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A Brief History of Gaoyou
Gaoyou City History = Gāoyóu shì Lǐshì = 高邮市历史 Say: "gao-yoh shr
The first record of Gaoyou’s residents resides at the Longqiu
archeological site just north of Gaoyou. There, scientists have
uncovered a 7,000-year-old village where farmers grew rice near an
ancient river. The Chinese Government has recognized the significance of
this site and given it national level protection.
Emperor Ying Zheng founded Gaoyou in 221 BC, during the Qin Dynasty,
when he had a relay station for the postal courier system built on the
site of today’s city. This post gave Gaoyou its name, with Gaoyou
meaning “High Post”. In AD 1375, the Ming Dynasty upgraded Gaoyou’s
postal services with the building of the Yucheng Post station. Located
adjacent to the Grand Canal, the station made it possible for imperial
special messengers to not only change horses, but also utilize boats and
ferries, which were always at their disposal.
Marco Polo visited Gaoyou
In 1275, Marco Polo traveled to China, and spent
the next 17 years traveling the country for the Emperor Kublai Khan.
Polo visited Gaoyou during his travels, and wrote of Gaoyou in his book,
saying, "Gaoyou is very big and prosperous. People live mainly on trade
and handicraft business. Living necessities are abundant, especially the
fish. There are so many wild animals and birds that it only costs one
Venice corn for three pheasants, each is as big as a peacock." At the
Yucheng Post Museum there is a monument to document Polo’s visit.
Gaoyou has two ancient pagodas, the
Zhenguosi Pagodas. The
30-meter high Jingtu Pagoda, in central Gaoyou, was constructed in AD
1612 during the Ming Dynasty, and has recently gone through an extensive
renovation. The 25 meter Zhenguosi Pagoda is located on a small island
on the western side of the Grand Canal. Although the 1,100+ year old
Pagoda is in poor repair, the adjoining Buddhist temple has undergone an
extensive renovation, and a new bridge now allows access to the island.
Gaoyou Lake and the Grand Canal
In 486 BC, The Grand Canal was constructed through Gaoyou. It finally
reached its maximum length in AD 1291 stretching 1794 kilometers from
Beijing in the north, to Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province in the south. The
canal has gone through many cycles of building, use, disrepair, and
rebuilding over the centuries and has been a significant factor in the
development of China. Today the canal is still a busy waterway used to
transport massive quantities of gravel and other bulk goods for China’s
Gaoyou Lake and the Grand Canal are suspended above the surrounding
plains by an extensive system of dikes. Over the centuries, breaks in
the dikes have lead to massive floods, including a flood in 1931 that
killed as many as 3.7 million people. On the grounds of
Wenyou Tai, a
historic site on the north side of the city, there is a
to remembrance of the1931 floods featuring aerial photos of a flooded
Gaoyou taken by Charles & Anna Lindbergh.
Famous Gaoyou Residents
Several notable figures in Chinese culture and history are associated
with Gaoyou. Among them are Qin Shaoyou, a well-known poet of the Song
Dynasty; Wang Nian Sun and Wang Yin Zhi (father and son), celebrated
classics interpreters during the Qing Dynasty; Sun Yunzhu, the modern
paleontologist; and Wang Chenqi, the contemporary writer.
Resources for “A Brief History of Gaoyou”
- Dorothy Perkins, Encyclopedia of China (Checkmark Books, 2000) Pg 188
- A book available for purchase at the China Post office in Gaoyou, Gaoyou - A
Famous Historical and Cultural City Author and publisher unknown.
- Milton W Meyer, A Concise History of China, Second Edition, Revised (Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers Inc. 1994) Pgs 1-111
- Lily Ni of Gaoyou provided information about Marco Polo’s visit to Gaoyou.