Back at the time of the Qing Dynasty, it was commonplace for people in the poorer areas of Shanxi and Shaanxi to head northward over the Great Wall, in the hope of earning a living in the central and western areas of Inner Mongolia. This is the area that is now known as Hetao. One of the principal routes, took these migrants across the Great Wall at a place called Shahukou, which was popularly known as the West Pass. Among the most prominent of the pioneering settlers was a man named Wang Tongchun who was, in fact, a native of Hebei Province. He is credited with playing a major role in developing the Hetao Area.
The Qing authorities encouraged the migration from the poor and over-populated regions of the North, to the Hetao Area. Apart from alleviating the poverty of the migrants, this policy also strengthened the defences along the country’s northern border.
The irrigation systems constructed by Wang Tongchun brought enormous benefits to the people of Hetao. In this way he, like many others who came to the Hetao Area around that time, helped stimulate economic development. And with the economy on a sounder footing, it became possible to promote social reform.
The people of Hetao, be they indigenous to the area or immigrants, have, throughout history, built up a reputation for tenacity and original thinking. These attributes have been at the heart of the unique civilization they have created by integrating elements from various outside cultures. Doubtless, in the years and centuries to come, the Hetao Area will continue to develop in its own, highly individual, way.