Wednesday, October 7, 2009

China Stamps: 2009-23

China Stamps
Name: Beijing - Hangzhou Grand Canal (京杭大运河)
Number: 2009-23
Date of Issue: 26 September 2009
Value: 6 stamps/set

1.20元 (6-1):
Lantern Lighting Pagoda (燃灯塔)
With a total length of 1,794 kilometers, the Beijing - Hangzhou Grand Canal is divided into seven sections, namely Tonghui River, North Canal, South Canal, Lu Canal, Central Canal, Inner Canal, and Jiangnan Canal. Its nearly 1,000 years of history left behind numerous architectural and cultural legacies. The Lantern Lighting Pagoda, one of the "Four Famous Pagodas along the Grand Canal", located in the Tongzhou District of Beijing, is a 13-storied thick-eave brick structure dating to the Liao Dynasty (907 - 1125). Featuring a total of 2,248 copper bells hung from the protruding eves, it is one of the ancient pagodas with the greatest number of wind bells in China. The Pagoda is considered a landmark structure at the northern end of the Grand Canal.

1.20元 (6-2): Palace of the Goddess of the Sea (天后宫)
The Beijing - Hangzhou Grand Canal stretches a long way across lakes and rivers. For the sake of safe shipping, various gods are enshrined and worshipped along the course, as exemplified by the Palace of the Goddess of the Sea at the junction of the North Canal, the South Canal and the Haihe River in Tianjin. Constructed during the Yuan Dynasty and covering a floor space of 2,500 square meters, the palace complex enshrines the Goddess of the Sea (Matsu). The existing main entrance, a memorial archway, Drum Tower, Bell Tower, Front Hall, Main Hall, Sutra Library, and Qisheng Hall within the compound are older structures in the urban district of Tianjin. A pair of 26-meter-high flag masts tower in front of the gate, witnessing the city's history of oceanic and riverine shipping.

1.20元 (6-3): Shanxi-Shaanxi Guild Hall (山陕会馆)
A "Mother River" meandering for thousands of years, the Beijing - Hangzhou Grand Canal has nurtured dozens of riverine cities and greatly increased the economic and cultural exchanges between China's northern and southern regions. Historically, merchants from different parts of the country traveled along the canal to do business in different cities; hence emerged associations of merchants from the same region. The Shanxi-Shaanxi Guild Hall, situated on the west bank of the Dongguan Section of the Canal in Liaocheng, was first constructed in 1743, the eighth year of the reign of Qing Emperor Qianlong, and was reconstructed several times to eventually form the present scale. Built with a fund collected by Shanxi and Shaanxi merchants for "worshipping gods and uniting compatriots", the architectural complex integrates temple with guild hall. The main hall enshrines Guan Yu, the god of loyalty and wealth.

1.20元 (6-4): Qingjiang Water Gate (清江闸)
The Grand Canal, starting in Beijing and ending in Hangzhou, strings together the Haihe, Huanghe (Yellow), Huaihe, Changjiang (Yangtze), and Qiantang Rivers at different sections with water gates. In 1415, to control floods, Ming-Dynasty Water Transport Minister Chen Xuan constructed four water gates at Xinzhuang, Fuxing, Qingjiang and Yifeng in Huai'an, Jiangsu Province. Of those, the Qingjiang Water Gate was later reconstructed and reinforced to reach seven meters in width. In every season for grain transport, the long row of boats loaded with grain to pass the gate would stretch several miles. Despite a passage of 600 years, the well-preserved Qingjiang Water Gate now still stands in an imposing manner on the Grand Canal.

1.20元 (6-5): Wenfeng Pagoda (文峰塔)
Snaking from north to south on vast Chinese land, the Beijing - Hangzhou Grand Canal varies in name and flow direction from section to section, and behind each of its sections are intriguing tales. The Yangzhou Section of the ancient water course stretches 30 kilometers from Guazhou to Wantou and embraces the renowned "Yangzhou Three Bends". It is in this section that Wenfeng Pagoda, one of the "Four Famous Pagodas along the Grand Canal", towers. A 40-meter-high brick structure dating to the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), Wenfeng Pagoda is considered the symbol of Yangzhou to the boats entering the city from south via the canal. It is said that during the Tang-Dynasty Emperor Tianbao's reign (742 - 756), eminent monk Jian Zhen at Yangzhou's Daming Temple sailed out from Sanwan Dock at the location of Wenfeng Pagoda eastward to Japan, and finally succeeded after several failed journeys.

1.20元 (6-6): Gongchen Bridge (拱宸桥)
The majestic Grand Canal flows from Beijing to Hangzhou, and from the Yuan Dynasty (1206 - 1368) to present 21st Century. The Gongchen Bridge, in Hangzhou City, is a three-arch stone bridge dating to the Ming Dynasty. Having been damaged and then reconstructed several times historically, it is still in service today. The highest and longest ancient stone arch bridge in Hangzhou, it is considered the landmark symbol of the southern end of the Grand Canal. Passing the bridge, boats can either stop at Wulinmen Dock for an entry into the beautiful city of Hangzhou, or continue the journey into the Qiantang River and finally enter East China Sea. In ancient times, the bridge represented homage to the feudal emperors, while today it extends warm welcome to visitors from China and abroad.

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