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Chaozhou is one of the historical and cultural cities of China. It is on the coast, in the eastern part of Guangdong Province that is in the southeast corner of China. Hong Kong is adjacent to Guangdong Province and is to the south. It is now a medium sized city with a population of about 2.5 million people. The area under the Chaozhou government's administration is about 3,500 square kilometers. It is said that about 2 million people from Chaozhou live abroad in Taiwan and other countries, or are living in Hong Kong and Macau. It is a six hour bus journey (about 480 kilometers）from the capital city of Guangdong Province that is called Guangzhou. The area has some ancient buildings and scenic highlights.
Chaozhou City is surrounded by three mountains, and the Han River and Huanggang River flow through the city area. There are mountains in the northeast, caves in the southwest, and a plain in the southeast. In Chaozhou city, there are hundreds of scenic areas such as ancient walls, ancient temples, ancient bridges and ancient pagodas. This is why Chaozhou City is considered to be a historical city. The ethnic group came from central China more than a thousand years ago, and the area was sort of isolated and had contact with cultures off the mainland, so they developed a distinct language dialect and distinctive art forms. So this is why it is also considered to be a city of cultural origin in China. The area developed its own style of operatic theatre, its own tea ceremony and "Kongfu Tea", and its own ceramic styles. There is an old saying: "If you haven't come to Chaozhou, you haven't really come to Guangdong".
The area of the city has never been important politically in China as a whole, but it was important as a coastal port and a merchant's community. It is also the place of origin of about 10 million of the Chinese diaspora. It is thought that the people migrated from north-central China during the Jin Dynasty period about 1,600 years years ago due to warfare. Their language is akin to the dialect in that region as are their customs. It is thought that the people group retained their language and culture because they were geographically isolated. These people also retained art forms such as the Nanxi opera style of the Song Dynasty that they embellished over the last thousand years.
In the 1940s and 1950s, a large number of people from the area moved to Hong Kong or Taiwan, and they formed close-knit communities. In Hong Kong, unlike most people, they didn't speak Cantonese, but spoke their own Teochew dialect. They opened small shops in Hong Kong and blended in. There are also large Teochew communities in Indonesia and Singapore.
The city shared in the fast economic growth of Guangdong and the coastal cities in China in the past decade.
Chaozhou is not famous for its tourism, but for its manufacture of art wares, such as ceramic for daily use, wedding dresses, and dovetails. Nevertheless, we still list its top three attractions: Kaiyuan Temple, the Thai Buddhist Temple, and Phoenix Heaven Pond.
The first Kaiyuan Temple was built in 738 AD in the 26th year of the reign of Emperor Xuanzong. So the site is about 1,200 years old. The complex has been redesigned or reconstructed ten times since then. The present building that is made of wood and stone is about 200 years old. It looks similar to the Todai-ji Buddhist Temple in Nara, Japan. The present temple building is made of wood and stone. The framework has tenons that lock into each other and brackets that help to support the weight of the building. The top of the temple is decorated with glazed tile. The building looks run-down. The temple is important for Buddhist scholarship in China because a complete set of Buddhist scriptures is housed there. After a thousand years of wars and natural calamities like typhoons, the Kaiyuan Temple has ancient Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty architectural styles, and artifacts from dynasties as far back as the Tang Dynasty are housed there.
According to archaeologists, the Song architectural style of this building is similar to that of the famous Todai-ji Temple in Japan. The buildings look somewhat similar, but the Kaiyuan building is much smaller and shorter. The second story of the Kaiyuan building is much lower than that of the Todai-ji. It Is interesting that both buildings were built a few hundred years ago – the Todai-ji Temple was built about 300 years ago and the Kaiyuan Temple was built about 200 years ago.
The temple has a big bronze bell that is 1.7 meters high and 1.05 meters in circumference. It weighs more than 1,500 kilograms. This bell was made by the Chaozhou Diamond Sutra Agent in 1114 AD and is in good condition. It still rings.
At the front of the Great Hall, there are 78 stone enclosures with beautiful carvings. Among these carvings, some show scenes from Buddhist stories and some show natural scenes. In the middle of the Great Hall, there is a big stone enclosure with some Chinese characters carved on it. All the stone enclosures are cultural relics.
There is a red bronze censer in the temple. It is said that this censer was donated by a Korean monk in the Tang Dynasty. There are words on it that tell people the history of the censer.
In addition, there is a gold and lacquer wood pagoda from the Ming Dynasty period in the temple that is 6 feet tall and has a hexagonal outline. There are seven levels in it that each have a theme. Most of the carvings relate to Buddha. This pagoda has a complex and beautifully carved structure.
In the scripture storing tower, there is a set of scriptures called Stored Dragon or Dragon Hiding . It was published in the Qing Dynasty, and has been preserved since then. This is a complete set, and 7,240 volumes were put in 724 parcels. In the Qing Dynasty, there were only 100 Dragon Store books made. This set was preserved by the Monk Jinghui.
