Shanxi Province is located in Central China, the west of Taihang Mountains and the east of the Yellow River, and the capital city is Taiyuan. It is also one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization. According to the legends, one of Chinese ancestors, Yan Emperor regarded Shanxi as the main scope of his tribe; the first regime of slave-owner’s state, Xia Dynasty (2070–1600 BC) was also founded in Shanxi. Hence, Shanxi is a province with many historical relics, the numerous temples, murals and grottos would open pictures of history to visitors in Shanxi. Besides historical relics, there are also beautiful natural scenery in Shanxi, such as Mount Hengshan, one of the ‘Five Sacred Mountains in China’ (the other four are Hua Mountain, Songshan Mountain, Mount Tai, and Hengshan mountain in Hunan Province), and Mount Wutai, one of the ‘Four Buddhist Holy Mountains’ in China (the other three are Mount Putuo in Zhejiang, Mount E’mei in Sichuan and Mount Jiuhua in Anhui).
Early in the Paleolithic Period, there were human beings living in Shanxi. In the Zhou Dynasty (1046–771 BC), Shanxi was the territory of the Tang State (one vassal state in Zhou Dynasty). In the Spring and Autumn Period, Shanxi was the site of Jin State, one of the five powerful states.
In the Sui Dynasty (581–618), Taiyuan City (now is the capital city of Shanxi) is the three biggest cities in the Huanghe Valley ranking after Xi’an and Luoyang. The rise of Li Yuan’s (Emperor Gaozu of Tang, the first Emperor of Tang Dynasty) regime began in Taiyuan. Then he successfully founded the Tang Dynasty (618–907) which is recognized as China’s most powerful and prosperous period in ancient times. The famous Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty named Li Shimin (599 to 649) and the only legitimate empress, Empress Wu Zetian (624–705) were both turned up in Tang Dynasty. Shanxi got its name in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911).
Shanxi is a piece of land in diamond shape, with the Great Wall in the north, the Yellow River in the south, the Taihang Mountains in the east and the Lvliang Mountains in the west. Due to its strategic geographic advantage, Shanxi occupied a decisive position during the period of feudal society in China, especially in troubled times.
Due to its long history, Shanxi is scattered with abundance of historical and cultural sites. Yungang Grottos and Hanging Monastery in Datong and Pingyao Ancient Town are the three historical highlights in Shanxi. Together with Longmen Grottos in Luoyang, Mount Maiji Grottos in Tianshui and Mogao Grottos in Dunhuang, the Yungang Grottos firstly dug during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–557) shows the essences of Buddhist art. The Hanging Monastery was built in on the cliff, featuring surprise, hang and virtuosities, reflecting the traditional Chinese architectural style. Pingyao Ancient Town, with a long history more than 2,700 years, has been included into the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1997 for its ancient city wall, yamen (namely ancient government office), old streets and markets, traditional domestic architectures and temples.
Mount Hengshan, Mount Wutai and Mian Mountain are three natural highlights glinting as those splendid historical relics in Shanxi. Visiting to these places, travelers not only can enjoy the beautiful landscapes and the elegant ancient architecture, but also can experience the religions of Taoism and Buddhism.