Saturday, 19 March 2011


In pre-Han times (i.e., before 206 BC) it was the site of the city of Shiyi in the state of Zhao, and, from Han (206 BC–AD 220) to Sui (581–618) times, it was the site of a county town with the same name. With the reorganization of local government in the early period of the Tang dynasty (618–907), the county was abolished. Shijiazhuang then became little more than a local market town, subordinated to the flourishing city of Zhengding (modern Zhengding) a few miles to the north.

The growth of Shijiazhuang into one of China's major cities began in 1905, when the Beijing–Wuhan (Hankou) railway reached the area, stimulating much new trade and encouraging local farmers to grow cash crops. Two years later the town became the junction for the new Shitai line, running from Shijiazhuang to Taiyuan in central Shanxi province. This connection immediately transformed the town from a local collecting center and market into a communications center of national importance on the main route from Beijing and Tianjin to Shanxi and — later, when the railway from Taiyuan was extended to the southwest — to Shaanxi province as well. The city also became the center of an extensive road network.

During the pre-World War II period, Shijiazhuang was a large railway town as well as a commercial and collecting center for Shanxi and the regions farther west and for the agricultural produce of the North China Plain, particularly for grain, tobacco, and cotton. By 1935 it had far outstripped Zhengding as an economic center. At the end of World War II the character of the city changed once again. Not only did it assume an administrative role as the preeminent city in western Hebei but it also developed into an industrial city. Some industry, such as match manufacturing, tobacco processing, and glassmaking, had already been established before the war.

Until 1948, the city was instead known as Shímén (石門), and then it was renamed to Shijiazhuang.

Xibaipo, a village about 90 km from Shijiazhuang, in Pingshan County was the location of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army during the decisive stages of the Chinese Civil War between May 26, 1948 and March 23, 1949, at which point they were moved to Beijing. Today, the area houses a memorial site.[2]

Only after 1949, however, did the planned industrialisation of the city gather momentum. Its population more than tripled in the decade 1948–58. In the 1950s the city experienced a major expansion in the textile industry, with large-scale cotton spinning, weaving, printing, and dyeing works. In addition, there are various plants processing local farm produce. In the 1960s it was also the site of a new chemical industry, with plants producing fertilizer and caustic soda. Shijiazhuang also became an engineering base, with a tractor-accessory plant. There are important coal deposits at Jingxing and Huailu, now named Luquan, a few miles to the west in the foothills of the Taihang Mountains, which provide fuel for a thermal-generating plant supplying power to local industries. The city's role as a transport center has been supplemented by the construction of an airport handling regular domestic flights.

In 1967, Tianjin was for the last time carved out of Hebei province, and thus the provincial capital was moved to Baoding. Yet was quite chaotic in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, and under the direction of Mao Zedong, in 1968, to "prepare for war and natural disasters", Shijiazhuang became the provincial capital and remains so today.

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