Opinion / Blog

China Daily trip to Shanxi

By anastasiasuli ( Updated: 2015-06-04 17:29

The Chinese people believe in fate, or yuanfen, as they call it. It is the yuanfen that brings people together and separates them; the chances of getting a job or entering a university is also a matter of yuanfen, and it is fate when we visit certain places, according to the wise Easterners. I have heard about Shanxi province before, as names like Wutaishan, Pingyao and Datong are very famous around China - someone who is a little bit interested in Chinese culture also should have heard them.

I was granted a chance to visit Shanxi through the China Daily program “Shanxi  in the Eyes of Foreigners”. The program lasted five days – from the May 25-29. Of about 500 applicants, only 16 lucky participants were selected and on the morning of May 25 we embarked on a journey to the historical roots of China, a trip to   5,000 years ago, where history is well-preserved.

We hopped on a bullet train from Beijing to Taiyuan with the Beijing participants and China Daily crew members. Thanks to Gireesh, one of the participants and an Indian restaurant owner, we escaped sandwiches for lunch and had fine Indian food instead.

Upon arrival, we met with the other foreign participants from other provinces, and went to the briefing with Beijing and Shanxi China Daily officials and local Tourist Bureau authorities at our hotel. There, we were  told  about the program’s agenda and were introduced to each other. After the meeting, we were invited to the opening dinner at a gorgeous restaurant in Taiyuan, where it was difficult distinguish between an art masterpiece and the food, so skillfully was the food was prepared. A noodle-making demonstration was given at the dinner’s end.Apropos to our location, the Shanxi noodles that were served are famous all over China.

On the second day we visited Jinci Temple in Taiyuan city. It was built about 400 AD in memory of Shu Yu, a legendary prince who lived during the Western Zhou Dynasty. But the biggest draw was awaiting us in the afternoon, the ancient town of Pingyao, where history seems frozen in time. The former Chinese policy to demolish old establishments new did not touch the culture relics here, and it is preserved by UNESCO. The locals say Pingyao town is tortoise shaped, with its six gates and a massive city wall. The tortoise is a symbol of harmony in China, probably that’s why the town successfully survived the reforms. Pingyao is a typical example of a Chinese town from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The first “Wall Street” was  founded in Pingyao, we well as the first bank. So, in its heyday, Shanxi was a rather prosperous province with a very developed  financial sector, like modern Shanghai. According to our guide, nowadays Pingyao still possesses its unique cultural genuineness. But still, it is a very touristy place. You can see a plethora of souvenir stalls, massage salons, cafes, and even a few bars.

Our third day started with a 4-hour road trip to Changzhi, a very cultural city full of legends. The Taihang Mountains are located in Huguan county of Changzhi city, and present a wonderful view themselves. I was very impressed by our hotel as it was in the mountains. It should be said that the temperature there is much lower than in the city and it rains from time to time.

The next destination was Wangmang Mountains and the Cliff Road in Xiyagou. The mountains were not always named Wangmang. They were first called the Turtle Mountains due to the shape of one of its cliffs. This place was named after Wangmang, whose ambition was to become an emperor; that place was the battlefield for him and Liu Xiu, so that is how the mountains got their name. We came home very late and worked up enough appetite for dinner. A visit to the Royal Residence scheduled for that day was postponed until  the next day, as everyone was tired and the weather was getting cold and it was drizzling.

Finally we attended a performance inspired by the Qing dynasty, strolled along the Royal Residence and bid farewell to that wonderful place.

Shanxi can be described in three words: cultural, historical and unique. I want to express my gratitude to the organizers, to Mr. Sun Rui Sheng and all the participants with whom we spent five unforgettable days.

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