Diocese of Yibin
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In a land area of approximately 50,000 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the prefecture-level cities of Yibin, Luzhou, Neijiang and Zigong in southwestern Sichuang province, among which Neijiang was returned to the diocese in December 2010. Neijiang parish (which covers the city of the same name) was a part of Yibin diocese. It was given to neighboring Nanchong diocese in 1984 and was returned to Yibin again in 2010.

Population

There are about 1.72 million people living in the four cities covered by the diocese. The majority is Han Chinese. People of Hui, Miao and Yi minor ethnicities have lived there for many generations.

Language

Mandarin Chinese, Yibin dialect and Minjiang dialect are in use in the diocesan area.

History

Catholicism was introduced into Sichuan as early as 1640s and spread into the southern part of the province in early 18th century. The Vicariate Apostolic of Southern Sichuan (Szechwan) was erected in 1860 and it was renamed as Suifu in 1924. It was elevated to a diocese in 1946 when the Chinese Church Hierarchy was established. The region had been entrusted to French missionaries until they were expelled from mainland China in 1950.

All Church-run schools and charitable organizations were confiscated during political turmoil in 1950s. After the Church in China launched the patriotic movement and cut off its ties with the Vatican, the first native bishop of Yibin, Wang Juguang, was ordained without papal mandate in 1958. His successor, Bishop John Chen Shizhong, was ordained in 1985. He is approved by the Vatican and recognized by the government.

Transportation

The region's natural waterways provide transportation links with the surrounding area, and Yibin is also connected to Chongqing and Chengdu by rail and express highway. Yibin's proximity to the Yunnan and Guizhou borders also means that transportation to the provinces is available by rail and by bus.

Yibin Airport offers flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming and Guangzhou.

Climate

Yibin has a four-season, monsoon-influenced, humid subtropical climate, with mild winters, and long and hot summers. Monthly averages range from 7.8 °C in January to 26.6 °C in August, with an annual average of 17.8 °C. Though annual precipitation falls almost entirely during the summer months, humidity is high year-round and there are only 1018 hours of sunshine annually, one of the lowest totals in China.

Economy

The city's industry focuses on electronics, food products, and power generation. It also produces paper, silk, and leather products. The surrounding region is rich in agricultural resources, growing rice, barley, oil seeds, sesame, and tea.

The largest employer in Yibin is Wuliangye, a company best known for Wuliangye, a traditional Chinese distilled liquor. The Wuliangye Group grew from a small company employing just 300 people in 1977 into a large company employing over 20,000 on a seven square kilometer plant. According to an article in a securities weekly in 2005, the Wuliangye Group is 72 percent state owned and provides 70 percent of the revenues of Yibin City, a major regional center at the head of the Yangtze in southeastern Sichuan. In 2004, 6,225 retired military worked for the company, out of a total work force of over 20,000. One third of top management positions are held by retired members of the military. Unsuccessful efforts to diversify its business, poor transparency and a murky ownership picture are among the company's problems today. However, liquor is not the sole product of the Wuliangye Group. It also produces many other kinds of products, such as paper, and tires. Wuliangye now contributes about 60 percent of Yibin's GDP.

Topography

Yibin is located in the southeast portion of Sichuan, and borders Yunnan (Zhaotong prefecture) to the south, Luzhou to the east, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture and Leshan to the west, and Zigong to the north. As it is on the confluence of the Jinsha River, Min River and Yangtze River, it is called "the first city of the Yangtze River." The city ranges in latitude from 27° 50'-29° 16' N, and in longitude from 103° 36'-105° 20' E, stretching 153 kilometers east-west and 150 kilometers north-south.

Culture

Yibin is an ancient city of about 2,000 years of history. Its name began in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). Due to its strategic location, it was an ancient battleground and the site of many peasant uprisings and revolutionary activities.

A night scene of Yibin city