The Great Wall on Water: Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Photo of the week presents the Great Wall at Jiumenkou 九门口长城 in Liaoning Province. The only part of the Great Wall to be built over a river.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

The Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城 is a majestic sight, one of only a few parts of the Great Wall 长城 to have been  built across a river. It stands on the isolated border between the northern provinces of Liaoning 辽宁省 and Hebei 河北省 and close to the ancient garrison town of Shanhaiguan 山海关.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

For history buffs Jiumenkou Great Wall is a must. Don’t be put off by the tourist facilities that have been set up to accommodate Chinese tour groups. Hang around a while and any crowds will disappear. We recommend going for a walk up either side of the valley to explore some fascinating unrestored remnants of the wall and wait for the groups to go; you’ll soon have the place to yourself.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Many parts of the wall here have been restored, especially the extension across the river. Don’t let that deter you; the construction and the setting is a stunning . Furthermore you can easily walk beyond the restored section to find abandoned watchtowers and original overgrown and crumbling parts of the wall.

Abandoned Watchtowers Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

In the coming weeks we will be posting a full article about our visit to Jiumenkou with more photos and then later an article about our visit to Shanhaiguan.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

For now enjoy the photos of this incredible place.

Jiumenkou Great Wall 九门口长城

Zhending 正定: China’s Unknown Temple Town


China’s Unknown Temple Town

Zhengding 正定 was known as the town of ´nine buildings, four pagodas, eight great temples and 24 archways’.

Pagoda in Zhending

Zhengding 正定 / Hebei Province 河北省

On our way to Beijing’s colossal West station, the taxi driver asked us where we were going. When I told him, “Shijiazhuang“, his reaction was one of bewilderment: “Why? You could go to Chengde.” “Been there”, I replied. “Beidaihe is also nice”, he continued. “Been there too”, I repeated. “Anywhere but Shijiazhuang“, the driver insisted, “meiyou kekan de dongxi 没有可看的东西” (there is nothing worth seeing), he sentenced. I extolled the virtues of the places we were going to see around Shijiazhuang, such as Zhengding or Cangyan Shan, hoping for a more favourable reaction. The driver just waved his hand dismissively, probably thinking stupid “laowai ” (foreigner), and just dropped the subject. It was too late anyway, since we had already bought the tickets.

Zhending  Temple studded Skyline
Zhending's Temple studded Skyline

Shijiazhuang  should come with a government health warning and when we alighted at the train station and inhaled the first whiff of some vile eggie sulphuric gas that seemed to be hanging over the city and then looked up at the yellowish sky, I did wonder whether I shouldn’t have taken the taxi driver’s advice.

The Amazing Arms of Dafo Si

So what can you do if you find yourself In Shijiazhuang? The first thought that might come to mind is, just catch the next train out. Or you might also like to carry out a scientific experiment and try and see how much pollution your body is able to absorb, before you turn Day-Glo. Alternatively and less drastic, you could get out of the city and explore the interesting sites that lie nearby. And that’s what we did.

Sleepy Zhengding

In fact, there are a couple of days of interesting sightseeing near Shijiazhuang and, following this brief introduction, it won’t come as a total surprise that you’ll have most of those sites almost to yourself.

Zhengding 正定

The first place to head for is Zhengding, a dusty town whose old quarter is littered with pagodas, temples, mansions and remnants of ancient city walls. Zhengding’s skyline of temples and pagodas is a reminder of what old China must have looked like.

Taoist Soothsayers waiting for Customers

Getting there, it’s an easy 45 minutes to one hour on bus 201 from outside Shijiazhuang’s Train Station, all the way to Zhengding’s chaotic bus station. From there, a bus number one will take you to the enormous Dafo Si, or Big Buddha Temple, which is a fitting starting point for four to five hours of rigorous sightseeing. Continue reading “Zhending 正定: China’s Unknown Temple Town”

Zhaozhou Bridge / 赵州桥 / Shijiazhuang Hebei Province

Zhaozhou Bridge / 赵州桥

The amazing Zhaozhou Bridge in Zhaoxian County, Hebei Province, about an hour from the provincial capital Shijiazhuang, is a stunning reminder of just how sophisticated Chinese engineering techniques were, more than one thousand four hundred years ago. That is the amount of time the Zhaozhou Bridge has stood spanning the Jiaohe River.

The bridge is the work of the engineer Li Chun who had to overcome numerous technical difficulties when designing and building it. First of all, it had to be high enough to avoid damage from frequent flooding, but at the same time it had to be flat enough to allow trade caravans and the imperial army to cross. Li Chun’s answer to this engineering dilemma was a segmental bridge, the world’s first, and Continue reading “Zhaozhou Bridge / 赵州桥 / Shijiazhuang Hebei Province”

Cangyan Shan 苍岩山 (Hebei Province, 2006, redone and updated)

We found out too late that the one and only daily bus (at least in late September) from Shijiazhuang to Cangyan Shan leaves at 8.00h.  As we had already missed it, it was a case of either not going, or hiring a taxi.

We spoke to a driver waiting outside a hotel and agreed on 300 Yuan for the whole day. It took us about 2’5 hours to reach the mountain, along a nightmarish motorway, full of overtaking lorries.

In spite of his protestations to the contrary, our driver had never been to Cangyan Shan before and kept stopping at other mountain temples on the way, hoping they were what we were looking for. As it turned out, this was a bit of an unexpected bonus, as one Buddhist nunnery we stopped at was very attractive. After giving us an exhaustive tour around, the friendly nuns were able to orientate the driver on how to get to the real Cangyang Shan, a mere 5 kilometres away.

The highlight on the holy mountain of Cangyan Shan is the Hanging Palace, a double roofed hall, originally built during the Continue reading “Cangyan Shan 苍岩山 (Hebei Province, 2006, redone and updated)”