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A place with a sense of history

By Li Wensha and Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-04 06:55
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An art exhibition at a century-old building in the "Year 1895" cultural and creative industrial park in Nantong, Jiangsu province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Ancient town retains charm of the past with modern efficiency, Li Wensha and Li Yingxue report in Nantong, Jiangsu province.

A century ago, the tall clock tower's bell rang out, signaling the shifts for workers at Dasheng Cotton Mills.

Adjacent to the clock tower, on the bank of the canal connecting Nantong to Yangzhou in Tangzha ancient town, Nantong city, Jiangsu province, the bustling Dasheng Wharf facilitated the unloading of raw cotton and the dispatch of finished products to Shanghai, Sichuan and Jiangxi provinces and beyond.

Today, the clock tower, built in 1915 and once the highest point in the area, still stands proudly, with its bell ringing on the hour, every hour, just as it did 100 years ago.

The Tangzha area originated in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when a local official had a floodgate, or zha, constructed on the canal. As the floodgate was near a family surnamed Tang, so came the name Tangjiazha — Tang family floodgate — later shortened to Tangzha.

The ancient town, now a subdistrict of Nantong's Chongchuan district, is well-preserved and retains much of its original architectural charm. Yet this historical subdistrict of Nantong has undergone a significant transformation.

Since the start of the new century, the Nantong authorities have launched preservation efforts for the area's industrial heritage, transforming it into a historical and cultural subdistrict. Adhering to the principle of restoring buildings to their original condition, the architectural complexes have been repaired and added with new service facilities. Meanwhile, the area's original charm and appearance have been maintained.

Tangzha ancient town now stands as a beacon of efficient production for blended yarn and fabric and has become a new hot spot for industrial heritage tourism. Additionally, it hosts numerous cultural enterprises, blending its rich historical legacy with modern innovation.

Tangzha ancient town has been praised by Wu Liangyong, a professor at Tsinghua University and an academician of both the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, as the "foremost town of modern industrial heritage in China".

During a visit to Nantong in 2002, Wu noted that "since the Self-Strengthening Movement, Tangzha has become the most well-preserved site of modern industrial heritage in China. It features the most diverse and substantial array of industrial categories, with its original sites and conditions remarkably intact. Tangzha is a prime example of early Chinese national industry". The Self-Strengthening Movement was a campaign of economic and military modernization in the second half of the 19th century, designed to strengthen the national power during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

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