Chekiang


Chekiang
/che"kyang"/; Chin. /ju"gyahng"/, n.
Older Spelling. Zhejiang.

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Introduction
Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Che-chiang,  (Pinyin)  Zhejiang,  

      sheng (province) of China. It is the third smallest province of China and also one of the most densely populated and affluent. Its area is 39,300 square miles (101,800 square kilometres). A coastal province, it is bounded by the East China Sea on the east and by the provinces of Fukien on the south, Kiangsi on the southwest, Anhwei on the west, and Kiangsu on the north. The provincial capital is Hang-chou (Hangzhou).

      Chekiang has for many centuries been one of the great cultural and literary centres of China. Its landscape is renowned for its scenic beauty. The name of the province derives from its principal river, the Che (“Crooked”) River, formally known as the Ch'ien-t'ang River at the estuary of Hang-chou Bay, and known as Fu-ch'un River inland. Chekiang is among the leading Chinese provinces in farm productivity and leads in the tea and fishing industries.

Physical and human geography

The land
      The northwestern section of the province (Che-hsi) lies within the fertile Yangtze River Delta, with its labyrinth of rivers and canals; its coastal lowlands are protected by dikes. The southern edge of T'ai Lake forms part of its northern border with Kiangsu. The greater part of Chekiang Province lies to the south of Hang-chou Bay and is largely mountainous. It has a rocky and deeply indented coast, dotted with more than 18,000 islands, forming numerous natural harbours. This part is in fact a continuation of the mountain ranges of Fukien, which run roughly parallel to the coast. In eastern Chekiang, mountains occupy 93 percent of the land surface, while another 1 percent consists of low hills. Only 6 percent is level land, distributed along Hang-chou Bay and the Fu-ch'un and Ta river valleys in southern Chekiang. Most of the province's arable lands—consisting of alluvial plains of great fertility—are found in these three areas.

      The chief river of the province is the Fu-ch'un (Ch'ien-tang) River, the drainage basin of which constitutes 40 percent of the total area of the province. The river has, in fact, two headstreams, one coming down from the southwestern highlands and flowing through the broad Lan River valley and the other rising in Anhwei Province and passing through Chien-te in Chekiang and other cities. On the latter tributary is located the Hsin-an River Dam (Xin'an River Reservoir) and hydroelectric power plant, which is one of the largest in East Asia. The Ch'ien-t'ang Estuary tidal bore takes the form of a high wall of water that rushes upstream with a thunderous roar. Best seen just after the full moon and at its highest in the autumn (late September–early October), the bore is a famed tourist attraction. Along the estuary are miles of sea dikes that have been built throughout the ages to protect the rich rice lands of the delta. The other rivers of some importance are the Yung, Ling, and Ou; the Ou and its four principal tributaries together form the second largest river system of the province. Although these mountain streams flow swiftly through rocky channels and gorges, they are navigable to skillful boatmen using sampans (small, roofed boats propelled by sculling) right up to the mountains.

      Hang-chou Bay is almost as broad at its entrance as the Yangtze Estuary but is obstructed by a cluster of some 400 islands known as the Chou-shan (Chusan (Zhoushan Archipelago)) Archipelago. The largest island in the group, Chou-shan, is a major coastal fishing centre. On P'u-t'o Mountain, a renowned scenic island east of Chou-shan, is one of the sacred mountains of Buddhism that once attracted pilgrims from all over East Asia.

      Chekiang has a humid subtropical climate, controlled chiefly by monsoonal airflows, modified by local influences. Considerable differences exist between the coast and the hinterland, between the lowlands and the highlands, and between the north and the south, particularly in winter. Thus, Hang-chou, in western Chekiang, has an average January temperature of 39° F (4° C), while that of Wen-chou, on the coast, is about 46° F (8° C). Summer is hot throughout the province; the average July temperature at Hang-chou is 82° F (28° C), while that at Wen-chou is 84° F (29° C). Annual rainfall throughout the province is more than 40 inches (1,000 millimetres). The hilly interior has more precipitation than the coast, which is frequently visited by devastating typhoons, particularly during late summer and early autumn.

