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Shanxi (山西) Province

Shanxi (山西) Province
Shanxi (山西) is to the southwest of Beijing. The name means "west of the Taihang Mountains, as it is separated from the Huabei Plains by the Taihang mountains. It is often referred to asboy the Coal Seabecause it is rich in coal. The province is mostly covered by ranges of hills: the western regions border the Loess Plateaus of Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia, and exhibits the characteristic rolling hills of yellow earth, heavily eroded by rain and flash floods.
Most areas are accessible by bus or by train.  See the train schedule.
The Fen River (Fen He in Chinese) starts in the north, collecting what little rain runs off the parched earth, and meanders down the central valley to meet with the Yellow River (Huang He in Chinese), in the South-western tip of the province. The south of the province, nestling in the bends of the Yellow River, is one of the ancient cultural centers of China. About 200 Palaeolithic and 500 Neolithic sites have been unearthed in the region, as well as 500 tombs, and other ancient rooms.

The capital city, Taiyuan, is in the center of Shanxi (山西). Taiyuan was founded in the Western Zhou (1066 – 771 B.C.). It is one of the main industrial centers in northern central China, with one of the largest steel works in the country, and it is also important for chemicals and heavy industry. Vinegar and spirits from this region are famous throughout China.

Buddhist Grottos, Datong

boyHundreds of years ago Buddhists moved to Northern Shanxi (山西) Province where they carved out of the mountains their thousands of Buddha's over the years.  The impressive effort is one similar to a site in He nan Province prepared by the same group of monks years earlier.

Heng Shan

Heng Shan, on the the five Buddhist mountains in China is located in Northeast Shanxi (山西) Province.  While it is not one of the more impressive mountains in China, it is a healthy climb at about 2200 meters above sea level.  Like nearly all mountains in China, it has stairs all they way to the top.  Carved into the side of the mountain are several monasteries, still operated today.

There are a number of interesting sites in the center of the city; the remains of the old city walls can still be seen in few places, and there is a rapidly diminishing area of splendid traditional courtyard houses.

The main tourist sites include:

  1. Jinci Temple
  2. Tianlong Mountain
  3. Shuangta Temple (Twin Pagoda Temple)
  4. Xuanzhong Monastery
  5. Longquan Temple
  6. Nanshan Temple
  7. Phhua Temple
Pingyao Historical Town

Pingyao Historical Town

Originally founded in the 8th century B.C., Pingyao flourished during the Ming and Qing dynasties, when it became China’s premier banking center. But as coastal cities rose in prominence in the 20th century, Pingyao’s importance dwindled and it was left behind in the race for modernization.
As a result, Pingyao is an amazingly well preserved town filled with outstanding examples of Ming and Qing architecture. In fact, Pingyao has retained so many of the features of the 19th century Han Chinese city that Zhang Yimou’s (director) film, The Red Lantern, was shot here, and the town was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.boy
Pingyao, about two hours south of Taiyuan, is a fascinating town. Famous throughout Northern China for producing high quality beef, the town has a long history. The reconstructed walls, the Gate Tower soars above all other buildings, providing an excellent viewpoint to see the city.
Like in Datong, there is a large drum tower in the center of the city. Many of the old streets still remain. Chinese visitors may be more familiar with the area as one in which some of the more decisive battles were fought during the revolution.
Twin Forest Temple, (Shuang Lin Si in Chinese), is a short ride outside the town. The temple houses some stunning woodcarvings, with walls decorated with statues floating in aesthetic atmosphere of delicately carved clouds.

Wang’s Family Residence & Courtyard

Wang's Family Residence & Courtyard

Wang’s Houses Courtyard is located 12 km East of Lingshi County, which was built in the Qingboy dynasty, covering an area of 150 000 square meters. The buildings were opened to the public as a gallery of civilian houses on August 18, 1997. It has 26 courtyards, 218 rooms, totaling 11 728 square meters. The Hongmenbu Buildings were opened to the public as Wang’s museum on August 18th, 1998, it was built between 1762 and 1793, consisting of 28 courtyards, 540 rooms, and covering 19 800 square meters. Wang’s courtyard consists of two parts: Gaojiaya Buildings and the Hongmenbu buildings. It also has spectacular brick carvings, woodcarvings and stone carvings.

Yao Temple

Yao Temple

It is said that Yao Temple was originally built during the Jin dynasty. It is located in the Northwestern part of Linfen City. In 658, it moved to the south of the town, it has a history of over 1000 years, and it was rebuilt several times. The Wufeng Pavilion, Yaojin Pavilion, Guangyun Palace, Bedroom Palace and stone carvings dating from Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties are well preserved.
The Yao Miao Square, which is in front of the Yao Temple, was finished in September 2002. Outside the Yao Temple new old-style Chinese buildings were erected, including a small-scale replica of the Temple of Heaven, etc.

