Grand Port of the Century, the Origin of the City
Reporters: Wang Jiangang, Sun Bing, Li Jianglong, Wu Qian, Lu Bo, Zhang Na
Introduction: In search of the treasure left by time and history. Welcome back to the serial report “I love my hometown - generous gifts from history”. More than 100 years ago, the downtown area of the city of Qinhuangdao - Haigang District was a small fishing village, without the slightest imprint of a city. In 1898, with the construction of the port, a large number of people came to the market and gathered in the city, which gradually developed and expanded. The city was formed because of the port, and the port was prosperous thanks to the city. The city and the port have a long and meaningful history. Today, our program group takes you into the port of Qinhuangdao to explore the beginning of the city.
Wu Qian, reporter: My current location is the old wharf of Qinhuangdao. It is located under the cape of Nanshantou. It is the earliest coastal man-made wharf in the city and the birthplace of Qinhuangdao Port. But did you know that the construction of Qinhuangdao Port has a close relationship with the famous Beiyang Navy in modern Chinese history?
In the late 19th century, the Qing government invested an enormous wealth to build the Beiyang Navy. However, in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, the navy, which seemed invincible, was completely defeated. Thousands of miles of Qing Dynasty’s coastline was in fact undefended. By 1898, the Qing government, which had just settled down, wanted to rebuild the Beiyang Navy. Then, finding the home port for it became a top priority. However, at that time the important ports along the coast had been divided up by the powerful countries, who would by no means hand them over to the Qing government to build a military port. After being rebuffed everywhere, the Qing government turned its attention to Qinhuangdao.
Wang Qingpu, specialist of Qinhuangdao Port’s history: According to the investigation, this place in Qinhuangdao has not been occupied by imperialists. This area is neither silted nor frozen. It is close to Beijing, so this is the suitable place for the construction of the port. So, the Qing government decided to build a military port here in order to revitalise Beiyang Navy.
The construction of the military port required a huge amount of money, but at that time the Qing government was very weak and its treasury was empty, the funds for the construction could not be obtained at all. It seemed that this matter would end without even beginning. But a turnaround occurred.
Wang Qingpu, specialist of Qinhuangdao Port’s history: Under this circumstance, the Qing government decided to open a commercial port here. Because of the financial emptiness of Qing government, it raised the funds from the Kaiping Chinese Engineering and Mining Company to build the port. However, the Qing government had additional conditions: its warships are allowed to dock here.
However, after two years construction, in 1900, the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded China and war broke out again. The British army took the opportunity to seize the Kaiping Mining Company and Qinhuangdao Port. The original intention of the Qing government to build the military port to revive the Beiyang Navy ended in vain. Since then, Qinhuangdao Port was under the British control for more than 50 years. During this period, in order to plunder the coal resources of Kailuan Coal Mine, the UK continued to invest in the expansion of Qinhuangdao Port and port facilities. Now, many old buildings left in the port and in the surrounding area are the witnesses to the history of that time. In 2013, the Qinhuangdao Port Modern Building Group, including the Qinhuangdao Power Plant of the Kailuan Mining Bureau, the Senior Club of Qinhuangdao Kailuan Mining Bureau, and the office building of Qinhuangdao Kailuan Mining Bureau, were listed as the seventh batch of national cultural relics.
Wu Qian, reporter: Of these old buildings, the relatively intact one is the Qinhuangdao Power Plant, also known as Nanshan Power Plant, located in the north side of Nanshan. It was built in 1928 and was the first power plant in Qinhuangdao. Today, it has been transformed into a power museum.
The facade of the factory building resembles the famous St. Paul's archway in Macau. The walls are interspersed with various curved and oval spaces, and have a distinct Baroque features. There were two coal-fired generators installed inside the power plant, and the annual power generation was close to 3 million kWh.
Wang Shengli, director of the News Centre of State Grid Qinhuangdao Power Supply Company: After its completion, it changed the history of Qinhuangdao Port and Yaohua Glass Factory who had been relying on diesel generators to generate electricity, which greatly improved the production efficiency of enterprises, and at the same time met the electricity demand of surrounding residents. In a sense, it lit up the first civilian electric light in Qinhuangdao.
The electric lights were on, trains and ships were moving around, and the high-quality coal excavated from the Kailuan coal mine was transported to southern China and even abroad. The development of the port also attracted more and more workers to gather in Qinhuangdao. They built houses around the port and situated their families there, and the prototype of the city was slowly emerging. However, due to the long-term control by the United Kingdom, the port was developing too slowly. For decades, the workers were basically loading and unloading coal on their shoulders - the labour was intensive and inefficient. In the Qinhuangdao Port Museum, production tools such as shovels, coal baskets and crowbars used by workers at that time are preserved.
Ge Feng from the exposition department of Qinhuangdao Port Museum: Every time that the worker lifted his shovel, he brought up 42 kilograms of coal. A basket of nearly 150 kilograms of coal was lifted by two workers at a time. They used a pole on their shoulders to carry the coal and they walked on a narrow board. The board is several meters long and less than two feet wide. It was very dangerous to walk on. If the workers accidentally fell, they would be badly hurt, if not killed. Therefore, the working environment of the labourers was very harsh.
Since the liberation, especially after the reform and opening up, Qinhuangdao Port has been reborn and has developed rapidly. Since 1983, the state has invested heavily in the construction of a five-phase coal terminal project, which has greatly improved the coal handling capacity and the equipment level of Qinhuangdao Port. Since 2006, the coal handling capacity of Qinhuangdao Port has stabilized at more than 200 million tons, making it the world's largest energy export port and the main port of the national project “North Coal to the South”, making great contributions to national economic construction. On entering a new era, Qinhuangdao Port, a century-old port, is also facing new challenges and rare historic opportunities. According to the unified arrangements of Hebei Province and Qinhuangdao City, the Xigang District of Qinhuangdao Port has completed its mission as a coal exporting port. Currently, its old wharf area is being planned to be built as an international tourist port, introducing international cruise ships to create a new multifunctional coastal town which will hold high-end tourism, financial trade, trade expos, and economic headquarters.
Wu Qian, reporter: This year marks the 120th anniversary of the construction of Qinhuangdao Port. In the past 120 years, Qinhuangdao City and Qinhuangdao Port have long shared the same breath. Many of our relatives and friends are working in Qinhuangdao Port. Every slightest change of the port has an important impact on the social -economic development of the entire city. “The city is prosperous by the port, and the prosperity of the port is my glory.” This is not just a simple slogan, but also the feeling of all Qinhuangdao people. Let’s sincerely hope that, after 120 years of development, Qinhuangdao Port will create more glory in the future.