The prefecture-level city of Meizhou, located in the eastern part of Guangdong Province near the juncture of Guangdong, Jiangxi and Fujian Provinces, spans an area of some 16,000 square kilometers (1,600,000 hectares, or 3,953,686 acres). The city lies about 100 kilometers inland, being situated roughly midway between the cities of Guangzhou and Fuzhou. The city's - and the local river's - name is derived from the plum trees (mei means "plum blossom") that abound here. The Mei River runs eastward through the city, linking up with the Han River at Sanhezhen, about 50 kilometers, as the crow flies, east-northeast of the city of Meizhou.
Located mostly in a valley surrounded by an arc of mountains from the northwest to the southeast - and yet more mountains farther west - but with the valley spreading out in a southwesterly direction, Meizhou's terrain slopes from north to south, with many hills on the northern side, where the surrounding mountains are closest to the city. The three principal mountain ranges that partially surround Meizhou are the Phoenix, Xiangshan and Yinna mountains, of which the latter, located south and east of Meizhou, has been dubbed "the backbone of Eastern Guangdong", since it forms a distinct ridge. Mount Yinna's highest peak - and Eastern Guangdong's highest as well - is Tongguzhang, which reaches to 1560 meters above sea level.
Roughly speaking, the city of Meizhou lies in a large basin, but seen in greater detail, there are a number of basins here divided by other topographical features such as hills and plateaus. The largest single basin in the confines of Meizhou is Xingning Basin, which spans some 300 square kilometers (30,000 hectares, or 74,132 acres). Not surprisingly, since Meizhou lies in a basin almost completely ringed by mountains, there are numerous rivers that deliver their water to the basin - in fact, 53 of them in all. The principal rivers, the Han, Mei and Ting are all connected, since the northern reaches of the Han is the Ting, which becomes the Han at the confluence of the Mei and Han near the city of Sanhezhen.
Except for a small, She ethnic minority enclave of some 2000 souls, the city of Meizhou is inhabited entirely by the Hakka people, one of China's official 55 ethnic minorities, even though they are a sub-culture belonging to the Han Chinese ethnic majority.
Like the other Han Chinese in Guangdong Province, the Hakka arrived here as immigrants, as the next section explains...
A Brief History
The present-day city of Meizhou has a long history stretching back to the Qin (BCE 221-207) Dynasty, when Han Chinese people from central China migrated to the area of present-day Guangdong Province, which was under official Imperial administration, though it was largely allowed to exist on its own terms (Imperial China, down through the ages, had many such pockets of the empire that had been officially annexed but where the local tribes were permitted to exist pretty much independently - Imperial China could only marshal a given number of troops to enforce Imperial rule at any given stage in the empire's history, therefore there were "gray areas" of the empire at any given time where local rule was the only rule, as long as rebellion was not attempted). The area of present-day Guangdong Province was just such a loosely controlled part of the empire.
The new immigrants to the area were not warmly welcomed by the indigenous Yue tribes, who considered them "guests" (hakka, in the Yue language), therefore the Qin Dynasty Han Chinese who arrived in Baiyue ("Hundred Yue") territory - aka Nanyue ("Southern Yue") Kingdom - found themselves an unoccupied corner of the territory where they could live more or less in peace, that area being the large basin in which the present-day city of Meizhou is situated. The Hakka people settled in a part of Nanyue Kingdom where they continued to live in isolation and thus preserved the customs that would later make them a genuine Chinese ethnic minority, even though they were originally of Han Chinese origin (the Han Chinese equivalent of the Galapagos Islands?).
In CE 226, during the Three Kingdoms (CE 220-280) Period, Guangdong was established as an independent province, Guang Province. During the following period - the Western Jin (CE 265-316) and Eastern Jin (CE 317-420) Dynasties - a massive migration of Han Chinese from the warring north to the Nanyue Kingdom took place, producing what was called the Lingnan culture, or 'the Central Plains culture meets the Five Ridges culture', the latter culture being a Han Chinese term to describe the culture of the Nanyue Kingdom. The new Han Chinese arrivees, unlike the previous wave of Han Chinese immigrants, arrived in massive numbers and possessed a highly developed culture, so they quickly dominated the region, though they mixed Han Chinese cultural elements with Yue cultural elements, producing, as indicated, the unique Lingnan culture. The result of this mix was that the Yue were gradually assimilated into the Lingnan culture, while the Hakka remained apart from their estranged Han Chinese cousins.
