History of Yanqing County

This page presents the very little information I have managed to find about the history of Beijing's Yanqing County. It is all to be taken with a healthy grain of salt. Corrections and additional information are most welcome.


The most striking thing I've found about the prehistory of Yanqing County is the Shanrong people (山戎族). The Shanrong are mentioned in every Chinese article I've come across on the subject, but I can not find any mention of them in any non-Chinese source. So who were the Shanrong people? According to Baidu Baike, they are:


古代北方民族名,又称 北戎 , 匈奴 的一支。活动地区在今 河北省 北部。见《春秋·庄公三十年》、《汉书·匈奴传上》。后亦为北方少数民族的泛称。

Shanrong People

Ancient northern ethnic group's name, also called Beirong, a branch of the Huns. Active in the northern part of modern Hebei Province. See 《春秋·庄公三十年 Spring duke three years Весна герцог 3 лет》、《汉书·匈奴传上 Хун Хан Чуан на Hun Han Chuan na》

The prehistoric cultures in the area of southeastern Inner Mongolia, northern Hebei and western Liaoning are:

Hongshan Culture/红山文化 of 4700 - 2900 BC
Lower Xiajiadian Culture (夏家店下层文化) 2200 - 1600 BC.
Upper Xiajiadian Culture (夏家店上层文化) 1000- 600 BC.

Only about 20 roughly translated Hun words (Zhonghan Wang. 2004. Outlines of Ethnic Groups in China. [Taiyuan: Shanxi Education Press. ISBN 7544026604], p. 133) belonging to the Altaic languages are known (Geng Shi-min, On Altaic Common Language and Xiongnu Language//Language and Translation, 2005 No 2, ISSN 1001-0823(2005)02-0003-05, in Hungarian), and only a single Hun sentence survives from the Chinese documents.

Couplet in "Chieh" (Kangar) language found in Chin-shu 95.1331c. The couplet as explained in Chinese consists of four words; M. stands for Middle Chinese:
1 [ ] M. siu\-cie < *sūx-kēh = "army" "military" (Türkic "su" = army, "su-bash" = commander in chief,  other army ranks and divisions "su-xxx" are possible; the Hunnic "army" starts with a Türkic syllable, "su")
2 [ ] M. thei\-let/lei\-kaŋ < *θe(t)s-let/le(t)s-kaŋ = 出 "go out" (Türkish "terket" = leave, close enough)
3 [ ] M. bok-kuk/yok < *buk-kok/(g)δōk = [ ] "Liu Yao's barbarian rank" (Rank could be a name of an animal, position, horse hue, bunchuk type, or dress type a la "Blue Coats"; Bugu = Bull was a historically known rank, and is phonetically close)
4 [ ] M. giou-thuk-taŋ < *gōh-thok/θok-taŋ = 捉 "capture" (Türkish "gechirme, gechirmek" = capture, close enough)

The legendary records said that the Huns descended from a son of the final ruler of the Xia dynasty. The Chinese of the Spring and Autumn period believed the people of the state of Qi (杞, aka Cai 蔡國) were remnants of the Xia, who "due to internal differences and strife", fled to the north and west. The Qi (杞) was a minor feudal state that appeared in the 16th c. BC and lasted until ca 445 BC. The state Qi was named when the 16th c. BC first king of the Shang Dynasty took over direct descendants the royal family of the deposed Xia Dynasty in the area that is now Qi County in Kaifeng, eastern Henan. The state of Qi gradually moved eastward to the area of Xintai in Shandong Province until it was finally annexed by King Hui of Chu (楚惠王 r. 488-432 BC) in 447 BC. A member of Xia, Chunwei (淳維), ostensibly became a king ancestor and of the Huns, probably pointing that the Xia rulers at some point originated from the Huns; the genealogy of that descent could have survived for millennia. The state Qi was apparently very small, in ancient Chinese documents it is rarely mentioned. A popular Chinese idiom, 杞人憂天 (qǐ rén yōu tiān, literally, "Qi people heed heaven"), connects Qi people with the heaven worship. Petroglyph sites in Yinshan and Helanshan dated from the 9th millennium BC to 19th century mainly consists of engravings and some painted images.[7] Through gathered data, scholar like Ma Liqing and others compared these petroglyphs, presumed to be the possible Hun's writings, with the Orkhon script (Ma Li-qing On the new evidence on Xiongnu's writings. [Wanfang Data: Digital Periodicals, 2004]) 

The prehistoric Yanqing is the Shanrong people, a branch of the Huns. With the non-Chinese sources being pathetically unhelpful, the information can be found in the Chinese sources.

