“A lot of people died here,” a Chinese friend once told me. “Tai Ping rebels killed them and dumped them into this canal.” He peered over the railing and at the murky water. ” There may even still be bodies at the bottom.” He said this with a matter-of-factness that I just believed outright. I didn’t see any historical markers to this effect, but Jintan is his hometown — something he takes pride in. And, when talking about Tai Ping Rebels, he’s referring to The Heavenly Kingdom (太平天国); as civil conflicts goes, this was not only the bloodiest in Chinese history, but global history in general. It happened around the same time America had its own civil war.
But let me back up a bit. My friend and I were standing on a bridge, There was a remnant of an historic wall gate behind us. Old skeletons might or might have been in the water beneath us, and Hua Luogeng Park 华罗庚公园 surrounded us. So did Jintan. Two years ago, it was an independent satellite city under Changzhou’s jurisdiction. Last year, it lost its independence and became
Changzhou’s newest district. The same thing happened to the once-city of Wujin many, many years ago. Such things happen when
Chinese urban centers rapidly expand.
As I result, I found myself intrigued by this new, remote section of the Dragon City. Hua Luogeng Park, I found, is the most ideal place to start when venturing into Jintan for the first time. Why? It’s the closest to the district’s long-distance bus terminal. And by the way, it costs 15 RMB for an express bus to this part of Changzhou. The trip from and to the downtown station takes a little over one hour. The park is also part of the city center. A visitor could easily take a
walk here before and/or after doing other things. But convenience is not the only reason to come here.
The park is named after Jintan’s most famous son, Hua Lougeng. He was a world-renowned mathematician. Amazingly enough, he had no formal training. All of his contributions to number theory and more resulted from years of dedicated study and self-teaching. He was never actually a university student; he was just a man with a passion for numbers. There is a prominent statue of him here seated and holding a cup. The American in me assumes the beverage is coffee, but this is China. It’s more than likely tea.