Plant and animal life
      The vegetation of the northern, or T'ai Lake, plain differs from that of the rest of the province. Formed from a lake, it is covered with rich alluvial soil and is an open land of rice fields and rural settlements, dotted with some shade and ornamental trees. The original or natural vegetation disappeared centuries ago when the land was cleared for cultivation.

      The vegetation of the hilly and mountainous parts of the province, south of the plain, consists primarily of mixed evergreen broad-leaved and coniferous forests that grow on gray-brown podzolic (infertile forest) soils at the higher elevations and on red and yellow lateritic (leached, iron-bearing) podzolic soils on the lower slopes. There is an abundance of such trees as the laurel, pine, cypress, and beech. Besides the ubiquitous bamboo, the tung tree, which supplies valuable oil, is widely distributed in the upper Fu-ch'un Valley.

      The province has an animal life typical of the subtropical forest zone and characterized by great diversity; it includes monkeys, anteaters, the southern heron, water turtles, many frogs, and numerous southern birds. There are many invertebrates, among which subtropical insects predominate, although tropical insects characteristic of southern Asia are also found.

Settlement patterns
      There is a marked contrast between the densely populated plains and the sparsely populated uplands. Thus, two-fifths of the population in the province is concentrated in the T'ai Lake plain and in the coastal region of Hang-chou Bay. About 25 percent of the population lives in cities and towns. The capital and largest city is Hang-chou, located in western Chekiang; it is followed in size by the port cities of Ning-po (Ningbo) and Wen-chou (Wenzhou), both in eastern Chekiang. Other important cities are Shao-hsing (Shaoxing) and Chin-hua, in eastern Chekiang, and Chia-hsing and Wu-hsing (locally known as Hu-chou), in western Chekiang. All of these urban centres have a long history; the oldest, Shao-hsing, dates to the 6th century BC. Hang-chou was the capital of the Chinese empire during the 12th and 13th centuries. It was, however, only after the first Opium War (1839–42) and the opening of Ning-po to foreign trade that the modernization of the cities—particularly Hang-chou, Ning-po, and Wen-chou—began. Scores of other towns are distributed throughout the province. They include the county (hsien) capitals, which are located mostly on the agricultural plains and valley bottoms. Most of them are also local commercial centres, and some are developing into larger and more modern towns.

The people
      The ethnic composition of the population is overwhelmingly Han (Chinese). Those belonging to ethnic minorities consist chiefly of She tribesmen living in the mountainous area of southern Chekiang, in the Wen-chou and Chin-hua prefectures along the Fukien border. The She tribesmen, of whom a greater number live in Fukien Province, have their own language, although most of them also understand Chinese. They grow paddy rice in terraces on hillslopes; farm work is done by both men and women. There are also small numbers of Manchu and Hui (Chinese Muslims) scattered in the cities and towns. The former are mostly descendants of Manchu soldiers garrisoned in Chekiang before the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty in 1911/12. With the exception of the Muslims and some Christians, the religious affiliation of the entire population in the province may be characterized as a complex of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. This form of religion is generally tolerated by the People's Republic, though the monks are required to engage in productive work to earn a living.

The economy
      Chekiang is one of the more prosperous of China's provinces, leading the country in farm productivity in the tea industry and second only to Szechwan in sericulture (the raising of silkworms to produce raw silk). Its agriculture is among China's most diversified, with less than half its farm output by value coming from food or cash crops.

      Because of the province's hilly topography, only about one-fifth of its land surface is arable. Two-fifths of the cultivated land lies in northern Chekiang, in the Yangtze Delta and on the southern shore of Hang-chou Bay. About four-fifths of Chekiang's arable land is irrigated—one of the highest ratios in eastern or southern Asia—and about two-thirds of the arable land is used to grow staple food crops—rice, wheat, barley, corn (maize), and sweet potatoes. The rest of the farmland grows either green fertilizer crops or such industrial crops as cotton, jute, ramie (a shrub yielding a fibre used for textiles), rapeseed, sugarcane, and tobacco. Most farmers also raise pigs and poultry on their small private plots, and many also raise fish in village ponds, reservoirs, or lakes and rear silkworms during the slack farming season in spring. In the well-watered hilly areas, tea is grown. All these activities provide a second income for peasant households.