In 1987, the State Bureau of Cultural Relics and State Bureau of Publication granted approval to publish the Dragon Store. In order to find a complete version of the Dragon Store, people exerted a lot of effort and found a complete copy there. In the 1700s, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty had ordered a part of the scriptures in the Dragon Store copies destroyed as well as other religious books.
The Kaiyuan Temple is Chaozhou’s biggest ancient temple complex. It is the biggest temple complex in the area.
The Kaiyuan Temple is at 32 Kaiyuan Road in Chaozhou
Passengers can take Bus No. 3 to go there.
Temples in Thailand are like museums of art. The Thai Buddhist Temple in Chaozhou is decorated like a Thai Buddhist Temple. The roof of the pavilion has multi-faceted angles and doubled eaves. There are beautiful yellow pictures drawn on the eaves and Thai decorations. This lets Chaozhou people see something foreign and exotic in their region without going abroad, and it is fun for people coming from abroad. An entrepreneur from Thailand built this building as part of a Buddhist park. He wanted people to see something of Thai culture. Maybe he wanted to teach religion as well. It is a recently built amusement park with a big Buddha.
In the middle of the pavilion in the park is a Buddha. The Buddha looks like a Thai Buddha and is 3 meters high and weighs 1.5 tons. It is covered with a thin layer of gold like Thai Buddhas so it is called the Gold Buddha. There are many paintings on the walls of the pavilion about the story of Buddha.
In the east hall of the pavilion, there is a statue with four faces. Statues like these are called"Maha Brahma Deva," and this is an Indian Brahman god. They teach that the creator once had five heads but Siva destroyed one. The four heads that are left face in the four directions. The four faces represent mercy, compassion, luck and charity.
On the hillside of the Thai Buddha Pavilion, there are many buildings such as the"Wangjiang" Temple, the"Wangzhou" Temple and pagodas.
Passengers can take Bus No. 8 to get off at the Thai Buddha Pavilion.
In front of Huiru Park on East Hill Road.
The Thai Buddhist Temple is decorated like a Thai temple.
The elevation of Phoenix Heaven Lake is about 1,325 meters. It is the second highest peak in the eastern part of Guangzhou. The tallest peak is Phoenix Wuji. The scenic area attracts many tourists. The pond has a unique location, and there is attractive natural scenery.
The area of Heaven Lake is about 76 mu (about half a hectare). The lake is a natural crater lake. The weather is changeable. Sometimes, the lake is a perfect mirror for peaceful towers of cloud, and sometimes the lake is full of waves and is dark and grey. There was a myth that the goddess Queen Mother took a both there. There are many scenic spots in the area such as the Prince Cave, the God Well and the Peace Temple. In addition, the sunrise scenery and the beautiful valley makes Heaven Lake a tourist attraction.
In the lake, there is a strange fish. Its head looks like a frog, its body looks like a crocodile, its tail looks like tadpole, and its back is deep brown. The temperature at Heaven Lake is much lower than that at the foot of the mountain, so bring additional clothes. If tourists have enough time, they can spend the night on the mountain resort area and wait to see the next morning's sunrise
It is a pond at an elevation of 1325 meters. Travelers can watch the sunrise here.
The Phoenix Heaven Lake is located at the top of Wu Mountain of the Phoenix Mountain Range in Phoenix Town of Chao'an County.
It will take travelers about 50 minutes to get to Phoenix Town from Chaozhou. There is a bus from the West Gate Station of Chaozhou to Phoenix Town. Travelers can also take taxis to go to Phoenix Town for 90 RMB if you bargain.
From Phoenix Town, travelers should take a local tourist bus to get to the lake. Drivers have to be cleared to drive on the roads because they are steep. The buses run till about 5 pm. The price of a round trip ticket is about 15 RMB, and the journey round trip takes about an hour.
Chaozhou cuisine is like the cuisine in the northeastern area of Guangzhou Province. It is special because there are a lot of seafood and vegetable dishes. It is thought to be healthy and invigorating food, and it is cooked in a variety of ways. The meals depend much on the quality of the ingredients for taste and flavor. The main characteristics of Chaozhou cuisine are as follows: a large variety of seafood, many vegetarian dishes, and the use of various kinds of beets and other special ingredients.
Sidewalk snack booths are good places to find fresh seafood because the food is likely to be fresh, hot, and with hot spices, and the food is economically priced. But take care that the food is sanitary and really is fresh and hot to avoid getting sick. The more expensive restaurants are more sanitary. Finches Restaurant, New Star Restaurant and West House Restaurant are recommended. Representative dishes are: Chaozhou Cuttlefish Balls, Chaozhou Cold Crab, and Ming Large Conch.
