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The Huizhou Culture and Salt Merchants

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

In the south east of Anhui Province, under the foot of Huangshan Mountain can be found historical and cultural Shexian County. Surrounded by green mountains and crystal clear waters, the entire area is rich in cultural relics, beautiful residencies and memorial temples and arches. It is said that the entire county is a museum of classical architecture. Most of the town towers, bridges, lanes and wells are from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. .

Upon waking I thought to myself, that sounds like a brilliant place to spend the day. Some sit behind a desk staring at a computer and others go to ancient towns for a relaxing stroll.

I have been to many towns and cities that the prosperous Salt Merchants either founded or chose to build huge homes and gardens, live and raise their families and while doing so spread their huge wealth. I won’t write any more about them as I’ve included a heap of information on them below and their history is very interesting and well worth the read.

After a delicious breakfast with my buddy and is daughter (who own one of the eateries across the train station car park) I caught a small bus from the train station car park to Shexian city. When I arrived at the bus station I found my way to the main road (Xin’an Lu) and then walked across the bridge. At the end of the bridge I found what is supposed to be an ancient city wall and I was told that here I had to make a decision and a very easy one at that. If I headed left I would end up at the ticket office and would have to pay 80 Yuan for a ticket (which includes Yuliang Park and entry in to the main sites. I was also told that none of the sites were worth paying for). If I didn’t want to buy a ticket and get in for free, yes FREE I needed to follow the road right and go in through the arch way.

I believe that you don’t actually have to pay the 80 Yuan unless you want to enter the sites and throughout the day I actually got into several without a ticket as it seemed that it was too much trouble for the ticket guy to ask me if I had one or not.

Though it is small I actually spent many hours walking around the streets getting lost and ending up on top of a small hill and then down the other side without even knowing it. Well I did know I was climbing stairs but I thought I was winding my way back down the side I had walked up but somehow ended up down the other side and after half an hour or so I actually had no idea where I was. Thankfully I was saved by two young girls who were following me saying 'Good Morning Teacher, Class Begin!’

I then found out they knew a lot more English than that as they walked me back up the hill and down the other side to where I actually thought I was when I met them.

After a huge bowl of rice, pork and vegetables in a local eatery I found down a vibrant little side street I thought it best to figure out just what and where Yuliang was. Of course after reading the LP I walked back to the bus station thinking that it was not on the Huizhou Park side of the river. When I arrived back on the bus station side of the bridge I began chatting to a pedicab driver and I then found that Yuliang was actually just up the road from the Huizhou District Park. After I told him that I had already been to the Huizhou District but never got a ticket he then told me he would show me a free way to get in.

To get to Yuliang you can take a taxi or a pedicab (or walk). Or if you are much smarter than me simply stay on the Huizhou Park side of the river and walk.

Honestly it is only a ten minute walk up the road that follows the river from the arch way leading into the Huizhou Park. On the way there, like I said there is a free way in as Yuliang does require a ticket to get through the gate. If you haven’t got a ticket either follow my free way in or if you want to see the two or so buildings you can pay the 30 Yuan entrance fee.

If you take a pedicab or walk to Yuiliang you will come to a corner with a large blue rubbish bin (not a dumpster) on the left hand side, across the other side of the road just as the corner turns there is a small plain concrete alley. Simply walk down this and soon you will come to the river side path and you won’t have to pay anything for your day in Shexian.

I actually found the city to be well worth more than one day’s adventure so I have decided to return tomorrow. Maybe a normal person could see most of it in one day but to do that you would have to also miss out on so much at each site you visit. So after thinking about it the only difference to me would be the bus fares to and from the following day and as it is a small local bus at the end of the day the bus fare would be less than on Corona beer at the Youth Hostel.

Iif you enjoyed today’s blog there will be another one tomorrow from wonderful Shexian County.

<u>HOW MUCH AND HOW TO GET THERE</u>

To get to Shexian simply walk across Beihai Lu from the Tunxi train station to the bus stop and grab the next bus going to Shexian. It costs between four and six Yuan (depending on which bus and who you get. It cost of four on the way there and six to get home. I was going to argue but I then found that everyone was paying the same as me and being Chinese they were arguing like mad cats but it didn’t work.

It was six or walk I guess!

