one of those days

July 8th, 2007

It’s one of those days when I have to remind myself to step away from the computer and get some lunch. Remind? No, force. It’s also one of those days when my usual sifting through blogs and the news gets cast aside in favour of a sudden obsession.

Well, I got a bit bored with all my blog posts of late being the same old “I got up and brushed my teeth and got some breakfast” bollocks, and I was thinking about what else I could do to get myself more interested in my blog. It’s a sad day when you start to find your own blog boring. Anyway, as some of you may know, I have a minor obsession with lzh’s home county, Yanqing. That started with the local dialect, but I’ve also been wondering for quite some time now about the history of Yanqing.

A large part of that curiosity about Yanqing’s history is due to my occasional shallow explorations of the local dialect, but there are other factors at work here too. One of those fators is my very superficial knowledge of Chinese history- I’ve been vaguely aware for quite some time now that in the not too distant past northern Hebei, western Liaoning and large parts of southern Inner Mongolia were entirely different provinces. I then figured out that southwestern Liaoning and northeastern Hebei were the province of Johol/Rehe and that northwestern Hebei and neighbouring areas of Inner Mongolia were Chahar. Then I got to thinking, this kinda dovetails with what I’ve noticed about Yanqing’s dialect. And there’ve also been odd, random things like the day lzh and I were sifting through the old books in Panjiayuan market and we came across one coffee table book from the early ’50s which had a big huge picture of Badaling, and the caption said Badaling was in Hebei’s Yanqing County. There’s also the blindingly obvious geography, which anybody with a functioning pair of eyes travelling the Badaling Expressway or State Highway 110 in daylight hours, even on the murkiest days, could not possibly fail to notice: Yanqing is separated from the rest of Beijing by the Jundushan and lies to the north of, i.e. outside the Great Wall.

And so with lzh out with a friend for the day and me not really wanting to face the evil, murky humidity outside, I decided today would be the day I would find what I can find online about the history of Yanqing County.

So far I’ve done about all the English language googling I can tolerate- meaning I sifted through the first ten pages of results making notes of any useful stuff I find in a word document for later reference, downloading a couple of pdfs, and rambling through Wikipedia. It’s amazing just how much inane drivel from a certain evil cult shows up quite high in the search results when you google “Yanqing County”. Anyway, with the enforced lunchbreak comes me writing this and an attempt at seeing what I can find in Chinese. I guess I should also try Baidu and Google Scholar. Although, last time I used Google Scholar it turned up a hell of a lot of stuff in pdf, which is irritating.

Anyway, just for starters, I did find a couple of interesting little articles giving a very, very basic introduction to Yanqing. The first is one of the shortest wikipedia articles I’ve ever seen (although I have seen shorter), which is so short I’ll just reproduce it here:

Yanqing County (Simplified Chinese: 延庆县; Traditional Chinese: 延慶縣; Hanyu Pinyin: Yánqìng Xiàn) is situated at the suburb of northwest Beijing. The County has an area of 1,992 km² and a population of 275,433 (2000 Census). The county contains many ancient tombs and caves, as well as the popular Badaling section of the Great Wall.

Yanqing urban area (87 891 in township) has an area of 9.8 square kilometers measured from the Google Earth image and an estimated population of 100,000.[1]

No, I don’t know what happened with that formatting and font size and stuff either. Nor am I sure the links in the original article will actually work, having been first copied and pasted into a word document and then here.

There’s also this from the Beijing city government’s English website:

Yanqing County

Yanqing County, covering an area of 1,980 square kilometers,is divided into 25 townships with a population of 270,000. The county is a mountainous area with many rivers. Yanqing is also a production base of apples,shrimps,hawthorns,chestnuts and apricots.

Right, so the population of Yanqing is either 275,433, according to the 2000 census according to Wikipedia, or 270,000 according to the municipal government. Personally I’m going with the municipal government’s figure. That census figure looks suspiciously precise.

Anyway, there you have two very quick introductions to Yanqing.

Now, as for the history, I was glad to find that my suspicions were correct and Yanqing was a part of Chahar province. I also discovered that just about everything I thought I knew about Chahar was entirely wrong. Anyway, from this article comes this list:

In 1928, it became a province. The last five counties on the above list (starting from Xinghe) were partitioned to Suiyuan. And 10 counties were included from Xuanhua Subprefecture (宣化府), Koubei Circuit (�北�), Hebei Province:

  • XuÄ?nhuà (宣化)
  • Chìchéng (赤城)
  • Wànquán (è?¬å…¨)
  • Huáilái (懷來)
  • Wèi (蔚)
  • Yángyuán (陽原)
  • LóngguÄ?n (é¾?é—œ)
  • Yánqìng (延慶)
  • Huái’Ä?n (懷安)
  • ZhuÅ?lù (涿鹿)

Notice the inclusion of Yanqing (in irritating traditional characters, but still there).

I was surprised, though, to discover that Chahar was of Mongol origin, not Manchu, and that it became a province under the Republic of China, not the Qing Dynasty, as I had previously thought. It did have some kind of status under the Qing, but I don’t really understand what that status was, as I have no idea how the Qing Dynasty was organised.

Well, so far the search has been rather frustrating. I’ve come across a couple of news reports offering tantalising glimpses at the history of Yanqing and some articles about Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures that existed in that southern Inner Mongolia, northern Hebei, western Liaoning area that Yanqing seems to belong to more naturally than it does Beijing, as well as a couple of articles about the State of Yan of Western Zhou/Spring and Autumn/Warring States fame and its troubles with barbarians from the north, but that seems to be about it.

Oh well, back to the research, this time seeing if I can cope with searching for Chinese language material. But just to reassure you all, the whole point of this is to find material for blog posts that at least I will find interesting.

2 Responses to “one of those days”

  1. John Says:

    As I’ve said before, I would like to have known more about the history of Cang Shan District and Nantai Island. I’m guessing that from all the temples and monasteries, it was regarded as a spiritual centre. I’m guessing the foreigners were housed there because it kept them away from Fuzhou, but was also a handy place to conduct business since you’re right on the river where goods must’ve been landed.

    I wonder whether the Yanqing dialect might’ve been influenced osmotically by Manchu and Mongolian, especially if the mountains and the Great Wall formed barriers to the country to the south.

  2. wangbo Says:

    I remember reading in one of those Sino-Platonic Papers articles the assertion that northern Mandarin must have had a strong Altaic influence, but the dickhead didn’t bother even trying to prove or demonstrate that.

    Anyway, from my very little knowledge, I would say that Yanqing dialect is closer to neighbouring dialects of Hebei than to downtown Beijing. There are some odd words used up in that part of the world, and it would be interesting to try and trace their origins. In some cases, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Altaic origin, because some of those words are radically different from anything used in downtown Beijing.

    I suspect you’d probably be able to find a lot more about your corner of Fuzhou than I’m managing to find about Yanqing, though, especially if it was a foreigner’s ghetto from way back.