The borders of the Yan stretch near horizontally from the Shanxi Province mountains to the Liaodong Peninsula. The most northeastern Chinese state during that time period, Yan suffered several invasions from Mongolia. In the Jundu Hill mountainous area north of Badaling in Yanqing County near Beijing were found remains of Shanrong dated by the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. From August1985 to December1987 in Yuhuangmiao, Guchengcun and Hulugou in the Yanqing county, the Beijing archeologists excavated more than five hundred Shanrong tombs from the periods of Spring and Autumn and Warring States (770 - 221 BC), overlapping with the Upper Xiajiadian Culture (1000 - 600 BC), and found more than eight thousand Shanrong-distinctive relics. These remains and relics play an important role in the historical study of Shanrong in the Beijing area.

The Shanrong people:

The Great Wall largely follows the 400 millimeter rainfall line, where a drop in elevation from a plateau to the plain separates the arid and semi-arid regions, creating a barrier between the grassland peoples and agricultural peoples. The contact zone was a theater of love and hate, war and interface involving Donghu, Northern Di, Yi, and Xia, and became a cradle of Chinese civilization and a focal point in the history of continental East Asia (Foreword for online exhibition of the Shanrong).

The Yuhuangmiao cemetery area is a very important large site, covering an area of over twenty thousand square meters totaling over 350 tombs. It is a largest, earliest, most abundant in cultural relics cemetery area of the Bronze Age culture discovered in the Beijing area. The tombs are uniformly vertical rectangular coffin pits, with widespread animal sacrifices within the tombs, the main domestic animals to be sacrificed being dogs, cattle, and sheep, with dogs being a most common regardless of gender or age. After the animals were killed, only legs and head deposited as a symbolic sacrifice (supposedly except the dogs). The animal legs were laid on the bottom, and the heads were placed on the legs, generally one animal head was placed on one animal leg. The majority of the deceased had their face covered with a cloth (linen? sackcloth? hessian?), typical for Shanrong burial custom. An ethnic custom of covering faces of the deceased  with yellow paper survived to the present, to protect the health and safety of the clan members in hope that the spirit of the dead person would rest close to the body and would not return to bring disaster or hurt the living. In the Hulugou cemetery area was discovered a stone funeral altar. Perhaps that was the original place where the Shanrong held religious ceremonies and funeral rites (Article).

Most Shanrong pottery was handmade, crude manufacture, poor quality, with irregular shapes, non-flat bottom. The Shanrong pottery is widely different from the pottery of the Central Plains and Yan cultures, and clearly different from the pottery of the Northeast's Liaoxi area's Upper Xiajiadian and Donghu cultures. Shanrong cemeteries produced many kinds of bronze ware, including weapons, tools, ornaments, equipment for horses and carts, containers, and more. Shanrong bronze containers clearly show clearly belong to two different cultures. The Shanrong culture bronze containers are coarse cast twin-eared bronze caldrons and tripod cups with animal art beast's heads and ring ear. A second type has the cultural elements of the Yan State and Central Plains, like bronze etched with coiled wingless dragons, etched cloud bronze plates , etc. This assortment indicates economical contact and reciprocity between two different cultures. The artifacts demonstrate that at that time the Shanrong were still in the Bronze Age, and their economy was based on nomadic herding (Article).

The artifacts excavated from the Han period cemeteries and the Tang period cemeteries, and the burial traditions remain quite different to that of the central China, or other counties in the Beijing area. That shows that Yanqing, a county lying in between the Central and the north China, has always been an interface zone between the Central China culture and the northern grassland culture. In the Yanqing County, on the northern outskirts of Beijing, archaeologists excavated a 44,000 square meter cemetery with 290 ancient tombs  from 206 BC to 907 period, and unspecified number of burials extending to 1911 without interruption. Archaeologists unearthed 870 historical artifacts, including pottery utensils, china objects, bronze basins, iron items, stone articles, and jade ornaments, said Zhang Shiqun, an expert with the Beijing Archaeological Research Institute.

