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The Yucheng Post
Yucheng Post = yú chéng yí = 盂城驿 Say "yoo-we-chuhng yee"
The Yucheng Post. S. Harnsberger photo. Click photo for a Yucheng Post Slideshow
The Yucheng Post
and museum is one of Gaoyou’s most significant historic sites. The
post, also know as the Mengcheng Post (孟mèng=great),
is the complex of buildings where postal carriers on the ancient
post system changed horses, rested, ate, and transferred the mail.
It is the largest and best preserved example of an ancient courier
station in China, and can be found just out side the southern gate
of Old Town near the Grand Canal. The post is defined by the
distinctive Drum Tower (鼓gǔ=drum, 楼lóu=tower)
that stands out among the one story buildings that surround it,
making it a local landmark.
Although Gaoyou was a stop on the postal system since 221 BC, the
Yucheng Post was built much later. It was during the Ming Dynasty
that Huang Keming, who had jurisdiction over the Gaoyou area,
established the Yucheng Post. The date was the 8th year (AD 1375) of
the reign of Honwu (1368-1399).
Gaoyou’s location made it an ideal place for a post station. Since
the Song dynasty, the city has been a junction for traffic,
transport, and post office communication. A prime reason is the
city’s location adjacent to the Grand Canal, which connects the
Chinese capital Beijing and the city of Hangzhou, 1100 miles to the
south in the province of Zhejiang. For thousands of years the Grand
Canal has been an important artery for travel on the inland
Because the Yucheng Post was adjacent to the Grand Canal, the
imperial special messengers could not only change horses, but
utilize boats and ferries, which were at their disposal. These
resources differentiated the Yucheng Post from other post offices
with it being much larger, and offering a broader range of services.
The Gaoyou post station not only functioned as post office as one
might think of it today, it also was a place for ambassadors and
other official travelers to rest and recuperate. Since the station
lies at the Grand Canal, and is near Gaoyou Lake, it was also a
junction for grain transport. Another function of the post office
station was to facilitate prisoner transportation. The prisoners,
who may have been on a long journey to other regions, were placed
overnight in temporary detention cells.
The Yucheng Post complex contains more than 80 buildings of various
types, covering an area of over 1.3 hectares (3.2 acres). After its
construction in 1375, it had over 200 workrooms, with 200 people
working at the station. Included in the complex were dozens of
workrooms, rest rooms, 14 kitchens, three large and several small
depots, one honor temple, 20 stables, three drum towers, an honor
gate as well as boat
landing docks on the Canal. One hundred thirty horses and 18 boats
were available for the couriers to use. The Yucheng Post Station
continued to grow and develop over the years, adding buildings as
needed to support its mission.
The architecture of the post is exquisite. The fine woodcarvings fully
reflect both the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty, and the
rich substance of the folk custom and local culture in northern
The post stations were once important state institutions in China. The
stations themselves and the postal ways or routes between stations
were under strict national protection. These postal ways were
considered important veins for communication, and were closed to
common people. Those who dared to block the post routes, or
interfered with the couriers, received the death penalty.
The life of a rider or messenger at the post office was very hard. In a
time without modern communication, the mail carriers’ carried their
messages around the clock, from one place to another. In addition,
if the message was of great importance each special messenger had to
ride at least 400 kilometers (248 miles) a day. With military
messages, secrecy was also a concern. The post office rider thus
could not take any breaks along the way. In each post office
station, the messenger exchanged his exhausted horse for another. In
this way, secret military messages could be carried around
Disastrous fires have heavily damaged the Yucheng Post several
times. Nevertheless, with its role as a vital link in the post
system, it was rebuilt each time.
Large-scale repairs and expansion were carried out in 1890. After
the founding of the Republic of China in 1911 the post was abandoned
as modern means of communication developed. A two-year refurbishment
project started in 1993, with the most important buildings being
rebuilt to their original state. In 1995, the Yucheng Post was
opened as the only post museum in China, and is now one of China's
major cultural relic protection units.
People who visited Gaoyou have described the Yucheng Post Museum as
fascinating, and highly recommend a visit. I know I won’t miss it on
my next visit.
Resources for “The Yucheng Post”
A book available for purchase at the China Post office in Gaoyou,
Gaoyou - A Famous Historical and Cultural City;
Author and publisher unknown.
Gaoyou Municipal Government page on the website www.gaoyou.gov.cn
(12/05 Note: The Gaoyou Government website has changed since this page was written.
There is no longer an English language page)
A page titled "Poststation in Gaoyou" on the German language website de.chinabroadcast.cn
Yucheng Post (盂yú=jar,
Mengcheng Post (孟mèng=great)
Drum Tower (鼓gǔ=drum, 楼lóu=tower)