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The city itself used to be named Dayong, and has a recorded history dating back to 221 BC. Human beings lived here along both banks of the Lishui river(the mother river in zhangjiajie), now within the boundaries of Zhanagjiajie City, very early during the Stone Age. The history of civilization in this region dates back to 100,000 years ago, rivaling such famous sites as Xi’an, Beijing and others. In 1986, the Academy of Chinese Social Science discovered relics of the Old Stone Age in Cili County, unearthing 108 articles of stoneware; these mainly included: tapered-form, hacked-tamped and plate-shaped wares. According to the archaeological experts’ textual research, all of these wares were produced about 100,000 years ago. What’s more, shortly thereafter, in 1988, the Archaeological Institute of Hunan Province found another relic of the Old Stone Age in Sangzhi County; they turned up 3 pieces of stoneware, which they estimated, were also fashioned over 100,000 years ago. Ten thousand years ago, those who lived within the boundaries of what is now Zhangjiajie City, employed fire to back pottery. Archaeologists have found more than 20 relics of this kind in Cili County, while in Sangzhi County, a black clay pot adorned with a unique design and dating back to ten thousand years ago was unearthed. In that period of history, such a pottery-firing technique was the most advanced in China. These sparks of culture in the fashioning of stone tools and pottery truly cast its wonderful light on the civilization of this region; however, it endured but a short while and then passed off the scene into the endless stream of history. This seems understandable in view of Zhangjiajie"s remote geographical position, its undeveloped land and river transportation, its mountains terrain making cultivation difficult, and its overall backwardness. For these reasons, Zhangjiajie has been labeled "the Land of the Savage Southern Minority" since the dawn of recorded history. Also , the people here have borne the names of "Wuling Rude People" and “Tujia Rude People” for generations.
Origin of the name
The new name of Zhangjiajie City was adopted in 1994, after the National Forest Park in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area in order to give it more prominence and after this site had been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. The National Forest Park had been given the name of Zhangjiajie after the name of a small village located within its bounds, and now a popular tourist attraction within the park. The three-character name can be interpreted as follows: "Zhang" is a common surname in China; "jia" can be translated as "family"; and "jie" can be translated as "homeland", giving the completed translation of "Zhang family homeland." It has been reported that at least one tourist guide has said that the name may have been chosen to convey the idea or impression of "Open the family door to welcome the world", but this is not the locally-accepted and directly translated meaning of the name. The official version of its name is linked to a Han general, Zhang Yang, who resettled in the area after a suspicious Liu Pang, the Han emperor, started to persecute his friends and generals who had contributed to his becoming emperor. It was so named to signify that the Zhang family had set up home there.Literally, it meant High Mountains of The zhang family.
The prefecture is mainly a tourist area. It attracts visitors from all over China and other Asian countries such as Korea.
The Wulinyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area comprises the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, the Tianzishan mountain ranges, BaoFengHu and the Suoxi Valley, and is a very popular filming and tourist destination. Also in the Zhangjiajie area, Huanglongdong and Longwangdong are caves known for many natural rock formations (much like Wulingyuan) and its underground cataract,what's more, the tianmen mountain is also famous all of the world. The Bailong Elevator is also located in the area.
Each year, Zhangjiajie hosts the International Country Music Week Festival, which has featured international acts such as American Country Music group Lucy Angel.
The Zhangjiajie Airport services scheduled service to major airports in China.