Nothing was stated about biological or genetical studies. All tombs, covering an area of 44,000 square meters, had underground chambers built of brick, with the shape of the ceilings unique to their periods. The most valuable discovery is that chamber walls of the 618-907 AD period tombs were decorated with carved bricks that pattern windows, doors, pillars, lanterns, and even a colored fresco representing a beautiful woman, according to Zhang (Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2007).


So obviously the Shanrong people were not the Upper Xiajiadian people

And should you want more information about the Shanrong people, I suggest you check out that online exhibition.

Moving on:

I haven't managed to find a lot of information about the period between the Shanrong and, well, now. Mostly just a few tantalising little glimpses into what may have been happening. I suppose for starters we could begin with Baidu Baike's brief rundown of Yanqing's history:

春秋时期,延庆县曾是山戎族活动地区。春秋晚期和战国初期地属燕国。秦统一全国后,地属上谷郡。西汉开始在延庆境内设县; 唐末开始在延庆境内设州。此后二 千多年来先后建有居庸县、夷舆县、妫川县、缙山县、永宁县、四海县和延庆县,并曾先后设置过儒州、镇州、龙庆州、隆庆州和延庆州。<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->

During the Spring and Autumn period Yanqing County was an area where the Shanrong people were active. In the later part of the Spring and Autumn period and the early Warring States period the area belonged to the State of Yan. After Qin unified China, the land belonged to the Shanggu Prefecture. At the start of the Western Han a county was established in Yanqing; towards the end of the Tang a zhou [an administrative division of ancient times] was established in Yanqing. From this time over two thousand years Juyong County, Yiyu County, Guichuan County, Jinshan County, Yongning County Sihai County and Yanqing County were established one after the other, as were Ru Zhou, Zhen Zhou, Longqing Zhou, Longqing Zhou [different characters for long], and Yanqing Zhou.

Well, the first question is, if all these different counties and zhou were established one after the other over two thousand years from the latter days of the Tang Dynasty, doesn't that take us into the 2800s or 2900s? I had no idea I was so old. Secondly, some of those old names for Yanqing are quite interesting. Take Yiyu County, for one example: The territory of the Yi? Isn't Yi an old term for the people of east China in ancient times? Also, some of those names are still in use in Yanqing, with Longqing being the really glaringly obvious example, but also Gui is still the name of a river in the centre of the county. Anyway, the article continues:

1912年,延庆州改为延庆县。1928年成立察哈尔省,延庆县属之。1937年8月25日,日本侵略军占领延庆后,延庆 县隶属三个伪政府统治。以延庆县 城为中心设延庆县,隶属伪蒙疆自治政府察南政厅(后改为宣化省);刘斌堡以东隶属伪华北自治政府昌平县。1941年八路军开辟了“平北”抗日根据地,今延 庆县分属昌延联合县和龙延怀联合县。1944年撤销昌延联合县,重设延庆县,与日伪所设的延庆县并存。<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->

In 1912 Yanqing Zhou became Yanqing County. In 1928 Chahar Province was established, with Yanqing County being a part of it. On the 25 August 1937, after the invading Japanese army captured Yanqing, Yanqing County was under the jurisdiction of the the three puppet governments. With Yanqing county town as the centre, Yanqing County was established, under the jurisdiction of the Chanan [Southern Chahar?] Zhengting of the puppet Mengjiang Autonomous Government (which later became Xuanhua Province); the are east of Liubinbao was under the jurisdiction of Changping County of the puppet North China Autonomous Government. In 1941 the Eighth Route Army opened its "Pingbei" anti-Japanese base area and modern Yanqing was divided into the Changyan United County and the Longyanhuai United County. In 1944 the Changyan United County was disestablished and Yanqing County reestablished, existing side by side with the Yanqing County established by the Japanese puppet regime.

