Shanxi Province is a cradle of Chinese civilization and culture. Our visit will be a natural follow-on to those who joined our Silk Road tour in July 2015. But for those who may not yet have visited the Silk Road, Shanxi provides a splendid introduction to Chinese history and heritage. Shanxi is not only steeped in history but many of its walled settlements and temples, its architectural features and cave sculptures remain in remarkably good condition. It also enjoys much attractive scenery.
Datong in the north of the Province was once capital in the Northern Wei period and just outside it we shall be visiting the impressive Liao dynasty Huayan Temple with its fine deva statues. Nearby the magnificent wooden bracketed Shanhua temple buildings house fine carvings of the Buddha and of celestial generals. The Yungang grottoes contain superb Buddhist cave statues and art dating from the Northern Wei (386 to 534 AD). Supported precariously against a near vertical cliff the Hanging Monastery seems an improbable structure to stand the test of time but it houses many fine ancient carvings of Buddhas.
The Yingxian wooden pagoda was constructed in the Liao dynasty over 900 years ago. The nine storey pagoda is 67m high.
Mt. Wutai is one of the “Four Sacred Buddhism Mountains” in China. (The other three are Mt. Emei in Sichuan Province, Mt. Putuoshan in Zhejiang Province and Mt. Jiuhua in Anhui Province). The peaks of this mountain rise to over 3,000 metres. The lower slopes are beautifully wooded and are home to numerous temples, shrines and pagodas. The upper slopes are more reminiscent of alpine meadows.
We shall then head back to Taiyuan in the centre of the Province and its capital. Just to the south, we shall visit the ancient town of Pingyao. Its huge 14th century town walls and gates, together with the location of its wells, were designed to represent, in plan, a turtle, symbol of longevity. The old town is relatively authentic with genuinely ancient towers, many Ming and Qing buildings and considerable charm.
To round off the tour we shall include the Shanxi Museum, well recognized as one of the better Provincial museums, which covers many aspects of Shanxi culture.
We have chosen what should be an attractive time to visit Shanxi with the comfortable autumn after the summer rains and before the winter freeze.