Great writer Lu Xun's Hometown---Shaoxing

Geese in Lanting
The main attraction of Shaoxing, one of the oldest cities in Zhejiang province, lays in its rich history. Not surprisingly, it tends to attract more Chinese tourists, who are familiar with Chinese legends and culture, than foreign tourists. In 1998, Shaoxing, with a population of 320,000, attracted five million Chinese and merely 40,000 foreign visitors.

The exhibits in the Zhejiang provincial museum in Hangzhou showing how ancient Chinese lived as far back as 7,000 years ago are based on archeological excavations made in Shaoxing since 1965.

The 4000-year-old city of Shaoxing originated in the Yue Kingdom and later became the capital of the Yue Kingdom. Although Shaoxing did not begin to thrive until the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period (770-221 BC), its legends date back to the beginning of the city.

Six kilometers southeast of Shaoxing, tucked in the foot of Kuaiji Mountain is the Great Yu Mausoleum. Before China was united under one emperor, there were tribal leaders whose achievements were passed down generation after generation by word of mouth. One such tribal leader was the Great Yu, the legendary founder of the Xia dynasty (2100-1600 BC).

The Great Yu's father was charged with the task of taming the floods, which ravaged the lower Yangtze River, but his dams failed to control the floods. After he died, the task fell on the Great Yu's shoulders and he succeeded by diverting the waters instead of trying to dam it up.

Legend has it that the floods were caused by dragons in the water that devoured ordinary mortals. The Great Yu had tattoos all over his body to camouflage himself when he went into the water to fight the dragons.

The Great Yu's victory earned him the title "Tamer of Floods" and rank of tribal chief. At the time, the tribal chiefs were elected democratically, but the Great Yu broke with the tradition and appointed his son to succeed him, kicking off centuries of feudalism which didn't end until the Communist Party of China liberated China.

The Great Yu died near present day Shaoxing while making an inspection tour of the southern Yangtze River was buried at the site of the Great Yu Mausoleum. The temple was probably built around the sixth century AD and reconstructed in 1933. The temple is currently being renovated so that it will be ready for the annual Da Yu Ling public memorial ceremony held on April 20 this year.

In the stream outside the Great Yu Mausoleum gate, are a fleet of long slim flat-bottomed boats docked while the oarsmen are usually engaged in a game of cards while waiting for passengers. These wu peng boats, made out of wood and bamboo by the oarsmen themselves, can only be found in Shaoxing. To propel the wu peng boats, the oarsman sitting at the back of the boat uses his bare feet to drive the larger oar and his hands to steer using the smaller oar. If you have more than an hour to spare, the wu peng boats can take you from the Great Yu Mausoleum to East Lake (or vice versa) via a network of waterways, which surround Shaoxing for 60 yuan.

Thirty minutes east of Shaoxing, at the foot of Ruofen Mountain, lies the photogenic East Lake (thus, its name). The lake was not naturally formed. During the seventh century, the mountain was quarried its hard green rocks to build the city wall around Shaoxing (which no longer exists). Thus, the mountains look as if a deity took a sword to it and carved off a side of the mountain. 600 years later, after the mining had stopped, canals were dug from a nearby river, filling up the quarry and creating one of Zhejiang province's three largest lakes. During the Qing Dynasty, the retired court official Tao Junxuan built his home on East Lake, which houses various souvenir shops and ticket booths today.

Towards the end of the Spring and Autumn Period, the king of the Yue kingdom, Gou Jian, planted an orchid 15 kilometers southwest of Shaoxing, thus, the site is called Orchid Hill. Today many Chinese visit Lanting, the Orchid Pavillion, located at the foot of Orchid Hill because it is considered the holy land of Chinese calligraphy.

In 353 AD, the famed Chinese calligrapher Wang Xizhi invited 41 of his close friends to Orchid Hill(Lanting) where they sat along the creek and floated cups full of wine down the creek. According to the rules of the game, when a cup floated ashore, the person sitting closest to it had to either compose a poem or drink the cup of wine. Wang collected the poems and published them as an anthology. The preface Wang wrote for the anthology is considered one of the classics of Chinese calligraphy.

Because so much of Lanting's significance is tied to Chinese calligraphy, souvenir shops in Lanting are filled with Chinese calligraphy tools and works of calligraphy. In 1989, a museum of Chinese calligraphy was built in Lanting.

Inside the city of Shaoxing, the most famous tourist site pays homage to Shaoxing's most famous son. The writer Lu Xun (born Zhou Shujian) was born and raised in Shaoxing.

Lu Xun, one of the leading intellectuals during the May Fourth movement, is considered the greatest Chinese writer in the 20th century. Although he was not the first to do so, Lu Xun is often remembered for his plain, more comprehensible vernacular style of writing, as opposed to the traditional literary style.

Today, Lu Xun's Former Residence and the small private school, Sanwei Shu Wu (Three Flavor Study), Lu Xun attended are open to visitors. There is also the Lu Xun Memorial Hall on where else but Luxun Road, but the memorial hall exhibit lacks English captions. This may be one reason why few Western tourists visit Lu Xun's exhibits. However, the tourist sites associated with Lu Xun are fairly popular with Japanese tourists since Lu Xun actually studied medicine in Japan before turning to writing.

Many of the places around Shaoxing mentioned in Lu Xun's writings are still around today. One site which achieved fame overnight after Lu Xun used it as a setting in his story Kong Yiji is the restaurant the Xianheng Restaurant a block from Lu Xun's Memorial Hall.

There, customers can enjoy Shaoxing's best known delicacies - yellow rice wine and cold dishes such as stinky tofu and Shaoxing ji (Shaoxing chicken cooked in wine).

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