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Zhangjiakou: A Fusion of History and Reality


Located at a gate in the Great Wall of China, Zhangjiakou (zhāng jiā kǒu 张家口) has historically been a communications and commercial link between Beijing, Shanxi (shān xī 山西) and Inner Mongolia (nèi měng gǔ 内蒙古). Zhangjiakou has unique topography. It is located at the juncture of the Hengshan Mountain (héng shān 恒山), Taihang Mountains (tài háng shān 太行山) and Yan Mountains (yān shān 燕山). The Sanggan River (sāng gàn hé 桑干河) flows through the whole area. The city slopes downwards from the northwest to southeast. Energy is the foundation of Zhangjiakou's industry economy. The Zhangjiakou General Power Plant (zhāng jiā kǒu fā diàn zǒng chǎng 张家口发电总厂), with an installed capacity of 2.88 million KWh, is one of the largest thermal power plants in north China.
Zhangjiakou is a time-honored city north of the Great Wall inhabited by many ethnic minorities. In the Spring and Autumn Period (chūn qiū shí qī 春秋时期: 770 BC-476 BC), its north part was inhabited by the Huns (xiōng nú 匈奴), while the south part was the territory of the Yan Kingdom (yān guó 燕国). It had been divided into two shires in Sui Dynasty (suí cháo 隋朝: 581-618) and has brought into the domain of the central regime of China. Zhangjiakou was long known as Kalgan (kā lā gàn 喀拉干) to much of the world. The name comes from the Mongolian word for “barrier”, which was an apt description of this key city's importance to Qing Dynasty (qīng cháo 清朝: 1644-1911).

Folk Art and Handicraft
Nowadays, paper cutting of Hebei (hé běi 河北) and Shaanxi (shǎn xī 陕西) were packaged together to win the bid. In Hebei alone, two types of paper cutting were grouped together to represent the Hebei style of this craft. They are paper cutting of Weixian (wèi xiàn 蔚县) County and the Fengning Manchu (fēng níng mǎn zú 丰宁满族) style of paper cutting. The Weixian County is particularly famous for its paper cutting skills in China and throughout the world. A number of the more refined items of paper-cuts have been exhibited in the National Art Museum of China (zhōng guó yì shù bó wù guǎn 中国艺术博物馆) and in a number of exhibitions sponsored by the United Nations. These products have been exported to 40 countries and regions throughout Europe, Asia, and the US to date.

    paper cutting
These figures are cut from very thin tissue paper. Note the cut out areas where the background shows through. The originals measure about 4x5 inches. The brilliant colored figures are hand-colored and come from Weixian, a county about 200 miles from Beijing that is famous for this art.
These figures might be displayed alone or used to decorate a wall, and they might also be used as models and templates for the home artist to make other figures. To use them, one would make a rubbing of the template onto another piece of paper and cut it out with a very sharp knife. To make multi-colored figures such as those, one might first do woodblock printing onto the tissue papers, or assemble them from a mosaic of colored bits of paper.
The first three represent characters from Chinese Opera (zhōng guó xì qǔ 中国戏曲) would be familiar to most Chinese. Those opera characters depict characters such as high officials who represent qualities such as justice, nobility or evil. The panda figures are intended for more "fun" projects, or might be used to decorate a child's room. The scenic style would probably be used as a decoration, too.

Scenic Spots


There are more than 10,000 residents in Buzili Historical Block (bǔ zǐ lǐ gǔ jiàn zhù qún 堡子里古建筑群), with a large elderly population. Walking in the town was like entering a labyrinth. The narrow alleyways are so confusing that you would have got lost without a guide.
Yuhuangge (yù huáng gé 玉皇阁), a Taoist temple to worship the Jade Emperor (yù huáng dà dì 玉皇大帝), the supreme deity of Taoism. After the founding of New China in 1949, the temple became a residential property, until a few years ago, when it was put under state protection. But renovations haven't started yet. The compound was desolate and full of broken bricks and timber. Still, in one of the rooms, visitors can find 400-year-old frescoes, which were discovered accidentally a few years ago. The 6-sq-m colored paintings show the main figures of Taoism, but unfortunately the artworks were defaced. In spite of severe damage, visitors can still see how graceful the paintings must have been.

Wenchangge Wenchangge (wén chāng gé 文昌阁) is located in the town center. It was amazing to see its Roman-style dome above the crossroads. It shows that Zhangjiakou was influenced by Western culture long ago.
Iron-framed windows and doors, which are common in big cities to protect against burglars, can hardly be seen here. On the contrary, most dwellings are open to visitors. The smoke of a coal stove on the roadside and many faded red slogans painted on the walls made visitors feel like they had ventured back into the 1960s.
Buzili shifted from being a military town to a commercial county in the 1700s. Thousands of traders flocked from all over the country to conduct business. Only the richest businessmen could afford to build luxury houses inside the town at that time, while the others had to live outside. This is why Buzili is dotted with various old buildings of different styles, including Beijing traditional quadrangle dwellings, Shanxi-style ones and Anhui (ān huī 安徽)-style houses.