Guangsheng Temple

Guangsheng Temple is located 45 kilometers north of Linfen, the temple was originally built in Eastern Han dynasty (147. A.D.), and it has a history of more than 1800 years. The temple consists of three parts: upper, lower and Water God Temples.  Guangsheng Temple has many cultural relics and splendid ancient buildings. The well-preserved pagoda – Flying Rainbow Pagoda -- is the biggest in China. The only large-scale treasure frescoes of the traditional Chinese operas in the country are also found here.

Susan Prison

Susan Prison

Susan prison is located in the South of the ancient Scholar Tree of the Hongtong County, with an area of 610 square meters. It was first built in the Ming dynasty (1396), and is the only well preserved prison from the Ming dynasty in existence today.
Susan, whose story is well known all over China, was imprisoned in this jail, hence the name. It is an important place for studying the rules and regulations of the ancient penal system in the feudal China.
Susan’s story has inspired several well known Chinese operas, the Yu Tang Chun, The Women Guards, and The Trial on Three Courts.
Susan was a famous courtier during the Ming dynasty. A young man, who was later to become an important official at the imperial court, fell in love with her. Later Susan was wrongly accused of trying to poison her landlord. She was convicted and thrown to a prison, which later was to carry her name. Luckily enough her former suitor came to her rescue and overturned her sentence.

The Great Chinese Scholar Tree

The Great Chinese Scholar Tree

The Great Chinese Scholar Tree is located in the Hongtong County, the Guanji Temple was first built in Tang dynasty, beside an ancient Chinese Scholar Tree from Han dynasty.. The ancient broad road once run under the tree and the old storks made nests on the tree. At the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644), a bureau was set up to handle immigration (many people were sent all over China into the new settlements).
When immigrants set out, they were reluctant to leave their hometown, and looked back again and again. What they could remember their hometown was the great Chinese Scholar Tree and the storks’ nests on the tree.
For this reason the tree and the nest on the tree became the symbol of leaving one’s birthplace against one’s own will. On the day of the Qing Ming Festival every year, the old storks come in large numbers; they stand on the ancient Chinese Scholar Tree, which is a real spectacle for the viewers.

The Great Chinese Scholar Tree Garden

The Scholar Tree

The Great Chinese Scholar Tree Garden is important for the Chinese seeking their roots and worshipping ancestors. The place is located on the northern suburb of the Hongtong County, about 30 minutes from Linfen City. This is the place where the roots of 100,000 Chinese people are, and where many Chinese gather every year to seek their roots. There is a screen wall that bears the inscription “Gen” (root), written by Zhang Ding, the president of the All China Industrial Art School. Since 1911, from April 1st to April 10th, a festival of seeking roots and worshipping ancestors is held.

Shanxi (山西) Province covers an area of 156 300 square kilometers. It has a population of 50 million.
Taiyuan is the provincial capital; other major cities include Datong, Yangquan, Changzhi, Linfen, etc. Shanxi (山西) is a major coal producing area, it as has both steel and machine building industries, as well as fairly highly developed farming and animal husbandry industries. Educational establishments include the Shanxi (山西) University, Taiyuan Engineering University and the Taiyuan Heavy Machinery Institute. The Shanxi (山西) Teacher’s University is the most important university training teachers. Places to visit include the Yuengang Grottoes with one-thousand-year-old Buddhist rock carvings, the Jinci Temple near Taiyuan City, the Wutai Mountains, the Nine-Dragon Screen at Datong, the Huayan Temple, Xuankong Temple, the Wooden Pagoda in Yingxian County, and the Yongle Palace.


Linfen, Shanxi, China

The city of Linfen is situated in the southwestern part of the Shanxi Province, at the lower reaches of the Fen River, covering an area of 1,304 square kilometers and with a population of about 680,000, with more than 4 million in the area.
Geographical coordinates are: northern latitude from 35º23’ to 36º37’, eastern longitude from 110º22’ to 112º34. The whole region features offers open spaces and various, diversified terrain.

Climate & Environment

Linfen region has a semi-dry monsoon climate, with very dry winters. The annual average temperature is from 8.9 C to 13 C, average rainfall from 334.3 to 595.5 mm, with 125 to 191 frost-free days. The region has four distinct seasons and a mild climate. Green areas amount to about 20% of the city area. Thousands of trees line the streets; including: pear, persimmon, pomegranate, hawthorn, cherry and other fruit trees

In past years Linfen has been heavily criticized for its environmental conditions, however with recent governmental changes, the tied has begun to turn and the conditions have improved considerably.

