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Jingchu Culture

Jingchu Culture

Jing-chu culture gained its name from Chu state and Chu people. It was a local culture that rose in Han River region from West Zhou dynasty (1066BC~256BC) to Spring and Autumn Period (770BC~476BC).

The rise of Jing-chu tribes

Chu was also called Jing-chu, but why this state in Spring and Autumn Period was called "Chu state"? The word "Chu" originally is the name of a kind of bush which is also called "Jing (thorn)". This kind of bush is regularly seen in the forest along the Han River region in Southern China. It is the daily necessity, which can be used as firewood. Since Shang dynasty (17 centuryBC~11 century), the people in the central plains of Northern China began to call the people and minorities in the Southern region "Jingchu", just as in the << Book of Poetry ·Ode to business>> mentioned—" girls of Jingchu live in the South". The people that occupy the majority of the Chu tribe, however, is not the aborigines in Han River region, but a branch of Zhurong tribe who originally inhibited in the North(Chu people worship Zhurong as forefather). This tribe migrated to the Han River region and merged with the neighboring aboriginal people (the offspring of Jiuli tribe and Sanmiao tribe), developing into a puissant Jing-chu tribe.

During the period of confrontation with the Shang dynasty(17 centuryBC~11 century), the Jing-chu tribe also absorbed the advanced culture from Shang dynasty, creating favorable condition for its own development. At the beginning of Zhou dynasty(1066BC~256BC) , the Jing-chu tribe established its own country with the help of Zhou state—the country it went over to. Since Spring and Autumn Period, the Chu state rose abruptly. Especially after Chuzhuang Emperor ascended his throne, the state became a big power, annexing many little peripheral states.

The Chu culture that flourish in its later period

Chu State is a historical geographical concept, taking Hubei province and the Northern Hunan as its center in general and expanding to a certain extent. While the Yan tribe and Huang tribe in the North is building central plains culture, the Jiang and Han region in the South was also establishing Jiuli tribe and early phase of Chu culture, including Daxi culture, Qujialing culture and the like. Nevertheless, to the accompaniment of the Jiuli tribe was defeated by Yan tribe and Huang tribe afterwards and the subsequent Sanmiao tribe was perished by stronger tribes of central plains, the Chu culture dwindled away. Another reason for Chu culture's lag behind is that the forest and rivers in the Jianghan region prevent the residents from transforming quickly the working style from the collection, fishing and hunting to aerial farming and raising animals. The slow economic growth correspondently bounded the development of culture. Therefore, when the slavery countries such as Xia state and Shang state had emerged in the North, the fraternal society was still in power in the Chu state of the South. The various tribes who live far away from each other often suffered suppression and invasion from the central forces. But this one-thousand-year long remoteness still incubated the Chu tribe and the following countries, rendering Chu state became the hub of the communication between the southern tribes. Chu people got favorable geographical location, timing and the essence of the central plains' culture and Northern aborigine's culture, therefore initiated the exquisite and unique Chu culture.

The essence of Chu culture - The Odes of Chu

The name "the odes of Chu" was originated from Western Han Dynasty (206BC~9BC). It has double meaning. On the one hand, it represents a kind of poem carrier created by the poets of Chu state including Qu Yuan based on the folk language and music. On the other hand, it means the name for poem collection which is compiled by Liuxiang in Western Han Dynasty(206BC~9BC) and composed of the works of Qu Yuan and Songyu and those imitated by followers. Since Qu Yuan is the initiator of "the odes of Chu", his works are representative in both quantity and quality. People afterwards will definitely mention the masterpiece of Qu Yuan--<< Lisao>> when they talk about "the odes of Chu"and always use "Sao" or "Lisao" to represent "the odes of Chu"

The emergence of "the odes of Chu" can not divorce from the exclusive folk custom in Chu State. In the Han River region, people believed in witchcraft and the dancing performed in the memorial ceremony was in vogue. What's more, folk music of Chu land, which was quite different from that in the central plains had long been prevalent. All these elements provided soil for the growth of "the odes of Chu". Although the<< Book of Poetry>> collected huge amount of poems between the early stage of Zhou Dynasty and the middle stage of the Spring and Autumn Period, it failed to included one single folk song in the Chu State. (The reason may be that Chu state had been regarded as remote and barbarian region and therefore the Chu dialects can not be accepted by the central plains' people.) But from the few retained Chu music in all kinds of old scriptures, we could figure out that they have rich content , romantic narration and expression of emotion and their huge influence to the "the odes of Chu".

"The odes of Chu" is regarded as the origin of China's Romanticism Literature, exerting direct influence on the Han Poetic Essay afterwards. With other essence in the Chu culture, the "the odes of Chu" which "writes Chu language, articulate Chu sound, Record Chu State and Talk about Chu things" constructs magnificent and charming Chu civilization.

Jing-chu culture is an important component of Chinese national culture. It enjoys age long history, abundant connotation, unique local characteristics and huge potential for economic and cultural exploitation.

