Taiyuan, the capital city of Shanxi Province, is the political, economic and cultural centre of Shanxi. Half of the national coal is mined here and it is a heavy industrial city, although in ancient times it was a prominent military town. Over 2,500 years old, it was a capital city for a number of different dynasties and as a result has relics of a bygone time. Taiyuan is a perfect example of a dynastic cycle, with periods of prosperity followed by periods of war, invasion and decline. The Tang Dynasty was considered the golden era and the Five Dynasty period was the most stormy, with the city being burned to the ground by Song Dynasty forces in 976AD.
Taiyuan is surrounded on three sides by mountains and the city is divided into two by the Fen River. Although Taiyuan is an industrial city, there are still temples, pagodas and grottos to be found. Jinci Temple is the most visited site in Taiyuan, one of the oldest temples in north eastern China. The temple is divided into three parts, comprising halls, terraces, pavilions, corridors and bridges, with the buildings from a number of dynasties.
Shuangta Si (also known as the Twin Pagoda Temple) was originally constructed during the Ming Dynasty and the 13 storey pagodas are a highlight of this unusual temple. The Tianlongshan grottoes, a series of 25 caves carved into the mountainside, is another worthy attraction with many fine Buddhist statues and carvings sculpted within. History buffs will also find an impressive collection of ancient artefacts in the Shanxi Museum.
About 100km northwest of Lijiang in Yunnan province is where the Yangtze River’s upper reaches, the Jingsha Jiang, channel with ...