Now, there's a lot in there that I'm really not sure of, especially all those weird Japanese collaborationist place names and that last clause. Help would be appreciated. But anyway, we now have nothing but a list of the various administrative divisions established in what is now Yanqing in the "two thousand years" since the end of the Tang filling the gap between the Tang and the anti-Japanese war, followed by a brief sketch of what happened in Yanqing during the war. But it continues:

1945年9月20日,八路军解放了延庆县城,以青龙桥为界,青龙桥以南为国民党统治区,青龙桥以北为共产党领导的解放 区。1946年10月12日,国民 党军队侵占延庆县城之后,再次出现分属共产党和国民党管理的两个延庆县。1948年5月19日,解放军解放了延庆县城。延庆县属察哈尔省,1952年改属 河北省,1958年10月划归北京市.

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> On the 20 September 1945, The Eighth Route Army liberated Yanqing county town, with Qinglong Bridge as the boundary. South of Qinglong Bridge was the area ruled by the Guomindang [Kuomintang/KMT/Nationalist Party] and north of the Qinglong Bridge was the liberated area under the leadership of the Communist Party. On the 12 October 1946, after the Guomindang army invaded Yanqing county town, once again there were two separate Yanqing Counties ruled respectively by the Communist Party and the Guomindang. On the 19 May 1948, the PLA liberated Yanqing county town. Yanqing County belonged to Chahar Province, but in 1952 came under the jurisdiction of Hebei Province. It was incorporated into Beijing Municipality in October 1958.

So we get a brief rundown of the last civil war, then Yanqing is transferred from Chahar (which was carved up between Inner Mongolia and Hebei) to Hebei to Beijing. And that article is actually a little more detailed than others I've found on the history of Yanqing.

And just a quick note about the war, with the proviso that this is a story told to me by my father-in-law. Some time during the war, the Japanese killed every last inhabitant of a village five li/2.5 km east of my in-laws' village. He also said that the Japanese fed the bodies to the dogs.

I have also been forbidden from climbing a certain mountain behind thein-laws' village because apparently during the war a lot of people were killed up there, and since that time a lot of people have fallen to their deaths, more than one would normally expect.

Of course, I have no idependent confirmation of either of these stories and absolutely no documentary evidence, so they should be taken with an appropriate grain of salt, but I do believe that folk and oral histories are just as valid as what is officially or academically documented.

So what happened, apart from the establishment, disestablishment, reestablishment, and coexistence of various counties and zhou, in that huge, huge gap between the Shanrong and the Japanese invasion?

Well, this article tells us about a bunch of tombs from the Warring States, Han and Tang all the way through to the Liao and Jin being dug up. Apparently Nan Caiyuan "has now turned out to be the largest burying area of ancient tombs recently discovered in Beijing, and it has also provided very important archaeological materials for studying the history of the Yanqing County." Apart from the usual terrible English and lack of details, the article does manage to tell us this:

A Large Group of Ancient Tombs Discovered in Yanqing County, Beijing
Archaeologists from Beijing Historical Relics Institute and Yanqing Cultural Relics Office have from July 5 to now discovered 72 tombs in the underground cultural relics area at Nan Caiyuan, Yanqing county. They range from the period of the Warring States, the Han and Tang all the way down to the Liao and Jin dynasties.

Among the 72 tombs, 25 are built of bricks and 47 the earthen pits. The brick tombs are mainly those of the Han and Tang dynasties while the earthen pits are of the Han period. Discovered this time from these tombs are three pieces of tricolor glazed ceramics of the Tang Dynasty, pottery wares, bronze mirrors, ironware, and some other 100 pieces of relics of importance. The area has now turned out to be the largest burying area of ancient tombs recently discovered in Beijing, and it has also provided very important archaeological materials for studying the history of the Yanqing County.

In the excavation what merits our attention is the following four points:

First, no matter whether it is Han Tomb or Tang Tomb, the large number of unearthed relics and the burial forms are quite different to that of the central China, nor the same as those found in other counties in Beijing area. This shows that Yanqing, a county lying in between the Central and the north China, has always been the hotspot for the collision and blending of the Central China culture and the north grassland culture.

Secondly, the Nan Caiyuan burial area of cultural relics and its nearby areas are the largest ancient tomb areas recently discovered in Beijing. The excavation of the tomb group shows that a large city had ever been in existence in Yanqing area during the Han and Tang dynasties.

