As part of a continuing series, ArchitectureRichmond will document the cities that comprise our five active Sister City partnerships, in order to learn more about similar urban environments throughout the world as a point of reference for our own development.
Zhengzhou is the capital and largest city of Henan Province, China. With a city population of nearly 4 million and a metropolitan area of almost 9 million, Zhengzhou is Richmond’s largest sister city.
The city has one of the largest GDPs in China and exerts massive economic influence over the country, particularly the central China region. In addition to being a command center for government and finance, the city is rich in culture. It has been inhabited since neolithic times and rose to prominence around 2700 BC to serve as the nation’s capital through 5 governmental dynasties. It is one of the eight great ancient capitals of China.
Much like Richmond, Zhengzhou preserves and prides itself on its history. It is home to the Henan Museum which specializes in archaeological and art objects from the provinces’ millenniums of history. With a collection of more than 130,000 objects, it is among the largest historical museums in China. Other notable sites in the city include Song Mountain, a UNESCO world heritage site and center of Taoist culture, the Henan Opera, and the birthplace of Huangdi, known as the Yellow Emperor, who unified China under his rule nearly 5,000 years ago and is considered the father of Chinese civilization. The famous Shaolin Monastery, home to Mahayana Buddhist Monks trained in the martial arts, is located nearby. Due to its rich collection of cultural artifacts, Zhengzhou’s involvement with the Richmond Sister Cities Commission has involved art and culture exchanges. A selection of books given by Zhengzhou can be found at our city’s main library.
Today, Zhengzhou is a rapidly growing center for business and culture. Home to 16 universities, numerous museums and theaters, and countless businesses and financial institutions, the city has become increasingly prominent on national and international levels. Its educational, cultural, and financial assets help to make the capital city the center for development within Henan province, fulfilling a role similar to Richmond within Virginia. The city has aggressively developed its infrastructure to support this growth and contains shipping docks on the Yellow River (one of the most important waterways in China), an international airport, highways, and rail stations. An extensive subway system is currently in development as well.
Zhengzhou has benefited from intelligent planning, a recent example being a city wide strategy developed by the late Kisho Kurokawa: urban planner, architect, and founding member of Japanese Metabolism. The city’s urban core is extremely dense with high rise residential, retail, and office building. Notable works of modernist architecture are taking their place among ancient temples in Zhengzhou’s urban fabric. As different as Zhengzhou is from Richmond in terms of size, scope, and context, we have much to learn from their willingness to make a commitment to intelligent public transport and urban planning.