TUKANG-JALAN.COM – IF you want to get a good measure of China’s historic settlements, go to Shanxi.
While the rest of China aims to present a new face to the world, this northern province wants nothing but to showcase Chinese culture dating back 5,000 years, says Wang Wenbao, deputy director of the Shanxi tourism bureau.
The sight of ancient but still densely populated buildings viewed fro mthe top of the Pingyao ancient city wall is breathtaking. The historic structure is located in Jinzhong city, a hlaf hour by high speed train from Shanxi’s capital, Taiyuan.
“there are roughly 4,000 well preserved residences of Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) within the city wall,” says Cao Xin, a local tour guide.
What makes Pingyao special is its intact city wall that ruins for approximately 6 kilometers, Cao says. It takes up to two hours to walk the full circuit of the wall and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of what is within.
“Unlike other historical sites which are under strict protection but suffer the loss of the human touch, the ancient city is very much alive, thanks to its inhabitants,” Cao says.
Historic government offices, banks and temples can be found in teh city, giving an impression of how past generations went about their daily lives.
A place that houses ancient tortuere tools and displays photos depicting the punishemnt of criminals boggles the mind. It is a reminderthat ancient justice often allowed teh convicted to suffer in a brutal manner till death came.
In 1997, Pingyao was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The World Heritage Committee rated teh city as the best-preserved ancient county in China and out standing example of a traditional Han City of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
It stated that the city offers a complete picture of cultural, social, economic and religious development in ancient times.
For visitors who want to shop for local fare, Cao recommends “the three treasures” of the city – yellow rice wine, lacquer and Chinese yams. She explains that although some products cost more in the scenic spots, they are well worth it.
“The Changshengyuan yellow wine that was loved by Empress Dowager Ci Xi (1835-1908) and Yonglong lacquer are only available for sale here. You can’t buy them elsewhere.”
When night falls, the city rewermbles Beijing’s Nanluoguxiang – a well-preserved ancient part of China’s capital. The streets of Pingyao are wider, however, and more comfortable to walk along. Red lanterns hanging from the eaves are lit while bars and restaurants bustle with business.
A ticket to Pingyao costs 120 yuan ($19) form March to October, which drops to 90 yuan during he rest of the year, Cao says.
The Taihang Mountain Grand Canyon scenic spot, four hous by car from Pingyao, is well worht a visit to go rafting at Qinglongxia, which offers a nice change of pace fro mteh ancient culture tour.
The river for rafting is 2,000 km long and is divided int othree sections, says Zhang Lijun, manager of the scenic spot’s general management center.
This is a thrilling experience for visitors brave enough to tackle the twists and turns of the raging river, with some of the drops almost vertical.
Small holes on the bottom of each raft are for passengers to maintain balance. Water splashes all over those who take part, so appropriate footwear and clothing are required, adn a change of dry cothes is essential for after.
Rafting costs 100 yuan per person and takes up to two-hours for the full distance, says Zhang.
Another outdoor option is hiking alogn the blazoned stones in th scenic spot. For those intested in Chinese military history, there are old garrison facilities for them to walk down teh ancient memory lane.
The entrance ticket to the scenic spot costs 175 yuan adn will be halved from November to March, says Zhang. “Visitors ca nenjoy a free shutlle-bus service here, but a large number of them choose to drive,” he says.
Driving around the canyon surrounded by towering mountains is a refreshing and cool experience.
The Wangmangling scenic spot, located in Jincheng’s Lingchuan county is southeast Shanxi, is roughly an hour’s drive from the canyon with views of numerous mountain peaks.
Spiralling along the narrow mountain road with cliffs on teh side is a nerve-racking experience. Viewing decks are available, so those who are made of sterner stuff can stand on the edge and take in the full view of the awe-inspiring cliffs, the highest being more than 1,500 meters above sea level.
From Wangmangling the Royal Prime Minister’s Palace in Jincheng city is another entry on the must see list in the area. This is a castle style architectural complex that was the former residence of ChenTingjing, a teacher of Emperor Kangxi from teh Qing Dynasty, and a popular tourist attraction.
The complex houses buildings of yellow bricks and titlted roofs, as well as gardens. There are caves inside the walls that were once used for hiding soldiers, adn crenels once used to look out for enemy attacks.
In addition to strolling aroudn the complex, visitors can also watch a live reenactment of the spectacle when Emperor Kangxi came to visit. Roughly 100 crew members act as the emperor, his wife and their entourage, as well as Che nand his family, and they give a spectacular show of pomp.
Shanxi has much more to offer tourists, such as Mount Wutai, Yungang Grottoes and Qiao’s Courtyard. The province has four airports, including Taiyuan Wusu International Airport in the capital, making it even more accessible to visitors. [CHINA DAILY| AUGUST 21-27, 2015, words by : YANG FEIYUE email@example.com]