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Seminar eyes historic regional culture in Anhui


2024-03-12 08:06

Wang Guanglu
Chinese Social Sciences Today


The Wanjiang culture, centering on Anqing City and Qianshan City in Anhui Province, constitutes an integral part of Anhui regional culture. Recently, the First Wan Culture Forum was held in Qianshan, focusing on Wan [an alternative name of Anhui] culture and the development of a Wan cultural museum.

Cultural origins

How can the essence and scope of Wan culture, or rather, its content and extent be defined? “Wan culture dates back to the pioneering stage of Chinese civilization, namely, the transition period from the era of the Five Sovereigns to the Xia (c. 21th–16th century BCE), Shang (c. 16th–11th century BCE), and Zhou (c. 11th century–771 BCE) dynasties,” said Gong Changwei, a research fellow from the Institute of History at the Chinese Academy of History and president of the China Pre-Qin History Society (CHS). From a historical perspective and based on the reality of Wan culture, its essence encompasses not only pertinent historical records and thoughts, but also includes historic relics, legends, folk ballads, and commemorative activities, while extending to the early state of Wan and continuing to this day.

Han Jiegen, a senior editor from Fudan University Press, emphasized the importance of distinguishing between the tribal state and the vassal state when discussing the ancient state of Wan. Originally, “Wan” existed as an ancient tribal state founded by the descendants of the Gaotao family, characterized by a primitive clan tribal nature. The Wan state later evolved into a vassal state as a result of extensive enfeoffment by early Zhou.

Wan culture has been passed down for thousands of years, from the Wan State in the pre-Qin period (prior to 221 BCE), extending through the Wan County and the Wan vassal state during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), up to the late Western Jin Dynasty (265–316) when Wan County was dissolved. The administrative designation of Wan as an official division has persisted for over 1,000 years, with the name Wan enduring in various geographical locations and landscapes. Liu Dong, an associate research fellow from the Anhui Museum, suggested that following Wan’s adoption as a shorthand for Anhui, Wan culture, in a broader sense, can encompass the entirety of Anhui’s cultural heritage. In a narrower sense, Wan culture pertains to the ancient cultural practices within the geographical boundaries of the Wan State during the pre-Qin era and Wan County during the Han, Three Kingdoms Period (220–265), and the Western Jin era.

Cultural resources

Wanjiang culture, Huaihe culture, and Huizhou culture collectively constitute the three major regional cultures in Anhui, which are also critical components of Yangtze culture and the greater Chinese culture. Forum attendees concurred that the Wan State should be recognized as an authentic ancient state with a long history, with Xuejiagang culture serving as its historical and geographical basis. The southwest part of Anhui has always been a close aggregation of Wan culture, making it a natural and historically significant for Wan to become synonymous with Anhui Province.

Based on existing research, the origin of Wan is mainly represented in Xuejiagang culture, ancient Wan State, and the source of Chan Buddhism, said Zhang Yihe, a professor from the Department of History at East China Normal University, proposing further exploration into the historical and cultural changes of Qianshan and its surrounding areas from the Qin and Han to the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties.

The lack of literature has long restricted the study of Wan history and culture, said Chen Lizhu, a professor from the School of History and Culture at South China Normal University. This entails fully examining the geographical regional foundation and historical and cultural context of the Wan State and conducting a comprehensive and systematic discussion by integrating literature with bronze ware, unearthed bamboo slips, and local archaeological findings, to showcase the historical features of the Wan State and Wan culture.

Fang Xiqiu, a professor from the School of Humanities at Anqing Normal University (AQNU), highlighted a contrasting situation regarding Huizhou culture, which benefits from a wealth of preserved tangible heritage and has emerged as a significant field within regional culture studies. This distinction underscores the need for greater efforts to interpret Wan’s historical sources in a contemporary context, particularly at the spiritual level. By engaging in multi-level and multi-perspective dialogue between the ancient and modern worlds, as well as between Chinese and Western perspectives, it becomes possible to achieve cultural reconstruction in the new era.

The forum was co-sponsored by CHS, AQNU, and Qianshan Municipal People’s Government.



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