The scenery changes with the seasons. In the spring you can see hundreds of different flowers vying with each other in beauty. In the summer the whole city seems to be cowered with lush foliage, sending off a delicate fragrance so charming and pleasant that the visitors are reluctant to leave. Linfen is a “Fruit and Flower” city!

Historical Linfen (Pingyang)
In ancient times Linfen was called Pingyang. It has a long history and is rich in cultural relics. According to legend, Yaodi (an emperor, c. 23rd century B.C.) once established his capital here. The historic relics, such as, the Yao Miao temple, the Yao Tomb, the place where Cangjie composed his writings, the Iron-Buddha Monastery, the stage from Yuan Dynasty, the Gushe Fairy Cave . . . all were built in ancient times, but are still well preserved, retaining their original style. They are the precious heritage bequeathed by the ancestors.

This ancient city is also the political, economic and cultural center of the Linfen Prefecture. [In the year, 2000 the district changed its name to Linfen (Shi) municipal government.] With the implementation of the economic reforms and the openness policy, the city’s economic construction is forging ahead and bringing about changes every day.
In recent years the city has come into contact with many foreign countries in various fields and the exchange-activities are increasing daily. The tourist trade in the city, in particular, has shown great potential.

Outside the city there are many scenic spots, as well as historic sites; such as the Glazed Flying Rainbow Pagoda, which is the best of its kind in China; and the SuSan Prison from the Ming Dynasty, which is the most intact and the earliest one in the country; also:  the site of the Old Cypress, where people from all over China seek their ancestors; the Western Minor Paradise, which possess unique hanging sculptures; the inferno hall of the Dong Yue temple; Ding Cun culture, representing the stone age; Jin Kingdom relics in Hou Ma City; and the Yellow River Waterfalls (Hukou), the second largest in the country.


China has 26 provinces and its land area is only slightly larger than that of the United States.

Chinese Provincial Map

Shanxi Province Tourism Map

Shanxi Province is located in the North Central of China, about 600 kilometers from Beijing

Linfen Prefecture

Linfen City Map

Shanxi Normal University


Precautions Traveling In China

One of the most exciting things in coming to China is traveling.  China is filled with diverse and unique locations and not taking advantage of this opportunity will make your stay in China incomplete.

Teachers planning to travel for extended periods should discuss their plans with the Foreign Affairs Office for safety reasons only. Things that you should be cautious about might not occur to you, but might will be obvious to them.

Whenever you leave Linfen, make sure you have your passport with you. Whether you are traveling with the school or alone, you will need your passport. You will need it to check into hotels and will occasionally be asked for it when traveling on trains.  You will also need it when booking any domestic flights. 

When traveling in China you are required to register with the local authorities within 24 hours of arriving in a new city. This is Chinese law for all foreigners in China, whatever the visa status.  If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel is responsible for handling this registration.  If you are staying with friends, you should contact the local security office to register.  This is only a formality but should be taken care of to be within the law. Failure to do so might get you detained for several hours while you try to explain yourself.

Traveling outside China to other parts of Asia is also an option for you.  Be sure that your Visa is a multi-entry visa.  It is a short, moderately priced flight to Seoul, S. Korea.  Also, Boats can be taken to S. Korea for Tsingdao for around $100.  It is an overnight run.  American citizens can visit S. Korea as tourists for up to 30 days without requesting a visa. The cost of living in South Korea is similar to that of the United States, so expect to spend all your savings.

If you travel south it is also possible to take trips into Vietnam or some other border countries.  Be sure you look into all the legalities of such a trip before you do anything.

If you don't like taking trains, domestic flights can be taken from Yun Cheng to the south and Taiyuan to the North.  Sometimes domestic flights are comparable to the cost of an overnight soft sleeper train ticket.  Xi'an also has an International Airport, in addition to those in Beijing and Shanghai.

WARNING! It is a serious matter to lose your passport in China.  If you do you should immediately contact the school so they can begin the process for getting you a replacement.  Never let you passport leave your site when traveling.

If you possess a Chinese driver's license, this can sometimes be used for checking into hotels.

Documents necessary when traveling: PASSPORT and SECONDARY ID CARD (if one is possessed). If you leave China at any point prior to termination of your contract, you must have a visa which permits you to return to China. This is called a Return Visa. CHECK YOUR VISA BEFORE LEAVING!  New Visas double as residence permits and are placed within your passport.

Traveling alone in China needs careful preparation. A guidebook might be considered essential. Also being able to speak some basic Chinese or at least having a phrase book is wise. Traveling alone is often preferred because it provides for more freedom in choosing routes, which places to go to, and how long to stay there. However, it is possible for one to encounter problems when traveling alone, since the transportation facilities, hotel services and tourist guides are not yet able to cater for the rapid development of tourism in China. It is therefore advisable to check with your Foreign Affairs Office or obtain the assistance of one of your students. It is best to avoid traveling during the national holidays, since all tourist attractions during these peak seasons are extremely crowded.

