Yu County Fortresses and Walled Towns, 2013/02
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.
Traditional Chinese dancing performance at Nuanquan town.
Performance at the village square.
The festivities were part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
This float looks a bit like a boat.
A very scary-looking pig lantern.
Performers were walking the streets.
Hikes in front of the “Iron Wall City.”
We took a look about the yard of an old-style Chinese house.
Practicing with the “Gaoqiao,” or stilts.
Rammed earth walls for the houses and the city walls.
The sun set over a beautiful landscape.
Part of the “Dashuhua” show in the evening.
An old house.
Yuxian Ancient Town.
The walls of the old city.
We had a nice lunch at a local farmer’s house.
We took a walk around the city wall of the old postal relay town.
The old town, with Cock's-comb Mountain behind.
Matching in red, a lucky colour for Chinese New Year.
Good views from the old city wall.
A local antiques store.
The yard of a farmer’s house.
The warm spring at Nuanquan Town.
Steam rises from the spring – the air temperature was very low.
An arch in the thick walls of the ancient town.
The pagoda is over 900 years old.
Another shot of the pagoda.
The “Jade Heavenly God" temple is over 630 years old.
Inside the temple.
Fresco painted with real gold.
Interesting scene on a fresco.
A opera shown on the stage, crowded by the audience.
A view of the backstreets.
A view of a stage and courtyard.
A gate of the ancient city.
A shot of the second group.
An old man was pushing a cart with 4 baskets of water home from the well.
Beautiful sun set light on the wall and the moon on the other side of the sky.
A spectacular sparkle thrown up against the wall.