Baoding City is a medium-sized industrial city in Hebei province near the coast. It is about 150 kilometers from Beijing and east of the Taihang Mountains. It is in the western part of the Jizhong Plain. About a million people live in the urban area, and about 11 million people live in the area under its government's jurisdiction in outlying suburbs, towns, and villages. It is halfway between Beijing and Shijiazhuang. Baoding's central district is about 125 kilometers (78 miles) away from Shijiazhuang that is the capital city of Hebei Province. So it takes less than two hours to drive there. The total area of Baoding is 22,000 square kilometers (8,500 square miles). It has one national 6A scenic spot, six 4A scenic spots, two world geoparks, three national geoparks, four national forest parks, one national key scenic spot and 15 historical sites designated as nationally important by the Chinese government.
Baoding City is an ancient city with a long history, and there are lots of places of historical interest and natural scenic areas. For example, the Ancient Lotus Lake Garden in the city center used to be an institution of higher education during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty. It was one of the famous gardens of that time.
There is a stone carving called "Lian Ye Tuo Tao" on an ancient pavilion in the garden. This might be a satire about how the Empress Dowager Cixi fled from Beijing overnight when the Eight-Power Allied Forces (Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, Japan, Italy and Austria) sent troops to Beijing in 1900 to suppress the anti-imperialist Yihetuan Movement (Boxer Rebellion).
In addition, there are other places of cultural and historical interest like the Han Dynasty Tombs in Mancheng County (154 BC-113 BC) that are famous for the suits made of jade pieces that were sewn together with gold wire and the Mausoleums of the Qing Dynasty (1730-1915, Yixian County) where 4 emperors of the Qing Dynasty were buried.
People in Baoding are proud of their history. In Chinese mythology, the area of Baoding was said to be where Sovereign Yao was from. In the Spring and Autumn Period (770 B.C. to 476 B.C.), the Jin built a city in the area of Baoding. In the dynasties afterwards, the city was usually a capital of at least a region. The Yan and Zhongshan kingdoms had their capitals in the area. The name of "Baoding" means protecting and stabilizing. The city protected nearby Beijing and helped keep the area under control. The city was made a prefecture in the Yuan (Mongolian) Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty. In the Qing Dynasty, the mansion of the ruler of Zhili Province was in Baoding. Since then, Baoding has often been either a political, economic, or cultural center for Hebei Province, or an army headquarters.
The area has a temperate climate with monsoon seasons. The average annual temperature is 12 °C, and the annual precipitation is about 550 mm. There are four distinct seasons in Baoding. In the winter, it is cold, and it sometimes snows. In the summers, it is usually hot and dry. Spring has strong winds that blow sand and dirt, so it is better for tourists to travel there in the summers and autumns.
Food in Baoding is of northern style, which is known for its aromas. Restaurants like Mei Shi Shan, Tian Yi Gong, and Zhong Yi have pleasant environments but relatively higher prices. Restaurants named Dong Lai Shun and Lao Cheng Gener are recommended. To avoid getting sick, when the weather is hot, eat in the better air-conditioned restaurants and avoid the food sold by street peddlers unless it comes piping hot. Make sure that the dishes and utensils are clean.
Lu Zhu Chicken (boiled chicken with thick gravy) is one of the specialties in Baoding. To have authentic Lu Zhu Chicken, people can go to the Old Chicken Shop of the Ma Family or Mosque Street. Every day, there are dozens of stalls selling hot Lu Zhu Chicken and gizzards. The Lu Zhu Chicken of the three brothers of the Liu family is the most famous. But tourists should be careful or you may buy something fake: mutton, sheep hoofs and offal are also sold on this street.
There are other specialties of Baoding like Lu Rou Huo Shao (pies with donkey meat), Bing Tang Hu Lu (Ice-sugar Gourds) and so on. Most local people eat Lu Rou Huo Shao. People put minced donkey meat into a wheat cake and thus Lu Rou Huo Shao is made. The baked wheaten cake tastes crispy, and the meat is tender. Delicious and inexpensive, a Lu Rou Huo Shao only costs 3 RMB.
Bing Tang Hu Lu of Baoding is known in Hebei Province and once was introduced on Spring Festival Gala on CCTV-1. CCTV-1 is one of the television channels available in China. There various kinds of Bing Tang Hu Lu in Baoding and Beijing. For example, some of the Bing Tang Hu Lu is made of hawthorne. Hawthorne berries are a very delicious berry that is nutritious and good for your health. It helps to reduce high blood pressure and is good for your heart and blood circulation.
Some are hawthorne mixed with red bean paste. Some are haws filled with green bean paste. Some are made of a kind of yam. There are many other kinds, all delicious and beautiful. The price of Bing Tang Hu Lu is less that 3 RMB each. The most famous local brands of Bing Tang Hu Lu are King of Tang Hu Lu and Lu-ji.