Fujian - History

History

Recent archaeological discoveries demonstrate that Fujian had entered the Neolithic Age by the middle of the 6th millennium BC. From the Keqiutou site (7450–5590 BP), an early Neolithic site in Pingtan Island located about 70 kilometres (43 mi) southeast of Fuzhou, numerous tools made of stones, shells, bones, jades, and ceramics (including wheel-made-ceramics) have been unearthed, together with spinning wheels, a definitive evidence of weaving.

The Tanshishan (昙石山) site (5500–4000 BP) in suburban Fuzhou spans the Neolithic and Chalcolithic Age where semi-underground circular buildings were found in the lower level. The Huangtulun (黄土崙) site (ca.1325 BC), also in suburban Fuzhou, was of the Bronze Age in character.

This area was also the place for the kingdom of Minyue. The word "Mǐnyuè" was derived by combining "Mǐn" (閩/闽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: bân), perhaps an ethnic name and associated with the Chinese word for barbarians (蠻/蛮; pinyin: mán; POJ: bân), and "Yuè", after the State of Yue, a Spring and Autumn Period kingdom in Zhejiang Province to the north. This is because the royal family of Yuè fled to Fujian after their kingdom was annexed by the State of Lie Bin in 306 BC. Bǐn is also the name of the main river in this area, but the ethnonym is probably earlier.

Minyue was a de facto kingdom until the emperor of Qin Dynasty, the first unified imperial Chinese state, abolished the status. In the aftermath of the fall of the Qin Dynasty, however, civil war broke out between two warlords, Xiang Yu and Lie Bang; the Minyue king Wuzhu sent his troops to fight side-by-side with Liu Bang, and his gamble paid off. Liu Bang was victorious, and founded the Han Dynasty; in 202 BC he restored Minyue's status as a tributary independent kingdom. Thus Wuzhu was allowed to construct his fortified city in Fuzhou as well as a few locations in the Wuyi Mountains, which have been excavated in recent years. His kingdom extended beyond the borders of contemporary Fujian into eastern Guangdong, eastern Jiangxi, and southern Zhejiang.

After the death of Wuzhu, Minyue maintained its militant tradition and launched several expeditions against their neighboring kingdoms in Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang, mostly in the 2nd century BC, only to be stopped by the Han Dynasty. The Han emperor eventually decided to get rid of the potential threat by sending in large forces simultaneously from four directions via land and sea in 111 BC. The rulers in Fuzhou surrendered to avoid a futile fight and destruction; thus the first kingdom in Fujian history came to an abrupt end.

The Han Dynasty collapsed at the end of the 2nd century AD, paving the way for the Three Kingdoms era. Sun Quan, the founder of the Kingdom of Wu, spent nearly twenty years subduing the Shan Yue people, the branch of the Yue living in mountains.

The first wave of immigration of the noble class arrived in the province in the early 4th century AD when the Western Jin Dynasty collapsed and the north was torn apart by invasions by nomadic peoples from the north, as well as civil war. These immigrants were primarily from eight families in central China: Lin (林), Huang (黄), Chen (陈), Zheng (郑), Zhan (詹), Qiu (邱), He (何), and Hu (胡). The first four remain as the major surnames of modern Fujian.

Nevertheless, isolation from nearby areas owing to rugged terrain contributed to Fujian's relatively backward economy and level of development, despite major population boost from northern China during the "barbarian" invasions. Population density in Fujian remained low compared to the rest of China. Only two commanderies and sixteen counties were established by the Western Jin Dynasty. Like other southern provinces such as Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan, Fujian often served as a destination for exiled prisoners and dissidents at that time.

During the Southern and Northern Dynasties era, the Southern Dynasties reigned south of the Yangtze River, including Fujian.

The Tang Dynasty (618–907) oversaw the next golden age of China. As the Tang Dynasty ended, China was torn apart in the period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. During this time, a second major wave of immigration arrived in the safe haven of Fujian, led by general Wang, who set up an independent Kingdom of Min with its capital in Fuzhou. After the death of the founding king, however, the kingdom suffered from internal strife, and was soon swallowed up by Southern Tang, another southern kingdom.

Quanzhou was blooming into a seaport under the reign of the Min Kingdom, and may have been the largest seaport in the Eastern hemisphere. In the early Ming Dynasty, Quanzhou was the staging area and supply depot of Zheng He's naval expeditions. Further development was severely hampered by the sea trade ban of the Ming Dynasty, and the area was superseded by nearby ports of Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai despite the lifting of the ban in 1550. Large scale piracy by Wokou (Japanese pirates) was eventually wiped out by Chinese military and Japanese authority of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Late Ming and early Qing Dynasty symbolized an era of large influx of refugees and another 20 years of sea trade ban under the Kangxi Emperor, a measure intended to counter the refuge Ming government of Koxinga in Taiwan. Incoming refugees, however, did not translate into a major labor force owing to their re-migration into prosperous regions of Guangdong province. In 1689, the Qing dynasty officially incorporated Taiwan into Fujian province. Settlement of Taiwan by Han Chinese followed, and the majority of people in Taiwan are descendants of emigrants from Southern Fujian. After Taiwan was separated into its own province in 1885 and ceded to Japan in 1895, Fujian arrived at its present extent. It was substantially influenced by the Japanese after the Treaty of Shimonoseki of 1895 until the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) of WWII.

Owing to the mountainous landscape, Fujian was the most secluded province of the PRC in eastern China due to the lack of rail and underdeveloped networks of paved roads before the 1950s. The first railway to the province, the Yingtan-Xiamen Railway, was completed in 1957. Despite its secluded location, Fujian has had a strong academic tradition since the Southern Song Dynasty. At the time, north China was occupied by the Jurchen Jin Dynasty, which caused a shift of the cultural center of China to the south, benefiting Fuzhou and other southern cities. In the Chinese Academy of Science and Chinese Academy of Engineering, there are more members from Fuzhou than from any other city. A particularly renowned member from Fuzhou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is Dr. Lie Bin, a major contributor of biochemistry. In addition, it should also be pointed out that the slow development of Fujian in its early days has proven a blessing for the province's ecology; today, the province has the highest forest coverage rate and the most diverse biosphere in China whereas central China suffers from severe overpopulation and displays severe signs of soil erosion accompanied by frequent droughts and floods due to lack of forest coverage.

Since the late 1970s, the economy of Fujian along the coast has greatly benefited from its geographic and cultural proximity to Taiwan. In 2003, Xiamen ranked number eight GDP per capita among 659 Chinese cities, ahead of Shanghai and Beijing, while Fuzhou ranked no. 21 (number 4 among 30 provincial capitals). The development has been accompanied by a large influx of population from the over-populated areas in the north and west, and much of the farmland and forest as well as cultural heritage sites such as the temples of king Wuzhu have given way to ubiquitous high-rise buildings, and the government faces a challenge at all levels to sustain development while, at the same time, preserving the unique and vital natural and cultural heritage of Fujian.

See also: Early western influence in Fujian

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