After dinner, travelers can go to the tea houses or tea booths and enjoy Kungfu Tea, the local beverage specialty. There are very many of these tea cafes in the area. In Chaozhou, every restaurant serves Kungfu Tea before and after the meal. Popular tea cafes are Xiaoyao Tea House on the northern end of Chaozhou Avenue and the tea house on the peak of Gold Mountain. The Xiaoyao Tea House is built on a lotus pool. Travelers can drink tea and enjoy the garden scenery and the bamboo construction. Gold Mountain is on the Han River. The famous scenic spot called "Lighthouse of Buddha" is located here. Tasting the tea here at night, travelers can enjoy the beautiful night scenery and the refreshing tea. Below your feet is the smooth and pleasant Han River, and you can see the fishing lights of the fishermen sometimes, and the scenery is great.
What do you eat in China when you don't want to sit down and eat in a restaurant? There are hundreds of shops and booths selling things to eat as you stroll around. For those who want to taste the genuine Chaozhou snacks, the old city area is an ideal place. For example, on Hurong Well Road, travelers can find many local snacks such as noodles, steamed dumplings, steamed Chinese-style bread rolls, and steamed chives dumplings. At night, the city is full of snack stalls; travelers can enjoy delicious snacks made of seafood, beef, and tofu.
Chaozhou is in the eastern part of Guangdong Province on the coast, so it has a maritime subtropical monsoon climate. Temperatures in July and August are higher than in other months. The annual mean temperature is about 21 degrees. There is abundant rainfall, and except for typhoons, the weather is generally mild. The coldest months are December, January, and February. It doesn't freeze, and most trees are green throughout the year. The best time to travel may be in September, October and November when it is cooler and sunnier.
At present, there is no airport in Chaozhou, but there is an international airport in Guangzhou and a small one nearby. The small Shantou Airport is about 40 kilometers away. There is a shuttle bus from the Chaozhou Long-distance Bus Station to Shantou. The shuttle bus runs every ten minutes, and the ticket price is 10 RMB per person.
The huge Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (IATA: CAN, ICAO: ZGGG) is in Guangzhou that is the capital city of Guangdong Province. Guangdong is about a 5 hour journey by bus or vehicle. It is China's second or third busiest airport, and flights fly in from many cities overseas. At the Chaozhou Railway Station, there are trains that go to Guangzhou that take as long as 7 or 9 hours to arrive there. So if possible, it is better to take a bus.
The Shan-Fen Expressway and National Highway 324 both pass through Chaozhou City, and long-distance buses travel on these roads. Taking the bus is probably the quickest way to go to Chaozhou from Guangzhou or Shenzhen. There are many shuttle buses to Guangzhou at the West Gate Station and the China Travel Station. One or two buses go to Guangzhou every hour. It will take passengers about six hours to arrive.
The Guangzhou Tianhe Bus Station and the Guangdong Provincial Long-distance Bus Station in Guangzhou both have buses that depart for Chaozhou. The trip takes about 6 hours. It costs about 180 or 190 RMB.
The Tianhe Bus Station has buses to Shenzhen and nearby cities. The Tianhe Bus Station is also next to the Guangzhou East Railway Station so that you can catch trains for all over China and a super-fast (180-200 kilometers per hour average running speed) train that goes to the Luohu Hong Kong/Shenzhen City border crossing station. The trip on the bullet train takes about an hour. The cost for tickets between Guangzhou and Shenzhen is about 75 or 85 RMB depending on whether you get first class or second class tickets.
There are many buses for Shantou every day. There is a shuttle bus from the Chaozhou Bus Station to the Shantou Bus Station. The bus runs every ten minutes. It will take about 50 minutes to go to Shantou. It will take about four and a half hours to get to the Luohu Bus Station in Shenzhen by bus.
The West Gate Bus Station is also a long-distance bus station in Chaozhou. Passengers can take buses to get to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, zhuhai and other cities in the province.
The railway transportation in Chaozhou is convenient. There are railway links to Guangzhou, Meizhou, Shantou, Shenzhen, Wuchang, Jiujian, and other cities. From Guangzhou, there are three trains to Chaozhou every day. Depending on the train you take, it will take about 7 or 8 hours to go from the Guangzhou East Station to the Chaozhou Railway Station, so it is quicker to travel by bus. In the future, people might be able to take the Chaozhang Railway to get to Shanghai, Ningbo, Xiamen, and Shenzhen directly.
Taxis can be found everywhere in Chaozhou City, and the minimum fare for a taxi ranges from 3 Yuan to 5 Yuan depending on the kind of taxi. In addition, 1 Yuan is charged for a fuel surcharge. Make sure that the driver turns on the meter when he starts out and carry small bills to give him or you may get counterfeit money
At present, there are 10 bus routes in Chaozhou. Buses run every ten minutes or so. The ticket costs 2 Yuan per person, and most routes run between 6:30 in the morning and 11:00 pm.
In China, in the less developed areas, three wheeled pedaled or motor powered vehicles are used as taxis. They generally don't have meters, and the driver bargains. The price depends on the distance, and these vehicles often are not allowed on highways or roads where the traffic is fast. Chaozhou still has these types of vehicles on the roads. Be sure to bargain with the driver about the price before getting in to set the price. Otherwise, the driver might overcharge at the end of the ride.