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Anqing, Hometown of Huangmeixi
    2007-06-10 11:48:31     CRIENGLISH.com

Located in south-west Anhui Province, Anqing is considered to be the cradle of culture that originated from the school of Tongcheng. It is also a famous tourist city with appealing natural beauty and many places of cultural interest, such as Zhenfeng Pagoda, Yingjiang Temple, and the Memorial Terrace to Xu Xilin. Anqing is also known as the home of Huangmeixi, an operatic genre taking its roots from hillside folksongs and dances. Now let's follow our guide, Yunfeng, and get a closer look at the city of Anqing.

Yunfeng:

It takes only a few hours to travel up the Yangtze River from Hubei province to Anqing. The Zhenfeng Pagoda, known as the First Pagoda on the Yangtze River, is the first scenic spot visible from the river at Anqing. Zhenfeng Pagoda was built in the late 1560s, during the Ming Dynasty, and viewing its reflection in the Yangtze used to be top on the list of the eight tourist attractions of Anqing.

The six-storeyed eight-cornered pagoda is 86 meters high and has the longest history of buildings in Anqing. The most enjoyable view is from top of the pagoda with a bird's-eye view of the Yangtze River.

The pagoda is located in the garden of Yingjiang Temple, which was built in 1619 during the Ming Dynasty. What distinguishes Yingjiang Temple from others of its kind is that, on both sides of the gate, are set two iron anchors, each weighing three tons. It is said that although blessed with natural attractions and good fortune, before the Ming Dynasty, Anqing had no scholars who succeeded in the national exams. Some blamed this on the fengshui or geomancy of Anqing.

Then came the pagoda with its blessings for Anqing. From then on, two Prime Ministers and four Zhuangyuans - the top-scoring scholars in the imperial examinations, were to come from Anqing. There were also over a thousand scholars from Anqing to pass the imperial examinations.

Ferries from the other side of the Yangtze River arrive at the dock on the Anqing side very early in the morning.

Apart from commuters on morning shifts, farmers carrying vegetables are the major passengers of those ferries. They live in the outskirts of Chizhou city on the other side of the River, but it is more convenient for them to go to the market in Anqing than to the center of Chizhou. So vegetables from Chizhou turn up on the dining tables of Anqing residents.

Those who do morning exercises also enjoy the first rays of the sun in the early morning. Standing by the river and taking a deep breath of fresh air is a unique gift from Heaven to those living by the riverside.

For those who love morning tea, getting up early is important too. And morning is the busy time for the vegetarian restaurant outside the Yingjiang Temple, which provides great vegetarian food. The restaurant was built in the early 1900's, although before then the temple had served as a retreat and incidentally offered some vegetarian food to pilgrims. A chef from the famous Shanghai restaurant "Gongdelin", which specializes in vegetarian cuisine, was employed to make vegetarian feasts. There are more than four hundred kinds of vegetarian food served in this restaurant, using soybeans, sesame oil, flour, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green pepper and lotus root. What makes these dishes special is their imitation meat and fish. So, you can have your choice of chicken, fish, ham and sausage but none of them are made out of real meat or fish.

Taking a cup of tea, elderly people come here not only for drinking and eating but also for enjoying and pondering good memories.

Along the river, Anqing is adjacent to the neighboring mountains. The hilly topography gives Anqing's roads and avenues names related to slopes or peaks.

Anqing is well known for its native Huangmei opera. It is common to hear Huangmei melody around the town. Like Beijingers crazy about Peking opera, people in Anqing are fans of Huangmei melody.

Opera fans crowd the teahouses and restaurants every night. It is said that Huangmei melody originated from Huangmei County in Hubei province, to the west of Anqing. In the early 19th century, when their hometown was frequently afflicted by drought and flood, migrant farmers brought Huangmei melodies from Huangmei to Anqing. Anqing was then the capital of Anhui province and the dialect of Anqing was the official language. So, during the development of Huangmei opera, a lot of Anqing dialect was used for the spoken parts of the opera, which made Huangmei opera a folk genre native to Anqing.

Huangmei opera is described as an art form with great diversity, humor and vigor. Huangmei opera stems from folk songs, dances and some well known old operas, which are the driving forces behind its diversity. Humor refers to the wording of the librettos and the vigor comes from its simple-but-meaningful story.

The original Huangmei opera was related to folk fairs. These days, Huangmei shows are still a fixture in holiday celebrations or wedding parties in villages around Anqing, since through Huangmei melody can the local Anqing people best express their joy and hope with life.

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