu 沧州) and Baoding (bǎo dìng 保定) within the province and is bordered by Shandong (shān dōng 山东) Province in the southeast. The capital city of Hebei, Shijiazhuang (shí jiā zhuāng 石家庄) is about 119 kilometers (74 miles) west of the downtown Hengshui, and Beijing is about 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the city.
Hengshui has a long history and deep cultural deposits. During the Spring and Autumn Period (chūn qiū shí qī 春秋时期 770 BC-476 BC), it mostly belonged to the Jin Kingdom (jìn guó 晋国), while in the Warring States Period (zhàn guó shí qī 战国时期 476 BC-221 BC), it was a part of the territory of Yan and Zhao kingdoms. It was put into the Julu County (jù lù jùn 巨鹿郡) after the Qin Kingdom unified China in 221BC. Most domain of present Hengshui took shape in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 BC), and the great philosopher and the great master of Confucianism in the Western Han Dynasty-Dong Zhongshu (dǒng zhòng shū 董仲舒) was born here. In the period of the Three Kingdoms, Yuanshao (yuán shào 袁绍) gathered millions of soldiers to contend against Caocao (cáo cāo 曹操) in Jizhou (jì zhōu 冀州).

Folk Art and Handicraft

Wuqiang New Year Painting Wuqiang New Year Painting (wǔ qiáng nián huà 武强年画) is a folk art of a farming society. Its subjects, contents and forms all feature strong rural and natural styles. In light with different rural surroundings, diversified New Year styles are created to be pasted in different spots.
The subjects of Wuqiang New Year Painting come from many sources. Some paintings depict good harvests and happy life, such as "Heavy Snow Forecasts a Good Harvest (ruì xuě zhào fēng nián 瑞雪兆丰年)" and "Blessing Baby Birth (xǐ dé guì zǐ 喜得贵子)". Some depict warding off evils and ghosts, such as "Zhongkui Conquering Ghosts (zhōng kuí zhuō guǐ 钟馗捉鬼)", "Gate God (mén shén 门神)" and "Tiger". Some reflect daily life and teaches people to be kind and hardworking, such as "Busy Housewife", "Busy Farmers" and "Happy Fishermen". There are also styles depicting legends, myths, history and opera stories, such as "Romance of the Three Kingdom (sān guó yǎn yì 三国演义)", "the Legend of the White Snake (bái shé zhuàn 白蛇传)" and "Lady Chang'er Heading for the Moon (cháng é bēn yuè 嫦娥奔月)".

Wuqiang New Year Painting The woodprint Wuqiang New Year Painting’s creation includes three procedures-painting, carving and printing, all handmade. Its lines are steady and natural, giving prominence to plainness and antiquity. Its coloring, usually featuring one single color, is simple but full of change. The passionate and harmonious coloring creates a joyful festive atmosphere. Many old Wuqiang New Year paintings have been destroyed and lost because of wars and disasters. During the first and second world wars, some valuable pieces were lost overseas and now they are collected in foreign museums such as British Museum (dà yīng bó wù guǎn 大英博物馆) in London, San Francisco Museum (jiù jīn shān bó wù guǎn 旧金山博物馆) in USA and Tokyo Museum (dōng jīng bó wù guǎn 东京博物馆) in Japan. In order to better protect and collect masterpieces of Wuqiang New Year Painting, the country's first museum for New Year Painting was set up in 1985 and a society for the study of woodprint New Year Painting was established.

inside-painted snuff bottleToday there are three main studios producing high quality inside painted snuff bottles. One of them is the "Xisan Art Academy of Inside Painting (xí sān nèi huà yì shù yǒu xiàn gōng sī 习三内画艺术有限公司)" located in the city of Hengshui, with "Wang Xisan (wáng xí sān 王习三)" as the master artist. It is believed that the founder of modern colorful inside painting was Gan Xuan (gān xuǎn 甘烜) whose real name was Gan Xuanwen (gān xuǎn wén 甘烜文). His earliest piece appears to have been painted in 1816.

