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The Yucheng Postal Stop (a.k.a. Yucheng Post or Mengcheng Post) is located in the historic part of Gaoyou in Jiangsu province. The beautiful town of Gaoyou already was an important traffic hub in ancient China during the time of the Song dynasty. Due to Gaoyou's prime position near the Grand Canal as well as the Gaoyou Lake, building a postal stop there was a logical choice. The Yucheng Postal Stop was then finally built in 1375 AD during the period of the Ming dynasty. Already then, it was built larger than other postal stations and nowadays it is not only considered to be the largest but also the best-preserved ancient postal station in all of China.
Back when the Yucheng Postal Stop was in operation, the empire's official postal carriers could change horses there as well as find food and accomodation before continueing their journey. They could also transfer the mail to another carrier there or to a boat on the Grand Canal. The emperor's special messengers (that carried dispatches throughout the country) as well as ambassadors and other official travellers were also entitled to use the Yucheng Postal Stop as a place to rest and recuperate. Ordinary travellers however could not use the services of an official postal stop as that required a special permit.
The Yucheng Post covers a surface area of about 1.3 hectares. It was in operation for centuries from the year of its founding until 1911 and provided stable work for a staff of about 200 people. The about 80 buildings that occupy the compound were heavily damaged by fire several times but repaired/rebuilt each time. During the Qing dynasty in 1890, the station was also expanded. Horses played a vital role in the running of a postal station and the Yucheng Post once had 20 stables that provided space for 130 horses.
When postal riders, imperial messengers and/or officials arrived at the station, they would find an ample choice of food available that was prepared by 14 different kitchens. A small temple also catered to the traveller's spiritual needs. After staying overnight in one of the station's restrooms, most travellers would then continue their journey the next day. The 3 large and several small depots at this postal station were predominently used to store grain before it was then shipped along the Grand Canal. To facilitate loading, the Yucheng Post then even had its own landing docks (which no longer exist today) at the nearby canal. Up to 18 boats were at the disposal of the station and the postal couriers. Furthermore, it was not unusual in ancient China for prisoners to be transported from one part of the country to another. These prisoner treks could also stop at a postal station like the Yucheng Post. To prevent the prisoners' escape at night, they were placed in temporary detention cells when their trek rested at the station.
When approaching Gaoyou's Yucheng Postal Stop that is open to the public as the Museum of Chinese Postal History, most visitors' attention will be drawn to the drumtower that faces the road in front of the compound. It is the only surviving drumtower of three that once existed and from its upper level, visitors will enjoy a nice view over the surrounding one-storey buildings. Before climbing up the tower, most visitors will however view the three main halls of the compound, the entrance hall, front hall and back hall. Besides Ming and Qing dynasty furniture, you will find exhibits in these halls that are meant to illustrate how China's ancient postal system worked.