TRAVEL Links Worth Your Timelogo



Getting a driver's license in Shanxi can be frustrating and difficult. The simplist thing, if there is such, is to go to Shanghai or Beijing. With a foreign driver's license you can get you Chinese one with fees of less than 200 rmb and about two hours of your time. After that, getting a car is another challenge. You can get one used or try to buy one new, but you won't likely do this relying on you Chinese income.

If you do have a car then you will find traveling around Shanxi quite easy and not too expensive. Be sure you are legal and understand that they don't do things in China, or most countries, the way you do them at home.

NOTE: The there is a high-speed train that runs between Taiyuan and Beijing, dramatically reducing the length of time to travel between Linfen and Beijing. There is talk of plans for a train that would go between Xi'an and Beijing with a stop in Linfen.

NOTE: In September 2010 the Chinese government pre-authorized the construction of a regional airport in Linfen, earmarking more than 440 million RMB for the project.

Train Schedule Arriving at and Leaving from Linfen City

Train No.
Arr time
Arr./ Depart. Linfen
Linfen to Houma
Beijing to Hancheng
Yuncheng to Taiyuan
Qingjian to Taiyuan
Yichang to Taiyuan
Baotou to Linfen
linfen to Hancheng
Taiyuan to Yongji
Taiyuan to Yuncheng
Taiyuan to Xián
Yuncheng to Tangshan
Yuncheng to Taiyuan
Xián to Taiyuan
Tangshan to Linfen
Yongji to Taiyuan
Taiyuan to Yichang
Linfen to Baotou
Yuncheng to Beijing
Linfen to Houma
Hancheng to Beijing
Jiafeng to Linfen
Train No.
Arr time
Arr./ Depart. Linfen
Taiyuan to Chengdu
Taiyuan to Yuncheng
Hancheng to Linfen
Xián to Baotou
Hangzhou to Tatong
Taiyuan to Baoji
Chengdu to Taiyuan
Taiyuan to Guandong
Taiyuan to Qingjian
Baotou to Xián
Guangzhou to Taiyuan
Baoji to Taiyuan
Linfen to Jiafeng
Datong to Hangzhou
Beijing to Yuncheng


Shanxi Noodles: 100 Ways to Happiness

boyShanxi is famous for several food items as well as it's numerous historic sites. With a little help, someone might plan a series of trips to small villages to sample some of the more than 100 different types of pasta.

Shanxi is the reputed birthplace of pasta, passed on from here to places around China, and on to Marco Polo who famously took the practice of making noodles back to Italy.

You might have noodles dry and topped with a savory sauce, or in a broth based soup, or sautéed. If you peek in the kitchen, you’ll see noodles pulled, pinched, snipped and sliced, some with great theatrics straight into the boiling cauldron


刀削面 - daox xiao mian (Knive Cut Noodles): this is considered the king of noodles in Shanxi province, famous in Datong. It is prepared by using a special knife-like tool. The noodles are 'shaved off' a large piece of prepared dough, always directly into the boiling water. They somewhat resemble egg-noodles with a tapered edge. The thinking is that the noodle, thick in the middle and thing on the edges is easily digested.

boy猫耳朵 - mao er dou: cat eared pasta (like orrechiete) which can be paired with sauces but tastes best sautéed with cabbage with soy and vinegar (pork optional)

拉面 - la mian: like all hand pulled noodles, a wonder to watch as 5 to 10 pounds of flours is kneaded, stretched and pulled into delicate even strands.

boy一根面 - yi gen mian: a 25 meter long single strand of hand pulled noodle in each bowl. This is something of a birthday tradition. The long noodle symbolizes a long life.

boy剪刀面 - jian dao mian: noodles are cut with an enormous pair of scissors as the giant spool shaped dough is rotated.
揪片儿 - jiu pian er: easy, just grab a long coil of boydough and start pinching bits off into the water; best done at great distances from the boiling water so you can pitch them across the room

Typical noodle preparations -- Noodles are generally mixed and matched with a sauce of your choice; in Beijing, sauces range widely to service all tastes, from a vegetarian tomato and egg, to mixed eggplant and pork, and straight up stewed and fried meats including pork, beef and lamb. They can also be fried with meat or vegetables.

  • 卤肉 - lu rou: soy braised pork sauce

  • 炸酱- zha jiang: China's beloved fried pork sauce

  • 番茄鸡蛋 - fan qie ji dan: tomato and egg sauce

  • 茄子猪肉 - qie zi zhu rou: braised eggplant and pork sauce (at Noodle Loft: 大娘调和 - da niang tiao he)

  • 酸菜黄豆 - pickled mustard and soy bean