This historical city in southern Hunan province is worthy of spending a week there for its beautiful landscape, abundant ancient sites and delicious local food.
Master Huineng (AD 638-713) is worshiped by Buddhist followers as the sixth and last patriarch of Zen Buddhism, but few people know about the story of a seventh patriarch. After Huineng’s nirvana, Zen Buddhism was divided into five schools. In 1552, monk Xiufeng of the Linji school died at today’s Yangmingshan Temple in Shuangpai county, Yongzhou of Hunan province. In the following several hundred years, Xiufeng has been regarded as a living Buddha and the seventh patriarch of Zen Buddhism for his thoughtful teachings and noble morality, and Yangmingshan Mountain has therefore become a holy site for Buddhism.
Picturesque Yangmingshan Mountain is not just popular for the legend of the seventh Zen patriarch. In late April and early May, the mountain is usally packed with wild red and purple azalea that can spread over thousands of hectares, while the Yangmingshan Temple is the best locale to appreciate this masterpiece of the nature.
Yongzhou is a blessed place where the Xiangjiang River and Xiaojiang River meet. The process of industrialization was slower here compared with other cities across the nation during the 1980s and 90s due to transportation inconvenience and its hinterland location, though manufacturing industry is gradually shifting here from neighboring Guangdong province in recent years because of lower land and labor costs. Therefore, Yongzhou’s eco-environment has largely not been damaged and green mountains and blue rivers can be seen everywhere.
Yongzhou is blessed not just for its beautiful natural landscape. The city is most known for Liu Zongyuan (AD 773-819), a great poet of Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) who was exiled to Yongzhou in AD 805 and stayed here for 10 years, during which he wrote the famous “Eight Proses in Yongzhou”. Today, people can visit the Liuzi Temple, which was first built in 1056 in Song Dynasty (AD 960 - 1279) in memory of him, to experience an intimate touch of history and to get to know better about this literature master.
Another person that makes Yongzhou special is the legendary and prehistoric Chinese leader Emperor Shun, one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors in ancient Chinese history. Shun received the mantle of leadership from Emperor Yao at the age of 53 and died at 100, after relinquishing the seat of power to Yu, who founded the legendary Xia Dynasty (21st-16th century BC). Shun is particularly renowned for his modesty and filial piety. According to history records, Emperor Shun died in the Jiuyishan Mountain area of Yongzhou when touring southern China more than 4,000 years ago. There is a grand mausoleum on Jiuyishan Mountain, which has seen hundreds of thousands of Chinese descendants from all over the world paying respect to their co-ancestor Emperor Shun every year. Jiuyishan Mountain in Ningyuan county itself is as beautiful as the mountains in Guilin of neighboring Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region for its charming karst landscape.
The above-mentioned attractions of Yongzhou seem not enough. You won’t imagine that the second largest Confucius Temple of China is located here in Ningyuan county. First built in AD 965 of Song Dynasty and repaired several times in the following dynasties, the Confucius Temple in Ningyuan boasts of being the home of the sole well-preserved dragon and phoenix stone pillars in the country. Skills embodied on the stone sculptures in the temple are amazing, some of which can not be replicated even with modern technology and equipments. The splendid Confucius Temple is a testimony of Yongzhou people’s respect to knowledge study and Chinese tradition. In ancient history, numerous locals achieved excellent results in the tests sponsored by the royal court to select officials, while in modern times Yongzhou has also nurtured many influential literature and art figures.
Yongzhou is really a land of attractive resources and a birth place of gifted talents. Its local produce is abundant – from the sky to the river, and from the mountain to the plain. Many of Hong Kong’s fruit and pork imports are just from here. Yongzhou Blood Duck and Dong’an Chicken are the two most known local dishes, while fine-quality snake wine is famous for its tonic function. So, whether you are a fan of Chinese history and culture, or a lover of natural landscape, or a gourmet of Chinese food, go to Yongzhou and spend a week there. It won’t let you down, absolutely.
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