While there are many Zhongshan parks round about China (every major Chinese city has one, and they can even be found in Chinese expat communities abroad), there is only one Zhongshan city, namely, the city where Sun Zhongshan - aka Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the military strategist and revolutionary leader who was most instrumental in toppling the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty - was born.
The revered Dr. Sun is nothing less than a national hero to the Chinese people, including the Chinese diaspora (as a measure of the continued reverence shown Dr. Sun, China's research station in Antarctica is christened Zhongshan Antarctic Station).
Dr. Sun's contribution to ridding the Chinese people of the yoke of feudalism was also recognized by a later revolutionary, Mao Zedung, or "Chaiman Mao", as he is known in the West. The city of Zhongshan is situated on the western side of the Pearl River Estuary, roughly directly across the estuary from the city of Shenzhen, which lies just north of Hong Kong.
A Brief History
The present-day city of Zhongshan, whose original name, Xiangshan, means "Fragrant Mountain", has an ancient cultural history, but an even more interesting geological history. The reason for this, though not immediately obvious to non-geologists, is intuitive, once one comprehends it: much of the land that occupies the western bank of the Pearl River Estuary is new land, i.e., is land created by the deposition of sand and silt, thanks to the Pearl River drainage system.
Zhongshan lies on the northern edge of what was once a small, mountainous island in the then Lingding Sea that stretched from Jiangmen in the southwest to Dongguan in the northeast, and from Guangshou in the north to the South China Sea in the south. Many of the higher parts of the entire western bank of the present-day Pearl River Estuary were in fact isolated islands located in the Lingding Sea, just beyond the mouth of the Pearl River.
Over time, sedimentation connected these islands into larger entities, albeit, crisscrossed by waterways, thus creating the Pearl River Estuary in place of the Lingding Sea. And, of course, a major contributor to the sand and silt that was transported by the Pearl River to the South China Sea from rich, agricultural areas farther inland was the industriousness of the Chinese people, who were avid tillers of the soil, just as they dug canals, redirected the flow of rivers, etc., all in an effort to control their world, rather than accept the dictates of Mother Nature as an unchangable given.
Historians say that the process of the sedimentation of the Lingding Sea picked up pace during the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty - a period of renaissance in China in all respects - such that by the time of the Yuan (CE 1279-1368) Dynasty, it had doubled the area of "new land" created near the mouth of the Pearl River. Eventually, a rich alluvial plain would be formed here, filling up the Lingding Sea and leaving an estuary that stretched from the small island of Humen (the Humen Expressway crosses over it) to the South China Sea.
During the Spring and Autumn (BCE 770-476) Period of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty, the island of Xiangshan belonged to what was at the time designated as the Baiyue Isles, or the islands belonging to the Baiyue ("Hundred Yue") people who occupied not only most of the region that included present-day Guangdong Province, but also the many islands and islets scattered about in the Lingding Sea.
The island then became part of Nanhai (meaning "South China Sea") County. By the time of the Qin (BCE 221-206) Dynasty, Nanhai County had shrunk such that its eastern border only reached the city of Enping, and Xiangshan Island became a part of Panyu County, under the auspices of the city of Macau. Later still, during the Jin (CE 265-420) Dynasty, Xiangshan Island became a part of Dongguan County, where it remained through the Tang Dynasty, becoming, during the latter dynasty, Xiangshan Town, which comprised numerous small villages including Cuiheng, Dayong, Nanlang, Sanxiang, Shaxi, Shenwan, Shiqi, and Zhangjiabian.
During the Southern Song (CE 1127-1279) Dynasty, Xiangshan Town became Xiangshan County, with Nanhai, Panyu and Xinhu Counties under its jurisdiction, but where the new Xiangshan County itself was subordinated to the city of Guangzhou, which in turn was subordinated to Dongguan County. Clearly, power in the area was beginning to be consolidated along more hierarchical lines.
In the meantime, the silting of the Lingding Sea continued, with Xiangshan County growing at the expense of the Lingding Sea. In contrast, when Portuguese colonists during the middle of the Qing Dynasty period annexed Macau, Xiangshan County shrank somewhat. During the period between the Tang and the Qing Dynasties, the Linding Sea disappeared, leaving the Pearl River Estuary and a large tract of new land on the estuary's west bank that was Xiangshan County, while the land surrounding Xiangshan County's many villages became some of China's most fertile farmland.
