Bordering on Hunan Province to the further north and Jiangxi Province to the east, Shaoguan was called Shaozhou in history, and wasn't called Shaoguan until in the Qing Dynasty. It was recognized as a city in 1949 and then a city at prefectural level in 1977.
220 km away from Guangzhou, Shaoguan sits on the upper middle reaches of the Beijiang River in Western Guangdong. As the key city in Western Guangdong, it consists of three urban districts (Wujiang, Zengjiang and Beijiang), six counties (Qujiang, Shixing, Renhua, Wengyuan, Xinfeng and Ruyuan), and two cities (Lechang and Nanxiong).
Covering an area of 18 579 sq km, it has a population of 3.08 million. The urban area is about 345 sq km with an urban population of 0.5287 million. There are 30 000 Yao's and She's inhabiting in Ruyuan Yao Autonomous County, and now they mainly engage in tourism industry. Here visitors can enjoy ethnic performances and Yao dishes as well.
With a subtropical monsoon weather, Shaoguan is warm with an annual average temperature of 18.8℃ -21.6℃. A rich yearly rainfall of about 1300-2400mm and 310 warm days without frost has made the land thriving green all the year round.
Shaoguan is a hub of communications connecting Central China with South China by rail, highway, air and water. Beijing-Guangzhou Railway passes through Shaoguan, Lechang, Ruyuan and Qujiang. With frequent different trains passing, there are a dozen local stations: Pingshi, Lechang, Xianrenlang, Shaoguan, Maba, Wushi and Dakengkou with daily expresses from Shaoguan to Shenzhen, from Shaoguan to Guangzhou. With highways radiate in all the directions, all its 41 townships are linked together by national highway No.105, 106,107 and 323, about 30.2 km/100 sq km. The planned Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway across the land is under construction. Beijiang, Wujiang, Zengjiang, Wengjiang, Xingfengjiang and Longguihe rivers are navigable with 100-ton boats going along the Beijiang River to Guangzhou. Shaoguan Airport is under extension and will offer flights to more domestic cities.
With such a long history, an important geographic location, aged cultural tradition and rich natural resources, it has long been a place of interest as well as of strategic military importance. There are a lot of historical relics and religious temples left in this area. Shaoguan is regarded as one of the cradles of the human race in China, for Qujiang Maba Men were found living here as early as 129 000 ago. Shixia Cultural Ruins is another evidence of early human activities here. The site of Maba Man of the Paleolithic Age and the Shixia Culture are discovered only two kilometers from the town of Maba in Qujiang County. Meiguan Pass in Nanxiong County is a historic reminder of many ancient military confrontations and competitions, an evidence of the massive migration in the early dynasties in history. Shaoguan has been the northern gateway from Central China to South China for centuries. Now, Beijing-Guangzhou Railway running through the urban area has replaced the ancient postal road, which once connected Central China with Lingnan Region for centuries.
Cantonese and Hakka dialects are popularly versed in Western Guangdong and local folk performance includes dance of picking tealeaves, huadeng opera, shan'ge (folk song) play, story-telling, local rappers, Cantonese melodies and lion dance. There are a variety of local specialties: baimao tea, Nanxiong tobacco, Maba youzhan rice, fragrant land taros in Lechang, and sanhua plums in Wengyuan.
Shaoguan is the tourist center in Western Guangdong with rich tourist resources, natural scenery, cultural and historical relics, such as Fengcailou Mansion, Mausoleum of Zhang Jiuling, Mt. Furongshan and Maozifeng Peak. Apart from those in the urban area, there are Mt.Danxiashan as one of the Most Famous Four in Guangdong, Nanhua Temple where Buddhist Master Huineng conceived his Zen Buddhism, the Maba men's inhabitant, Xixia Culture Ruins, Golden Rooster Ridge in Lechang, Gufo Cave and Jiulong Shiba Shoals of the most exciting drifting down on a rubber raft.
Zhujixiang is situated 9 km away from Nanxiong County Seat. It is about 300 meters long with ancient houses on the both sides, On the way down from north to south, there stand three ancient pailous (Chinese gateways), on which inscribed are the names of the three historic spots: Zhujixiang, Zhuji Mansion and Zhujiguxiang (Lane). The main street is made up of river pebbles, reminding us of its long past. It is said that during the late Ming Dynasty, lots of the Ming officials escaped from Kaifeng City in Central China to this place to avoid the war and persecution. Later they moved on to the different places on the Pearl River Delta and became the ancestors of many Cantonese locals. Today Cantonese locals come here often to search for their family roots. This ancient residence is under provincial protection, for it has become a symbolic place where the early Han Chinese migrated from Central China to Lingnan Region. Every year on the Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional Folk Art Festival is held in memory of the migration of their ancestors and to celebrate today's prosperity of the descendents spreading all over the Pearl River Delta. It is said that piaose, the 99-section dragon dance, originated from here and now has become popular in every corner on the Pearl River Delta. So have the Land Boat Performance and Lion Dance that one often sees during the Chinese Spring Festival. Probably, Guangdong has already been a holly land for migrants since then.
Shaoguan is the hometown of Zhang Jiuling (678-740 AD), a prime minister of the Tang Dynasty. Zhang is regarded as the highest official among the Cantonese of all times, ever, never appointed in China by the central government. He led the locals to build the Meiguan postal road, which had become the artery of transportation linking South China to Central China and through which thousands of Han Chinese migrated to Lingnan Region in history, especially in the Song Dynasty. Lingnan Region began speeding its social and economic development, keeping up with the pace of the Yangtze Valley and Yellow River Basin. So South China was closely related to Central China and the mainstream of the traditional Chinese culture. Zhang was thought as an outstanding statesman in history for his contributions to the social development of Lingnan Region. Furthermore, he was a good poet, regarded by the majority of the Cantonese that Zhang was the forerunner of Lingnan poetry. His poems are simple, natural, fresh in linguistic structure and novel in style but deep in thought with a straightforward personal character. His poems have had a popular influence over the following Lingnan poets.
Today as Beijing-Guangzhou Railway and Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway pass through Shaoguan city, local communications and transportation are very convenient and busy as well. Two hours from Guangzhou by train, Shaoguan is a developing industrial city with rich natural resources: mainly energy, mineral, forest and tourism. A system of industries has been formed focusing on building materials, metallurgy, textile, chemical, light industry, coal mining and energy exploration, medicine and tourism. Minerals are plentiful, especially non-ferrous metals. 88 minerals have been found here, of which 12 are ranked within top ten on the national list. Coal deposit ranks the first in Guangdong Province and so is forest coverage. There are four natural reserves, where a great variety of wild plants and wild animals still survive in the green woods. With rolling green mountains in the north covered with vast green forests, Shaoguan is especially rich in timber and natural scenic spots. Tourism resources are enormous and there are famous mounts, torrents, hot springs, karst caves, ancient temples, aged military passes and postal roads, virgin forests, animal fossils, historic sites, carved inscriptions, revolutionary sacred places and Yao ethnic customs. They are worth visiting. Shikengkong Peak of Mt.Dadong in Ruyuan Yao Autonomous County in the Northern Guangdong is the highest geographic point of the province, about 1 902m high above sea level. Mt.Danxiashan in Renhua County, as one of the four most famous mountains in Guangdong, is a popular national scenic spot.
Situated in the place where the Zhenjiang River and the Wujiang River merge into the Beijiang River, Shaoguan looks like an island surrounded with waters on the three sides, connected with the opposite banks by five bridges: Donghe, Wujiang, Fengcai, Qujiang and Beijiang bridges. There are two green hills in the urban area: Lianhua (Lotus) Hill standing in the east while Furong (Hibiscus) Hill in the west. With green hills and blue waters around, Shaoguan is rich in tourism resources. The four seasons are very contrastive with a lot rain in summer and occasionally snowfall in winter. The annual average temperature is about 20°C. There are a lot of scenic spots in Shaoguan City, such as:
- Jiulong Shiba Shoals is located on the upper reaches of the Wushui River between Pingshi and Lechang. To drift down the 9 stone gorges and 18 shoals in a rubber boat is a breathtaking experience. The waterway is about 60-km long with twisted rapids one after another and sheer cliffs standing on the both riversides. It is an ideal place for rubber boat drifting. China Lechang Drifting Festival is held annually from July 18 to August 28.
- Ethnic Villages in Ruyuan Yao Autonomous County are attractive to outsiders and urbanites. The Yao's simple lifestyle, exotic ethnic customs, ethnic songs and dance performances, their colorful costumes and wedding ceremony are fascinating to visitors. People are different with varied cultural traditions in this world. Bibei Village is a popular tourist Yao village, located in the mountains, about 54 km away from Ruyuan County Seat. Huanglong (Yellow-Dragon) scenic spot is only 6 km away from Bibei Village.
- Golden Rooster Ridge (Jinjiling) stands on the bank of the Wushui River in Pingshi Township, Lechang County. The huge stone resembles a real rooster in a squatting position just at the top of Jinjiling Range. 338 meters above sea level, the precipitous cliffs around form a marvelous view. Because of its tenable position, it has been a place contested by many military strategists. Many historic ruins and stone inscriptions remain on the hill. An army of Taiping Rebellion once stationed there. It is recognized as one of the provincial scenic spots now. It is especially beautiful in winter when the whole range is covered with snow.
- Maba Man & Shixia Civilization is well known as one of the cradles of the human race. Maba Man lived 129 000 year ago in present Maba Township. A copy of a primary village is set up with a hunting ground, where one can imagine how Maba Man group lived and hunted thousands of years ago. The place is also called Lion Cave.
