Green: Call of the Wild
The west of Hebei is lush grassland, part of the vast North China Plain. Taihang and Yanshan mountains meet here, and the Juma and Yishui rivers meander through valleys, hills and the plain.
The Hanging Garden may be a Babylonian legend, but a hanging valley does exist here. In Yuxian County, 200 kilometers west of Beijing, a 36-sq-km alpine meadow nestles among mountains between the Sanggan and Juma rivers. At an altitude of 2,158 meters, the meadow has mild summers and moderate weather the rest of the year. The best season is from May to October when 1,300 kinds of wild flowers bloom in succession, making it a riot of changing colors.
The largest grassland in Hebei is undoubtedly Bashang. Stretching from Zhangbei County and Shangyi County in the west to Weichang County in the east, the meadow covers an area of 200,000 square kilometers. Bashang literally means "on the highland," as the terrain rises abruptly at the northern rim of the North China Plain to reach for the Mongolian Plateau. Dubbed the backyard garden of Beijing, these ranges are about four hours drive from the capital. On weekends, urbanites come enjoy the breezes, natural surroundings and the adventure of riding a horse.
Yesanpo World Geological Park in Laishui County is the most majestic stretch of the Taihang Mountain range. The 600-sq-km park remains in a pristine state – mountains, canyons, creeks, falls, and glacier, the ecosystem functions as independently as it did thousands of years ago.
In Xinglong County there is a mountain that also remains undisturbed by human activity. Called Wuling, this main peak of the Yanshan Mountains reaches 2,118 meters in altitude. Close to the royal cemeteries of the Qing Dynasty, it was closed to logging and hunting for centuries. The second largest astronomical observatory in China is also located here.
Tianshengqiao National Geological Park in Fuping County of Baoding City got its name from a naturally formed bridge of metamorphic rock, the largest in China. Nature's construction spans a mighty waterfall that thunders down, roars in quick succession through nine twists in the riverbed, slicing a glittering and splashy course through boundless green fields of varied hues.
Mountains are dotted across Hebei like emeralds in a crown. Tuoliang in Pingshan County appears like humps; Zhangshiyan in Zanhuang County is loved for its unworldly beauty and tranquility, a perfect model for traditional landscape ink paintings; Zhangshiyan in Zanhuang County of Shijiazhuang City features an array of peaks of multifarious shapes that are so artfully aligned as to inspire poetry. Cangyan in Jingxing County represents the prime view of the Taihang Range; Yunmeng in Xingtai County takes pride in its opulent vegetation – as high as 95 percent has green coverage; Tiangui in Pingshan County can stand comparison with Guilin in southern China for its labyrinthine limestone caverns and strange monoliths; the canyon path in Xingtai City links 24 canyons in close proximity, where scarcely used trails meander at dangerous angles between reddish bluffs, fade into a dense mist, and then invisibility.
Hebei Province is also home to mighty waterways. Baiyangdian, located in Baoding City, is the largest freshwater lake on the North China Plain. In summer, lotus leaves, as a Chinese poem goes, stretch to the horizon, and the lotus blossom glows on a natural green canvas. Reeds and bulrushes stand at attention in the lake, with catkins dancing in the breeze.
Hengshui Lake, the second largest freshwater body in northern China, has a decidedly different ambiance. Light fog always envelops it. If aboard a boat, you will see isles in the middle of the lake draw nearer, and mist driftsing away gradually. Then in a second, the expanse of the lake unfolds before you – a moment full of surprise and joy.
Hebei is also rich in hotsprings. In the mountains of Chicheng County, a hotspring has been bubbling for hundreds of years. In Gu'an County, hotsprings are arranged in independent small quadrangles, allowing travelers to enjoy their leisure time more fully. In Wentang Town, Pingshan County, a famous radon hotspring is particularly popular for its special therapeutic functions.
Red: Nurturing the New China
Xibaipo, a small village 90 kilometers northwest of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, is a household name in China. In May 1948, Mao Zedong and other leaders moved here. The village then became the headquarters of the CPC and the People's Liberation Army till October 1949 when the People's Republic of China was established in Beijing. Now it is a popular tourist destination, receiving hundreds of thousands of travelers every year.
A number of places in Hebei bear the honorable scars of China's modern history, in particular from Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion during WWII. Ranzhuang Village in Qingyuan County was the site of the tunnel war. Local villagers and guerillas were far outnumbered by the enemy, so played hide-and-seek with them by building an underground maze in the 1940s. This invisible network provided a retreat from routinely staged looting and killing sprees.
Qiannanyu Village of Xingtai City was the interim campus of the Chinese People's Anti-Japanese Military and Politics University from November 1940 to January 1943. It graduated more than 8,000 students, many of whom later became PLA commanders. In 1955 alone 109 were awarded the rank of general.
The Langya Mountain stands as a monument to five soldiers who threw themselves off the cliff in 1941 after running out of ammunition, rather than surrender to the enemy. Their entire company had been slaughtered in a mission to hold off Japaneses forces so the Chinese army and some civilians could make a safe withdrawal. The film Five Martyrs of the Langya Mountain was made in the 1950s based on this story.
Laoting County is the birthplace of Li Dazhao, a patriotic scholar and one of the founders of the CPC who was garroted by a warlord in 1927. A museum dedicated to him was opened here in 1997.
Due to its important geographical position, Hebei was the central battleground of China's 20th century. More than 100 sites and monuments have been erected to commemorate the presence of the CPC in the region or the war to combat Japanese invaders, reminding people of the value of a peaceful life.
White: Snowy Romance
"A snowflake as large as a carpet," sighed Li Bai, a great poet of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), when he happened upon Yanshan Mountain in winter. The low temperatures and rolling mountains in Hebei create awesome winter scenes and prime conditions for snow sports.
Eight slopes attract hordes of skiers every year: four in Chongli, two in Shijiazhuang, one in Chengde and one in Qinhuangdao.
Chongli boasts the best conditions for skiing. The snowfall is robust and winds not so heavy. The moist climate provides good snow cover for a long ski season. The General Administration of Sports and Chinese Ski Association have both named Chongli the best skiing area in North China.
According to the local development plan, Chongli will construct a range of skiing and vacation venues to meet the demands of Asian Winter Games and Winter Olympic Games.
Yellow, red, blue, green and white constitute the charm of Hebei, and its history adds weight to the attraction. This is the battleground where the Yellow Emperor defeated Chiyou and created the Chinese nation; the Nihewan ruins in northern Hebei dates back to the Paleolithic age more than one million years ago; the Great Wall crossing the province from east to west was witness to wars among different tribes, and in peaceful times to the prosperity brought by border trade.
The province now has three world cultural heritage designations, 168 national historic sites, five national historical cities, and 600-plus scenic spots. Hebei has four treasures – iron lions in Cangzhou, the Dingzhou tower, the Zhaozhou stone bridge, and Longxing Temple in Zhengding. The martial art tradition of Cangzhou and paper-cutting in Yuxian County are both listed in China's intangible cultural heritage.
Shoppers won't be bored. Hebei also boasts several commodity distribution centers, like China's largest luggage market in Baigou, the largest sheepskin garment production base and market in the country, located in Xinji, the largest cashmere market Qinghe, one of the largest wine production bases in Huailai of Zhangjiakou and Changli of Qinhuangdao. Several first-class golf courses also make Hebei a haven for business people seeking a break from the desk and boardroom.
|VOL.59 NO.12 December 2010
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