Sichuan, also known as "The Land of affluence", is one of the birthplace of Chinese civilization. According to archaeological findings, primitive people lived, worked and reproduced as far back as 2.04 million years ago in this land and created an ancient civilization including a written history of 3,000 years.
During the period of Yingzhou Dynasty the area was known as "Bashu". Two kingdoms ruled today's Sichuan area, the Shu Kingdom occupied the west part; while the east part was controlled by Ba Kingdom. Ancestors of people in the Shu Kingdom were said to belong to the Qiang Nationality who lived in the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River, who immigrated along the Minjiang River valley into the Sichuan Basin. According to legends, the first kings in the Shu Kingdom were Cancong, Yufu and Baiguan.
In 316 BC, Qin State, taking advantage of the war between the Ba Kingdom and the Shu Kingdom, sent General Simacuo and his army to Sichuan and conquered the two kingdoms.
The successive emperors in ancient China all chose Chengdu as the local administration center to govern the whole Sichuan area. Since Chengdu used to be the capital of Shu Kingdom, Shu became the shortened name for Sichuan.
The Origin of the People of Sichuan
In ancient times, people of many nationalities lived in Sichuan Basin, but the major ones were Shu and Ba. They became more and more prominent by assimilating many minor nationalities. Through further development the two nationalities were integrated into one, the Sichuan people, with culture and consanguinity as their bond.
But where did the people come from? Archeologists found the fossils of ancient people who lived in a cave two million years ago in Wushan County. These primitive people could stand and walk upright. Archeologists also found the fossils of Ziyang Man in Huangshanxi, Ziyang County. Ziyang Man lived in the same time as some other primitive man did in China, such as Dali Man in Shanxi Province, the Maba Man in Guangdong Province, the Changyang Man in Hubei Province and the Upper Cave Man at Zhoukoudian near Beijing. These people were Homo sapiens and lived in the Old Stone Age.
People found more sites of the New Stone Age, about 5000-7000 years ago, including the following sites: Yingpanliang in Guangyuan, Pianduishan in Mianyang, Daxi in Wushan, Sanxingdui in Guanghan, and Lizhou in Xichang. These sites are scattered throughout the Sichuan Basin and people at this stage were engaged in farming, as well as fishing and animal husbandry.
Cities began to appear around 4,500 years ago. City ruins were found in many sites, such as Baodun Culture in Xinjing near Chengdu, Mangcheng in Dujiangyan, Sandaoyan in Pixian County, and the site of Yufu City. These sites indicate the primitive people were at the beginning of civilized societies.
The site of Sanxingdui Culture dates back 4700-3000 years ago. Remains of the site suggest that a city of around 2.6 km2 once existed. The city was divided into a residential section, a palace section and a handicraft workshop section. It had high city walls and deep entrenchments. Outside the southern city wall, thousands of unusual bronze wares, gold wares and jade wares were discovered in a sacrificial pit. These discoveries show that the ancestors of the Sichuan people had a highly developed bronze culture.
All of the above indicate the ancestors of Sichuan people created a splendid civilization more than 3000 years ago. Shu Kingdom was formed and existed shoulder to shoulder with the civilizations in central China. The kingdom lasted 1500-1600 years and ended in 316 BC. According to legends and records, the kingdom experienced the following dynasties: Cancong, Baiguan, Yufu, Duyu and Kaiming Dynasties.
Great Figures in History
Li Bing was an outstanding irrigation works engineer in the Warring States Period. He was the designer and constructor of the well-known Dujiangyan Irrigation System, a miracle of ancient Chinese ingenuity.
Under the reign of King Zhaowang of the Qin State (around 256 BC), Li Bing was appointed to be the governor of Sichuan. On seeing the severity of frequent floods, he was determined to improve the situation. After an investigation along the Minjiang River, he and his son Er Lang began to make plans and implement a project called Dujiangyan Irrigation System to control the torrent in the Minjiang River. With the help and support of the local people the project was completed years later. To ensure the project's long-term usefulness Li Bing devised an annual silt removal and maintenance plan.
The irrigation system, located in the middle reaches of the Minjiang River, consists of a water-diverging dyke, spillway, and channel. The dyke divides the Minjiang River into inner and outer flows. The inner flow is redirected to irrigate local farmland.
