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Hainan


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Hainan Island retains an aura of mystery even to this day. Little is known about the island's past, even though the island had a long connection with the Chinese mainland dating back to the Han dynasty. Believe it or not, some Chinese today even see Hainan's image as an island of exile.

A majority of people outside of Asia would have no clue as to where Hainan is on the world map. They would have a much easier time pinpointing Taiwan than Hainan.

Hainan entered into the Chinese history books in 110BC when during the reign of Han Wudi, the Chinese established a garrison there. The largest ethnic minority on the island, the Li, migrated there from Guangxi and Guangdong provinces way before the Qin dynasty. The Lis had no written script and their spoken language belongs to the Chinese-Tibetan language family.

Probably the most famous perception of Hainan in the minds of Chinese is its image as an island of exile for dissenters during the Song dynasty. The most famous exile, Su Dongpo, arguably China's most beloved poet and scholar official (and many see as surpassing Li Bai and Du Fu in literary talent), ate as many as 300 lychees a day during his stay there. Su had a knack in seeing the best of things during times of trouble. He retained his cheerful debonair spirit and continued writing poetry in the 詞 form. Whenever he got lost on the island, he would simply follow the cattle home. Su lived a frugal life there and some of his best poetry were written there.

One positive aspect of the Song dynasty was that the emperors would not execute you if you disagreed with them. Instead, they send you to vacation on Hainan. An imperial edict for exile to Hainan must have been a blessing indeed.

During Chiang Kaishek's purge of the Communists in Shanghai in 1927, many Communists fled to Hainan. The Li people and the Communists waged a guerilla resistance against the Japanese on the island, which the Japanese retaliated by wiping out over a third of the island's male population. The Nationalists recovered the island after World War 2, and Hainan was one of the last territories to fall to the Communists.

Since 1988, Hainan has been integrated into the market economic-reform policies of the PRC.

Two of 20th century China's most influential women, Soong Ching-ling and Soong Mei-ling, were residents of Hainan during their childhood years, with the latter being born on the island.

The most recent episode of Hainan in the news was in 2001, when the US spy plane made an emergency landing on Hainan.

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Actually Hainan has undergone image refining in the recent years.

In the late '80s and early '90s, Hainan was viewed as the "Wild West" and many big smuggling cases were revealed there.

But recently Hainan's image has been upgraded with many international conferences like Boao Forum held there annually.

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Anyone heard of the story of how Su Dongpo was finally able to begin his spiritual development?

He was an avid Chan Buddhist follower and was a good friend of the Zen monk Fuyin. The two lived across the river from each other. Su decided to write a poem one day to show to his friend that he had reached spiritual enlightenment.

I bow my head to the heaven within heaven

Hairline rays illuminating the universe

The eight winds cannot move me

Sitting still upon the purple golden lotus

Su dispatched a servant to send this poem across the river to his friend. When Fuyin read the poem, he realized that it was a declaration of spiritual refinement on Su's part. The eight winds that Su referred to were praise, ridicule, honor, disgrace, gain, loss, pleasure and misery. These dictated the actions of men in the material world. Su Dongpo was trying to indicate that he was free from such influences.

Fuyin picked up a pen, wrote the word 放屁 on the manuscript, and sent the poem back to Su Dongpo.

Su, expecting the poem to be well received by his friend, was shocked and angered. He thought to himself, "How dare Fuyin say this!" He stormed out and told his servant to ferry him across the river immediately. When Su arrived at his friend's temple, he found Fuyin's door closed with a note on the door that read:

The eight winds cannot move me

One 放屁blows me across the river

This stopped Su Dongpo. His anger quickly subsided. If he claimed that he had reached spiritual enlightenment, how come one word of criticism from his friend sent him angrily dashing across the river instantly? Su was seeking praise from his friend, and Foyin showed that Su was not as spiritually developed as he claimed to be. Su became embarrassed, and this incident marked a turning point in his spiritual development.

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