inside-painted snuff bottleLegend has it that in the Qing Dynasty an official stopped and sought rest at a small temple. He took out his crystal snuff bottle to take a sniff and found it was empty. He scraped off some of the powder that was stuck on the inside walls of the bottle using a slender, sharp bamboo stick, thus leaving lines on the inside of the bottle. When he left he left behind his bottle which was found by a young monk. The monk saw that the marks inside the bottle produced a pattern and thus the "inside-painted snuff bottle (nèi huà bí yān hú 内画鼻烟壶)” was born.
The painting brush of the snuff bottle artist today is not very different from what the official in the story used. It is a slender bamboo stick, not much thicker, but much longer than a matchstick, with the tip shaped like a fine pointed hook. Dipped in colored ink and thrust inside the bottle, the hooked tip is used to paint on the interior surface of the bottle, following the will of the artist.

             Hengshui writing brush

Accordingly to legend in China, writing brush was originally made by General Meng Tian (méng tián 蒙恬) of Qin Dynasty. So, Hengshui writing brush was also known as Meng Brush in ancient time. Meng Tian has been worshiped as ancestor of writing brush till now by writing brush trade of China.

Hengshui writing brushPeople in Houdian (hóu diàn 侯店), a village of Hengshui City, Hebei Province, began to make writing brushes during Yongle (yǒng lè 永乐) Period of Ming Dynasty, about 500 years ago. Houdian writing brush became so famous with its exquisite technology, that it was appointed as sole writing brush for the emperors of Qing Dynasty. Emperor Guangxu (guāng xù 光绪) of Qing Dynasty sang high praise of Houdian writing brush by erecting a stone tablet for it. Hengshui is famous as Writing Brush Land of North China (běi guó bǐ xiāng 北国笔乡), and it is also known as Holy Land of Writing Brush in China (máo bǐ shèng dì 毛笔圣地). And as a result, Hengshui writing brush also was called Hou Brush (hóu bǐ 侯笔).
Hengshui writing brush has such characteristics of choice material, exquisite workmanship, long tip, hard shaft, combination of softness and strength, more ink content with no drop, writing easy and smooth and no sluggish, etc. Hengshui writing brush is full of artistic charm, with fine engraving of dragon and phoenix of horn, bone, ivory or padauk in shaft, also painting of landscape, flowers, etc.

Scenic Spots
 

     Hengshui Lake

Hengshui Lake (héng shuǐ hú 衡水湖), the second largest freshwater lake in North China Plain (huá běi píng yuán 华北平原), covers a total area of 75 square kilometers (29 square miles) in the outskirt 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) south of downtown Hengshui. In the vast reed marsh inhabit many birds, including red-crowned cranes, swans, pelicans, wild gooses and gulls. Nowadays, wetland nature reserve for birds has been set up. In the rear of the reserve is the far-reaching blue lake and azure sky.
Hengshui LakeThe total area of Hengshui Lake is 187.87 square kilometers. This natural reserve is in the district with temperate zone continental monsoon climate. Four seasons are distinctive here, annual average temperature here is 13℃, and annual rainfall is 518.9mm. Predominant natural environment here is very suitable for the living and multiplying of the wild animals and plants. The bird resource is very predominant among numerous wild animals and plants resources. There are 7 birds that are first-grade state protective birds: red-crowned crane, white crane, oriental stork, black stork, bustard, golden eagle, and eagle with white shoulder. There are also many second-grade state protective birds: whooping swan, cygnet, and gray crane, 44 species of birds in total. Every year tens of millions of migratory birds come here to build nests and to multiply offspring, the long-foot and black-wing snipes and hagdons are the body of migratory birds. Besides, there are over 3,000 gray cranes, 10,000 wild geese and numerous gray starlings. When they fly in the sky, thus they form a tremendous spectacle.

