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How should we take advantage of "historic figures?"

(people's daily online)
Updated: 2010-04-02 10:13
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Editor's note: Over the past years, disputes involving the birthplaces of historic figures have emerged from time to time in many regions. Many regions spared no efforts in researching the life experiences of historic figures and built many memorials.

People living in places somehow connected with historic figures, however weak the link may be, have struggled to associate the place with the figure. Many people now even turn their eyes to the Three Emperors and Five Sovereigns (The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were mythological rulers and culture heroes of China during the period from c. 2852 BC to 2205 BC), the Cowherd and the Weaving Maid, the Pre-Chin Philosophers, the heroes during the Three Kingdoms period, the Monkey King and Nezha.

We have witnessed more and more public memorial ceremonies recently and during this year's Tomb-Sweeping Day, such ceremonies will again be held in Henan's Huaiyang, the birth place of Fuxi (the ancestors of humankind in Chinese history). There will also be memorials at Emperor Shun's tomb (Yao and Shun are also known as the Three Emperors, and, along with Yu the Great, founder of the Xia dynasty, were considered to be model rulers and moral exemplars by Confucians in later Chinese history.) in Yuncheng, Shanxi province.

Meanwhile, an article written by Sun Yat-Sen (Known as "the Father of the Chinese Revolution," Sun Yat-Sen led the first insurrection against Qing dynasty in 1895.) in memorial of Emperor Huangdi ( a legendary Chinese sovereign and cultural hero who is considered in Chinese mythology to be the ancestor of all Han Chinese) will be sung during a public memorial ceremony in Shaanxi province during this year's Tomb-Sweeping Day and Chinese people at home and abroad will celebrate the ceremony.

People are now busy holding public memorial activities for the Three Emperors and Five Sovereigns, and disputes around these historic figures have now stopped. In the past, there were controversies between Henan and Shaanxi around the true birthplace of Emperor Huangdi. Henan's Zhoukou and Gansu's Tianshui both claim to be the genuine birth place of Fu Xi. Shanxi's Huangqu and Yongji have disputed the true native place of Emperor Shun. Shanxi, Shandong, Hebei, Zhejiang and Hunan have had it out over the hometown of Emperor Yao. Five regions claim to hold the hometown of the Goddess of Sky-Patching.

The interest behind historic figures

Recently, a planned tourist attraction in Wenchuan (the birthplace of Emperor Yu) triggered yet another controversy. Local government bodies had planned to invest 550 million yuan to build a scenic spot combining a sacrificial altar, numerous tourism and entertainment projects and service facilities.

In the second half of last year, a controversy around Li Po's native hometown made two county-level cities (Sichuan's Jiangyou and Hubei's Anlu) become well-known. Why did Jiangyou call itself the native birthplace of Li Po (a greatest poets in China's literary history)? Why did Anlu spend money on a CCTV advertisement which claimed, "Welcome to Anlu, the birthplace of Li Po, and the town of Ginkgo?"

According to Pu Yongjian, deputy director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Municipal Committee of Jiangyou, the city's status as the birthplace of Li Po will promote the development of local tourism greatly. In 2005, Jiangyou was endorsed as one of the top tourist cities of China by the National Tourism Administration. In 2007, Jiangyou obtained tourism revenue of 1.3 billion yuan, a 3-fold increase from 2003.

Why did Anlu participate in a competition with Jiangyou? In 2008, the fiscal revenue of Anlu was 300 million yuan. However, it spent nearly 1 million yuan on an advertisement which was broadcasted 150 times on CCTV between February and December 2008. The ad focused on two selling points—the native birthplace of Li Po and the town of Ginkgo. According to Chen Zuoyi, director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Municipal Committee of Anlu, the city spent money on the ad in a bid to improve the city's image in the minds of the general public as the First China Ginkgo Festival was to be held in Anlu in November 2008.

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