      Rice is the chief staple food and is grown widely throughout Chekiang Province, although the well-watered northern plains constitute the most productive area of cultivation. Both single-cropping and double-cropping systems are followed in paddy (rice field) cultivation. Since 1949 double-cropping of rice has been vigorously promoted, and its share in the rice acreage has increased to one-half of the total.

      Chekiang has four principal tea (tea production) districts. The Hang-chou district produces the famous Lung-ching (Dragon Well) green tea. The P'ing-shui district has the largest tea acreage and the highest production of processed tea. The other two districts are Chien-te, in the southwest, and Wen-chou, in the southeastern hilly region. World War II caused serious damage to the tea industry as tea gardens were abandoned and aging shrubs were not replaced. During the 1950s a systematic rehabilitation and development program was undertaken. Improved methods of tea cultivation and processing were introduced and new orchards established, and the province resumed its position as China's leading tea producer.

      Sericulture is another of Chekiang's traditionally famous industries. The principal silkworm-rearing areas are on the T'ai Lake plain. Secondary districts are located in the northeast and the northwest. These areas, which have a long history of sericulture, yield a consistently high quality of silk from the cocoons. The industry, like the tea industry, suffered serious damage during World War II and the civil war that followed, but vigorous measures to restore production have raised output.

      The Chekiang coast lies at the convergence of western Pacific warm and cold currents. Its rivers carry rich organic material into the shallow waters above the continental shelf. As a result, many kinds of fish come there to spawn. More than 100 varieties of fish are found there. Important commercial catches include drums (or croakers), cutlass fish, and cuttlefish. The rapid growth of fishing has required readjusting fishing quotas to protect the fishing banks from overexploitation. A flourishing aquaculture industry has been developed, producing kelp, the edible red algae Porphyra (used in making soups and condiments), shellfish, and other marine products.

      Most of Chekiang's wealth derives from light industry. This in part reflects the province's historic role as a commercial and handicraft centre and a significant textile producer since the 1890s.

      The province has few exploitable minerals, although local low-grade coal deposits are mined and consumed in a number of locations. China's largest fluorspar mine is located in southwest Chekiang and has been worked since the early 1930s. Oil exploration has been undertaken in the East China Sea off Wen-chou. Industrial development has been stimulated by the growth of electric power generation based on Chekiang's fast-flowing rivers. The Hsin-an River hydroelectric plant is one of the largest in China.

      Hang-chou has become a major industrial city since 1949 and produces a wide range of industrial and consumer goods, including machinery, textiles, agricultural implements, chemicals, radios, and televisions. Ning-po is also a major industrial centre, producing tractors, electronics, and petrochemicals. The province has become a major exporter with a number of specialized export centres for light industrial products and handicrafts. The designation of Ning-po and Wen-chou as two of China's “open” cities has stimulated the planning of foreign investment and technology transfer programs, and Chekiang has been included in the Shanghai special economic zone.

      A flourishing handicraft industry is located mostly in rural villages. Nationally and internationally known products include the porcelain of Lung-ch'üan, the silk umbrellas and tapestry of Hang-chou, embroideries, laces, wood and stone carvings, inlay ware, and a host of other products of Chinese folk art.

      The rivers play an important role in the province's transport; about half of the total freight volume travels on these inland waterways. The remainder of the freight volume is moved mostly by road, though heavier goods are often moved by rail, especially for longer distances. Although there are numerous harbours along the Chekiang coast, coastal shipping accounts for only a small percentage of the total freight volume. The Shanghai–Hang-chou railway is the most important trunk line, connecting western Chekiang with east and North China. The Chekiang–Kiangsi line links Chekiang with South and central China. The Hang-chou–Ning-po railway connects the southern littoral of Hang-chou Bay with the Chekiang–Kiangsi and the Shanghai–Hang-chou lines. A modern highway network with its primary centre at Hang-chou connects the province with the cities of Shanghai and Nanking and with the provinces of Anhwei and Fukien.

Administration and social conditions
      Chekiang Province was governed as part of the East China greater administrative region from 1950 until it came under the direction of the central government in 1954. It is divided into four prefectures (ti-ch'ü) and six prefecture-level municipalities (shih). Below this are counties (hsien) and county-level municipal districts (shih-hsia-ch'ü).