Hengshui LakeHengshui Lake Natural Reserve (héng shuǐ hú guó jiā jí zì rán bǎo hù qū 衡水湖国家级自然保护区) not only has variety of species and beautiful landscapes but also contains rich cultural deposits. The ancient city of Jizhou, which is on the southern bank of Hengshui Lake, was built in the sixth year of the Gaozu (gāo zǔ 高祖) reign in the Han Dynasty (BC 201). There is an old saying, “China is divided into nine states, Jizhou is in the first rank (tiān xià fēn jiǔ zhōu 天下分九州, jì zhōu wéi shǒu 冀州为首)”. City walls in the Han Dynasty, Zhulin Temple (zhú lín
sì 竹林寺), city walls in the Ming Dynasty, numerous tombs and stone tablets in the Han Dynasty, the stone grinder of Lisanniang (lǐ sān niáng 李三娘), and many legendaries.

Zhulin Temple Being one of the four famous temples in Jizhou, Zhulin Temple is located near Beiguan Village (běi guān cūn 北关村), and it is surrounded with water on three sides. Its present name was given by Shantao (shān tāo 山涛), one of the "Seven Virtuous Zhulin Talents (zhú lín qī xián 竹林七贤)" and a distinguished official in Jizhou in the Jin (jīn 金) Dynasty. In the northeast of the temple is the Zhenhai Tower (zhèn hǎi tǎ 镇海塔). Its base is a maze through which you have to go before climbing it. In the northern end of the temple, there is a holiday resort surrounded with water on all sides. Nearby, you can visit Ziwei Mountain (zǐ wēi shān 紫微山) on which there are pavilions, terraces and springs and under which there are karst Caves (kā sī tè yán dòng 喀斯特岩洞).

Transportation:
Take the south route of Bus NO.10 at Hengshui Bus Station, you can get Hengshui Lake.
Ticket: RMB 60 for one boat that contains 6 people. Ticket of Zhulin Temple: RMB 30
Opening hours: 8:00-17:00
Tel: 0318-2813426

Jingxian County Dagoba Jingxian County Dagoba (jǐng xiàn shè lì tǎ 景县舍利塔) is located in Jingxian County, Hengshui. The tower is originally called Shijiawen Pagoda (shì jiā wén shè lì bǎo tǎ 释迦文舍利宝塔). Though Kaifu Temple (kāi fú sì 开福寺) was ruined, yet the tower is still here, commonly called Jingzhou Tower (jǐng zhōu tǎ 景州塔). The body of the tower has 13 floors and the tower is an octal pyramid in appearance. It is 63.85 meters in height and the circumference of the pedestal of the tower is 50.5 meters. Huge stones are paved under the body of the tower, and the rest parts are built brick by brick. There are 4 windows separately on four directions on each floor, and a several-hundred-stair winder is built in the pagoda. Climbing up with the stairs, you can reach the top of the pagoda. The top of the pagoda is a 2.05-meter copper bottle gourd and there is a 3.3-meter-high reticulum made by wire netting. Whenever winding, the reticulum made by wire netting and the windows will make a sound like the sound of water, so they hence get a good reputation "Ancient Tower and Wind Music (gǔ tǎ fēng tāo 古塔风涛)"

Transportation:
Take the bus to Jing County, and then walk along Jingan Street (jǐng ān dà jiē 景安大街) towards east for about 2 miles you’ll see it at the north side.
Ticket: RMB 5
Opening hours: 8:30-17:00
Tel: 0318-2025041

The Feng's Tomb Group (fēng shì mù qún 封氏墓群) lies 7.5km southeast of Jingxian County in Hebei Province. It was also called Eighteen Disorderly Tombs (shí bā luàn zhǒng 十八乱冢) in old times, is the graveyard of the Feng's family, a big family in the Northern Dynasty (běi cháo
北朝 386-581). The tomb group was unearthed in 1948 along with more than 300 pieces of cultural relics. In 1955, the Beijing History Museum (now the National Museum of Chinese History) made an all-around research into the tomb group. They collected more than 100 pieces of cultural relics, including pottery, china, bronze ware, copper seal, among which there were four pieces of celadon Zun (zūn 樽 wine vessel), decorated with fine patterns and evenly glazed. Praised as the outstanding representative of the northern celadon, they are now treasured up in the National History Museum of Chinese History.

