THERE is a Chinese saying about the ancient city of Xuzhou: “Beijing is famous for its Ming and Qing cultures, Xi’an is famous for its Qin and Tang cultures, while Xuzhou is famous for its Han culture.” With a rich and varied history, visitors to Xuzhou will discover a priceless assortment of Han Dynasty pottery warriors and horses, tombs and stone reliefs, and will hear riveting tales of the many historical figures who made the city famous. Among them was Pengzu (circa 2,000 B.C.), who is widely considered to be the founder of Chinese culinary culture, and who lived in what was then known as Pengcheng.
The state of Peng lasted 800 years, and ever since the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280) the names of Xuzhou and Pengcheng have been used interchangeably. To this day in Xuzhou, everything from streets to periodicals are named after Pengcheng — such as Pengcheng Road, Pengcheng Square, and the Pengcheng Evening News.
A History Carved out of the Mountains
Pengcheng’s long history produced a treasure trove of cultural achievements, and they have been preserved through the centuries to bestow on present-day Xuzhou a splendid historical and cultural legacy. Song of the Great Wind, a poem by Liu Bang, founding emperor of the Han Dynasty, speaks of the city’s importance. It reads: “A great wind rises, The clouds are driven away. I come to my native land, Now the world is under my sway. Where can I find brave men, To guard my four frontiers today!”
Emperor Liu Bang, a native of Xuzhou, was the ancient city’s most famous native son, and many aspects of Chinese culture were named after the Han Dynasty he founded — such as Hanzi (Chinese characters), Hanzu (the Han ethnic group), Hanyu (the Chinese language) and Han wenhua (the Han culture). As the leader of a popular uprising against the tyrannical Qin Dynasty, he established the Han Empire, and Xuzhou became the repository of Han civilization.
In October of 202 B.C. Liu Bang ascended the throne in Dingtao, in Shandong Province. He first established his capital in Luoyang, and later in Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), and he forged a strong, united Han Empire. Together with the Roman Empire, it became one of the two most powerful empires the world had yet seen. British historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) said: “The two most far-sighted and influential political figures in the history of mankind are Caesar, who founded the Roman Empire, and Liu Bang, who founded the Han Empire.” After Liu Bang ascended the throne, Xuzhou was made the hereditary fiefdom of the Liu clan, which carved its tombs out of the surrounding mountainsides. To this day, the mountains surrounding Xuzhou City are honeycombed with tombs and subterranean palaces.......