      From 1958 to the late 1970s the administrative unit below the county was the commune. All administrative units, from the province downward, were theoretically governed by assemblies elected through indirect elections but actually run by local party leaders. In 1980 the People's Government and People's Congress were created to take over functions from Cultural Revolution-era governments.

      Chekiang has a strong tradition of locally supported education. Its levels of adult literacy and primary-level educated citizens are above the national average. The province boasts more than 20 institutions of higher learning.

Cultural life
      During the Nan (Southern) Sung dynasty (Song dynasty) (1127–1279) the political and cultural centre of China moved from the North to western Chekiang. The Hang-chou area became the homeland of a galaxy of famous painters (including a Sung emperor), as well as of calligraphers, poets, essayists, philosophers, and historians. The beauty of Lin-an (modern Hang-chou), the Nan Sung capital, was immortalized by the landscape painters Hsia Kuei and Ma Yüan. The cosmopolitan legacy has lingered on in provincial pride and national stereotypes that often depict the Chekiang people as both cultured and affected. Various national and regional operatic traditions flourish, including the famous Yüeh opera of Shao-hsing. There are many distinct regional subcultures, with their own musical and culinary traditions.

History
      Before the 8th century BC western Chekiang was a part of the ancient state of Wu, while eastern Chekiang was the land of Yüeh (Yue) tribes. In about the 6th century BC the two subregions became the rival kingdoms of Wu and Yüeh. The heartland of the Wu state lay in southern Kiangsu Province, whereas that of Yüeh occupied the coastal area to the south of the Ch'ien-t'ang Estuary where it merges into Hang-chou Bay. Yüeh and Wu engaged in constant warfare from 510 until 473 BC, when the Yüeh conquered Wu, after which the victorious kingdom became a dominant power in the Chinese feudal empire, nominally headed by the Tung (Eastern) Chou dynasty. Yüeh was itself subsequently subjected, first by the kingdom of Ch'u in 334 BC and then by the kingdom of Ch'in in 223 BC.

      Yüeh (consisting of Chekiang and Fukien) was quasi-independent during the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). Chekiang later formed a part of the kingdom of Wu (220–280). During the T'ang (618–907) and Sung (960–1279) dynasties, Chekiang was divided into Che-hsi (Western Chekiang) and Che-t'ung (Eastern Chekiang), which became the traditional geographic divisions of the province. Lin-an was made capital of the Chinese empire during the Nan Sung dynasty, and its population in 1275 was estimated at about 1,000,000. Marco Polo (Polo, Marco), who visited the city, described it as the finest and noblest in the world. Odoric of Pordenone also visited the city, which he called Camsay, then renowned as the greatest city of the world, of whose splendours he, like Marco Polo and the Arab traveler Ibn Baṭṭūṭah, gave notable details. Chinese, Mongols, Nestorian Christians, and Buddhists from different countries lived together peaceably in the city during this period. Hang-chou continued to be a great cultural centre until 1862, when it was destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion. Of its citizens, 600,000 were slaughtered, while the rest either drowned themselves or else perished from starvation and disease. Hang-chou did not fully recover from this disaster, but it was eventually rebuilt and underwent gradual modernization.

      Foreign penetration of Chekiang began in the 1840s with the opening of Ning-po as a treaty port city. Ning-po merchants gradually established commercial networks in Shanghai and along the coast. In 1913 a railroad linking Hang-chou (Hangzhou) to Shanghai was built. During the Chinese Revolution of 1911–12 the moderate landed elite seized power, but the province soon fell into the hands of warlords and became in the mid-1920s the power base of Sun Ch'uan-fang. In the late 1920s the province became a base of power for the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) of Chiang Kai-shek, who was born at Feng-hua near Ning-po (Ningbo). The Chekiang elite came to dominate the Nationalist regime, and the province benefited from modernization programs introduced between 1928 and 1937. The Japanese occupied much of Chekiang after 1938, but the harbour at Wen-chou (Wenzhou) remained in Chinese hands from 1938 to 1942.

Frederick Fu Hung Victor C. Falkenheim

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Universalium. 2010.

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