<u>Huizhou History & Huizhou Salt Merchants</u>

The success of Huizhou merchants had no doubt played a decisive part in the emergence and growth of Huizhou culture. Huizhou merchants generally refer to businessmen from the six counties under Huizhou Prefecture (She County, Xiuning, Qimen, Yixian, Jixi and Wuyuan). Most researchers believe that Huizhou merchants as a whole came into being in the southern Song Dynasty (1127~1279), began to develop between the late Yuan (1271~1368) and the early Ming dynasty (1368~1644), formed a power around mid-Ming period, flourished during Jiajing's reign (1522~1567), reached their culmination during Qianlong's reign (1736~1796), and then declined during Jiajing's and Daoguang's reigns (1796~1851).

The history of Huizhou merchants covers about 600 years, and for 300 years they dominated the region. They occupy a significant place in the history of Chinese commerce.

In the Southern Song Dynasty, as the capital was moved from Kaifeng to Lin'an (now Hangahou), the political and economic centre shifted to the south. This stimulated the economy of neighboring areas to develop, and then the Central Plains culture was introduced to the South. Huizhou was situated in an important place between Dingus and Zhejiang Provinces. It was significant to the economy of southeastern China as a communication hub between the south and the North. As a result of Huizhou's particular geographical condition and the need of economic development, landowners began to take up business.

At the beginning of the Southern Song Dynasty, according to records, Huizhou people were "engaged in trade every where", selling tea, ink, paper and wood. After Jiajing's reign in the Ming Dynasty, the number of traders amounted to 70% of the total Huizhou population. As the saying goes, "It is a Huizhou practice that thirteen year-olds start their career in town and at seventeen they do business all over the country". Usually at the age of 12 or 13, Huizhou children began to work as apprentices in town. The shortage of land and the superfluity of manpower drove the farmers away from farming.

The Ming Dynasty Anhui Chronicle comments, "Many Huizhou people take up business, because they have no other choice". Generally they did small trading, and most of them were under the control of big business. They were not born merchants. Their success was a result of various social factors and their painstaking efforts. The Huizhou Chronicle of the Jiaqing years (1796~1821) describes them as "properly dressed, well-spoken", "fully aware of prices, knowing when to buy and sell, and gaining extra profits from selling local goods at other places". The earliest people who left Huizhou to "make a living away from home" never suspected that a flourishing Huizhou business would "spread almost all over the country", and that Huizhou merchants would "gain a national fame".

Huizhou business was almost all-embracing --- tea, grain, salt, silk, cloth, wood, paint, paper, ink, pottery, etc. simply anything profitable. They opened teahouses, restaurants, hotels and pawnshops. The salt trade and pawn-broking, however, were the most prosperous. It is recorded in She County Chronicle --- Local Conditions that "of all the trades in She County, salt, pawn-broking, tea and wood are most prosperous, though salt prevailed in the past". The pawn-broking in those days was actually usury. Wei Chaofeng, a huizhou pawnbroker depicted in Fantastic Stories, deprived a scholar of his real estate in three years' time by changing exorbitant rates of interest. By the years of Guangxu's reign (1875~1909), one could hardly find a pawnbroker who was not from Huizhou, there was "no place too far for Huizhou merchants to expand". They pressed eastward to the north of Jiangsu, westward to Yunnan, Guizhou, and Gansu, northward to the east and south of Liaoning, and southward to Fujian and Guangdong, and further fouth they sailed to Japan, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, their footmarks left on "almost half of the globe".

The resourceful Huizhou merchants were well versed in the expertise of obtaining a position so as to attach themselves to the court. Their strategy was to "provide funds for academic pursuits with business profits, and get political positions through academic pursuits and ensure business profits from the political positions". Therefore, politics and commerce were closely related in Huizhou merchants, having gained fame and fortune, they returned home in all their glory and went on with large-scale construction, building mansions, ancestral temples, guild-halls, roads and bridges to honor their ancestors and to extend the influence of the clan. They were bent on establishing academies, schools, and examination centres and cultivating feudal intellectuals to consolidate the patriarchal clan system. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties (960~1911), 2,108 people from five counties (She County, Yixian, Qimen. Jixi) were granted the title of jinshi (top scholar) after they passed final imperial examinations held every three years and presided over by the emperor.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368~1911), the literary works of 343 people from Shexian County alone were included in Best Poems or Best Essays. There are stories about "three successive Jinshis from one place, four Hanlina (members of the Imperial Academy) within ten li", "father and son both ministers", "brothers both prime ministers" and "three generations of imperially-honored courtiers", With academic studies and etiquette greatly advocated, Huizhou was a cradle for talented scholars who made achievements in various domains. Huizhou culture, enriched with these achievements, displays a splendid view of liberal arts and history.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Urge Overkill The album was &#8216;Saturation’ ____________________________________________________________

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside


Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Shexian Huizhou District &#38;amp; The Yuliang Riverside

Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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