The connotation of Jing-chu culture

1. Shennong (the patron of agriculture) culture. Sui sub-prefecture, Gu city and Shengnongjia were the major activity region of Shennong (the patron of agriculture) where lie a lot of folklores and cultural relics. Just in this place, Shengnong (the patron of agriculture) tasted variety of herbs in person to cure the diseases among of the populace, invented agriculture and imparted on the knowledge of cultivation. His profound knowledge of history and culture represent the transformation of The Chinese civilization from the fishing and hunting period to aerial farming period.

2. History and culture of Chu state. Hubei province is the cradle land of Chu culture. As one of the strong and puissant state during the Spring and Autumn Periods, the Chu state created splendid civilization during the more than 800 years' history. Chu state established its priceless treasury house which include state-of-the-art technology of bronze moulding, spectacular skill of silk knitting and embroidery, exquisite production skill of lacquer work, deep and complicated philosophy, free and natural style prose, fantastic poems and poetic essays, melodic music, enchanting dances, imaginative and bizarre painting.

3. The Three Kingdom culture during the Qin dynasty and Han dynasty. Hubei region was the important cultural center during the Qin dynasty and Han dynasty. This region boasts of abundant literate resources, such as the Yunmeng Lakes, Shuhu area, the Qin bamboo book, Han bamboo book in Hanjia Mountain, Wangzhaojun—the imperial concubine as well as one of the most beautiful women in the ancient China, Liuxiu—the Guangwu Emperor guring Han Dynasty, and man of letters—Wangyi. In addition, the Hubei area was the battlefield for Wei state, Shu state and Wu state to pursue their own interests. That turmoil period witnessed the guileful alliance in politics, economy, military matters and foreign affairs between different states and such natural landmarks as Ancient Longzong, Red Cliff, Niaolin(Birds' Forest) and Changban slope are essential carriers of the Three Kingdom cuture.

4. Ba-tu culture in Qing Rver. The Tu minority livng in the Qing River area is the descendants of ancient Ba people. They are characterized by the eminent traits of the Ba people, including passion, modesty, industrious spirit, kind-heartedness and courage. Its tradition of marriage and funeral, sing and dancing, cuisine and raiment, architecture and transportation embody highly distinguishable features. In the meantime, the Hubei minority region centering on Enshi autonomous prefecture and Changyang, Wufeng( Five Peaks) counties are also densely occupied by the Ba-tu culture. This area is crucial area for the development of characteristic economy with chic mountains and waters and rich products.
5. Famous Mountains and Temples culture. Numerous famous mountains and waters take shape a unique mountains and temples culture. Wudang Mountain is a famous mountain for Taoism and forms Wudan culture with rich connotation. Besides, other mountains, such as Jing Mountain, Dabie Mountain, Dahong Mountain, Qiyue Mountain, Jiugong Mountain and temples like Huangmei Wuzu(Five Ancestors) Temple in Huangmei county, Yuquan( Jade Fountain) Temple in Dangyang city, Xianfo Temple in Laifeng county, Guiyuan Temple in Hanyang city, Tongbao Temple in Wuchang city, Tianxing( Stars) Daoist Temple in Jing sub-prefecture, Changchun Taoist Temple in Wuchang city, as well as cemetery like Mingxian tomb in Zhongxiang are all prominent historical places of interests and enjoy highly reputation and unique connotation.

6. The Three Gorges culture. The Yangtze Three Gorges is the most significant gorge in China, one of the most famous gorges in the world, as well as the world-renown generation base of hydroelectric power and biggest artificial lake on Earth. In accordance with the commencement of water storage and electricity generation and the successful completion of the Three Georges pivot project, its spectacular natural beauty, colorful human landscape, mysterious and romantic legends, peculiar natural conditions and social customs take shape the culture school which is tainted with profound gorge and river flavor, constructing the lively Three Gorges culture.

7. Wuhan culture in Jiang city. Wuhan situates on the convergence place of two rivers, enjoying the name of "the conjunction site of nine provinces since long ago. Since Shang (17 centuryBC~11 century) and Zhou period (1066BC~256BC), it was the strategic military point that connects the South China with the central plains. Taking panlong city of Shang dynasty as its symbol, a 3500-thousand-year history endows Wuhan with a profound cultural foundation. After Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty, Wuhan develops gradually into an industrial and commercial city in the central China and even becomes one of the important industrial bases and manufacture center in China since the modern times. In the modern history, Wuhan has been the political, economic, and cultural center for a time. As a metropolis and regional economic center in the central China, Wuhan culture is distinguished for its unique local characteristics.

Hubei province is the birth place of Jingchu culture and the political, economic, and cultural center during the ancient Chu state. Analyzing the development trail of Jing-chu culture in dual perspective of material culture and spiritual culture, one may figure out that it is the important legacy of the development of today's advanced culture.

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