Yangzhou, one of the most renowned cities in China for its National Historic and Cultural heritage, it boasts many honors and titles such as the title of National Civilized City, National Forest City, and United Nations Habitat Scroll of Honor.
With its long history, brilliant culture, thriving businesses and outstanding people, it has been praised by countless ancient and modern scholars, regarded as a city that manages to attract global attention.
Though only one location, it has many remarkable facets. As it is a city actively engaged in foreign affairs, I’d like to tell you today some stories about Yangzhou, that reflect on the connection and bond between China and Italy. Stories that unfold a precious picture rich in color and history.
A picture that paints the beauty of this city, starting from the Five-Pavilion Bridge (Lotus Bridge), the White Pagoda in the Slender West Lake, and the model lakeside garden in Yangzhou.
Marco Polo and China: The start of the tales of Sino-Italian Friendship
In front of the Marco Polo Memorial Hall near the ancient Dongguan Ferry in Yangzhou, stands a bronze lion sculpture with vivid modeling and beaming look, a statue that almost seems to want to soar the sky, a symbol of strength and peace.
It is a replica of the bronze lion found in the Venice Square, ours is a gift given to us by the Veneto Region of Italy (where Marco Polo’s hometown of Venice is located), presented to Yangzhou on October 29, 1987 by Jacob Panosso, Director of Tourism, along with the greetings from the Veneto Region to the residents of Yangzhou.
As an Italian traveler, Marco Polo came to China over 700 years ago via the Silk Road, creating a bridge between China and Europe with his legendary travels. He served as an official in Yangzhou for three years, a fact well documented in his travelogue, and that introduced him to the world like a real “Yangzhou Ambassador”.
This city houses the Marco Polo Memorial Hall, built to commemorate his great contribution to the Sino-Italian communication. Since having not only recorded the tales of his travels, but also the historical episodes of the people-to-people relations between China and Italy.
To remember this friendship envoy from Venice, the city of Yangzhou also built the Marco Polo Flowers Ocean Park, with the theme of flowers and culture to represent and re-imagine the travel route of Marco Polo and display the scenery of the nature he would have seen. Like the saying “growing flowers for ten li (a measure of length) is just like farming” from Yangzhou’s golden days.
In addition, the Yangzhou Municipal Foreign Affairs Office is also cooperating with the University of Foreign Studies of Beijing to collect and publish their research works on Marco Polo. Documents which will shed light on the latest findings on Marco Polo’s life and adventures in China, and also provide strong evidence for his working experience as an official in Yangzhou.
Yangzhou and Italy: our Sister-City Relationships following through our Millennial bond
The profound accumulation of 2500 years of history and culture powers Yangzhou with the strength and will to share it’s beauty throughout the world.
Yangzhou signed a sister-city relationship agreement with Rimini, a city regarded as the “Miami of Italy” on March 16, 1999 also the friendly exchange relationship agreement with Venice and Siena respectively on June 14, 2013 and December 18, 2018.
The city of Yangzhou has also kept close contact with Parma (a UNESCO Creative Network City of Gastronomy, and a city of strong hydraulic industry). In doing so, Yangzhou is establishing an amazing communication system with many Italian cities.
China and Italy: united through food and traditional cuisine
The best time to visit Yangzhou is in March, an interesting period of the lunar calendar, for festivals and atmosphere. An all around great time to visit its beautiful scenery and taste its yummy unique food. Yangzhou food has debuted world wide, just like the Huaiyang-styled cuisine has, frequently appearing in many food festivals. Some excellent traditional dishes include the Yangzhou Baozi (steamed stuffed buns) and Yangzhou fried rice, which are also well known all over the world. Yangzhou was selected as UNESCO Creative Network City of Gastronomy on October 31, 2019.
A partnership forged with the right approach defies geographical distance. Italian food has a long history, seen as the “mother of western food”, Yangzhou has established its relationship with Italy mainly through these culinary traditions.
The Yangzhou Food Industrial Park has taken Italy as their spiritual headquarters, setting up its European offices in Rimini and Rome.
In September 2016, Yangzhou hosted the Silk Road Cuisine Show, on the opening ceremony of which, former Speaker of the Chair of Italy China Friendship Association Ms Irene Pivetti, delivered a speech with dozens of Italian companies attending the event. Many Italian restaurants have also settled in Yangzhou.
Here’s a picture of the “Pepper and Salt Restaurant”, the most authentic Italian restaurant in Yangzhou, both chefs, whose names are Simona and Chris, are from Italy.
What happened during the Coronavirus? One Heart Against the Pandemic
Being clear and sincere makes you a lifetime of friendships. In the early stages of the pandemic in Yangzhou, our Italian sister cities made every effort to seek and donate urgently needed medical supplies to us.
As the pandemic became gradually weaker in our city, it accelerated its spread in Italy, Yangzhou raised supplies in the shortest period of time and donated many much needed supplies to some Italian cities: a batch of medical surgical masks to Rimini (28,000 pieces), Venice (21,000 pieces) and Parma (12,000 pieces).
Also the two counties under the jurisdiction of Yangzhou, Gaoyou and Baoying, donated medical surgical masks to their respective Italian sister cities: Sarzana (6,000 pieces) and Siena (16,000 pieces).
Immediately after receiving the donations from Yangzhou, Rimini published a report on its official website, and Venice also sent a thank-you letter to Yangzhou.
In the face of severe challenges of the pandemic, Yangzhou has not stopped but consolidated and deepened its exchanges and communication with Italy.
“Yangzhou’s warm embrace”, a city that shared its hardships and successes with its international friends, creating new and deepening old friendships, building an international community for a shared future.
For the Future: Prospects for a Wonderful Cooperation
A single flower doesn’t make spring; but one hundred flowers in full bloom do bring spring to a garden. Yangzhou is working on the building of the “UNESCO Creative Network City of Gastronomy”, “Culture”, and “City of World Canals”, by preparing for 2021 the International Horticultural Exposition in Yangzhou and the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships 2022. While still strengthening its communication and cooperation with Italy with many other initiatives.
As a city with a comprehensive history, Yangzhou has witnessed three brilliant and glorious eras, respectively in the Han Dynasty (202BC-220), Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Qing Dynasty (1636-1912). Now Yangzhou is projected into the future, yearning for a place in the world stage.
The city of Yangzhou with its many resources will keep raising for the future new opportunities, even in the face of crises like we’ve seen in the past months, and create new and exciting ways to cooperate and enhance the friendship between China and Italy, throughout the years and change of scenery.
With a rich historical background and a strong will for more cultural enrichment and promotion, a need embraced by both of our cultures, Yangzhou is bound to play a bigger role in the present and future relationships between China and Italy.