Hohhot Overview

Surrounded by the endless, undulating Inner Mongolian grasslands, it's no wonder that many confuse the meaning of Hohhot (Hūhéhàotè, 呼和浩特), which actually means "Blue City," with the common misnomer of "Green City." Also known as Hu City (Hū Shì, 呼市), Hohhot is popular during the summer months for its cooler climate and wide-open spaces. Daqing Shan (Dàqīng Shān, 大青山), part of the Yin Shan (Yīn Shān, 阴山) range, wraps around the city's north and east while the Hetao Plateau (Hétào Píngyuán, 河套平原) spreads out to the southwest.

The capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region since 1952, Hohhot has become a bustling city and transportation hub that is home to 36 ethnicities including Mongol, Heng, Hui, Man and Erwenk peoples. It is also the starting point for treks into the enormous Gegentala, Huitengxile and Xilamuren grasslands, all of which are ideal for stargazers and horseback riding enthusiasts who find solace in the measureless expanses of green beyond the city's edge. Also of note, the deserts near Hohhot are among the few places in the world where snow can be seen on sand dunes.

The city is also known for its significance in Buddhist history: Hohhot is where Altan Khan, the great Mongol leader, rekindled a powerful relationship between Mongols and Tibetan Buddhists when he invited the third Grand Lama, Sonam Gyatso, to help him spread Buddhism throughout his empire, subsequently popularizing the term "Dalai" as the Grand Lama's new honorific.

Though the rapid modernization common to most cities in China has run roughshod over many of Hohhot's relics, there are still a number of historical monuments to explore. Old Hohhot, in the southern part of the city, is home to the Great Mosque, evidencing Hohhot's longstanding multi-culturalism with its nuanced mix of Chinese and Arabic design. The Great Lamasery (Da Zhao), also known as the "Silver Buddha Temple" for the statue dedicated by the third Dalai Lama, provides some serenity if you're looking to escape the usual commercial tourist scene. More on the history of the city and the surrounding region can be found at the Inner Mongolia Museum and the Hohhot Museum.

On the other hand, if a little commercialism is in order, take a stroll down Xincheng Lu (Xīnchéng Lù, 新城路) and visit the Nationalities Market (Mínzú Shìchǎng, 民族市场) where items as diverse as Mongolian silverwares, carpets, cashmere, camel hair products, traditional knives, decorative deer antlers and narrow-leaved oleaster curtains can be found. A bowl of Hohhot's signature dish—mutton hotpot (shuàn yángròu, 涮羊肉)—will help keep up the energy reserves needed for the excursion.

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