- Sanying (Tri-Shadow) Pagoda stands in Nanxiong County Seat. Once the temple's wall, as smooth as a mirror, could reflect the pagoda in three shadows: one was upright and the other two were upside down. So locals called it Tri-Shadow Pagoda. The present one is restored as a landmark in Nanxiong County Seat. Ascending the top, one can have an overlook of the urban area of Nanxiong County Seat. At the foot of the pagoda, there is a museum of dinosaurs with some dinosaur fossils and fossilized eggs unearthed in the red layer underground in Nanxiong County. This discovery has an important position in the studies of archaeology in China. The dinosaurs probably lived 70 millions year ago in the Jurassic Period.
- Nanhua Monastery in Qujiang County is one of the four most famous temples in Guangdong Province, for Buddhist Master Huineng set up his school of Zen Buddhism here. Located on the Caoxi Brook, 22 km away from Shaoguan, Nanhua Temple is the first place where Buddhist Master Huineng began spreading his teaching. Master Huineng is the inherited abbot of the sixth generation of China's Buddhism and one of the founders of the Zen Buddhism. Huineng preached Buddhism here for 37 years and later, his 43 disciples scattered in the different parts of China, forming five sects in Chinese Buddhist history. Zen Buddhism also has a popular influence over Japan and Southeast Asian countries. Nanhua Temple was first built in 502 AD, about 1 400 years ago. It has an important position in the development of China's Buddhism.
- Meiguan Pass was also called Qinguan Pass in history, lying 30 km away from Nanxiong County Seat, which separates Guangdong from Jiangxi Province. Meiguan Pass had been an important postal road and a military fort for centuries, well known as "the First Pass to South China". Along the ancient postal road there grow a lot of plum trees. When the plum trees in blossom in winter, there appears an ocean of white clouds with fragrant odor spreading near and far. Hence Meiguan (Pass of Plum Trees). The ancient Meiguan Gateway still stands there, reminding of the past postal road from Central China to South China.
Located in a comparatively high mountainous region, Shaoguan City is popular for its beautiful natural scenery with a few hot springs, such as Nanhua and Xiaokeng Hot Springs in Qujiang County, Longshan Hot Spring in Lechang County and Ruyuan Hot Springs in Ruyuan County. The karst land formation spreads widely in Liannan, Yangshan and Yingde, forming considerably large karst caves, of which Tongtianluo Doline is unique. It is vertically caved into the ground, located in Daping Village of Daping Township and 50 km north of Ruyuan County Seat. It is called a doline in geography. The underground water has eroded away the soil and formed a big doline in the ground. And Tongtianluo Doline is so big that there should grow a large forest at the bottom. On this limestone highland about 690 meters above sea level, there are 15 karst caves within an area of 10 sq km. The most bizarre of them is Tongtianluo Doline. And there is a thriving forest growing underground. This doline is vertically caved into ground over 90 meters deep. Its mouth is only 73 meters in diameter while its bottom 140 meters wide and 450 meters in perimeter. It looks like a huge jar buried in the ground with a dense forest of arbor trees thriving on the ground floor. Many of the arbor trees grow as tall as 15-30 meters, but very thin and only about 20 cm in diameter. There are under shrubs growing densely under the arbor trees. Such an underground forest is quite rare in the world. It remains being fully explored.
Nanxiong Basin is a treasure land of archaeology, where a lot of dinosaur eggs have been discovered. Those eggs were laid about 65 billion years ago, belonging to 14 species and about 1/4 of all the dinosaurs known to us. In recent years, the bone fossils and footprints of dinosaurs have also been found in the same area. A museum of dinosaurs is to be built. In 2001, Chinese montane lizard was found living in the streams in this area, which is regarded as a living fossil of the ancient animals of the Jurassic Period. This spot is under large exploration at the moment. It is very much expected that Nanxiong Basin could be listed as one of the important international geographic park in future.
Mt.Danxiashan is 9 km away from Renhua County and 56 km from Shaoguan City. It was selected one of the national scenic spots in 1988 by the Chinese State Council. There are ubiquitous red cliffs soaring into the sky looking just like red clouds in the sunset and forming the typical landforms of Mt.Danxiashan. In this area, there are the Penis Stone & the Genital Stone on Mt.Yuanyangshan. They were not so much known in the past, probably because of the traditional feudalist influence. Nowadays they attract a lot of tourists. Probably, they can be used as two excellent models of human sexual organs for the present sexual education in China. They look just like real ones that visitors can't help wondering about those two natural works. Having being selected one of the national geographic parks, Mt.Danxiashan is also named China's Red Sandstone Park. It is regarded as one of the four most famous mountains in Guangdong. The whole area is about 350 sq km with the Jinjiang River meandering through. There are a lot of natural wonders and beautiful sights. The whole area is about 280 sq kilometers in large.
Nanling Forest Park, Chinese Who's Who Residences, Hanhua Hot Spring Resort, Yunmen Temple where the Buddhist school of Yunmen started, Bibei Village with exotic Yao customs, Nanshui Ancient Hunting Ground in Ruyuan, Chebaling National Nature Reserve where South China tigers are still surviving. With abundant tourist attractions and a dozen tourist routes available, Shaoguan has become one of the four hottest scenic areas in Guangdong. It is said that the largest tourist base is in shape with so rich tourist places of all sorts.
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