Why towns lay claim to poets, philosophers, and emperors

Source: SCMP (7/12/17)
Why Chinese towns are so keen to lay claim to poets, philosophers and emperors
By Amy Yan

A temple honouring Liu Bang in Pei county. Photo: Handout

The case is the latest example of towns or counties on the mainland claiming links to famous ancient Chinese figures such as emperors, philosophers or poets as they try to lure investment and tourists.

Feng and Pei county administered by the city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu province have for years laid claim to the Emperor Gaozu, who was born as Liu Bang. He was the first emperor of the Han dynasty (206BC-AD220) and there are buildings and tourist spots linked to Liu in both counties.

Now the city government has ruled on the matter.

The city’s three-year plan, signed off by the central government’s State Council, says Feng county will be listed as Liu’s home town and be developed as a tourist centre. Pei county will be developed as part of Xuzhou’s central economy and as a major coal base in the province.

Internet users from Feng county are delighted and have called on their neighbours in Pei county to stop arguing about Liu’s origins. Most historians agree that Liu was born in Fengyi in what is now Feng county, but it was formerly administered under Pei county.

People in Pei county, however, are still unhappy.

A temple to Liu Bang in Pei county. Photo: Handout

Liu Zhongxin, the vice-chairman of the Han Dynasty Culture Research Institute in Pei county told the news website Thepaper.cn his area should still be named Liu Bang’s home town.

“Liu Bang was born in Fengyi, but grew up in Pei county. His career started in Pei county,” he said.

Feng county has been so keen to cash in on its links to Liu that one town previously tried to change its name from Zhaozhuang to Jinliuzhai several years ago to reflect its links to the emperor. Officials said its name did not highlight its identity as Liu’s home town, but the plan failed.

Liu Simin, vice-secretary general of the Beijing Tourism Association, told the Thepaper.cn it was normal that the two counties should battle for the title of Liu’s hometown. They were competing for links to “celebrities” who are vital for regions’ marketing, Liu said.

Other disputes over links to famous Chinese, include towns that claim ties to the eighth-century poet Li Bai. Areas in Sichuan, Hubei and Gansu provinces claim to be the home town of Li.

Five central and southern provinces claim links to the Qiao sisters, two beauties during the Three Kingdoms period about 1,800 years ago.

Even characters from fiction are the source of dispute.

Three places in Shandong and Anhui provinces claim ties with the fictional character Ximen Qing, a famous villain in the two novels The Golden Lotus and The Water Margin.

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