Zibo Tells Stories of Ancient Generals and Ghosts

Zibo has never been a tourist city. Located between Ji'nan and Weifang - also known respectively as the"city of fountains" and "capital of kites" - Zibo was once famous as the largest porcelain production base in China.

However, if you are willing to linger a day or two in the city after touring Taishan Mount and Qufu, the home of Confucius, you will find that Zibo has its own story to tell.

Sacrificial horses

Zibo boasts a history of more than 3,000 years. In the 11th century BC, the town Linzi located north of Zibo became the capital of the Qi Kingdom.

This kingdom was known for its prosperity during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) with Linzi being one of its richest towns.

In the 1960s, hundreds of horse skeletons were unearthed in the northern area of the ancient town. All the 600 or so war horses, buried there to accompany the tomb of a past Qi king, lay ordered as if running in one direction.

A museum has been set up at the site. However, it has failed to attract many tourists, as many think it was cruel to kill such beautiful creatures even to accompany a dead king.

Many tombs of well-known officials and generals of the ancient Qi Kingdom are also spread throughout Zibo. Their stories are kept alive by the local people, but few of the younger generation know the history.

Ghost writer

Zibo's best known citizen was Pu Songling, a writer who lived between the 17th and 18th century. At least two main streets have been named after him.

Pu was best known for his short stories about ghosts and fairies that turned into foxes, making the fox the official animal of the city, even though few of these creatures can be seen in the area.

It is said that Pu liked to linger by a fountain at the roadside, asking people who passed by to tell him stories. The fountain called Liu Quan - the fountain of willows - still stands today with Pu's tomb located nearby.

Pu's residence remains well kept, where his works and relics are displayed. Years ago, an entertainment park was also established behind his residence.

Here high-tech video and audio effects bring to life terrifying or bewitching scenes from his stories. Visitors can be titillated by a corpse leaping from its coffin or a fox quickly running passed.

Porcelain base

Zibo became an industrial city in the 20th century. It once was the country's largest production base for porcelain. For this reason, local craftsmen excel at porcelain engraving. Some of them can even do portraits for people.

Glass artwork is also a famous local product. Various patterns and designs are made inside glass balls. Gazing at this handiwork, I was reminded of my childhood desire to break such glass structures to see how these patterns got inside. However to my recollections, I never succeeded.

The city is made up of eight districts and counties. Each district has a rural countryside surrounding it, which is unique among China's cities. It is said that Zibo has the largest area of all the cities of China, if these rural areas are counted. But no one has made a serious measurement to date. The city has a population of 3.8 million, about one fourth that of Shanghai.

Travel tips

Train 2,106 from Shanghai to Qingdao stops at Zibo. The train sets out at 12:25am and the journey takes about 15 hours. You can also take the flight MU5593 to Jinan and then change for buses.

Other nearby attractions: Weifang, 99 kms away, Qufu, 242 kms away, Taishan, 138 kms away. All accessible by highway or rail.

(Shanghai Star February 28, 2002)

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