Yanqing: A Land of Mingling Civilizations

  • offcial website of Beijing Expo 2019 2016-03-28 08:50:35

Yanqing has been a land of plenty since ancient times, with local culture deeply imbedded in the both old and young land that was initially known as Guichuan. Tremendous changes have taken place with the passage of time. Nowadays, Yanqing is characterized by its diverse and inclusive culture with great profundity and dynamics.

    Han Culture Integrated with Cultures of Ethnic Minorities

Over the past dynasties, Yanqing witnessed many wars and complicated political transformations, as well as frequent population migrations. Consequently, local culture underwent huge changes throughout the process of its continuity. Since ancient times, Yanqing has served as an important passage linking inland China to Inner Mongolia, northwest and northeast parts of the country. In wartimes, those who controlled the passage would hold the lifeline for troop movement and supply transportation. Therefore, it became a place of strategic significance. In peacetimes, Yanqing served as an important link for exchange between the north and the south. Historically, emperors, empresses, officials, armies, and merchants passing and temporarily staying in Yanqing brought cultures from different regions, so it is inevitable for the indigenous culture to be influenced by external cultures.

Despite the fact that the majority of local residents are the Han Chinese, Yanqing is an area inhabited by various ethnic groups. From the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.) to the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), the Shanrong tribe lived in Yanqing for a long time. The area was ruled by northern nomadic minorities during the Liao (907-1125), Jin (1115-1234), and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), more than 170 Dada people paid allegiance to the Ming court and settled down in Yanqing. In the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), people from the Eight Banners held two thirds of Yanqing's farmlands through the enclosure movement, and built many banner villages there as settlements for Manchu and Mongolian immigrants

    Farming Culture Incorporated with Nomadic Culture

According to historical records, the folk customs of Yanqing were as follows: "Locals treated each other with courtesy; Men grew crops, while women did weaving and sewing." All of these are characteristics of typical farming culture. Meanwhile, "local people were brave and tough, excelled in horse riding, and upheld righteousness and loyalty," which showcase the temperaments of nomadic people. The land of Yanqing crossed the Great Wall. A military fortification in ancient China, the Great Wall had long served as a boundary between farming people and nomadic people, as well as a convergence between the grassland culture and the central China culture. Thus, it provides conditions for the two kinds of cultures to communicate, complement and integrate with each other. With the farming culture as the mainstay, the Yanqing culture also absorbed elements from northern nomadic people. In his Records of Southern City, Zhao Gong, a minister of rituals in the Ming Dynasty who was responsible for the reconstruction of Longqing Prefecture, wrote that: "Inhabitants in the border area prefer martial arts than literary accomplishments, and are good at archery, horse riding, and hunting." This is the most vivid description of the nomadic elements of the Yanqing culture.

Yanqing is situated in northern China, and most of its inhabitants are northerners. Apart from aboriginals, the majority of local residents came from Shanxi Province and the areas inside the Juyong Pass. For this reason, the Yanqing culture has obvious characteristics of the northern culture. Meanwhile, there are some residents who came from central and southern China. In particular, the Yanqing culture was influenced by cultures of the central and southern China that were brought by immigrants from Jianghuai area. People from central and southern China came to Yanqing in two ways: One was the army. In 1372, the third year of the Hongwu reign of the Ming Dynasty, the Longqing Post was set up at Badaling to the north of the Juyong Pass. Most soldiers stationing there came from central China and Jianghuai area. They defended military posts and reclaimed wastelands, and many of them later settled down in Yanqing. The other was exiled officials. After 1414, Yanqing set up several reclamation settlements for exiled officials, some of whom came from central and southern China. After their exile, they settled down in Yanqing together with their families. Despite their limited number, those officials boasted notable literary accomplishments and exerted wide influence. There were also magistrates and military officers who came from central and southern China to work in Yanqing, as well as native officials who ever worked in central and southern China and returned to Yanqing after their retirement. For instance, Hu Yong, a native of Yanqing's Yongning Town and the 14th-generation descendant of Hu Dahai (a founding father of the Ming Dynasty), and his father both ever held government positions in southern China. Hu Yong ever served as a military command in Hunan. His son, Hu Wei, was governor of Hubei. After they resigned from the government, the three generations of the Hu family moved back to Yongning Town in Yanqing. Doubtlessly, retired officials like them brought to Yanqing cultural information from central and southern China.

    Folk Culture Inheriting Royal Culture

Over nearly 500 years since the Ming Dynasty, Yanqing has been under the direct jurisdiction of the capital. So, it is not surprising that its culture was under the influence of the royal culture. Such influence was closely associated with the rulers' advocacy. Due to the fact that the indigenous culture of Yanqing has a longer history, its original local culture remains the mainstay of today's Yanqing culture. On the basis of the so-called indigenous culture, Yanqing absorbed some essence of the royal culture to enrich its local culture.

Therefore, the Yanqing culture is not only unlike that of central China, but also differs from that of other parts of northern China. Such difference is not only reflected on folk customs, but also other aspects including production mode, architecture, clothing, dieting, folk arts, dialect, and slangs. All of these showcase the unique charm of the Yanqing culture.