Shandong

literally means ‘mountains’ east’ and the name indicates this coastal province’s location east of the Taiang Mountains. Situated in the lower reaches of the Yellow River, it includes the Shandong Peninsula that stretches out into the sea (Bohai Bay to the north and the Yellow Sea to the southeast).

History

Shandong is often called Qilu, nicknamed for the states of Qi and Lu that existed here during the Spring and Autumn periods. Qi was very powerful throughout the Spring, Autumn and Warring States periods, ruling the cities of Linzi, Jimo and Ju. Lu, although famous for being the home of Confucius, was comparatively small and was eventually taken over by the Chu. The Chinese had influence over western Shandong since early times but the east was populated by the Laiyi, a people the Chinese regarded as barbarians.

Qi was eventually destroyed by the Qin Dynasty, during which the first centralised Chinese state was founded in 221 BC. During the Han Dynasty, two provinces, or ‘zhou’ were created within what is now Shandong, the Qingzhou Province in the north and the Yanzhou Province in the south.

During the Three Kingdoms period Shandong belonged to the Kingdom of Wei, but after a short period of unity during the Western Jin Dynasty, this province, along with all of Northern China, was overrun by nomadic people from the north. Over the next century power changed hands numerous times.

In 412, another important figure in religious thought appeared in Shandong – the Chinese Buddhist monk Faxian, who edited and translated scriptures he had brought back from India.

In 589 the Sui Dynasty re-established unity, followed by the Tang Dynasty. For the earlier part of this period, Shandong was ruled as part of the Henan Circuit, which was a political division. Later, China was broken down into warlord factions during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms periods; Shandong was part of the Five Dynasties, all of which were located in the north.

China was reunified in the late 10th century during the Song Dynasty, during which Emperor Huizong is thought to have buried statues and paintings reflecting Buddhism, since he favoured Taoism. In 1996, over 200 buried Buddhist statues were found at Qingzhou in what was hailed as a major archaeological find.

The Song Dynasty was forced to hand over northern China to the Jurchen Jin Dynasty in 1142, after which time the name ‘Shandong’ appeared for the first time; the area was administered as two areas, Shandong East Circuit and Shandong West Circuit.

The modern province of Shandong was created by the Ming and at the time included areas in south Manchuria. The Manchus later conquered all of China in 1644 and in the Qing Dynasty that they founded, Shandong was given the borders that it more or less still has.

China became increasingly influenced by the West during the 19th century, and as a coastal province Shandong was particularly exposed to Western ideas and culture. Qingdao was leased to Germany in 1897 and Weihai to Britain in 1998; the rest of Shandong was influenced by the Germans. Additionally, The Qing Dynasty opened Manchuria to Han Chinese immigration during this time and the main tide of migrants was from Shandong.

After the Republic of China was founded in 1911, Qingdao and Weihai returned to Chinese control. In 1937 Japan invaded mainland China in the Second Sino-Japanese War, which would eventually become part of the Pacific theatre in WWII. Shandong was completely occupied by Japan until Japan surrendered in 1945.

Communist forces already held some parts of Shandong by 1945, and over the next four years of Chinese Civil War they expanded their holdings, driving the government of the Republic of China entirely out of Shandong by June 1949. The People’s Republic of China was founded in October of that same year. Under the new government, parts of western Shandong were given to the short-lived Pingyuan Province and the Xuzhou and Lianyungang areas were taken from the Jiangsu province and given to Shandong, but these changes were not enduring. In general, Shandong has kept much the same borders as it has today.

Recently Shandong has experienced outstanding economic development and is one of the richest provinces in China.

Geography

Shandong’s coastline is 3000 km long and is rocky with cliffs, bays and islands. While the peninsula is hilly, Shandong is mostly flat except for in the centre, where the Taishan, Lushan and Mengshan Mountains are located. The Taishan’s Jade Emperor Peak is the highest point in the province, with a height of 1545 m.

The peninsula separates the Bohai Sea in the northwest from the Yellow Sea in the east and south and the Yellow River passes through the province’s western areas. The Grand Canal of China runs through Shandgong from northwest to southwest, and Lake Weishan is the province’s largest lake.

Shandong enjoys a temperate climate, with average temperatures of –5 to –1 in January and 24-24 degrees Celsius in July. Summers are moist; winters are dry and cold, and annual precipitation is 550 – 950 mm.

Major cities in Shandong include Jinan, Qingdao, Zibo,Yantai, Weifang, Weihai, Zaozhuang and Heze.

Economy

Shandong is China’s leading producer of numerous products, including cotton, wheat and precious metals like diamonds and gold. Sorghum and maize are also important to the Shandong economy. The province has extensive petroleum deposits as well and is home to one of China’s major oilfields, the Shegli Oilfield. Salt is also produced here from sea water.

Big companies with established brand names are active in Shandong, which is one of the main reasons for its tremendous growth. Two of these are based in the Shandong Peninsula and are household names through China and abroad – Tsingtao Beer and Haier. Japanese and South Korean investments, a natural by-product of geographical proximity to those countries, have also boosted the economy.

The GDP for Shandong in 2004 ranked second in China, behind Guandong and ahead of Jiangsu at 1.55 trillion yuan ($192.3 billion USD).

Demographics and Administration

Some 92 million people live in Shandong, making it the second most populous province in China. Over 99 percent of that population is Han Chinese. Minority groups include the Hui and the Manchus.

The province is divided in 17 prefecture-level divisions, which in turn are subdivided into 140 country-level divisions (49 districts, 31 county-level cities and 60 counties). Those in turn are divided into 1941 township-level divisions.

Culture

Mandarin dialects, which linguists divide into three main categories, are spoken in Shandong. Hi Lu Mandarin is spoken in the northwest; Zhongyuan Mandarin is spoken in the southwest and Jiao Liao Mandarin is spoken in the Shandong Peninsula.

Shandong cuisine is one of the eight great traditions of Chinese cuisine and can be further divided into inland Shandong cuisine, seafood-based Jiaodong cuisine from the peninsula and Confucius’ Mansion cuisine, an elaborate tradition for imperial and other important feasts.

Shandong Bangzi and Luju are popular types of Chinese opera, both of which originated in southwestern Shandong.


Bangzi opera


Luju opera

Transportation

Major railways, the Jingjiu and the Jinghu Railways, pass through western Shandong, while the Jiaoji Railway connects the two largest cities of Jinan and Qingdao. Shandong has one of the best and densest highway systems in all of China with a total length of over 3000 km.

The Shandong Peninsula has many harbours and many of these ports are historical battle sites. Ferries link the cities on the north coast of the peninsula with the Liaodong Peninsula, further north across the sea.

Among the airports perhaps the most important are the Jinan Yaoqiang Airport and Qingdao Liuting International Airport.

Tourist Attractions

Shandong’s most popular tourist attractions include:

· Penglai, situated in the north of the Shandong peninsula and famed in Daoism.
· Qiingdao, also located on the peninsula, a beach resort city in the southern part, famous for its Tsingtao beer.
· Laoshand, a scenic area east of Qingdao which is a Daoist centre
· Weihai, a former British port city important in the second Sino-Japanese War.
· World Heritage Sites: Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu. Tai Shan, sacred mountain, in Tai’an.


Colleges and universities

Shandong University (Jinan)
Ocean University of China (Qingdao)
University of Petroleum (Dongying)


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