World of wonders awaits tourists at Yunqiu Mountain

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)


The Jade Emperor Tower is the most spectacular building in the Yunqiu Mountain scenic area. [Photo by Zhang Zhigang for China Daily]

If tourists want a destination with multiple resources-natural wonders, cultural and historical legacies, rustic life, recreation and relaxation facilities-the Yunqiu Mountain scenic area in the Shanxi county of Xiangning would be a good choice.

Yunqiu Mountain, which was given the highest 5A ranking by the State's tourism authority in 2020, is now among the most popular destinations in the southwest of Shanxi province.

The unique attractions of the scenic area are nine old villages, which are included on the national list of renowned ancient settlements.

The village of Ta'erpo is the most remarkable of the nine, which is said to have a history dating back about 2,500 years. It has 43 courtyards, each consisting of several cave rooms.

Cave rooms are unique dwellings on the Loess Plateau, which consists of the provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi and other nearby regions.

Cave dwellings can be simple or sophisticated. The ones in Ta'erpo are classified as sophisticated because most have arched stone ceilings and ornamental interior structures.

Kangjiaping is another ancient village with a similar scale to Ta'erpo. Its 40-or-so courtyards are surrounded by lush mountains and a clear stream. Farmlands are scattered along the lower reaches of the stream.

Among the ancient buildings in the Yunqiu Mountain scenic area, the most spectacular is the Jade Emperor Tower. Sitting on top of Yunqiu's peak, at an altitude of 1,629 meters, the imposing tower is part of a Taoist temple complex originally built in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and rebuilt or renovated in the centuries that followed.

In addition to the ancient buildings, rich forms of folk art help to bring tourists to the scenic area. Visitors can be treated to a variety of performances, like local operas, dancing and singing shows, puppetry and the ancient techniques of making of bean curd and other local snacks.

The scenic area is also attractive to tourists with its unique natural resources. Yunqiu Mountain features limestone landforms that are rarely seen in North China.

Like the karst areas in the south, caves are abundant in Yunqiu Mountain. But unlike their southern cousins, the ones in Yunqiu are mostly ice caves.

Locals call them ice caves because ice is perennial in the caves. Inside, the ice-covered stone columns and stalactites offer a fairy tale sight to tourists.

To date, five such ice caves in Yunqiu Mountain have opened to tourists.

Zhang Zhigang contributed to this story.