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Shanxi, a tale of an unending vista

By MIKE MUREFU | | Updated: 2016-11-08 15:10

Imagine a place that exudes a rhythm and beat of ancient beauty. A historically-rich place that if it was a painting leaves you in a state of awe and a feeling of ecstasy after looking at it. A place where the landscape is a panorama of an idyllic vision. The good news is, you don't need to imagine because that place exists. That picturesque place is Shanxi province located in Northern China.

The province is surrounded by prominent features on all of its four sides. The Great Wall in combination with Inner Mongolia forms the northern border. To the West of Shanxi is the ever-roaring Yellow River, China's cradle of civilization. The Zhongtiao and Taihang Mountains demarcate the South and East borders respectively.

Near the Heng Mountain is the beckoning Hanging Temple, hanging a stunning 75 meters above ground. According to a legend, it was constructed 1500 years ago with the initial works kick-started by a monk called Liao Ran. This old-world feature has an extensive mountain to its right and a beautiful waterfall to its left. Standing at a distance and taking this whole scenic view into perspective, you cannot help but admire at Liao Ran's works. Taking the stairs up towards the temple inside makes you think of rock climbing with varying beautiful views surrounding you. When you reach the apex of the temple, standing on a safe but narrow platform and savoring the cool breeze, you will feel an unimaginable elation.

About the same time Liao Ren was busy with the Hanging Temple, another monk named Tanyao in the north in Datong city was also busy with a different kind of construction. The construction resulted in one of the largest and most majestic grottoes in China, the Yungang Grottoes. The place prides itself in over 50 main grottoes and more than 5100 Buddha statues. The artistry put into carving of these statues borders on genius and wizardry. The serene caves house intricate and beautiful art with great stories and meanings behind it. The site is also the residence to “Mr. Datong", a sculpture which is affectionately known as the symbol of Datong City.

Gleaming on the Yanmen Mountains in Xinzhou city is the structural wonder, Yanmen Pass. A first encounter with the place gives you the impression that you are at the Great Wall. You wouldn't be wrong, because Yanmen Pass is one of the three outside passes of the Great Wall.

Curving its way into the mountains, the pass is a hub of beauty, tradition and adventure. The beauty mainly stems from how the walls of the pass meander and synchronize with the mountains. Inside and along the pass are local people acquainted with the origins and history of this ancient site. Complementing the feel of tradition and culture is a troupe whose acts offer you a glimpse of the ancient Chinese royal courts' etiquette. The site is also a good spot for adventure and photography fanatics. A journey around the stairs on the pass is eye-opening and exciting with beautiful architecture of narrow alleys and watchtowers standing tall at varied intervals.

If you have more time, you can go to Desheng Fort, another ancient site where there is a village and the locals just draw you in with their simple and friendly ways. You can take a trek into Inner Mongolia from this site through a refreshing wide open prairie.

In Shuozhou city, Ying county is the Yinxian Wooden Pagoda. An architectural wonder in its own right, the enormous Pagoda has no nails connecting the wooden panels. Do not forget to also visit Datong city, stop by Guangling Paper-Cutting Industrial Park and many other places. In a nutshell, you have not visited China until you have toured Shanxi. The province never runs out of surprises for you. For a place that is known as the Museum of China, Shanxi is truly a tourist's marvel. You will certainly return home reinvigorated.

The writer is a Zimbabwean Masters student at Jilin University, China.

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