Throughout the Tang - Qing Dynasty period, many residents of Xiangshan County - and especially the residents of the present-day city of Zhongshan - took work on foreign ships, and thus Xiangshaners were spread to the four corners of the earth. Scholars say that the village cum city of Xiangshan, for its size, produced more Chinese expats than any other Chinese city, even counting the mass migrations that would later take place from larger Chinese cities. This is because those who left returned after a few years and built houses and gardens, paved roads, etc., all of which caused the village to prosper into a city, which also brought education with it. For example, during the reign (CE 1521-1566) of the Jiajing Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (aka Emperor Shizong), 16 Xiangshaners successfully completed the highest level Imperial Examinations, while 180 Xiangshaners successfully completed the provincial level Imperial Examinations.
Many of Xiangshan's villagers could speak enough of a foreign language (English, Dutch, Portuguese, etc.) to make themselves understood, which meant that they were useful employees. The relatively wealthy residents of Xiangshan maintained contact with their brothers in the Chinatowns of Sydney, San Francisco, New York, Amsterdam, etc., supplying them with new Xiangshaners where needed, thus continuing to aid in the prosperity of Xiangshan, as each new Xiangshan expat would send money home to the family.
Eventually, Xiangshan produced a very special son, one Sun Zhongshan, who was born in the small Xiangshan County village of Cuiheng. Given the progress of Xiangshan, it is hardly a surprise that such a progressive, forward-looking city would produce the George Washington of post-Imperial China. The city of Xiangshan was renamed Zhongshan on April 15, 1925, in memory of Sun Zhongshan cum Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and barely a month after Dr. Sun's death on March 12, 1925.
There are several distinctive scenic attractions in the city of Zhongshan, which today stands out as one of the most stately cities in China, with wide boulevards bordered by colonial period architecture, interspersed with green parks that are sprinkled with numerous monuments, this tastefully adorned city serving as a tribute to Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Three tourist areas in the Zhongshan area deserve special mention:
* Sunwen Xi ("Sun Road West"), where it runs through the heart of Zhongshan Old Town as a pedestrian mall (Sunxi Pedestrian Shopping Mall). Here one will see many restored colonial period buildings that were constucted during the 1920s (to learn more about Sunxi Pedestrian Shopping Mall, click here). Zhongshan Old Town is also home to Fufeng Pagoda, which was erected in 1608 during the final years of the Ming Dynasty (to learn more about Fufeng Pagoda, click here). Beside the pagoda stands Sun Yat-sen Memorial Pavilion.
* Sunwen Memorial Park, located at the southern extremity of Xingzhong Road, is home to the world's largest sculpture, in bronze, of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (to learn more about Xingzhong Road and Sunwen Memorial Park, click here).
* The Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, located in the village of Cuiheng, is a newer structure built with the actual former residence of Dr. Sun at its heart. The memorial hall serves an educative as well as a museum function, providing a plethora of information, artifacts and exhibits on the life and times of Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
Other highlights in Zhongshan include:
* Wugui Peaks is an area known for its memorable vistas and its odd-shaped, karst rock formations, but also for its mountain streams and its waterfalls. Some say that Wugui Peaks is comparable to Mount Xiqiao near Foshan, some 10 kiolometers southwest of Guangzhou, or to Mount Luofu near the city of Huizhou, some 100 kilometers due east of Guangzhou
* Xiaolan Town, aka the "Chrysanthemum Town of Golden Petals", is justly famous for its endless varieties of chrysanthemums
* Old Sun Yat-sen Street, located just outside the Western Gate area of the old Shiqi Village district, is popular among lovers of the outdoors, thanks to its peaceful, contemplative natural surroundings marked by hills and rivers, but is also popular with conoisseurs of period architecture, as the ancient buildings here are of high cultural and aesthetic value, and
* Numerous thermal-springs resorts are located in the village of Sanxiang, where one can relax with a soothing bath that replenishes the soul while emptying the mind of life's nagging worries (to learn more about Zhongshan's thermal springs resorts, click here).