The Yellow River is called “The cradle of Chinese civilization”. Chinese dynasties were built along this river, and in the early periods of Chinese history the regions around the Yellow river were the most prosperous. It is the 3rd longest river in Asia, and the 6th in the world. It is a life giver and referred to in Chinese as the mother river, but it has also earned the name, “China’s sorrow.” This river has has taken well over a million lives. The river’s flooding from it’s constant changing of course from erosion has earned it the world reputation of being the only natural disaster in recorded history to kill more than a million people.
In the years between 1332 and 1333, seven million people were killed from by Yellow river flooding, and the subsequent famine and disease that followed after. In 1887, 900,000 to 2 million people died, and in 1931, 1 to 4 million people died. The most interesting of floods happened in 1938 during the second Sino-Japanese war. The Chinese military decided to break the levees and flood the valley on purpose as a way to prevent the advancing Japanese army from reaching their goal of capturing Wuhan where at the time the temporary Chinese Government was set. The idea was to have “the water be a substitute for soldiers”. 5,000 to 9,000, Chinese civilians were killed in the floods, and an unknown number (but most likely not as many Chinese) of Japanese soldiers. The flood stopped the Japanese from capturing the city of Zhengzhou, but they still reached their goal of overtaking and capturing Wuhan.
A river that has birthed a civilization and taken away such a multitude of life is not going to continue in modern China with out a park dedicated to it. The Yellow river park is located in the northern part of Zhengzhou, and can be long trip on a bus, but we were lucky to have a friend with a car, and he drove his family, and my friend’s family, and myself to the park for the day. This happened near the end of our stay in Zhengzhou so it was a nice way to end a year in this Chinese city of Northern China.
It’s a huge park with five sections. At the time of the visit, we were not informed of where we were or the significance of any of what we were looking at so much of it was just interesting for the sake of its existence, and carried little historical reference for any of us foreigners. Aside from the massive statue of Mao, I had to look up the names of other statues and buildings on the internet, and I wasn’t able to find the names of everything, but I was able to find some bits here and there.
We first ascended a small mountain, and that is where we found the giant statue of Mao. The children quickly preceded to climb him in order to race to the top to see who could tag Mao’s mole first. It is considered good luck to rub the hands of Mao. The infamous leader is known for saying, “We must control the river,” which resulted in building dams and levees. The view from the statue of Moa looked down on the the wide and literally yellowish brown river. Looking down from the mountain we could see areas for rice paddies but most of the area is now used for the purpose of the park, and transferring the water from the river to Zhengzhou.
We crossed over a bridge called the Luotuo (camel) bridge which led to the Yueshan temple on Yue Mountain. There is a great view of the statues and the monument that they built below. I didn’t know the significance of much of what I was looking at, unfortunately, but what I’ve gleaned from the internet is that the giant statue on the mountain measuring 59ft high is the connected heads of Yandi and Huangdi the great ancestors of China, and they face the river in a symbolic reverence for this giver and taker of life. Information pretty much dies out from there.
At the base of the part of the park that is called the Five Dragon Peak there is a statue of a Mother cradling her son. This statue is to represent the mother river and China, and their harmonious relationship (they’ve yet to build the statue of the mother dropping and shaking the baby to represent the times not so harmonious). The park also has statues of very famous calligraphy writers- non of whom I knew of, but calligraphy is an art form in China, and to be called a writer in China means that you do calligraphy. It was in this area of the park were we found a man who painted a quick drawing for each of us (for a cost) and then wrote a poem. I had asked my Chinese friends what the poem said, and they all replied, “It’s too hard to translate,” which I found to be the common response when asking for the translations of certain things.
Our tour guides drove us around to parts of the park where not all tourist were allowed to go which is the advantage of having your driver being a Zhengzhou cop, and he took us to a quiet area near a sharp curve in the river where there seemed to be people disgusting the construction of something. A woman rode out on horse back to deliver a message to people working, and then she quickly rode away as if riding back into the past. We were warned not to stand too close to the river, not because it can jump up and pull you in, but because the soil and silt is very soft and can suddenly crumble under your feet. It is this soft earth that causes the rapid erosion and the continuous changing of the river. Although, the river has not changed much since Moa exclaimed that it must be controlled.
We ended at the base of the figure heads of Yandi and Huangdi where many Chinese were ringing giant bells, taking pictures and a couple of men were swinging whips over their heads to make giant cracking sounds that reminded me of firecrackers or gunshots. We watched the sun set behind wires and trees, and took the long traffic flooded drive back into Zhengzhou.