Volunteer Program in China

backShanxi

Shanxi

Shanxi Province, whose name means "land west of the Taihang Mountain', lies in the middle reaches of the Yellow River and on the eastern edge of the Loess Plateau. The Yellow, Haihe, and Fenhe rivers flow across Shanxi, whose splendid landscape is graced by the celebrated Taihang and Liliang ranges and Hengshan and Wutai mountains. Most parts of the land are more than 1,000 meters above sea level. Shanxi's long history is traced back to the days when it was a major cradle of Chinese civilization.Ancient buildings from the Song and Tang dynasty and some of the most ancient Buddhist relicts make one still feel the glorious past of this province. The hanging monastery and the 252 grottoes of Datong with more than 51.000 Buddhist statues, as well as the ancient walled city of Pingyao and the Wutai mountain as a main Buddhist pilgrimage destination, are highlights of this region.The ancient city of Pingyao is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Datong

Shanxi is one of the most beautiful valleys in China. This tour begins at Datong following the Great Wall's trail to where it borders Inner Mongolia, and meets the Yellow River.

Heading from Datong, the long, narrow road circles sweeping mountains, dipping on one side to terraced, green fields interspersed with cave houses built into the loess cliffs. To the other side is the vast Yellow River, curving like emerald glass around rough yet green terrain jutting into the water. The steep route on a remote road leads to a magic valley - Laoniuwan.

Datong was the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534), when the Great Wall's northern borders were extended by 1,000 kilometers from Chicheng County, in North China's Hebei Province, to Wuyuan County in Inner Mongolia. Six important garrisons were built north of the Great Wall to protect Datong, then known as Pingcheng City. An inner wall was also constructed of earth. Lower than the original wall, it circled Datong, stretching some 500 kilometers to the east bank of the Yellow River.


Deshengbao Fortress & Village 

The dusty fortress converted villageand has stood there unchanged for a century. Beyond the village walls, a section of the Great Wall dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) stretches over fields against the backdrop of a piercing blue sky. The wall's original brick casing is all but gone, and erosion has reduced it to a dry, earth barrier, rising to a grassy peak at a former garrison that guarded a strategic pass.


Yanmenguan Pass

Yanmenguan on Yanmen Mountain, northwest of Dai County is the last of three outer Great Wall passes the group explores. Originally built in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), it was moved several kilometers north and rebuilt under the Ming Dynasty. A six-meter-tall wall guards the entrance to a castle at this once-impenetrable site, guarding over an undulating landscape of thick forest. A pair of carved stone lions, flag posts and pillars remain as testament to the arched gates that once stood to the east, west and north.


Wutai Mountain

Wade–Giles Romanization Wu-t'ai Shan, Pinyin Wutai Shan mountain and mountain chain in northeast Shansi Province, China. The mountain chain is a massif with a southwest–northeast axis, separated from the Heng Shan (mountains) to the northwest by the valley of the Hu-t'o Ho (river), which curves around its southern flank to flow into the North China Plain in Hopeh Province. Mt. Wu-t'ai is actually a cluster of flat-topped peaks from which the mountain takes its name (Five Terraces). The highest peak is 10,033 ft (3,058 m) above sea level.Mt. Wu-t'ai is particularly famous as one of the great holy places of Chinese Buddhism. Great numbers of temples, including some of the oldest wooden buildings surviving in China, are scattered over the mountain; the largest temples—such as the Hsien-t'ung, the Ta-ta-yüan, and the Pu-sa-ting-shen-jung-yüan—are grouped around the town of T'ai-huai-chen.Mt. Wu-t'ai appears first to have become a holy mountain to the Taoist adepts of the later Han dynasty (AD 25–220) but came into prominence in the 5th century under the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534/35) when, as Ch'ing-liang Shan, it became identified as the dwelling place of Mãnjuśrī bodhisattva (a heavenly being who voluntarily postpones his Buddhahood in order to work for worldly welfare and understanding). The cult of Mãnjuśrī was intensified under the T'ang dynasty (618–907). In early T'ang times Mount Wu-t'ai was closely associated with the patriarchs of the Hua-yen Buddhist school, becoming the principal centre of their teaching. During this period it attracted scholars and pilgrims not only from all parts of China but also from Japan, who continued to visit and study there until the 12th century.Many of the other monasteries in the region were attached to Ch'an Buddhism, which in the 9th century found patronage in the region from the provincial governors of the neighbouring areas of Hopeh, who were able to protect Mount Wu-t'ai from the worst ravages of the great religious persecution that occurred from 843 to 845. Under Mongol rule in the late 13th century, Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism) was first introduced to Mount Wu-t'ai. During the Ch'ing dynasty (1644–1911/12), when the Tibetan Buddhist religion was an important element in relations between the Chinese court and their Mongol and Tibetan vassals and when the state gave lavish support to monasteries inhabited by lamas (monks), Mount Wu-t'ai was one of the principal monastic centres.


Pingyao Town

Pingyao's old town is typically considered the best ancient walled city in China. Located in Shanxi Province, northen China, Pingyao is a significant Ming Dynasty walled city, with one of the few walls in China remaining intact and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city has a 2700 year history. It was the center of China's modern Banking system from 1825, however with the collapse of the Qing Dynasty the banking and finances were transferred to Shanghai and Hong Kong which turned the city into a backwater, saving it from development and preserving its character. The cities' wealth of Chinese traditional buildings include courtyard houses,historic bank courtyard buildings, and more than 3000 historic shops. Nearby is perhaps China's most famous courtyard complex---"Wangs Great Courtyard" known as the "Forbidden City of Shanxi" a distinctive statement of Qing Dynasty civilian architecture that includes 123 large and small courtyards with 1118 rooms with an area of 45,000 sq.m. The surrounding countryside quite distinctive but clearly climate change in the last 1500 years has affected this area and reduced its richness from the onetime cradle of Chinese civilization.