Thirdly, there are few tombs discovered of the Wei, Jin and Southern and Northern dynasties in Beijing area. The tombs of the Eastern and Western Han Dynasties do not have clear period division. So people usually take tombs in the period of Wei and Jin for those in the late period of Eastern Han. Among the Han tombs excavated this time, part of them plausibly belong to the late period of the Eastern Han and bear the distinctive cultural feature of northern grassland. It has therefore provided us with materials for confirming the cultural features of the Wei and Jin period in Beijing area.

Fourthly, three tricolor censers are unearthed this time from the Tang tombs. They are not only very rare in Beijing area, but also in China so far as their shaping is concerned. The discovery of the tricolor censers has very important value for researches. However, the tripod censers are found their legs missing, but no damaged parts are discovered elsewhere in the tombs. It is supposed to have been purportedly cut off before they were buried.


Ah, thanks, People's Daily, but I think we'd already managed to figure this out. Now how's about, instead of telling us that this find is really important for the study of Yanqing's history and repeating what we've known for a long time already, actually telling us why these finds are important and how, exactly, they improve our knowledge of Yanqing's history.

And now we have this article about the discovery of 290 ancient tombs in Yanqing. It's typically short on details, offering not much more than this:

The unearthed funeral objects will be sent to museums and the tombs will be circled in a protection zone outside the construction project, Zhang said.


The delicate brick carving shows that the Tang tomb owners were members of noble families, he said.

290 ancient tombs found in Beijing

Chinese archaeologists have discovered over 290 tombs, some of which date back 1,800 years, in Yanqing County, on the northern outskirts of Beijing.


Most of the tombs were built in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) or Tang Dynasty (618-907). Others are believed to belong to the Jin (317-581), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911).

All the tombs, covering an area of 44,000 square meters, had underground chambers built of brick but the shape of their ceilings were unique to their dynasties.

The excavation was conducted by the Beijing Archaeological Research Institute from July to October in order to preserve the ancient relics in the area, where construction of living quarters is scheduled to start by the end of 2007.

The archaeologists also unearthed 870 historical artifacts, including pottery utensils, china objects, bronze basins, iron items, stone articles, and jade ornaments, said Zhang Shiqun, an expert with the institute.

The unearthed funeral objects will be sent to museums and the tombs will be circled in a protection zone outside the construction project, Zhang said.

The most valuable discovery is that chamber walls of the Tang tombs were decorated with carved bricks that pattern windows, doors, pillars, lanterns, and even a colored fresco representing a beautiful woman, according to Zhang.

The delicate brick carving shows that the Tang tomb owners were members of noble families, he said.

The artifacts will provide valuable clues for the study of how people lived as well as funeral customs of the different eras, the expert added. Research is continuing on the tombs and artifacts and there are no plans at present to display them to the public.

(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2007)


Moving on, we do manage to discover that Genghis Khan paid a visit to the Kangxi Grassland:

公元十二世纪,女真人建立了北起黑龙江南到淮河流域的强大帝国,是为金朝。当时,康西草原一带属金德兴府(今涿鹿)下辖 的妫川县。十三世纪初,蒙古族兴 起。公元1211年7月,成吉思汗以哲别为先锋,率军南下,首先攻破乌沙堡(今张北县西北),9月攻陷德兴府,占据妫川县(今怀来县东部和康西草原一 带)。金朝居庸关守将见蒙军势大,遂弃关南逃。成吉思汗军直抵中都(今北京)城,久攻不下,12月撤兵北归。此后,金朝将缙山县(今延庆)升为镇州,并加 强了镇州至德兴一线的防务。公元1213年秋,成吉思汗再次出兵,金军与蒙军在妫河激战,金兵大败。金尚书完颜纲将大印丢进妫河逃走。蒙军占领镇州后,遂 经八达岭进攻居庸关。蒙军攻居庸关不下,成吉思汗依计从小道绕过居庸关,直抵南口,然后兵分三路,掠夺了黄河以北除中都、檀、顺等城之外的在部分州县。金 元帅遣都元帅完颜晖与蒙军议和。金朝以献童男女各五百、绣衣三千件、御马三千匹和大批金银珠宝,并将歧国公主献给成吉思汗为条件,向蒙古屈服。1214年 4月,成吉思汗出居庸关过妫河北还。

