Monday, August 03, 2015

History lesson in Zhanjiang (湛江)

I went to Zhanjiang to attend a wedding.  It was a wonderful wedding, as expected.  What I did not anticipate was that I also got a vivid lesson in history.  First of all, Zhanjiang is 湛江 in Guangdong 廣東省, not Zhenjiang 鎮江 in Jiangsu 江蘇省.  

In the late Ching Dynasty, China was so weak that many countries, mostly European, were grabbing pieces of it.  In 1898 France “leased” Zhanjiang from China.  It was called Kwangchowan (廣州灣) at the time. Literally it means “the Bay of Guangzhou (Canton 廣州)” According to some of the locals, The French thought this was Canton, when it fact, it is 400 kilometres away.  The French ruled Zhenjiang until 1943, when it was taken over by the invading Japanese. Many relics remain from the French occupation. Such as the seat of the French colonial government. 

A French bank is now a Chinese bank. 

There is a grand Catholic church.  It has now become a popular backdrop for wedding photos.  A couple was leaving just as I was arriving.  As soon as they were gone, a young lady started taking selfies in front of the church.  

There is also a much more modest Christian church. 

I had actually learned this earlier, from history lessons in high school and my other readings of modern Chinese history.  But the facts did not really register - until I came face to face with the history here.  I have to thank my student who invited me to come to Zhenjiang to attend her wedding.  Thank you, Yuanyuan.

It was amazing that, not so long ago, China had to cede territory to a France that had only 1/10 of its population.  A century later, China has largely recovered its place in the world.  In fact, many countries are now worried that a newly powerful China will bully them.  

No comments: