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Yangzhou Introduction

  There is a little verse, much quoted in reference to Yangzhou, which goes something like this:
    Brilliant moonlight, orioles, flowers and pavilions of jade,
    All attest to the past and present glories of Yangzhou.

  To these glories might also be added Yangzhou's tradition of producing beautiful women.
  Yangzhou was one of the most important cities on the Grand Canal and is a delightful place toYangtze River visit, retaining to some degree the feeling of its rich cultural and historical traditions. A vehicular ferry from Zhenjiang crosses the Yangtze and from the north bank the drive to Yangzhou takes half an hour. Many traditional arts and crafts are still practiced: lacquerware, paper-cuts, lanterns, embroidery, penling (miniature gardens) and seal carving.

  Yangzhou has one of the great cuisines of China and every foreigner knows-indirectly about it, for Yangzhou is the home of the worldwide favourite Chinese dish of fried rice (Yangzhou chaojan).


  The city's history began over 2,400 years ago in the Spring and Autumn period (722-481 BC), one of the early nine provincial areas of China was called after it. The Sui emperor, Yangdi, Yangtze Riverinitiated the construction of the Grand Canal here in 605, which eventually made Yangzhou the hub of land and water transportation. Emperor Yangdi visited the city three times in grand dragon-boats. He built a palace, retired and was buried here, after being assassinated in 6l8. Yangzhou was also a centre of classical learning and religion. Emperors, prime ministers and men of letters through the ages visited Yangzhou and many held official positions, including the great traveller Marco Polo, who was supposedly governor general of the city for three years, although no contemporary documents support this.

  By the Tang dynasty (618--907) Yangzhou's trading links with Arab merchants were well established. A foreign community numbering about a thousand lived in the city. It was said that 'at night a thousand lanterns lit up the clouds'. The economy was based on the salt monopoly and on grain shipments to the capital.
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  Yangzhou, along with so many other middle and lower Yangtze cities, suffered badly during the Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century. In addition, the silting of the Yangtze and the flooding of the Grand Canal gradually undermined its entrep0t role, as grain shipments were increasingly transported by sea via Shanghai, rather than along the Grand Canal. Changes in the salt administration and the arrival of the railways were the coup de grace in Yangzhou's decline.

  During the late 18th century an individualistic school of painters sprang up, known as the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou, whose bold style has a strong following today.

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