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Beihai: Historic part of departure

Updated: 2015-04-11 08:18
By Lin Qi (China Daily)

Beihai of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region is largely visited by people for the pleasant climate and the reputed "silver beach", which boasts fine, smooth sand glittering with silver light.

What many tourists easily ignore about the resort-city is its important past being a port of departure of the historic Maritime Silk Road. Only at that time, it was widely known as Hepu.

Historical records wrote that during the reign of Liu Ce the Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty (157-87 BC), official envoys and traders set out from Hepu and Xuwen in Guangdong province. They sailed to India and Sri Lanka, trading silk and gold for pearls, azure stones and other treasures rarely seen in China. The transmission routes extended to the Persian Gulf and norther part of Africa after the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

There are otherwise concrete testaments, which have been excavated from a cluster of Han Dynasty tombs in Hepu over the years. Visitors to the Han Culture Museum of Hepu County will see some exquisite examples, including the pottery vases that feature Persian blue glazes, a gold, ball-shaped ornament with Greek-style flowery patterns, a bronze scent burner in which the left incense originated from what is today's Malaysia. And they are only a small part of the treasures shipped from countries and civilizations along the Maritime Silk Road.

Measures have been enhanced in recent years to preserve Hepu's Han tombs and other relic sites, which witnessed the ups and downs of the Maritime Silk Road. A main reason is that Beihai joins a team of eight coastal cities, which played important roles in the booming of Maritime Silk Road. Together they proposed and are preparing to apply the ancient route for a UNESCO World Heritage status.

Meanwhile Beihai actively reaches out abroad to these hub ports once flourishing in the era of Maritime Silk Road. It hopes to upgrade the trade and cultural exchanges with them to a new height, and the opening of Beibu Gulf Star marks a new dimension to building the 21st century Maritime Silk Road.

Upon the ship's arrival in Kuantan, Malaysia during its maiden trip, in early February, dozens of representatives from the government units, Malaysian media and business community embarked for a tour; while the Chinese tourists on board received warmly welcome containing dances and a feast of authentic Malaysian cuisine ashore.

Malaysia and China through the ancient Maritime Silk Road had established close trade relations 2,000 years ago.

In a welcome speech, Malaysian transport minister Liow Tiong Lai said the opening of the Beibu Gulf cruise line signifies that "Kuantan has become a model city that represents the realization of the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership" between the two countries in boosting the new Maritime Silk Road today.

He said the route will serve as "a bridge of peace and friendship between both nations, attracting more tourists from China to Malaysia and vice versa".

Our two Malaysian tour guides couldn't agree more, when they talked with relish about the tourist spots that many Chinese haven't explored yet.

They mentioned an abandoned underground mine field which had been transformed into a themed park. They introduced marvelous views of forests, waterfalls and rainbows in national parks. And they recommended a home-stay experience in the countryside where visitors can reap the rice and tap the rubber under hostel owners' guidance.

For people who travel en route the Maritime Silk Road, there are always new landscapes and more possibilities out there.


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