Empowerment that transcends a pancake

By Ye Zizhen| (China Daily)| Updated : 2018-08-06

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An interactive robot in a company in Linyi Development Zone is the star attraction among reporters. [PHOTO BY YE ZIZHEN/CHINA DAILY]

The inhabitants of a village in Shandong are tasting the fruits of a government drive to raise rural living standards

Linyi in Shandong is one of those Chinese cities that seems forever destined to play the role of bridesmaid to its provincial city siblings as they bask in fame and importance.

About 150 kilometers to Linyi's west is Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, a further 100 kilometers or so away is the capital, Jinan, and about 300 kilometers to the northeast is Qingdao, renowned for its spectacular coastal setting among other things.

Yet Linyi, a city with more than 11 million inhabitants - making it bigger in population terms than New York or Paris - has made its mark on China and the world in other more subtle ways.

First of all there is that fried pancake called jianbing;that is renowned throughout the country. It is made with maize flour, usually topped with eggs, green Chinese onion, crunchy wafer and sesame powder and is a staple breakfast food in northern China, and is said to date back to the Three Kingdoms period (220-280).


Two villagers make jianbing. [PHOTO BY YE ZIZHEN/CHINA DAILY]

Four years ago jianbing was given a starring role in the China Central Television food documentary series A Bite of China, meaning that Chinese were given an insight into where the pancake originated. The location chosen as the backdrop for the story was Chunshugou village in Mengyin county, part of the Yimeng Mountain area and about 90 kilometers north of Linyi. 

However, Linyi's repute in China runs much deeper than a pancake topped with egg and other things. During the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) and the War of Liberation (1946-49), the Yimeng Mountain area served as a strategic stronghold and was the location of one of several revolutionary bases in the region.

In 1947 in the Menglianggu campaign during the civil war, an estimated 12,000 PLA soldiers died, and six years earlier, in the Daqingshan campaign, about 1,000 Chinese soldiers died while fighting the Japanese.

The area thus carved out a name for itself as a valiant stalwart of the revolution, but the very geographic characteristics that made it so valuable in conflict conspired against it in times of peace, its lack of infrastructure in particular acting as a brake while other parts of the country surged economically as the era of reform and opening up began to unfold at the end of the 1970s.

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