Cradle of ancient culture becomes tourist paradise
One of the birthplaces of China's ancient civilization, Yuncheng is full of natural and cultural wonders.
East to the Yellow River, Yuncheng is at the southern tip of North China's Shanxi Province, with a total area of 14,000 square kilometres and a population of 5 million.
Its long history gathers a wealth of historical and cultural legacies. It has 44 national cultural relic protection units and 90 provincial ones, as well as a national scenic and historic interest area and two national forest parks.
Of great value and high fame are the Yongle Palace in Ruicheng, a fresco treasury of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368); the Pujiu Temple in Yongji where the West Chamber, a famous Yuan Dynasty play, was performed; the Stork Tower, one of China's top four ancient towers; the unearthed iron ox group in the Pujin ferry by the Yellow River, which dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907); and the well-preserved Lichen primeval forest, the largest of its kind in North China.
Furthermore, Yuncheng witnessed hosts of famous stories in ancient Chinese history, while well-known historic personalities left their legends there to inspire the minds of future generations.
They included Guan Yu, a general in the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280), renowned for his loyalty and later deified as Guandi or Emperor Guan; Tang Dynasty writer and poet Liu Zongyuan, as well as poets Wang Bo and Wang Wei; Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) statesman, historian Sima Guang; and Guan Hanqing, a playwright of the Yuan Dynasty with striking literary achievements.
As a cradle of Chinese culture, Yuncheng boasts brilliant folk arts. The Jiangzhou music accompanied by drumbeats caused a sensation among foreign audiences during its overseas performance tour, while the Jiangxian County dragon dance was performed at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Asian Games in 1990.
The adventurous and exciting performance of walking on stilts, the popular Puzhou opera, the skillful and colourful dough modelling, and the superb paper-cuts and embroidery are all among the attractions of Yuncheng for visitors from both home and abroad.
"The hilltop kissing the setting-sun,
The Yellow River flows to the sea.
Stepping upon such a high building
Gives you a panoramic view as far as a thousand miles away."
This household four-line poem named "Stepping upon the Stork Tower," a masterpiece of the renowned Tang Dynasty poet Wang Zhihuan, has made the Stork Tower one of China's four most famous towers.
Standing near the bank of the Yellow River, the Stork Tower was originally built in the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557-581) for military purposes. As a vantage point, it also attracted literati and poets of past dynasties to climb it to see a panoramic view of the beauty of the landscape.
Unfortunately, the original tower was ruined in the war during the Yuan Dynasty.
Rebuilt in 2001, the new six-floor tower, 73.9 metres in height, follows the construction style of the Tang Dynasty. Murals in the tower display the personal stories, historical legends and humanistic culture of the eastern Yellow River area.
Emperor Shun Tomb
Ten kilometres to the north of downtown Yuncheng, Emperor Shun Tomb is a holy place for Chinese people to offer sacrifices to their ancestors.
Emperor Shun, the ninth-generation grandson of Huangdi or Yellow Emperor, was a clan alliance leader of the primeval society who succeeded Yao due to his outstanding morality.
As a legendary sage monarch in ancient China, Shun made vigorous efforts to build a strong country by appointing officials on their merits, developing the economy and educating the people.
Emperor Shun Tomb is mainly divided into two parts. The southern part consists of the Emperor Shun Avenue, the Emperor Shun Square and the Emperor Shun Park, while the northern part includes the outer city, the cemetery and the Imperial City.
Standing along the tomb passage are five ancient cypresses, more than 4,000 years old. It is even more amazing that each cypress embraces a dead one, so they are known as "Couple Cypresses."
Dubbed China's Dead Sea, the Yuncheng Salt Lake covers a total area of 132 square kilometres with a development history of 5,000 years.
It is rich in mineral elements, while its black mud contains the same basic elements as that of the Dead Sea in Israel, which can be used to activate cells, refresh the skin, and relieve fatigue.
A large-scale drifting bathing centre and a black-mud healthcare pool were built in the vicinity of the lake several years ago, attracting increasing numbers of tourists to enjoy the salty water swimming, black mud and hot spring bath.
(China Daily 07/25/2006 page20)
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