Part 2: Along Ancient City Walls
“Changzhou,” or 常州 in Chinese characters, translates to “Ordinary Prefecture.” So, I was surprised to read 龍城通 (Dragon City Transit) on my transit card. How did an ordinary prefecture get paired with this fearsome alter ego?
Changzhou has a 2300 year history, which meant that there must be something worth exploring. In my first couple of weeks, my Changzhounese coworker took me to three of the city’s main attractions: Tianning Temple, Hongmei Park, and a restored version of the west gate of the city wall.
Tianning Temple v1.0 was built just outside the ancient east gate over 1000 years ago. According to this website, the temple that I visited was the sixth version restored in 1990 , as v1.0-5.0 were destroyed by war or nature. The pagoda, which appears to be v1.0, was completed in 2007 and boasts the title of the tallest Buddhist pagoda in the world. And so, all the structures in the pictures look very new. I used the pagoda as a landmark.
Attached to Tianning Temple is Hongmei Park, which is a National AAAA Tourist Attraction as decided by the China National Tourism Administration. It is very well designed and manicured. Young and old use it for leisure. It houses the Hongmei Pavilion which was built 1000+ years ago but rebuilt by the Qing dynasty. I talk about this as if I’m parroting facts from wikipedia because that’s exactly what I’m doing.
The west gate of the city wall is smooth. Complete. Rebuilt.
From my introduction to Changzhou, it was difficult to tell that the city had anything even built before 1990. All three attractions were meant to celebrate Changzhou history and culture, but at each turn I felt that the X factor had been erased. I thought the dragon was sleeping.