Central China Travel Guide
- 155 miles (250 km) NW of Hefei
Bozhou’s medicinal market–the largest of its kind in the world – attracts over 50,000 traders from China and Southeast Asia. Every conceivable plant, insect, and animal limb, in whole and powdered form, can be found in its hall.
Also of interest is the 17th-century Flower Theater with wood and brick carvings and painted friezes around the stage. The town’s museum exhibits a Han-dynasty jade burial suit of the father of Cao Cao, the Three Kingdoms warlord, who built the Underground Tunnel to conceal the army, if attacked.
- Zhongyao Shiyang
- Caocao Yunbingdao
- 93 miles (150 km) W of Nanjing
- 42 Changjiang Zhong Rd.
- 0551 267 2945
Anhui’s provincial capital grew into a flourishing industrial center after 1949, when the new Communist government supported the growth of industry in areas that had been previously impoverished. Although not of very great interest, visitors are likely to pass through this town while exploring the province. The Provincial Museum has some interesting exhibits including bricks from Han-dynasty tombs, a cranium belonging to Homo erectus discovered in Anhui, and an exhibition on the “Four Treasures of the Study” (see Calligraphy), mainly ink sticks, ink stones, brushes, and paper, for which the province is known. Baohe Park, set around a pretty tree flanked by a lake, has a Memorial Hall devoted to the great Song dynasty administrator, Lord Bao. The 16th-century Mingjiao Si temple stands 16 ft (5 m) above the ground, while nearby Xiaoyaojin Park has a 3rd-century well and is a good place for walks.
- 268 Anqing Rd.
Lord Bao Memorial Hall
- 58 Wuhu Rd.
- 8am–5:30pm daily
- Huaihe Rd.
entrance to the Guangji Si, Wuhu
The province’s main ferry port has little to offer, and its few sights include the Guangji Si on Zhe Shan, founded in AD 894, and the nearby Zhe Pagoda, from where there are views over the town. Some streets in the town’s center are lined with old houses with thatched roofs and mud walls, and make for a pleasant stroll. Wuhu is also a good base for visiting Li Bai’s Tomb at Caishiji, 4 miles (7 km) from Ma’an Shan, the first stop south of Wuhu on the railway line. Li Bai (AD 701–762), a Tang-dynasty poet, was a famous drunk and is said to have died drowning in the moon’s reflection. His tomb stands at the top of a long series of steps behind a Qing-dynasty temple, and overlooks the Yangzi. It may only contain Li Bai’s clothes, as his final resting place is still the subject of debate.
in Xuancheng’s breeding center
Located 37 miles (60 km) southeast of Wuhu, Xuancheng is the site of the Alligator Breeding Center, which has successfully increased the population of this endangered species. Found only in Anhui, the wild population remains small, but the captive population now runs into thousands, and it may soon be possible to reintroduce these reptiles back into the wild.
Li B ai’s Tomb
- to Ma’an Shan, then bus or taxi
Nine Glorious Mountains
One of the four mountains holy to Chinese Buddhists, Jiuhua Shan has been sacred since the Korean monk Jin Qiaojue – thought to be a reincarnation of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha – died here in AD 794. It is also an important place of pilgrimage for the recently bereaved, who come to hold services for those who have passed on.
Over 60 temples linked by paths from Jiuhua village dot the mountain. The first is the Qing-dynasty Zhiyuan Si, with a honeycomb of halls. Farther up is the oldest temple, Huacheng Si, a part of which possibly dates to the Tang era. Beyond, an ornamental gate marks the path up the mountain. From here, one option is an hour-long walk that passes Ying Ke Song (Welcoming Pine), and bears left past a series of temples until Baisui Gong, where the preserved body of the priest, Wu Xia, sits at prayer. Visitors can either walk back or take the funicular railway. The other option is the path leading right at Yingke Song, which passes Feng Huang Song (Phoenix Pine) to the summit at Tiantai Zhengding (Heavenly Terrace), where a huge Buddha statue is due to be built. The four-hour walk to the summit can be curtailed by taking the cable car from Fenghuang Song, and returning by taxi.
Lao Jie (Old Street), Tunxi
An important transport hub for visiting the popular Huang Shan, Tunxi has numerous fine examples of traditional classical architecture. In certain areas such as along Lao Jie (Old Street), restored houses dating to the Ming dynasty have been converted into shops selling souvenirs and antiques, while others serve as tourist restaurants. The high standard of restoration gives visitors a clear picture of a typical Ming-era town. Many of the houses bear the decorative “horse head gables”, which originally had a practical use as fire baffles.