During the Southern and Northern Dynasties (CE 386-588) period, the Qi State (CE 479-501) of the Southern Dynasties (CE 420-588) period annexed the area comprising the present-day city of Meizhou, designating it as Jingzhou. After the troubled period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the entire area of Nanyue Kingdom was reorganized as Lingnan Circuit (a circuit being a political entity of the period) during the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty, the eastern part of which was eventually given its own administration, Guangnan East Circuit, during the Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasty. Prior to the creation of Guangnan East Circuit - or between the Tang and Song Dynasties - the city of Jingzhou was established as Jingzhou Prefecture during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (CE 907-960) Period.
It was during the Northern Song (CE 960-1127) Dynasty that the city's name was changed to Meizhou, then was upgraded to Meizhou Prefecture during the Yuan (CE 1271-1368) Dynasty, only to be merged with Chaozhou Prefecture druing the Ming Dynasty. Meizhou was reorganized in CE 1734 during the reign (CE 1722-1735) of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty as part of Jiaying Prefecture. Jingzhou cum Jingzhou Prefecture cum Meizhou cum Meizhou Prefecture cum Chaozhou Prefecture cum Jiaying Prefecture was again frequently transferred to various other local political jurisdictions - or renamed (for example, to Meixian Prefecture) - during the post-Qing Dynasty period, but the city was finally renamed Meizhou in 1988.
Many prominent historical figures have either spent vacations in Meizhou or have stayed here for longer periods. These include: Han Yu (768-824), the Tang Dynasty Neo-Confucianist; Wen Tianxiang (1236-1283), a scholar-general of the Southern Song Dynasty; and Zhu Zhishan (1460-1526), the Ming Dynasty calligrapher famous for his highly unique cursive script; and others who left residences such as Huang Zunxian (1848-1905), the late Qing Dynasty period writer and poet (to learn more about the Huang Zunxian residence, click here); Qiu Fengjia (1864-1912), the late Qing Dynasty - early Republic of China educator, poet and patriot who served under Dr. Sun Yat-sen; Lin Fengmian (1900-1991), modern painter and art teacher known for his outstanding ability to blend Chinese and Western themes; and Marshal Ye Jianying (1897-1986), Communist era general and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress from 1978 to 1983.
Many of the distinctive buildings of the city of Meizhou were built by wealthy Hakka who returned to settle in their beloved hometown, often built in a style that blends traditional Hakka vernacular architecture with classical Western elements. In fact, Meizhou is home to thousands of businessmen and artists who have made a successful career abroad and have returned to their natal city to retire. In addition, there are large Meizhou expat communities especially in Hong Kong and Macau, and on Taiwan - about 2 million such expats in these places alone. There are in all some 4 million Meizhou expats living abroad in 70 different countries.
There are also numerous natural, historical and cultural sites of interest to the visitor in Meizhou. These include: the Tang Dynasty Lingguan Temple and Five-Fingers Peak on Mount Yinna (to learn more about Lingguan Temple and Mount Yinna, click here); Yuankui Tower in Songkou; Lianfang Tower (aka Huaqiao Weiwu in Hakkaese, the weiwu being a large type of vernacular dwelling suited for an entire Hakka clan); Mount Shengguan; Mount Nantai; Changtan 'A Gleam of Sky' in Jiaoling; Fengxi Natural Reserve; Heshui Reservoir in Xinning; Yitang Reservoir in Wuhua; Pankeng Waterfall; Fengshun Hot Springs (to learn more about Fengshun Hot Springs, click here); the Pagoda of a Thousand Buddhas (to learn more about Pagoda of a Thousand Buddhas, click here); Huangfengwo Chashan ("Yellow Feng Tea Mountain") Tourist Zone; and Yannanfei Tea Terraces Plantation Resort, where one can stay at a modern hotel and take a stroll through a tea plantation with ancient roots - of the figurative kind (to learn more about Yannanfei Tea Terraces Plantation Resort, click here).
Hakka cuisine is famous. The Hakka, by necessity, learned to use tofu (soybean curd) in place of wheat flour to make their traditional Han Chinese dumplings, and today they make a special dish called Yong tau foo, or tofu stuffed with meat. Another Hakka favorite is salt baked chicken. The Hakka also eat dog, and they have a long tradition for making beef preserves and preserved mustard cabbage (Mei Gan Cai), as well as ginger candies. Local produce includes the golden pomelo (Citrus maxima or Citrus grandis), a native citrus fruit, and Dancong Tea (Dancong Tea, among others, is grown on Tea Mountain - to learn more about the teas grown on Tea Mountain, click here).
The weather is a typical subtropical monsoon climate with ample rain during the summer months, but cooler in the early spring and late fall. The daytime to nighttime temperature can vary immensely, especially on the mountains, so layered clothing - and rain gear if one visits during the summer - is a must.
Lastly, Meizhou is crazy about football, both as participants and as a spectator sport. For example, Meizhou supplies many Chinese football teams - from the local to the regional to the national level - with first-rate footballers.