Shanxi should not to be confused with its neighbor of ‘Shaanxi’. It is a fairly mountainous province compared to the coastal plains to the East, the Yellow River (Huang He) forms its Western boundary and the Great Wall to the North. The northern boundary of Shanxi is defined by the Great Wall built during the Warring States period and then strengthened by Qin Shihuang the first Qin emperor, to mark the border and keep the barbarians out. Together with Shaanxi and Henan, Shanxi is positioned in the fertile Yellow River valley which was the nucleus for the development of the distinctive Chinese civilization. Part of the heartland of China from the early days it has a rich range of temples and monasteries with long histories. Wutai Shan is a sacred Buddhist mountain. It boasts the Yungang Caves at Datong, full of Buddhist sculptures.
Popular Cities: Taiyuan, Datong, Changzhi, Yuci, Yangquan, Linfen, Houma, Jiexiu
Average temperature: -16ºC to -2ºC (3.2ºF to 28.4ºF) in January, 19ºC to 28ºC (66.2ºF to 82.4ºF) in July.
Places to visit
1. There are many historic sights to see in Shanxi, including: Congshan Monastery in Taiyuan dating back as far as the 6th century but rebuilt in the 14th. There is also the Shuanglin MonasteryGuandi Temple, Guanyun (commemorating a famous General from the Three Kingdoms period); Yingying Tang Pagoda at Yongji; Northern Mount Heng is a 6,617 feet [2,017 meters] sacred Daoist mountain in the north-east of the province (there is a Southern Hengshan too).
2. In Shanxi Province one can get a glimpse of Chinese gardening, architecture, sculpture, carving and other arts. The statues of the maids of the Song Dynasty (960-1280) in Jinci Temple of Taiyaun are considered masterpieces of ancient Chinese sculptures. These statues together with the ageless cypresses of the Zhou Dynasty (1112 B.C – 221 B.C.) and gurgling Nanlao Spring (Spring-for-ever-young), are regarded as the three most enchanting scenes of Jinci Temple.
3. Wutai Shan (Mountain) in northern Shanxi consists, as its name suggests of ‘five platforms or peaks’. The highest peak is to the north and is 10,036 feet [3,059 meters] high making it the highest mountain in northern China. Mount Wutai is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China. Where there is ground protected from the sun there is snow cover all year round. It has one of the oldest Buddhist shrines – Dafu Temple originally of Han dynasty date with 400 rooms. One room, the Bronze Hall, has impressive flowers and Buddhist sculptures all made in bronze. By its side stands a large white Dagoba (a Buddhist stupa).
4. The Yungang Caves date back to the Period of Disunity (460-494). The valley has a series of about 1,000 grottoes with at one time an amazing 100,000 carvings of Buddha in all sorts of sizes and guises. However, over time the numbers have reduced to 51,000. Yungang Grottoes have even won world-wide fame. The carvings are embellished with costumes and even musical instruments giving a vivid portrayal of life in ancient times. The 52 feet [16 meters] statue in Grotto 19 is an impressive carving and may represent the Northern Wei Emperor Daiwu (446-452) who persecuted the Buddhists.
5. Pingyao, is a well-preserved ancient town, whose history can be traced back 2,700 years. It was first built during the reign of King Xuan (827-782 BC). It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.The town is surrounded by a completely intact 6-km (3.73 miles) Ming Dynasty city wall. As the central axis of the town, the South Street now still keeps its traditional layout and the unique features. Pingyao is one China’s leading financial centers during the Qing Dynasty.
6. The Hanging Temple, or Hanging Monastery, is a temple on a cliff (about 75 meters or 246 feet above the ground) in Hunyuan The construction was built during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557), and has a history of more than 1,400 years. The scientifically designed and skillfully built Xuankong Temple is “odd, suspended and wonderful”. Completely built on the mountain cliff, it seems that the wood-structure temple is supported by the beams inserted into the chiseled holes in the cliff, but actually some of the beams don’t bear the load at all.
7. The Hukou Waterfall is the largest waterfall on the Yellow River and the second largest waterfall in China after the Huangguoshu The Hukou Waterfall was naturally formed from water in the middle reaches of the Yellow River flowing through the Jinxia Grand Canyon. The width of the waterfall changes with the season. It usually stretches 30 meters wide but can increase to 50 meters during the rainy season.