Located to the west of Taihang Mountain, Shanxi province is 150,000 square kilometers in size and has a population of 30.45 million. Lying along the middle reaches of the Yellow River and the eastern edge of the Loess Plateau, the province is notable for its agricultural crops, such as rice, wheat, cotton, grapes and pears; furthermore, the province is also known as "the country of charcoal" and the superior quality of vinegar it manufactures.
Shanxi cuisine focuses on saltiness, freshness and deliciousness. There are altogether 25 different cooking techniques, in which deep-frying, stir frying, roasting, braising and steaming are the most reputable. Local favorites include sweet and sour fish, hot candied yam, boiled lamb, chopped noodles, hand stretched noodles and knife carved noodles.
Attractions to visit
Known as the "City of Coal", Taiyuan is the capital of Shanxi province. The most remarkable attraction is the Jinci Temple, which is located about 25 kilometers southwest of Taiyuan. Rated as the landmark of Taiyuan, the temple currently houses various sculptures, in which the 42 lifelike female-figured ones are the most amazing.
Being the most famous Buddhist Mountain in China, Wutai Shan has an altitude of 3,000 meters and houses at least 70 temples. It is certainly a must-visit for Buddhists in exploration of the religion, as well as to worship.
- Xiantong Temple
Constructed during the East Han Dynasty, it is currently the largest temple in Wutai Shan.
- Pusading Monastery
Located in a convenient location, the monastery has attracted the most worshippers within the area.
Being one of the five Sacred Mountains in China, Hengshan Mountain is situated approximately 62 kilometers south to Datong city and is reputable for its man-made landscape structures and breathtaking views from its peak.
- Xuankong (Overhanging) Monastery
Precariously constructed on the sheer cliff face above Jinlong Canyon, the monastery is more than 1,400 years old. With the aide of natural alcoves and strong beams, its 40 halls and pavilions clung stably to the rock walls. Stairways, corridors and boardwalks were connected to all buildings, hence forming breathtaking views at the valley floor.
Yixian County's Wooden Pagoda
The 940-year-old pagoda is 67.3 meters in height; it is China's tallest pagoda, which is built entirely of wood. Although the pagoda had been through various earthquakes, floods and warfare, it still remained undestroyed. This best reflected the superior architectural techniques the Chinese already pursued many years ago.
Rated as one of the four ancient Chinese cities that remained intact, Pingyao has a notable history of 2,700 years and is currently listed as one of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage site in 1997. Built in the Ming Dynasty in order to prevent foreign invasion, the city wall is 6,163 meters in length and 12 meters in height. Retaining its 14th through 18th centuries architectural styles, Pingyao is a great place to explore China'sancient history, culture, civilization, religion and economy development.
- Ri Sheng Chang Bank Museum
Starting its business during the early Qing Dynasty in 1873, it is the first organized bank in China. The bank started the system of money transfer, ending the inconvenient and risky currency transportation method from place to place. The museum currently possesses 20 exhibition halls, where visitors can gain a better understanding of the development of the Chinese banking system.
- Qiao Family's Courtyard House
The residence of a rich local merchant family during the Qing Dynasty, it was transformed into 50 independent exhibition halls, displaying the history and valuables of the Qiao family, and various local artifacts. The attraction was made famous in the west by the movie "Raising the Red Lanterns", starring Chinese actress Gong Li.
- Wang Family's Courtyard House
Once the residence of a reputable civil official, the courtyard house is said to be comparable to the Forbidden City in size. One special characteristic of the courtyard home is certainly the intricate carved frescoes that decorated many of the building walls.
Rich in energy resources and coal, Datong also has a large collection of cultural relics.
- Yungang Grottoes
Located at the base of the Wuzhou Mountains, the grottoes contain 51,000 sculptures scattered throughout 53 rock caves, and the earliest could be dated back as early as 460 AD. Regarded as one of the national treasures, the grottoes became a world heritage site in 2001.
- Nine Dragon Screen (Jiu Long Bi)
Built during the Ming Dynasty, the lively dragon screen is eight meters in height and 45.5 meters in length. Rated as one of the three most remarkable carved dragon screens in China, it is made of 426 colorful glazed tiles, with a background of clouds and seawater.