The Emperor Qin Shihuang (221-210 BC) established three prefectures in the region, one of which he called Gui Lin. It was located on the ''Guixiang Corridor," which was an important passage connecting central and southern China. The strategic importance of Guilin was enhanced by Qin Shihuang' s decision to build the Ling Canal, which effectively provided a passage from the Yangtze to the Pearl River estuary by linking the Xiang and Li rivers. During the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD), Guilin served as the capital of Shi'an Shire, and during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), the city flourished and grew in size and importance. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279) Guilin was the capital of the area encompassed by the modern Guangxi Autonomous Region and Hainan Province. The importance of Guilin was further enhanced under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), as it became the residence of successive generations of Jingjiang princes - all influential descendants of a grandson of the Taizu Emperor. Guilin was the capital of Guangxi from the Ming Dynasty till 1912, after which the location of the capital moved several times before finally settling in Nanning in 1949. During the war against Japanese aggression, Guilin was the site of an air base from which many attacks were launched against Japanese forces. The city was heavily damaged in an unsuccessful battle to prevent occupation by Japanese troops in 1944, and was held by the Japanese from November of that year until July 28, 1945. In 1981, this ancient city was listed by the State Council as one of four cities (the others being Beijing, Hangzhou and Suzhou) where the protection of historical and cultural heritage, as well as natural scenery, should be a national priority.

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