Though many famed ancient towns are located in
southern and eastern China, there are still places in the north to
experience the unique historical and cultural charms. This episode
invites you to embark on a trip to explore this hidden gem in the
province right next to Beijing.
Situated in Zhangjiakou, a city that is to co-host Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Yuxian County boasts more than 1,400 years of history. Home to abundant national treasures and cultural relics, it is recognized as the “museum in the ground.”
The first thing not to miss when visiting
Yuxian is the elaborate paper-cutting art. Dating back over 200 years to
the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), this art form was created to decorate
windows. That’s why it’s also called Chuanghua, meaning “window flower.”
Yuxian craftsmen have passed down the art form in its original take while keeping its traditional essence. The multi-colored paper-cuttings are carved with special knives instead of scissors.
Yuxian paper-cutting was listed as the UNESCO
Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009. Today many visitors
come here to do them and bring them home as a souvenir or for
Nuanquan Ancient Town
Some say Nuanquan Ancient Town is the epitome of Yuxian, which makes it another must-visit spot.
Nuanquan literally means “warm spring” in Chinese as the river running through the town never freezes even in winter. With a temperature of around 14 degrees Celsius all year round, the water is often used for cooking, washing, and irrigation.
Originally built in the Yuan Dynasty
(1271-1368), the old town prospered in the Ming and Qing Dynasties
(1368-1912) with three fortresses serving as a defense. It also included
six alleys and 18 villages. Among them, the West Ancient Fortress is
the best-preserved one.
Local people dwell in the fortress and retain the traditional lifestyle. You can stroll a whole day through the narrow alleys, watching typical northern China village life and catching all the beautiful details in the old architecture.
Nuanquan is also the birthplace of a Chinese traditional performance
called Dashuhua that will definitely be the highlight of your journey. A
spoonful of liquid iron over 1,600 degrees Celsius is thrown onto the
wall, creating a shower of golden sparks and leaving the viewers
marveled at the scenery.
Traditionally it was performed during the Spring Festival and Lantern Festival by those who couldn’t afford fireworks. Nowadays, with more viewers coming to see the performance, a large square was built in Nuanquan to organize the glistening show more frequently.
Travel tips for a visit to Nuanquan:
Beijingers can take a long-distance bus to Yuxian County at Beijiao,
Zhaogongkou or Liuliqiao Long-distance Bus Station, and then take a taxi
to the site for about 50 yuan (7 U.S. dollars).
Opening hours: 9:00 a.m.—17:00 p.m.
Admission fee: 120 yuan (17 U.S. dollars) per person