In today’s Linyi, history is everywhere. But recent events have in some ways fundamentally altered the character of the city. War, long banished from China, has left its mark on Linyi.
During the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945) and the Civil War (1945-1949), Linyi was a key stronghold of the Communist-led army.
Linyi was home to a whole generation of revolutionists. Among its 4.2 million strong population at that time, 1.2 million gave their support in some form or another to the People’s Liberation Army during the Civil War. As many as 200,000 Linyi natives joined in the army; over 100,000 lost their lives in battle here.
War has left its mark on Linyi, but the visible scars have long faded. Today the city’s highrises and broad avenues attest to the economic success Linyi has enjoyed in recent decades. The river, as ever, figures prominently in local development. Plans are underway to construct new urban regions along its course.
Natural beauty and historical legacy place Linyi firmly on the tourist trail in China. The rolling mountain ranges, collectively known as Mt. Yimeng, stand tall as the local tourism star; their lower slopes burst forth in vivid green in spring, and hikers clambering up them can look down and spot flocks of sheep and herds of cattle lazily grazing their time away. Heading back to the city after a day on the mountain, the Yi River cools the evening breeze and makes for an idyllic backdrop to an evening meal.
Mengshan Mountain is the second highest peak in Shandong Province, overshadowed only by Mount Tai, one of China’s “Big Five” peaks. Confucius is reputed to have said that when standing on Mengshan Mountain, one feels the whole of Shandong Province is at one’s feet. But when standing atop Mount Tai, one gazes down upon the whole world.
Yimeng Mountain National Geological Park is also near the city. The park stretched over six counties and is home to many rare geological structures and scenic spots. The underground karst limestone caves in the park’s Yishui County are rarely seen in northern China. The size of these caves, the variety and quantity of mineral deposits and the rapid rate of water flow in the underground streams in them all make Linyi’s cave complexes something of a geological miracle. One has to travel thousands of miles south to see similar formations. In one of the caves runs the world’s longest subterranean river. Tourists with nerves of steel can go rafting down a two-kilometer stretch of the river.
Ensuring the Yishui caves have survived to this day has required protection measures from the local government. And just like the region’s nature, Linyi’s culture has benefited from local policies to ensure the city’s legacies and history are not lost.
Part of this push is to bring traditional culture back into modern lives. In line with this goal, the government has sponsored a number of high quality cultural dramatic and musical productions that gained national airtime. The city also runs a calligraphy cultural festival and a festival to celebrate the achievement of Zhuge Liang.
According to The Analectsof Confucius, Zeng Ziyu, a disciple of Confucius, once described his perfect day to his master. He said: “It is late spring, and I shed winter apparel. I bathe in the Yi River and feel the breeze on the slope in the company of a dozen friends. After, we all walk back to town, singing along the way.” Confucius, on hearing Zeng’s ideal, exclaimed, “You know what? I agree with you.”
Confucius may have passed on long ago, and skyscrapers may dot Linyi’s modern skyline, but Zeng’s perfect day still sounds pretty good to me.