The City of Jinan – the capital of a large coastal province (present-day Shandong Province) that is situated on the southern shores of the Gulf of Bohai in northeastern China, into which gulf the Huang He ("Yellow River") empties – is inarguably one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization. Archeological evidence of agriculture (rice cultivation) dating as far back as the Houli Culture (BCE 6500-5500), an Early Neolithic (BCE 10,000-5,000) culture, has been found in Jinan. Well-preserved examples of perfectly symmetrical (bearing testimony to the use of the pottery wheel), highly-polished thin-walled black pottery (aptly termed "egg-shell" pottery) belonging to the Late-Neolithic-period (BCE 5000-2000) Longshan Culture (BCE 2500-1700) have been unearthed in Jinan. The Longshan Culture may have been the first true civilization (measured in terms of social stratification and the differentiation of labor) that arose in China, as it was a mass phenomenon, as opposed to earlier cultures that arose in present-day Shandong Province but which were characterized by smaller, autonomous enclaves.*
The City of Jinan is also an important part of China's later, pre-Imperial history and culture. It is the site of the famous Chengzi Cliff, part of the stretch of wall fortifications that were built by the then State of Qi, the last state of pre-Imperial China to be conquered by the emerging State of Qin, which state then became the first consolidated power to rule over what was later considered as China proper, making Qin the first Chinese empire (the famous Great Wall was built during the Qin (BCE 221-207) Dynasty).
Jinan is also home to the Stone Shrine, the oldest surviving surface edifice in China, part of the Guo Family Mausoleum built in the 1st century BCE on Xiaotang Hill during the Western Han (BCE 206 - CE 9) Dynasty. Liubu, on the outskirts of Jinan, is home to the Four-Door Pagoda, China's oldest stone pagoda, which dates from the Sui (CE 581-618) Dynasty. The Thousand-Buddha Hall of Lingyan Temple, Jinan, is famous among Buddhists the world over for its 40 exceptionally well-crafted, exceptionally expressive arhats (i.e., a figure depicting an arahant, or one who has attained the ultimate goal of enlightenment, or nirvana, by following in the footsteps of the first such arahant, the Buddha himself, who rediscovered the path to enlightenment and taught it to his followers) that date back to the Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasty. As well, Jinan is situated close to Mt Tai, chief among the Five Famous High Mountains sacred to Taoism, and it is also situated close to the village of Qufu, sacred to Confucianism as it is the birthplace of Confucius himself.
The City of Springs
Since ancient times, Jinan has rightfully been called "the city of springs", owing to its many naturally-occurring springs, of which Baotu Spring, Pearl Spring, Black Tiger Spring, and Five-Dragon Pool Spring are the most renowned, but the city is also renowned for its many willow trees which impart a quintessentially Chinese atmosphere (eg., the similarity of certain calligraphic brush strokes to the willow leaf is striking). In addition to its many springs, Jinan is also surrounded by mountains such as Five Peak Mountain and Qianfo Mountain, and is home to the very large, very famous lake, Daming Lake. It is said of Jinan that "half the beauty of the city is represented by its wonderful lake landscapes". It is no wonder then, that Jinan has attracted generations of scholars who were either famous before their arrival, or who established their reputations while residing in Jinan.
Location of Jinan
* A glance at a map of China can easily explain why a large-scale settlement might logically arise here, as the Gulf of Bohai – itself a landward extension, beyond the Gulf of Korea, of the gulf-like Yellow Sea – besides providing protection from the wind and from the ravages of the open sea, including protection from typhoons, also provided a rich store of food for early settlers in the form of fishes and shellfish. Moreover, the Yellow River itself provided further stores of fishes – and its delta perhaps provided the ideal conditions for the cultivation of rice, as the archeological record suggests – as well as providing a natural means of transportation, however primitive the vessels may have been for the period.