Yantai is a prefecture-level city and, as such, is an administrative division of the People’s Republic of China. (Prefecture-level cities form the second level of the administration in the PRC – just below provinces and above counties. Slightly different from the US, where city government is our 3rd level.) It lies on the northern shore of a small peninsula which sticks out toward Korea (about 300 miles southwest of Beijing).
Yantai is the largest fishing seaport in Shandong, and is also an economic center with an industrial base (and attendant smog). It used to be known to the us in the west as Chefoo, a misnomer which refers, in Chinese, solely to Zhifu Island, which is historically governed by Yantai and lies offshore just to the west of the city.
The name of Yantai came from the watchtowers constructed on Mount Qi in Yantai in 1398. (The Chinese characters, “yan” which means “smoke” and “tai” which means “tower” are combined to form “watchtower”.)
Mount Qi is now known as Yantai Hill, and is located in downtown Yantai. The Mount/Hill was also the site of the western embassies and consulates – the unoccupied US Consulate building still stands and is open to the public (for a small fee. Higher fees are collected by the dozens of souvenir shops that line the street leading to the hill.)
The towers were built during the reign of the Hongwu Emperor, founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and were used to raise alarms against invasions of Japanese pirates. Today, there’s just a small park and a memorial to WWII victims. I was told the watchtowers are now used to warn nearby merchants of the approach of a cruise ship. (Believe what you want.)
Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization (Which civilization reputedly began along the lower end of and the delta area of the Yellow River), and has served as a major cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese Buddhism, and Confucianism. Shandong’s Mount Tai is the most revered mountain of Taoism, and one of the world’s sites with the longest history of continuous religious worship.
The area of Yantai has a population of roughly 5 million (includes the ‘burbs) – the urban population is around 2 million. When I was here in 2008, less than 10% of the inhabitants had automobiles. It’s got to be nearing 50% now. (See the posting, “The Stately Dance”) It’s the second largest city in the Shandong Province, (Qingdao on the southern side of the peninsula is the largest Yep, that’s where Tsingtao beer was first brewed – first by the Germans, and then the Japanese. Interestingly, Tsingtao beer is also brewed in Yantai.), and Yantai is growing daily. When I started writing this posting, the population was only 1.5 million. Really.
There will be more about Yantai and Shandong as we progress, but if you need to know NOW – go wiki.