In the 12th century AD the Jurchen established a powerful empire stretching from the Amur River in the north south to the Huai River valley, the Jin Dynasty. At that time the area around the Kangxi Grassland belonged to Guichuan County under the jurisdiction of Jindexing Prefecture (modern Zhuolu [a county in Hebei]). At the beginning of the 13th century the Mongolian people rose up. In July 1211, Genghis Khan with Zhebie [Mongolian general] as the vanguard, he led the army south, first breaking through Wushabao (the northwest of modern Zhangbei County), then in September capturing Jindexing Prefecture, occupying Guichuan County (the area of modern eastern Huailai County and the Kangxi Grassland). The general of the Jin Dynasty's Juyongguan Garrison, on seeing the strength of the Mogolian army, abandoned his post and fled south. Genghis Khan's army headed for Zhongdu (modern Beijing), but didn't attack, and in December he withdrew his army to the north. From then on, the Jin Dynasty made Jinshan County (modern Yanqing) Zhen Zhou, and strengthened the defensive line from Zhen Zhou to Dexing. In the autumn of 1213 AD, Genghis Khan sent his troops out again, and the Jin and Mongol armies fought fiercely at the Gui River, the Jin soldiers being heavily defeated. The high official of Jin Wan Yangang [just guessing that's his name] threw the Great Seal into the Gui River and fled. After the Mongolian army occupied Zhen Zhou, it immediately crossed Badaling and attacked Juyongguan. Not being able to break through Juyongguan, Genghis Khan had to use a small path to pass Juyongguan, heading straight for Nankou, then he sent his soldiers on three separate routes, pillaging zhou and counties north of the Yellow River apart from towns such as Zhongdu, Tan, and Shun.

Now this is the kind of thing I'm looking for, exciting things happening in places I'm familiar with, but I just haven't managed to find that much of it.

The Kangxi Grassland also gets a mention in this story about the emperor Kangxi fighting people in the north, but only towards the end.

Now let's add this article about a discovery from the Jiuyanlou section of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall, which does contain a few details, but not much, and no explication, with everything we've learnt so far and you could be forgiven for thinking that Yanqing County has been of some serious strategic importance since the Spring and Autumn period. An impression that would be reinforced by a quick trip up the Badaling Expressway, in which you will pass under the Great Wall twice (Juyongguan and Badaling, the latter via a tunnel through the mountain on which Badaling sits) and pass a third section (Shuiguan).

Or let's play another favourite game of mine and look at the place names. Here's a list from the Baidu Baike article on Yanqing County of the one community (社区) and thirty two village committees (村委会) under Zhangshanying Township (张山营镇):

张山营镇 辖1个社区(张山营镇社区)、32个村委会(大庄科村、佛峪口村、水峪村、胡家营村、姚家营村、东门营村、下 营村、西五里营村、前黑龙庙村、后 黑龙庙村、西卓家营村、下卢凤营村、上卢凤营村、张山营村、马庄村、小河屯村、上板泉村、下板泉村、玉皇庙村、西羊坊村、辛家堡村、丁家堡村、靳家堡村、 田宋营村、吴庄村、龙聚山庄村、晏家堡村、中羊坊村、黄柏寺村、上郝庄村、韩郝庄村、苏庄村)。

Note the prevalence of the character 营 That means camp, barracks or battalion. That character appears in the name of the township itself, a name that is taken from one of the villages under the township, and in the names of 10 of the thirty two villages, or roughly one third of the villages, namely 张山营, 胡家营村、姚家营村、东门营村、下营村、西五里营村, 西卓家营村、下卢凤营村、上卢凤营村、张山营村 and 田宋营村.

Now, Zhangshanying is in the northwest of Yanqing County, whereas the Great Wall runs through the mountains along the border with Changping in the south, on the opposite side of the Guanting Reservoir. The Kangxi Grassland mentioned in those articles about Genghis Khan and the Kangxi emperor are in the southwest of the county, also on the opposite shore of the reservoir. This, to me, only reinforces the impression that Yanqing has a long and proud military history. I would be surprised if all those 营 referred to the camps of nomadic herders.

Well, all of this brings us back up more modern times, when, as already noted, Yanqing was first a part of Chahar, then after much chopping and changing and division during the war, Hebei, then finally Beijing.

And that, sadly, is a good summary of all I've found about the history of Yanqing County so far.