“Where again do you live exactly in China?”
“Never heard of it…”
This is a conversation I have all the time with friends and family. Obviously, Bozhou is not as famous as Shanghai or Beijing, or even cities like Shenzhen, Chongqing, or Qingdao, but that doesn’t mean it is a boring place.
I have been to Bozhou many times before: The hometown of my husband. But the decision to move here for the foreseeable future was made last year, and since we have moved into our own apartment here in little Bozhou October 2014, life couldn’t be better. I have come to like this city and it is about time to give it a proper introduction to the world out there. Yes, Bozhou is a vivid and colourful place, packed with remnants of China’s thousands of years of history.
Bozhou – The most north of northern parts of Anhui province
Bozhou 亳州 is located at the intersection of four provinces, namely Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan and Anhui. Thus, it is located in the northern part of Anhui province. Geographically speaking this location is convenient for travel throughout China. Especially with the currently under construction Shangqiu-Hangzhou High Speed Railway 高铁站and the Bozhou Airport 亳州机场, a convenient transportation network will be established. It will only take 1 hour to Hefei, 3 hours to Shanghai and 3.5 hours to Beijing.
Bozhou has three counties and one district (Guoyang County, Mengcheng County, Lixin County and Qiaocheng District, see map) under its jurisdiction, which makes it one of the smaller cities in Anhui province. Nevertheless, Bozhou had a total population of 6.13 million at the end of 2013, which is almost as much as Finland or Denmark.
Climate wise, Bozhou has four seasons, with very cold and dry winters and very hot and humid summers. Most of the rainfalls are concentrated in the warmer summer months (June to August).
Bozhou – Capital of Chinese Medicine
Bozhou is rich in agricultural products and resources. Most families rely solely on farming for their income making Bozhou one of the major grain producing areas in China, with an annual production output of nearly 5 billion kilogram, accounting for one seventh of the whole of Anhui province.
However, the focus lies on traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, corn, peanuts, cotton and vegetables. In fact, Bozhou’s farmers grow over 500 different variations of Chinese medical herbs on a cultivation area of over 1 million mu 亩 (about 165000 acre). This has led to many Chinese medicinal herbs carrying the name Bozhou in it. For example, herbs such as “Bozhou Peony” 亳州芍药花, “Bozhou Chrysanthemum” 亳菊, or “Bozhou Mulberry Cortex” 桑白皮have been included in the traditional Chinese medicinal materials recorded in the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China.
Having the largest industry of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bozhou hosts the Annual Trade Fair of Traditional Chinese Medicine and International TCM Expo every year for 25 years and 4 years respectively.
The provincial government is more and more encouraging investment into Bozhou, especially in sectors such as culture and tourism, and modern Chinese medicine. Currently Bozhou’s administrative departments and government parties are working on projects such as the Ming and Qing dynasty style blocks restoration, a theme park construction showcasing TCM health preserving, Taoism, a cultural tourism zone of ecology, exploration of hot spring resources and many more. In the modern Chinese medicine sector investors and advocates are working on new types of Chinese herbal slices, traditional Chinese medicine extraction, Chinese patent medicine manufacturing, traditional Chinese medicine health care products, traditional Chinese veterinary drugs, or traditional Chinese medicine additives.
Bozhou – Birth place of Chinese Culture
Bozhou boosts a history of over 8,000 years. It is said to be the birth place of traditional Chinese culture with numerous remains from the Neolithic period dating back 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, proving that humans have lived and thrived here. More than 3,700 years ago Emperor Cheng Tang 成湯 founded the Shang Dynasty 商代 in Bozhou and led the ground stone of thousands of years of thriving culture to come.
Bozhou is the birth place of some of China’s most notable people. The founders of Taoism, Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi were both from Bozhou, as well as Hua Tuo, a pioneer in the use of anesthetic in surgical operations. Another famous figure is Hua Mulan, Disney’s famous heroine.
During the Three Kingdoms period, Cao Cao made Bozhou its capital and center of his dynasty. He also built the underground tunnels, also known as the “Underground Great Wall”, which was used to secretly transport his soldiers. The tunnels can still be visited today.
Bozhou – A variety of scenic spots, historic sites and precious cultural heritage
Today, Bozhou has become a national famous, historic and cultural city with seven key cultural sites under state protection, 18 key cultural sites under the provincial protection, and three national intangible cultural heritages.
Even though the focus of Bozhou has mostly been traditional Chinese medicine, it still offers a variety of cultural and ancient sites, such as the ancient theatre Hua Xi Lou 花溪楼, Hua Tuo’s home 华祖庵, Cao Cao’s Memorial and Park 曹操博物馆/曹操公园 or the underground tunnels 曹操运兵道.
Bozhou is also famous for its regional opera called Erjiaxian 二夾弦. It is also the birth place of Wu Qinxi 五禽戏, a medical exercise imitating the movements of five animals, and has been recognized by the State Council as a national-level intangible cultural heritage.
When Cao Cao introduced the secret brewing method “Jiu Niang Chun” 酒酿纯 in 196 AD, he couldn’t know that hundreds of years later the world famous brand Gujing Tribute Liquor 古井贡酒 would come into being and overtake the market in no time in China. This brewing process has been recognized by the Anhui Provincial Government as the provincial level intangible cultural heritage.
Bozhou – A place I can call home
Yes, Bozhou might not be the Chinese expat city. There are no night clubs, bars or Western restaurants. In fact, there is just one Walmart and a bunch of McDonalds’ and KFC’, and in whole Bozhou you will all together find six foreigners, but exactly this non-Westernised lifestyle is what gives Bozhou its charm.
If you want to enjoy the real China, see how normal Chinese families live, work and attend to their fields, Bozhou and its surrounding villages is the right place to go. For my part, I am looking forward to explore more of Bozhou as a capital of traditional Chinese medicine.
What about you? Have you ever been or maybe lived in one of China’s smaller rural cities? Or do you prefer the big metropolises like Shanghai and Beijing?
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