Taiyuan is the capital of Shanxi Province. Ideally situated in the Taiyuan Basin in the central part of the province, it is bordered by the Taihang Mountains in the east and the Luliang Mountains in the west. The Fenhe River flows through the city.
Taiyuan has grown into a booming industrial city in the past few decades. Its network of railway lines provides a link to all parts of the country, and its coal and steel industries occupy an important position in China's industries system.
The turbulent history of Taiyuan can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Period more that two thousand years ago. But it was not until the Tang Dynasty, about one thousand years ago, that Taiyuan really became Known as a "metropolis of Cathay." The first empress in Chinese history, Wu Zetian (624-705), was born here. When she came to power, she appointed Minister Cui Shenqing as governor of Bingzhou (Taiyuan). He was instructed to have a bridge built over the Fenhe River to connect the towns of Xicheng (West City) and Dongcheng (East city), making Taiyuan a true metropolis.
With its mountains and its river, Taiyuan was an important military town for which war strategists of various dynasties contested. For more than a thousand years, many battles were fought here. In A.D. 975 Zhao Guanyi of the Song Dynasty dispatched 400,000 troops to conquer Taiyuan. In view of the fact that local forces of various dynasties often set up separatist regimes by force of arms, he had the town burned down completely because of what he believed were "unduly great ambitions to rule here." Seven years later (A.D. 982), general Li Mei of the Song Dynasty began the reconstruction of the town, establishing the city of Taiyuan as we know it today.
Memorial Temple of Jin (Jinsi)
This temple is located at the fountainhead of the Jinshui River twenty five kilometers southwest of the city of Taiyuan. The weather here is warm in winter and cool in summer, and the land is beautiful. Ancient buildings, blue springwater, and superb clay sculpture have been attractions to tourists for centuries.
Legend says that the Memorial Temple of Jin was first built in the twelfth century B.C. The first attraction here is the "Immortal Spring," so named because the spingwater has flowed steadily for centuries. If you walk along the spring and down the stone steps, you will find a big pool of crystal-clear water that gushes out from the walls. Bypassing the pool, you will come to the uniquely constructed "Flying Bridge over the Fish Pond Spring" in front of the Hall of Holy Mother (Shengmudian). This double wooden bridge in the shape of a cross is supported by thirty-four stone posts embedded in the spring. Crossing the bridge you come to the Hall of Holy mother, the center of the temple. The Holy Mother was regarded as the noble model of motherhood in feudal Chinese society. Flanking the sculpture of Holy Mother is an array of forty-two young maidens, each with distinct expression and posture. They are perfect examples of the skill of the Song Dynasty. Not far from the hall is a grove of ancient cypress trees, once of which is said to have been planted during the Western Zhou Dynasty, making it more than two thousand years old.
Lofty Benevolence Monastery (Chongshansi)
This monastery is located in the southern part of the city of Taiyuan. Of Ming architecture, the monastery has an area of 140,000 square meters. It was damaged by fire in 1864, and only a gate, a bell tower, two side rooms, and the Hall of Great Mercy are left. The magnificent hall contains three 8.5- meter-tall statues of Buddha. The monastery is a repository for Song and Yuan editions of Buddhist texts.
There are twenty-one grottoes halfway up Tianlong Mountain. Forty kilometers southwest of Tianyuan. They were carved during the Wei, Qi, Sui, and primarily, Tang dynasties. The stone Buddhist statues are lifelike examples of fine workmanship.
Located at the top of Longshan Mountain twenty kilometers southeast of the city of Taiyuan, these are among the few Taoist grottoes in China. There are eight niches, with more than forty statues, carved during the early years of the Yuan Dynasty.
Located on Shibi Mountain in Jiaocheng County southwest of Taiyuan, this monastery, also known as Wanbi Monastery, has an area of six thousand squares meters. It is surrounded with steep mud brick walls and stately cypress trees. The monastery was first built I 472 during the Northern Wei Dynasty. The beautiful area is sacred to Buddhist. In fact, Japanese Buddhists regard it as the "ancestral" monastery, and visit it as pilgrims.
This monastery is located north of Qiantou Village in Pingyao County to the south of Taiyuan. It was first built during the Northern Wei Dynasty. Its ten halls contain a treasury of painted sculpture, with 2,052 painted statues of Buddha from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Note especially the four mighty and awe inspiring Devarajas (Heavenly Guardians) and the eighteen arhats with their individual expressions and postures.
The original site of Yongle Palace was in the town of Yongle southwest of Ruicheng County on the banks of the Yellow River (Haunghe). When construction of the Sanmen Gorge Reservoir was begun in 1958, the town of Yongle was within the area planned to be inundated. The government organized experts and workers to move the palace to its present site at Longquan Village north of Ruicheng city in the southwestern part of Shanxi Province. The work of moving the palace was completed in seven years, and it was reconstructed completely according to the original design. Priceless murals of the Yuan Dynasty were thus preserved.
The palace, a Taoist temple, was first built in the fourteenth century. Its main buildings are Dragon and Tiger Hall (Longhudian), Taoist Trinity Hall (Sanqingdian), Pure Sun Hall (Zhongyangdian), and Double Sun Hall (Chongyangdian). On display at Trinity Hall are Yuan Dynasty murals with more than three hundred lively, brightly painted figures. The murals in Pure Sun and Double Sun halls are picture stories about Taoism, rich in fairy tales and full of life. The number of murals in Yongle Palace are second only to Dunhuang in China's northwestern province of Gansu. Rich in content, superb in execution, the murals are not only artistic treasures, but also valuable resource materials for the study of the history of Taoism and Yuan society.