          The Feng's Tomb Group
Furthermore, five inscriptions on the memorial tablets within the tombs of the Northern Wei (běi wèi 北魏 386-534), Eastern Wei (dōng wèi 东魏 534-550), Northern Qi (běi qí 北齐550-577) and Sui (suí 隋 581-618) dynasties were unearthed, which were respectively the inscriptions for Feng Monu (fēng mó nú 封魔奴) in the second year (521) of the Zhengguang (zhèng guāng 正光) reign, for Feng Yanzhi (fēng yán zhī 封延之) in the third year (541) of the Xinghe (xīng hé 兴和) reign, for Feng Zihui (fēng zǐ huì 封子绘) in the fourth year (565) of the Heqing (hé qīng 河清) reign, for Feng Zihui's wife in the third year (583) of the Kaihuang (kāi huáng 开皇) reign and for Feng Yanzhi's wife in the ninth year (589) of the Kaihuang reign. According to historical records, Feng Monu and Feng Yanzhi both died in Shanxi (shān xī 山西), but after their death their coffins were all buried in their ancestral home Jiuying, thereby confirming the custom of Ji Zu Er Zang (jí zú ér zàng 集族而葬 buried together with the ancestors) practiced by the big families in the Northern Dynasty.

Location:
North of Houtun Village (hòu tún cūn 后屯村), Qiancun Town (qián cūn xiāng 前村乡) of Jingxian County.
Tel: 0318-4228982

     Baoyun Temple

Baoyun Temple (bǎo yún sì 宝云寺) is located in the southwest of Hengshui City. According to its stone tablet, it was built in the Sui Dynasty. As a matter of fact, there had been temples in this very place even in the Northern and Southern Dynasties. It was said that at the height of splendor the temple covered an area of over 30 mu (mǔ 亩) with one hundred halls, and its bell could be heard over 500 kilometers away.

Baoyun TowerThere is a tower in the temple, as high as 36.5 meters, which is known as Baoyun Tower (bǎo yún tǎ 宝云塔). The body of the tower is octahedral pyramid half-timbered, and there are four doors above the fourth floor. The architecture styles on each floor are different, such as, mandarin duck bucket arch, plum blossom bucket arch, which are simple and sophisticated and full of power and grandeur. If you want to ascend to the top of the tower, you must a person full of courage. Whenever you ascend a floor you must walk around the tower half circle to find a door on the other side. There is originally a stone carved Buddha seated on a lotus in the niche. The exquisite tower shows excellent architecture talents of the working people in ancient times. When talking about the exact time when the tower was built, there are various versions. One version is that the tower was built in the Sui Dynasty, while the other version is that the tower was built in the Tang (táng 唐) Dynasty. It is still uncertain now.
You will be deeply impressed with the temple’s simple and vigorous style. Touching the “one-thousand-year-old-never-dying grass (qiān nián bù sǐ cǎo 千年不死草)”, you may feel the changes of the history. The grass belongs to the orchid family. According to records, it was planted by Wang Zhihuan (wáng zhī huàn 王之涣), a very famous poet in the Tang Dynasty. At the age of 26, he was appointed to be an official at Hengshui County on the recommendation of Prime Minister Zhang Jiuling (zǎi xiàng zhāng jiǔ líng 宰相张九龄). At the departure time, seeing there were some Chinese small irises growing in front of the prime minister’s mansion, he said, "I’ll take some to Hengshui and plant there so that they can remind me of your trust. The grass isn’t afraid of icy wind and frost, and I will uphold justice and be free from corruption forever."

                                             (click to check the map)

Ticket: RMB 8
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Tel: 0318-3826010

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 April 2010 11:57
 

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