If there's a province of unequaled contrasts in China, it must be Shanxi. On one hand, Shanxi Province is China's industrial heart, with over two-thirds of the energy China's devours each year being produced there, mostly from pollution-intensive coal.
Visitors crossing the province by train are treated to an often hauntingly beautiful, if ultimately monotonous, treeless brown landscape, shading into yellow in many spots where the Gobi desert encroaches, and lined with smokestacks spewing toxic-colored palls of smoke into the sometimes barely breathable air.
On the other hand, Shanxi is home to some of the best preserved historical sights in the entire country, so much so that it has been called "the museum province." Many hail from dynasties unrepresented anywhere else in China. Visitors to the province can also take in breathtaking vistas from holy mountains and visit a UNESCO world heritage site. Though incredibly rewarding place to visit.
Most visitors usually limit themselves to Datong's Yungang cave temples, a spectacular collection of Buddhist statuary crowding the hollows of over 1,000 caves, but they're missing out. Stepping foot into Pingyao, a Ming-era financial hub surrounded by walls over 6 meters high, is like going back in time, nearly the entire city's Ming-era glory has been preserved. Wutai Shan, another holy mountain in the northeast, offers ancient temples hidden in forests and jaw-dropping mountain scenery.
Tourists crossing the folds and fissures of the dry Beijing) is better than flying in.
True, Shanxi isn't exactly popular, but that should not deter you from putting the Hanging Temple or other Shanxi attractions on your itinerary. As any visitor quickly finds out, Shanxi is full of surprises.
If there is one sight that you should not miss while coming through Datong, it is the Yungang Caves. This masterpiece of early Chinese Buddhist cave art was..
Looking a little stranded without the temple it once protected from evil spirits, the Nine Dragon Screen still manages to impress on its own. The largest and oldest glazed..
One of China's Five Sacred Mountains (Wu Yue), Heng Shan has been reverently scaled by emperors since Qin Shi Huang, the first ruler to unify China, set the precedent...
Yet another ancient architectural marvel to add to Datong's already impressive list, the Wooden Pagoda's masterful wooden construction houses huge statues and frescoes...