Formerly known as Huizhou, Shexian is renowned for its wealth of well-preserved Ming-dynasty houses, once owned by wealthy salt merchants. Many of these houses lie along the lanes off Jiefang Jie and along Doushan Jie, still occupied exactly as they were as far back as the 14th century.
The wealthy Huizhou tradesmen also erected many memorial archways (paifang) in Shexian county but the most famous is the complex of seven Ming and Qing arches at Tangyue, a village about 4 miles (7 km) west of Shexian. The arches acknowledge the political career, filial piety, chastity, and charity of a successful local family.
- 22 miles (35 km) NW of Tunxi
- Minibus to Tunxi
- Permit required, available at Tunxi
The UNESCO world heritage Sites of Hongcun and Xidi, known for their Ming and Qing houses, lie in the vicinity of Yixian. About 7 miles (11 km) to the northeast, Hongcun dates to 1131. Picturesquely ringed by mountains, it is known as “a village in a Chinese painting.” The village is laid out in the shape of a water-buffalo, and is watered by a network of canals that feed the Moon Pond and South Lake, representing the buffalo’s stomach, while the canals represent its intestines.
Xidi, 5 miles (8 km) north of Yixian, has a maze of lanes flanked by over 100 houses, dating mainly from the late Ming and early Qing eras. Some have charming courtyards, while their interiors are often decorated with carved wooden screens and panels. Some houses feature performances of local arts. Nanping, 3 miles (5 km) west of Yixian, also has fine examples of classical architecture.
Shexian county is home for the descendants of a group of people who played a key role in the Chinese economy 400 years ago. Today, the people of southern Anhui province are mostly farmers, but from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries, their forefathers were the wealthy merchants of Huizhou, famous the length and breadth of China for their commercial acumen and integrity. They used their money to build large family houses, with whitewashed exteriors and beautiful wood interiors. The distinctive features of these houses are a result of social and environmental factors, and are attempts to deal with the weather, earthquakes and the risk of attack by bandits. Many of these houses still remain, sometimes a little run down, but still a testament to the enterprise of the Huizhou traders.
Carved wood panels
The delicate tracery of the wood panels was both decorative and functional – allowing light in while keeping the heat out.
These elaborate constructions known as pailou or paifang were built of stone rather than wood as this made them all the more difficult to break through.
These walls were intended to prevent fire (and burglars) jumping from one building to another but also developed into a means of decorating the buildings.
Reputed to be the most beautiful mountain range in the country, the startling, cloud-cloaked peaks of Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) have for centuries been celebrated by poets and painters. Although the main peak is under 6,200 ft (1,900 m), the 70 sheer rock cliffs are spectacular to hike, and the winding concrete steps are usually very crowded. Even when shrouded in mist as is the norm, the scenery of precipitous peaks, bamboo groves, and ancient, twisted pines is unusually beautiful. Accommodation is available in pretty Wenquan or nearby Tangkou. Consider spending a night at the top for spectacular, but not solitary, sunsets and sunrises.
View from the Top
The summit with its stunning views takes about three hours to explore. Head to Paiyun Ting, “Cloud Dispelling Pavilion,” at the top of the Taiping cable car, for the best views of the sunset.
The shard-like “Beginning to Believe” peaks, rising above woodland and glistening streams, offer one of the most spectacular views at Huang Shan. Access is via the Immortals’ Bridge at the eastern end of the summit.
On the approach to Tiandu Feng, Aoyu Bei, the Carp’s Backbone, is a disconcertingly exposed and narrow 30-ft (9-m) arch with sheer drops down both sides.
Welcoming Guest Pine
Huan Ke Song, featured on endless postage stamps, appears to beckon the visitor up the mountain and is said to be over a thousand years old.
This path, more physically demanding than the eastern route, cuts through splendid rock formations, along narrow, and very steep, flights of steps.
The "Rock Flown From Afar," a massive, rectangular boulder poised at an unlikely angle, overlooks the “Western Sea,” an endless vista of mountain peaks and cascading clouds.
- Feilai Shi
- Shixin Feng
- Aoyu Bei
Exploring Huang Shan
The eastern route (5 miles/8 km) takes about three hours; the western route (9 miles/15 km) up to twice that. Some hikers choose to take the eastern route up and the western route down. Two cable cars allow you to bypass much of the walking, but the line-ups are usually very long.