As you step into the heartland of Henan, China, you are embraced by the profound richness of its history and the serene beauty of its natural landscapes. The whispers of ancient dynasties mingle with the vibrant pulse of modern life, weaving a tapestry that reflects the soul of this central province. From the majestic grandeur of its historic sites to the tranquil allure of its untouched nature, Henan beckons you to embark on a journey that transcends time. Join us as we uncover the hidden treasures and timeless charm of Henan, where every moment is a testament to the enduring spirit of this captivating central heartland.
Why Visit Henan, China
Located on the south side of the Yellow River, Henan (known as “Yu”) is a major transportation hub and a major agricultural and population centre in China. It’s situated in the middle of the Central Plains with Anhui and Shandong to the east, Hebei and Shanxi to the north, Shaanxi to the west and Hubei to the south. Henan is one of the oldest parts of China, where agriculture, animal husbandry and pottery started appearing 7-8 thousand years ago, the Yellow Emperor was born and Xia Dynasty, the world’s first slavery regime, was established. Oracle Bones Inscription, the oldest known Chinese characters, were also invented here. Henan has been a political, economic and cultural hub for thousands of years, but is often overshadowed by the more famous cities of Beijing and Xian. However, it’s a fascinating land with a rich history and culture, such as the Shaolin Kung Fu, Buddhism, folk customs, food, the amazing bronze work of Shang Dynasty and many historical relics from different dynasties.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Henan has a total of five World Cultural Heritages, which makes it the second highest after Beijing and tied with Sichuan and Yunnan. These heritages include Luoyang Longmen Grottoes, Historical Monuments of Dengfeng, Yin Xu in Anyang, the south section of the Grand Canal, and part of the Silk Road.
Grand National Flower Festival – In Chinese culture, flowers are highly valued and carry unique meanings. Luoyang Peony is a favorite – it’s associated with wealth, success, and good luck. Every year from April to May, Luoyang hosts a grand Peony Cultural Festival in its gardens. Meanwhile, Kaifeng celebrates its annual Chrysanthemum Festival, showcasing all sorts of chrysanthemums of different colors and varieties.
Natural Wonders – Henan’s stunning natural landscape is shaped by its geographical terrain. Mount Song in the west is the top scenic area, covering 450 square kilometers with 72 peaks. Yuntai Mountain has cool odd-shaped red rocks, Taihang Mountains have steep cliffs, Laojun Mountain has a sacred Taoist atmosphere, and Xiaolangdi Dam has the roaring water of the Yellow River – all great places to experience natural wonders.
Discovering the Iconic Landmarks of Henan, China
Nestled in the heart of China, the province of Henan is a treasure trove of iconic landmarks that narrate the rich history and cultural legacy of the region. From the ancient marvels that have withstood the test of time to the modern architectural feats that reflect China’s contemporary identity, Henan offers a captivating journey through time and tradition.
Shaolin Scenic Area – The Shaolin Temple has been largely rebuilt, and its success has turned it into a commercialised victim. It’s been the target of wars, with the last one taking place in 1928, and it’s now swarmed with tourists taking selfies. Its renowned kung fu has earned it a lot of attention and martial arts clubs from all over the world constantly visit it.
Longmen Grottoes – The Longmen Grottoes are a must-see for anyone interested in Chinese history; it’s one of the few remaining masterpieces of Buddhist rock carving. It was started by chisellers from the Northern Wei dynasty after their capital moved to the Yi River area in 494. Over the next two centuries over 100,000 images and statues of Buddha and his disciples were carved into the limestone cliffs.
Temple of the Chief Minister – This temple was first established in 555 AD, but then disappeared along with Kaifeng in the early 1640s when rebels destroyed the Yellow River’s dykes. When it was part of the Northern Song, the temple was huge – it was 34 hectares large and it had over 10,000 monks! The star of the show now is the incredible Four-Faced Thousand Hand Thousand Eye Guanyin.
Long Corridor in the Cliffs – This tunnel at Guoliang village gives you a better view of the steep cliffs, with amazing views of the rock. Shen Mingxin and other villagers built the tunnel from 1972 to 1978 – what a crazy accomplishment! Most of the passage was dug by hand, with eight-pound hammers and steel bars made by the village blacksmith.
White Horse Temple – Back in 68 AD, two court officials went out in search of Buddhist scriptures and ended up meeting two Indian monks in Afghanistan. The monks returned to Luoyang riding on white horses carrying Buddhist sutras and statues, and the emperor was so impressed that he had a temple built for them.
Ancient Tombs Museum – This awesome yet rarely visited museum has three main displays: 20 restored tombs, reconstructed using genuine materials; original tomb art; and a Northern Wei royal burial hill. Pick up an audioguide (¥20) on the way in and feel like an Indiana Jones: stand inside 2000-year-old tombs to appreciate finely carved panels and dull frescoes.
Taishi Shan – Taishi Shan is known as one of the best hikes in the area. But it’s not for the faint of heart since it’s a 1000m climb up to Junji Peak. The route is full of cool sights, like Laomu Cave, where Laotzu is said to have written the Tao Te Ching. If you’re up for a challenge, you can take the loop back and check out Fawang Temple.
Iran Pagoda Park – Kaifeng’s most famous sight is the Iron Pagoda, 55m tall, which dates back to the 11th century and stands in a nice park. It’s made of glazed-brick and the rusty coloured tiles give it its name. If you want to go up the stairs, it’ll cost you ¥35. To get there, you can take bus 1 from Zhongshan Lu or get a taxi for ¥10.
Culinary Delights: Indulging in Henan’s Flavorful Gastronomic Offerings and Culinary Traditions
Henan food is all about the flavors! You can find a mix of sour, sweet, bitter, spicy and salty tastes in dishes like Carp with Fried Noodles in Sweet and Sour Sauce, Grilled Head and Tail of Black Carp, Bianjing Roasted Duck, Stewed Noodles with Mutton, and Spicy Soup (Hulatang). It’s definitely worth a try if you’re ever in central China!
Carp with Fried Noodles in Sweet and Sour Sauce – This dish is a local specialty in Kaifeng, Henan Province – it’s made with thin noodles and deep-fried Yellow River carp. It’s got a bordeaux red color and has a sweet and sour taste with just a hint of saltiness.
Grilled Head and Tail of Black Carp – This dish from Kaifeng is grilled with the head, tail, and some fish meat of black carp. It has a salty and sweet flavor. When you put it in your mouth and suck, the meat and bones come apart easily.
Peony Swallow Dish – The main ingredients in this dish are white radish, sea cucumbers, sleeve-fish and chicken, making it look like a peony floating on the soup. It has a sour and spicy flavor, with a thick and delicious broth.
Bianjing Roasted Duck – This delicious Bianjing Roasted Duck is cooked with duck, honey and some pickled cabbages. It’s so moist and flavourful, with a nice crunchy skin and juicy duck meat. Plus, it has a gorgeous persimmon red colour. It’s fatty but not too greasy – making it the perfect dish for any occasion.
Henan Province, China, is a land of rich heritage and natural beauty. Home to the ancient Shaolin Temple, the Yellow River, and the Longmen Grottoes, Henan offers visitors a unique blend of culture, history, and scenery. We have explored just a few of the many treasures that Henan has to offer. Whether you are a history buff, a nature lover, or simply looking for a new and exciting destination to explore, Henan is sure to have something to offer you. Henan is a province in China that is full of rich heritage and natural beauty.
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