Mount Liang

Mount Liang

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Mount Liang is a mountain in Liangshan County, Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

 province, China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 which rises to 197.9 m above sea level. It is well known as the stronghold of the 108 legendary Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 heroes of the classic Chinese novel Water Margin
Water Margin
Water Margin , also known as Outlaws of the Marsh, All Men Are Brothers, Men of the Marshes, or The Marshes of Mount Liang, is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.Attributed to Shi Nai'an and written in vernacular Chinese, the story, set in the Song Dynasty,...

. The modern Liangshan County is located a few kilometres to the north, and 80 km west of the Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

-Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 railway line.

The original Mount Liang was named after the son of Emperor Wen, the King of Liang, who was buried on the mountain (two of the well known chiefs of the Liangshan are Chao Gai and Song Jiang.) The area was from prehistoric times surrounded by the largest marshland in north China, called the Daye Marsh and later the Liangshan Marsh. During the Song Dynasty, the Yellow River
Yellow River
The Yellow River or Huang He, formerly known as the Hwang Ho, is the second-longest river in China and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of . Originating in the Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai Province in western China, it flows through nine provinces of China and empties into...

 passed through the area. Mount Liang was located at the extreme north of what became known as the "eight hundred li moorage of Mount Liang". Because the area was largely a wasteland on the frontiers of several administrative units, government control was minimal. It is known that bandit chiefs were active in the area during the Northern Song, although Song Jiang
Song Jiang
Song Jiang was the leader of a group of outlaws who lived during the Song Dynasty. The outlaws were active in the present-day provinces of Shandong and Henan before their eventual surrender to the government. Song Jiang is also featured as a character in the Water Margin, one of the Four Great...

 - one of the chief protagonists of the Water Margin - was not associated with the area. Some of the bandits on Mount Liangshan preyed selectively upon the rich and became known as "righteous bandits" (yi fei 義匪). Legends about the heroes of Mount Liangshan, which provided the basis for the Water Margin, probably formed from this historical context. Banditry continued on Mount Liang until the mid-seventeenth century, when the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 government established a military garrison at what is now the city of Liangshan.

Water Margin describes Mount Liangshan in majestic terms, imagining its peak to be a plateau ringed by high mountains and protected by six passes and eight fortresses. The Yuan Dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

 play
Zaju
Zaju was a form of Chinese drama or Chinese opera which provided entertainment through a synthesis of recitations of prose and poetry, dance, singing, and mime, with a certain emphasis on comedy...

 Black Hurricane Presents Twin Victories (黑旋風雙獻功) envisages Mount Liangshan as having: "seventy-two deep rivers, garrisoned with hundreds of warships. In thirty-six feasting towers are gathered food for a million soldiers and their mounts."

When the Yellow River shifted course 1289, the marshes of Liangshan shrunk considerably. During the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 it had been reduced to five smaller marshlands. After the Yellow River shifted back to its northern course in 1853, the marshes were gradually filled in by sediments carried downstream by the river and human land reclamation
Land reclamation
Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, is the process to create new land from sea or riverbeds. The land reclaimed is known as reclamation ground or landfill.- Habitation :...

. Today the relatively small Dongping Lake is what remains of the great marshes.

Considerable effort has been made in recent years to develop Liangshan as a destination for domestic tourists. A number of buildings have been erected to match descriptions given in Water Margin. The mountain now has a somewhat theme park feel about it.