Opinion / From the Readers

Shanxi: Land of natural beauty

By Zafar Hussain ( Updated: 2016-10-14 08:56

Shanxi is the land of natural beauty. When you leave the modern city Taiyuan and enter into historical Ningwu, natural beauty takes you in its arms. You will feel you are on another planet, especially when you have unlimited access to these natural sceneries.

Shanxi means mountain of the west, and it has an area of 156,000 square kilometers and a population of approximately 36 million. The capital city of Shanxi is Taiyuan.

I reached Taiyuan on August 10, 2016. I was really shocked to see the development of the city. The roads were wide and paved according to international standards. I was thinking: what’s the difference between Beijing and Shanxi? Soon I got the answer. There is natural beauty on one side of the road, the people of Shanxi and their wonderful hospitality. It felt like home.

At the railway station I saw one counter was named after the current employee working at it due to her wonderful services to the public. I met that young pretty lady and asked her why an official gave her that honor and she said, “If you work hard you will get reward that is Shanxi”. It was a really strange experience because mostly people are honored after death or retirement. But it is just the start of her life. On one hand the latest equipment and facilities were provided to the passengers and it is also one of the busiest railway stations of Shanxi. Everyday approximately 40,000 people travel through this railway station.

Shanxi is known for being one of the leading coal producing areas in China. You can see coal almost everywhere in the province. Most people are in the coal business. Mountains and hills cover 80% of the total area of the province.

If we talk about food, vinegar is the identity of Shanxi province. For over 3,000 years, people have been using vinegar in their food. Shanxi vinegar is considered to be the best vinegar in China. Food is considered tasteless without vinegar and is used in almost every recipe, especially in noodles. Vinegar is compulsory on the dinner table and I was surprised when they gave me a cold Sprite with vinegar mixed into it. They explained to me that now I can get an idea of how much they love vinegar. People in Shanxi believe that vinegar is good for people’s health. If you are jealous of someone they have a popular Chinese proverb meaning, “You are drinking old vinegar”.

I also got the chance to visit the Ningwu Ice Cave. It is still a mystery how it formed. Some believe that during the ice age about 10,000 years ago the ice cave was formed. The cave is 2,300 meters above sea level and it is known as one of the nine renowned ice caves in China. I was shocked by the temperature difference outside the cave and inside the cave. It was more than 20C that day and how the cave can maintain ice in this temperature is still one of nature’s puzzles. The maximum width of the cave is 20 meters and 10 meters is narrowest length. Wooden stairs are used from one corner of the cave to the other end to protect this natural beauty and make it easy for tourists to explore. These wooden stairs can hold dozens of people at the same time. Different colors of lights are used to see the natural beauty. The Shanxi government is not only protecting this natural asset but also providing facilities to national and international tourists to see this ice cave and enjoy its natural beauty.

If you want to observe natural beauty you must visit Luya Mountain. When you are standing on the peak of the Luya Mountain, you can see clouds floating in front of you. I had a strong urge to touch and feel the clouds with my hands but they slipped through my finger like fine China silk. You can also see thousands of acres of original forests all around you.

I would say it is not less than a paradise. It is refreshing standing amongst 700 varieties of trees, approximately 240 kinds of animals and breathing fresh air. The land full of green pastures, horses grazing in the field and birds singing songs. It just makes you forget that you are on Earth, time stops and then you exhale a deep breath to come back to your senses. I would say nature and Shanxi are one. If you want to feel close to nature, enjoy great hospitality and are fed up with the bustling life of big cities just visit Shanxi. I promise you won’t be disappointed at all.

The author is a Pakistan researcher at Communication University of China

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