Take Bus NO.2 at Zhangjiakou Bus Station and get off at Binhe Middle Road (滨河中路), then get across the Qinghe Bridge (qīng hé qiáo 清河桥) and walk along Qiao West Street (qiáo xī dà jiē 桥西大街) and Dongguan West Street (dōng guān xī jiē 东关西街), it should be about 750 m away.
Ticket: RMB 25
Tel: 0313-8189140

Qingyuan TowerQingyuan Tower (qīng yuǎn lóu 清远楼), also named Bell Tower (zhōng lóu 钟楼), sits in the center of Xuanhua (xuān huà 宣化). It was first constructed in 1482. Unconventionally shaped and ingeniously constructed, Qingyuan Tower has enjoyed the reputation of being “the second Huanghe (or Yellow Crane) Tower (dì èr huáng hè lóu 第二黄鹤楼)”. The construction of the tower has a distinctive style and the appearance of a three-storey building when actually it has only two stories. Qingyuan Tower, 25 m high, has the appearance of being a three-storey building but actually it is two-storey.
On the first floor there hangs the bell of the prefecture of Xuanhua cast in the 18th year in the period of Emperor Jiajing (jiā jìng 嘉靖) of the Ming Dynasty (1539). The bell, 2.5 m in height and 1.7 m in diameter, weighs 9999 jin (jīn 斤). It is set up with four great pillars in the middle of the upper floor, and the mellifluous and sonorous sounds can be heard over 20 kilometers away. The 19th son of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (zhū yuán zhāng 朱元璋) of the Ming Dynasty once built Shanggu Palace (shàng gǔ wáng fǔ 上谷王府) and stationed troops to guard against the foreigners. In 1774, when Emperor Qianlong (qián lóng 乾隆) of the Qing Dynasty passed Xuanhua in his inspection tour to the north, he appropriated 100,000 tales of silver for rebuilding Qingyuan Tower.
In 1900, the Eight-power Allied Forces (bā guó lián jūn 八国联军) invaded Xuanhua. Da’awu (dà ā wú 大阿吾), the leader of Yihetuan (yì hé tuán 义和团) sounded the bell to gather his soldiers and laid an ambush in the Yantong Mountain (yān tǒng shān 烟筒山). They made a severe attack upon the enemy and killed their commander, Colonel York (yuē kè shàng xiào 约克上校). Qingyuan Tower was badly damaged in the period of the Great Cultural Revolution (wén huà dà gé mìng 文化大革命). In 1986, Qingyuan Tower was completely rebuilt under the direction of the Culture Department. The tower now is richly ornamented and in majestic splendor. Everything is magnificent and of classic elegance. In 1988, Qingyuan Tower was designated major historical and cultural site under state protection.

Start from Beijing and drive on Beijing-Zhangjiakou Expressway to Xuanhua Exit. You can find the scenic spot when you come to Xuanhua.
Ticket: RMB 5
Tel: 0313-5906618

          Zhangbei Bashang

Generally, the Bashang (bà shàng 坝上) Grasslands include four parts: Zhangbei (zhāng běi 张北) Bashang, Weichang (wéi chǎng 围场) Bashang, Fengning Bashang, and Guyuan (gū yuán 沽源) Bashang. The four parts are located in four different counties of Hebei Province. Zhangbei County of Zhangjiakou, located north of Emperors of the Qing Dynasty used to be places where hunting patrol. Clean air here, little pollution and is a complete preservation of natural grassland. In summer, the Bashang Grassland is among the favorite retreats of Beijing residents, who often spend weekend riding horses, picking Chinese red wolfberries and staying in Mongolian yurts on the grassland. The weather of the grasslands is cool and flowers are everywhere. Grassland scenery around this time is the best, and you can live in yurts unique style can bring their own tents.

Zhangbei Bashang The Bashang Grassland is an ideal place to escape the heat in summer. Located in Zhangbei County, the grassland is one of the closest summer resorts for the people of Beijing. A five-hour drive on the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Expressway brings you to the Bashang Grassland, where temperatures are 5℃ -10℃ lower than in Beijing and Tianjin. The grassland is the very place where Genghis Khan (chéng jí sī hán 成吉思汗 1162-1227) once fought some eight centuries ago. The Mongolian Plateau rises abruptly from the Central Plain except in Zhangbei.

Zhangbei Bashang Because of its military importance and beautiful scenery, Zhangbei became the Zhongdu (zhōng dū 中都 central capital) of the Yuan Dynasty (yuán cháo 元朝 1279-1368) in 1307, but was abandoned in1311 due to a financial crisis of the central government. The central capital was built to be the most luxurious city of the Yuan Dynasty and sucked up the national treasury. With all wooden materials transported from southern China, the city was even more fabulous than the Great Capital (dà dū 大都) at the site of Beijing during that period. Besides military functions, the Bashang Grassland also served life in peaceful times. In summer, the Bashang Grassland is among the favorite retreats of Beijing residents, who often spend weekend riding horses, picking Chinese red wolfberries and staying in Mongolian yurts on the grassland. 
                                          (click here to check the map)
Ticket: RMB 30
Tel: 0313-5230572

1. Visitors can shuttle between Zhangjiakou and Beijing, Datong (dà tóng 大同) with about four and five hours by train, and there are also many buses dispatched every 30 minutes from Zhangjiakou to other cities in Hebei or around.
2. Due to the great daily temperature differences in spring and autumn, visitors should wrap up warm at night.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 April 2010 10:54

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