(Mom, Dad) I’m back from Shanxi, safe and sound! During this trip, I have had some amazing experiences that I am proud to say I have had. This trip was part of the W&M program and everything from the transportation to the food were taken care off. Shanxi province is located West of Beijing and East of the Yellow River. The capital city is Taiyuan and the province has a population of over 32 million. I was expecting Shanxi to be cold because we were traveling up to the mountains, but on the contrary, the weather favored us with warm rays and cool breeze. Shanxi has a long history as it is known as one of the birth places of Chinese civilization. The province is famous for four things: coal (produces about 25% of China’s coal), vinegar, fen jiu (a type of famous wine), and noodles. We visited Qiao Jia Dayuan, the ancient city of Pingyao, and Wutai Shan.
Qiao Jia Dayuan, or Qiao Family’s Courtyard, was constructed in 1755 by a Qiao who became rich as a merchant. From a bird’s eye view, the compound is in the shape of the character xi, which means best luck and happiness to couples. The designs in Qiao Jia are very similar to the designs on the Forbidden city walls and roofs.
In the Qing dynasty, this was a dream house for merchants and businessmen. The dayuan became really famous when the Zhang Yimou film, “Raise the Red Lantern,” was filmed there and a TV show called, “Qiao’s Ftamily Courtyard,” was also shot there. The examples of traditional Chinese architecture can be seen at the Qiao Jia Dayuan.
Pingyao is the oldest walled city in China dating back to the Western Zhou dynasty and later enlarged in the Ming dynasty. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The coolest thing has to be that people still live inside the walled city today. We visited the court in Pingyao, the office building, and a bank. The bank is often known as the first financial street in the Qing dynasty.
We also visited the Ancient Ming-Qing street where shops were selling beautiful souvenirs.
Last, but definitely not the least, was our long bus ride to Wutai Shan. We reached the mountain at night so we didn’t have time to look at anything, but our hike in the morning was wonderful. The mountain is famous for its numerous Buddhist temples and scenery. It is considered one of the sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism. This mountain is the home of the Wenshu Buddhists. We had the opportunity to talk to monks and relax and enjoy the view from atop. Here is the video of inside the temple.
After a long trip, we were ready to be back in our beds in Tsinghua. This trip for me, made me realize the commonalities between Indian and Chinese cultures especially with Buddhism. Many of the smaller aspects like traffic and scenes of rural China helped me connect to the rural places in India I have visited.