1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hang-chow-fu

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HANG-CHOW-FU, a city of China, in the province of Cheh-Kiang, 2 m. N.W. of the Tsien-tang-Kiang, at the southern terminus of the Grand canal, by which it communicates with Peking. It lies about 100 m. S.W. of Shanghai, in 30° 20′ 20″ N., 120° 7′ 27″ E. Towards the west is the Si-hu or Western Lake, a beautiful sheet of water, with its banks and islands studded with villas, monuments and gardens, and its surface traversed by gaily-painted pleasure boats. Exclusive of extensive and flourishing suburbs, the city has a circuit, of 12 m.; its streets are well paved and clean; and it possesses a large number of arches, public monuments, temples, hospitals and colleges. It has long ranked as one of the great centres of Chinese commerce and Chinese learning. In 1869 the silk manufactures alone were said to give employment to 60,000 persons within its walls, and it has an extensive production of gold and silver work and tinsel paper. On one of the islands in the lake is the great Wên-lan-ko or pavilion of literary assemblies, and it is said that at the examinations for the second degree, twice every three years, from 10,000 to 15,000 candidates come together. In the north-east corner of the city is the Nestorian church which was noted by Marco Polo, the façade being “elaborately carved and the gates covered with elegantly wrought iron.” There is a Roman Catholic mission in Hangchow, and the Church Missionary Society, the American Presbyterians, and the Baptists have stations. The local dialect differs from the Mandarin mainly in pronunciation. The population, which is remarkable for gaiety of clothing, was formerly reckoned at 2,000,000, but is now variously estimated at 300,000, 400,000 or 800,000. Hang-chow-fu was declared open to foreign trade in 1896, in pursuance of the Japanese treaty of Shimonoseki. It is connected with Shanghai by inland canal, which is navigable for boats drawing up to 4 ft. of water, and which might be greatly improved by dredging. The cities of Shanghai, Hangchow and Suchow form the three points of a triangle, each being connected with the other by canal, and trade is now open by steam between all three under the inland navigation rules. These canals pass through the richest and most populous districts of China, and in particular lead into the great silk-producing districts. They have for many centuries been the highway of commerce, and afford a cheap and economical means of transport. Hangchow lies at the head of the large estuary of that name, which is, however, too shallow for navigation by steamers. The estuary or bay is funnel-shaped, and its configuration produces at spring tides a “bore” or tidal wave, which at its maximum reaches a height of 15 to 20 ft. The value of trade passing through the customs in 1899 was £1,729,000; in 1904 these figures had risen to £2,543,831.

Hang-chow-fu is the Kinsai of Marco Polo, who describes it as the finest and noblest city in the world, and speaks enthusiastically of the number and splendour of its mansions and the wealth and luxuriance of its inhabitants. According to this authority it had a circuit of 100 m., and no fewer than 12,000 bridges and 3000 baths. The name Kinsai, which appears in Wassaf as Khanzai, in Ibn Batuta as Khansa, in Odoric of Pordenone as Camsay, and elsewhere as Campsay and Cassay, is really a corruption of the Chinese King-sze, capital, the same word which is still applied to Peking. From the 10th to the 13th century (960-1272) the city, whose real name was then Ling-nan, was the capital of southern China and the seat of the Sung dynasty, which was dethroned by the Mongolians shortly before Marco Polo’s visit. Up to 1861, when it was laid in ruins by the T’aip’ings, Hangchow continued to maintain its position as one of the most flourishing cities in the empire.