Shijiazhuang is the provincial capital of Hebei Province, located approximately 280 km (174 miles) southwest of Beijing. The city rests against the Taihang Mountain Range and borders Shanxi Province to the west. In addition to being a political and industrial center with particular strengths in pharmaceuticals and textiles, Shijiazhuang is also a major national transportation hub.
Since its formal establishment in the 1920s, Shijiazhuang has grown into an important industrial center at the forefront of China"s rapid economic development.
The name Shijiazhuang first appeared in the Ming Dynasty, but how the village gained this name is not certain 芒鈧?there are competing legends hinging on the meaning of "shi" in the city"s name. The sound "shi"in Chinese can mean "stone"(denoted by Shi), or "10" (denoted by Shi). The name Shijiazhuang is written with the "stone" character, and one legend has it that the village once had only ten families, and the original meaning of Shijiazhuang was "10-family village", with the "10" character being replaced by Shi in later years. Another theory is that originally all the people in the village had the family name "Shi", and the place-name meant "Shi-family village". Still another version is that stone-cutting was once a village specialty!
Today, Shijiazhuang is the north-south and east-west highway and railroad junction. The city is easily reached by air and land with many travelers arriving to the city via rail. In addition, the city enjoys typical transportation conveniences, with buses and taxis covering most of the city.
Often described by local residents as a "gray" city, Shijiazhuang does not enjoy many sunny days. In addition, temperatures can be quite cold in the winter and very hot in summers. In spite of these deterrents, the city and its surrounding area are filled with historical and scenic spots, giving it an unusual charm. Just outside Shijiazhuang is Xibaipo Village, the northern base of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party in 1947-48. Zhaozhou Bridge, one of the first arc bridges ever built, showcases ancient Chinese ingenuity. Longxing Monastery from the Sui Dynasty
Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618)
Site of Capital: Xi"an (then called Chang"an)
Although short-lived, the Sui Dynasty was important in reunifying China after centuries of division under the Northern and Southern Dynasties. The first Sui emperor introduced land reform, reformed government institutions and recruited officials through examinations. The tyrannical second Sui emperor pushed through the construction of the Grand Canal.
Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911)
Site of Capital: Beijing
China"s last dynasty, established by the Manchus from the northwest. The three great Qing emperors were Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, who ruled successively from 1661 to 1796. Later imperial rule was weak, and China was shaken by internal and external conflict. The 1911 Revolution ended the feudal era forever.
Architecture can be appreciated at Rongguo Mansion and the neighboring merchant street while the panoramic scenery of Cangyan Mountain and Zhangshiyan Mountain are breathtaking. Within the city are a number of parks and famous museums including Xibaipo Chinese Folk-custom Museum and Hebei Provincial Museum. Both museums have an eclectic collection.
Local cuisine is comprised mainly of starches, noodles and chewy pancakes. In addition, Hebei dishes tend to be on the salty side. Local delicacies include Jinmao Shizi Yu (fish in a delicate sweet and sour sauce), Cucumber Banquet, Chrysanthemum-shaped Sleeve Fish, Hui Braised Chicken and of course, succulent beef noodles. Another of the city"s popular dining experiences includes Imperial cuisine, with such dishes as Beijing Duck, steamed dumplings, steamed bread and other snacks.
While perhaps lacking the cultural appeal of other Chinese metropolitan cities, Shijiazhuang does promote its national treasures of performance arts. Beijing opera can be experienced at one of the city"s many theaters and in nearby Wuqiao County, the longstanding tradition of acrobatic arts is carried on. Traditional arts and crafts, including paper-cuttings, stone carvings, chops, calligraphy and hand blown bottles with scenic paintings on the inside, can be purchased at local handicraft shops.