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Yangzhou, a famous cultural city with a long history, is just across the Yangtze River from Zhenjiang and on the bank of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Yangzhou was called Hancheng when it was first built under the order of King of the Wu State Fu Chai in 486 B.C. For years Yangzhou was one of the most prosperous towns in China, and the construction of the Grand Canal made it a pivot of communications and transportation from the Sui and Tang periods to the late Qing Dynasty. After the Grand Canal was initially completed in the Sui Dynasty (581-618), Emperor Yang Di made three inspection tours to Yangzhou. During his last tour in 612, peasant uprisings swept the country and he was killed by his subordinates here.

Yangzhou was also an important port for foreign trade and exchanges with the outside world in ancient China. The prominent Tang Dynasty monk Jian Zhen (688-763) made six attempts to sail from here to Japan for cultural exchange. It is also here that a celebrated Arab Moslem, Bahaa’ Eddin, stayed for ten years preaching Islamism. The world-renowned traveler Marco Polo once served as an official in Yangzhou.

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