Shanxi using top landmarks to develop local tourism industry
The Taihang No 1 Highway is built to offer convenience to visitors touring the Taihang Mountains, which stretches for more than 400 kilometers across the east of Shanxi. [Photo by Li Zhaomin for China Daily]
Yellow River, Great Wall and Taihang Mountains' resources to be shared in bid to boost visitor numbers
Boasting historical and cultural resources as well as impressive natural landscapes, North China's Shanxi province is planning to turn tourism into an economic pillar with strategic importance, according to an official.
Rong Jingguang, deputy chief of the Shanxi Department of Culture and Tourism, said the province aims to develop tourism into an industry with total annual revenue of more than 1 trillion yuan ($152 billion) in the next five years.
The official said such an ambitious plan will be made possible by integrating resources across its three landmarks－the Yellow River, the Great Wall and the Taihang Mountains－as well as other attractions in the province.
Shanxi is one of the best places to see the Chinese architectural wonders of the Great Wall from various periods.
As the country's most iconic ancient defensive structure, the Great Wall was built in a period spanning some two millennia from the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
With a total length of more than 3,500 kilometers across Shanxi, the Great Wall runs through nine cities and about 40 counties in the province. More than 1,500 km of walls and other relics remain relatively intact.
The 5,464-km-long Yellow River－which has a course of 965 km serving as the border between Shanxi, Shaanxi and Henan provinces－has the same importance as the Great Wall in Shanxi's tourism industry.
The Yellow River enters Shanxi at the village of Laoniuwan, which means "Old Ox Bay", in Pianguan county. From there, the river has left one of its most beautiful features－the Shanxi-Shaanxi Grand Gorge.
The gorge was formed by the Yellow River cutting through the Loess Plateau over millions of years.
Both the Great Wall and the Yellow River are important cultural landmarks among the Chinese people, which "can invoke the deepest emotion in their hearts", according to He Jiao, an official at the Laoniuwan Scenic Area.
Laoniuwan is also the place where the Yellow River and the Great Wall meet.
"The Yellow River is the mother river of China, as it has nurtured the culture and economy of the nation for thousands of years," He said. "And the Great Wall was the greatest defense project in ancient China."
The official noted that the two were also closely related to the fate of the Chinese nation in history.
"For millennia, residents along the river have used its water to irrigate their farmlands. However, the river sometimes destroyed their land and properties, and even took their lives during severe floods.
"Therefore, the river was sometimes praised as the hope and glory of the nation and sometimes cursed when it brought disaster and despair," He said.
The official added that the Great Wall had brought similar feelings to the Chinese people.
"In times of peace, the Great Wall's passes are the venues of exchange between the Han people and nomads in the north.
"When wars took place, the wall was looked to with high hopes in the defense against invaders. And if the wall was captured by the enemies, it was always disastrous to the nation," He said.
Also holding an important position in Shanxi's tourism map is the Taihang Mountains. Extending more than 400 km from north to south, the mountains are among the largest ranges in North China.
They are also where the name of Shanxi province comes from. Shanxi means "to the west of the mountains". And Taihang is the natural border between Shanxi, Hebei and Henan provinces.
Because of its breathtaking peaks, steep cliffs, unique rocks, lush forests and clean waters, Taihang is regarded by many sightseers as a destination that can be visited many times.
The mountains also held a strategic position in ancient China during times of conflict. The relics and legends left by battles make it a favorite of tourists interested in China's history and culture.
As the Yellow River, Great Wall and Taihang Mountains are located in the west, north and east of Shanxi respectively, it may be difficult for tourists to cover all three attractions in a short period of time.
However, with the construction of three major sightseeing roads called the Great Wall No 1, Yellow River No 1 and Taihang No 1 highways, travel in Shanxi has been made easier.
"The three No 1 highways make an intensive tour of Shanxi possible," said Ni Hongqiang, a self-driving tourist from Tianjin.
"On the first day, I was on the Stork Tower in the city of Yongji in the southwest of Shanxi, to see how 'the setting sun beyond the mountains glows and the Yellow River seaward flows', as famous Tang Dynasty (618-907) poet Wang Zhihuan described in a poem," Ni said.
The tourist said his trip covered the ancient city of Pingyao, the famed Yanmen Pass of the Great Wall, the Yungang Grottoes in Datong and the rising cliffs of Taihang in less than 10 days.
Li Shu contributed to this story.