Ever since the completion of the system, Chengdu Plain has become a prosperous place and enjoys the name of "The Land of Abundance". Due to the scientific design and maintenance plan, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System still functions today, and it still controls the waters of the Minjiang River and distributes it to the fertile farmland of the Chengdu plains.
Because of his great contribution, Li Bing has been honored and worshiped as the "God of Sichuan". There are many temples to commemorate him. His genius is celebrated at the Two Kings Temple (Erwang Miao) near the dyke. The "two kings", of course, are Li Bing and his son, Er Lang.
Simaxiangru (179 BC – 117 BC), born in Chengdu, was the founder of a new literary genre, Han poetic prose. When he was young, he was appointed as a hunting servant for Emperor Jingdi. He resigned not long afterdue to poor health. He went to Liang State in the east, then the center of literary activities, and wrote many works, the most famous of which was "On Zixu". After the king of Liang State died, he went back to Lingqiong Town, where he met Zhuowenjun and fell in love with her. But her family didn't approve of their marriage. The couple ran away and ran a small restaurant. During this period, he wrote many works to praise free love.
After the enthronement of Emperor Wudi, Simaxiangru wrote a poetic prose "Ode to the Emperor's Hunting", and submitted it to the emperor. The emperor was pleased and promoted him to an official to take charge of the program to develop the southwestern part of China. In 127 BC, he returned to Chengdu and persuaded those who were against the program by writing the famous work "A Word to the People in Sichuan".
Li Bai (701-762AD) also known as Tai Bai, is one of the greatest poets in Chinese history. When he was five years old he moved with his father to Changlong County of Mianzhou Prefecture in Sichuan. He was taught at home and also learned swordplay. At the age of 20 he traveled around Sichuan. At the age of 25 he left Sichuan and never returned. But he had deep feelings for his hometown and wrote many popular poems about Sichuan, such as "Ode to the Narrow Paths in Sichuan" and "On Climbing Flower-scattering Pavilion in Chengdu". He led a wandering life and gained much insight toward society and life. Through recommendation he became a member of the Imperial Academy. One year later he left the post and Chang'an City (the capital city of Tang Dynasty) where he had been slandered. When the Anshi Insurgence occurred he worked as an assistant for King Yongwang to suppress the insurgence. He ended up being exiled to Yunnan. Fortunately, he was condoned during his travel to Yunnan. In his later years he roved and had a tough life.
In his life, Li Bai wrote many poems. Some poems expressed his great dissatisfaction of the ruling group and severely criticized the rulers; some poems denounced the Anshi Insurgence and sang the praises of the war against the insurgence; and some poems depicted the beautiful scenery and expressed his love for the Motherland. His poems are bold, unconstrained and imaginative in content, natural and smooth in language, and harmonious and changeable in rhythms. His poems are filled with the spirit of positive romanticism.
Li Bai created a new poem style and pushed the poem composition in Tang Dynasty to a new level. His poems are a very important part of China's classical literature.
Mythical legends about the origin of Chengdu Plain
According to the mythical legends, originally Chengdu Plain was a wide and deep sea named the West Sea. People had to live on boats generation after generation and suffered a lot. One day, a white-bearded old man came and told everybody to take sacred soil from Heaven to fill the sea. They went to Heaven and asked the emperor of Heaven for soil. But the emperor refused their request. They felt disappointed and could do nothing but wait. When the emperor fell asleep, they quickly took the sacred soil, holding it in both hands and ran away. Soon the emperor was awakened and discovered the loss of the sacred soil, and decided to take it back before five Geng that night (five Geng is equivalent to six o'clock in the morning; In ancient China, Geng was a unit to tell time during the night and there were five Gengs every night. People knew the time by a watchman's sounding the watches). The people who had stolen the soil quickly dropped the soil into the sea and land immediately grew out of the sea. The people all cheered at the sight of land. In order that the emperor in heaven wouldn't hear the sound of five Geng, the night watchmen in Chengdu didn't sound the five Geng that night. And it has been a custom for the night watchmen not to sound the five Geng ever since.
The sea became the Chengdu Plain and people started to plant rice for food and raise silkworms for silk. Through hardwork the plain was turned into fertile land. Now people like to say they can harvest anything they plant in the land of Chengdu Plain.