The middle stretch of the Yellow River is often regarded by the Chinese as the origin of China's civilization, and the section running through Henan province is no exception, giving birth to numerous legends and home to various historic figures. Along with its cultural significance, the river is also one of the most beautiful sights in Henan; its wide, silted waters meander through this region, a party to one of the most serious soil erosion situations in the world. The river's slow winding ways are deceptive, as well, and the..
The city's oldest Buddhist structure, the three-story Fan Pagoda, built in 977 AD, is a testament to the persistence of Kaifeng's long history. The hexagonal structure, originally 80 meters and nine stories high, was built during the Southern Song Dynasty, only to be partially torn down during the beginning of the Ming era because the new Emperor found pagoda's massive height to be intimidating. During the Qing Dynasty, six levels of the pagoda were restored, only to be vandalized once again during the Cultural Revolution. ..
Longting Gongyuan, or Dragon Pavilion Park as it is known in English, is home to the annual Kaifeng Chrysanthemum Festival (held in late September and early October, depending on when it falls in the Chinese Lunar calendar) and is one of the most recognizable sights in the city. A former imperial palace during six dynasties from the later Liang (907-923) through part of the Jin (1115-1234), Longting offers the beautiful views of Kaifeng amid the tranquil beauty of the park's lakes, bridges and the Dragon Pavilion itself,..
Located in a small, non-descript alley near Shudian Street and Zhongshan Road, the Shanshanguan Guild Hall was initially established as a temporary residence and community center for out-of-town merchants visiting Kaifeng. An excellent example of Qing Dynasty architecture, Shanshanguan was later used as a school, until finally being designated a tourist attraction. Of note are the lavish wood carvings that re-tell the daily workings of merchant life, in particular a scene depicting a man being dragged by..
Built in 1049 AD, the Iron Pagoda (Tie Ta) is the most famous monument in Kaifeng. Ironically not made of iron, but actually glazed bricks, the Buddhist pavillion is still completely structurally sound from its Song-era construction, and visitors can climb to the top by scaling the challenging series of stairs. At over 55 meters in height, the Iron Pagoda has survived earthquakes and floods that have leveled much of historic Kaifeng, making it a marvel of resiliency.
Luoyang's most revered Buddhist site and popular tourist attraction, the Longmen Grottoes (Lóngmén Shíkū, 龙门石窟) or "Dragon's Gate Grottoes", lie twelve kilometers (7.5 mi) to the south of the city center. Separated by the Yi River are Xiang Shan (eastern bank) and Longmen Shan (western bank), two mountains riddled with thousands of caves and niches featuring some of China's most spectacular rock carvings and inscriptions. Work on the carvings began in the Northern Wei Dynasty (471-499 AD) and continued over the Sui..
Baima Temple (Baima Si) is one of the most impressive and truly holy temples in the entire Henan province and is considered by many as being one of the oldest in China. Legend has it that white horses carried the first scriptures from India to this spot in 68AD, hence the name (meaning White Horse Temple) and the prevalence of horse statues about the entire area. At this time, Buddhism in India and Nepal had just reached its peak and this was almost certainly the first time Buddhism had reached China. The temple was initially built to..
Guanlin Temple dates back to the year 1596 in the later half of the Ming Dynasty, and has an interesting—albeit gruesome—story attached to it. Legend has it that Guan Yu, whose tale is perfectly hyperbolized in the famed Romance of Three Kingdoms (author: Luo Guanzhong), led many a battle and offered allegiances with several neighboring warlords, playing one against the other. When his tactics were finally discovered, Guan Yu was ambushed and beheaded. His severed head was sent to Caocao, one of the warlords for whom Guan had..
Luoyang's Wangcheng Park is a public park which can be divided into five different sections—the public garden area, a zoo, a fun park, a peony garden area and a culture section—all of which require separate admission fees. There's not a lot to attract the interest of the average traveler unless you have a particular interest in the happenings of the Zhou Dynasty (1046 - 256 BC) or China's symbolic flower, the peony, which they like to call "The King of Flowers". Every year for 10 days in April (15th - 25th), thousands of..
On the outskirts of Anyang lies the Tomb of Yuan Shikai (Yuán Shìkǎi Mù, 袁世凯墓), an ambitious Henan-born military leader who became both the first president and, later, the self-proclaimed but little-respected last emperor of China. Designed in the style of Ming-Qing Dynasty tombs, "Yuan Forest" (Yuán Lín, 袁林), as the tomb is also known, takes visitors along a path through a memorial gateway, a statue-lined walkway, a second courtyard and finally to the tomb mound itself. Though not as elaborate as the..