My favorite city sits on the edge of history. She comes complete with a past of more than 2800 years. You will also find her on the forefront of the future. She is Xiangfan, Hubei Province, China.
Xiangfan is made up of two ancient cities that have transitioned to the present day on their way to the future. Fan Cheng sits on the north side of the Han River. It had its beginnings way back in the Western Zhou Dynasty period in 11th century B.C.E. Fan Cheng has always been the industrial or market area. Xiangyang came into being in the early Han Dynasty, starting back around 206 B.C.E. Xiangyang has been the government and cultural area. These cities were important and mentioned in The Romance of The Three Kingdoms. Famous military strategist and politician of the time, Zhuge Liang, made his home about 8 miles west of Xiangyang in Long Zhong. Emperor Lu Bei of the Shu Han Kingdom, came to visit him 3 times to enlist his help in overcoming his adversaries. Other famous men in history walked these same streets. Mi Fu, Tang Dynasty poet and calligrapher, (made his home in Fan Cheng) just to name one, Meng Haoren, another poet is another. Du Fu, Pi Rixiu, and Li Bai are three more that come to mind. There were emperors and generals, probably warlords, too, that called Xiangfan home in olden days.
History is a big draw for me. It is what makes Xiangfan, my favorite city. When I would pass through the arched entrance of the Xiangyang City Wall and find myself on the pseudo-classic street of Bei Lu (North Street), I could feel my spirit start to soar. I could imagine men stroking their long pointy beards in the uniform dress of the day, discussing the news of the hour. Looking at the curved eaves of the buildings lining the street, it would be hard to believe that I was in the 21st century. Doing Tai Chi Chuan along side of the largest moat built in China on the Xiangyang side of the Han River, put history into perspective. What better place to feel a part of ancient China?
Crossing over the Han River to Fancheng, I could find the markets of old. They are just a bit more scattered now. MiFu's home and family temple is a great place for me to spend an afternoon. I am fascinated by Chinese calligraphy and he was one of China's most famous. Walmart and other western companies have opened up storefronts. It's quite easy to see Xiangfan's future shining through the veil. Modern day cars and trucks have all but driven out the bikes and water buffalo carts. One can get anywhere in the city on either side of the river by bus or taxi. Yes, it is a dichotomy of old vs new, this city I love. Xiangfan embraces the new but honors the old. Sitting in a noodle shop early in the morning, using chopsticks, eating noodles, made a believer out of me.