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Yu County Fortresses and Walled Towns, 2013/02

In Brief: See the sights we saw on two Chinese New Year visits to Yu County, three hours' drive northwest of Beijing City.

During Chinese New Year we arranged two very special overnight trips to Yu County in Hebei Province, heading out first on the 12th, and then again on the 23rd for the Lantern Festival.

Yu County is home to ancient pagodas, temples, pavilions, and large gates and plaques inside fortified walled towns that preserve traces of the Zhou, Liao, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, as well as Da Shu Hua, a 300-year old local tradition that translates as ‘Beating Trees into Flowers’ and results in molten iron being flung against the city walls in lieu of a fireworks display.

One the first day, we visited Xi Castle, a well-preserved ancient barracks, walked around Nuanquan 'Warm Spring' Town, where there's a spring at a constant 16°C temperature year-round, and spent plenty of time looking about old houses made of rammed earth, watching performances of traditional dances, paper-cutting, and lantern-making.

On the evening of the first day we watched the Da Shu Hua performance—we'd heard it was spectacular, and it was! We'd seen photos, but it's the sort of thing you need to see in person to appreciate fully.

On the second day we headed to the ancient town of Yuxian and inspected all the historical artifacts, including a 900-year-old pagoda and some well-preserved ancient architecture located. There was a lot going on during Chinese New Year, and we got right into the good mood shared by the local people. In the afternoon, we arrived at another small town that used to be one of the main postal relay centers in northern of China, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In that town we also found temples with 480-year-old frescos, and enjoyed visits to local people’s family houses, a particular highlight.

Chinese dancing performance, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Traditional Chinese dancing performance at Nuanquan town.

Performance, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Performance at the village square.

People, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

The festivities were part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Performance, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

This float looks a bit like a boat.

“Lions”, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Lions!

Pig lantern, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

A very scary-looking pig lantern.

Roster lantern, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Rooster lantern.

Performance group, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Performers were walking the streets.

Group photo, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Hikes in front of the “Iron Wall City.”

Chinese house yard, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

We took a look about the yard of an old-style Chinese house.

Gaoqiao, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Practicing with the “Gaoqiao,” or stilts.

house, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Rammed earth walls for the houses and the city walls.

sun set, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

The sun set over a beautiful landscape.

Dashuhua, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Part of the “Dashuhua” show in the evening.

Local people’s house, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

An old house.

Yu city, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Yuxian Ancient Town.

Old city wall , Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

The walls of the old city.

a nice lunch, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

We had a nice lunch at a local farmer’s house.

city wall, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

We took a walk around the city wall of the old postal relay town.

The old town, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

The old town, with Cock's-comb Mountain behind.

all in red, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Matching in red, a lucky colour for Chinese New Year.

Old city wall view, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Good views from the old city wall.

Local antique shop, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

A local antiques store.

house yard, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

The yard of a farmer’s house.

The warm spring, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

The warm spring at Nuanquan Town.

Warm spring steam, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Steam rises from the spring – the air temperature was very low.

Ancient city path, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

An arch in the thick walls of the ancient town.

A Buddhism Pagoda, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

The pagoda is over 900 years old.

The same pagoda, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Another shot of the pagoda.

Jade heavenly god temple, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

The “Jade Heavenly God" temple is over 630 years old.

Inside of the temple, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Inside the temple.

Fresco painted, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Fresco painted with real gold.

Interesting fresco, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Interesting scene on a fresco.

A local opera shown, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

A opera shown on the stage, crowded by the audience.

Back street view, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

A view of the backstreets.

Audience stage, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

A view of a stage and courtyard.

Ancient city gate, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

A gate of the ancient city.

Local temple, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Local temple.

group photo, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

A shot of the second group.

Farmer’s house, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Farmer’s house.

Architecture, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Architecture.

An old man, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

An old man was pushing a cart with 4 baskets of water home from the well.

sun set, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

Beautiful sun set light on the wall and the moon on the other side of the sky.

“Dashuhua” show, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

“Dashuhua” show.

a blacksmith, Beijing Hikers Nuanquan (Warm spring town) town Chinese new year visiting at Yu County in Hebei province, 2013/02/12-13, 23-24

A spectacular sparkle thrown up against the wall.

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