New Shanxi embracing a clean, prosperous and abundant future

By Harvey Dzodin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 15, 2019
Adjust font size:
Dragon dance performers walk past the Shanxi Garden at the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition, April 29, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

As did hundreds of millions of others at home and abroad, I followed the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) and the gala opening of the 2019 International Horticultural Exhibition with great interest. Little did I know that I'd later have the honor of addressing the opening ceremony of Shanxi Days at the 2019 Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition on May 12.

It was no coincidence that the Expo was opening just as the BRF was concluding. This is because, in addition to infrastructure development and people-to-people exchanges, the BRF and Expo both hope to address the grave environmental challenges the world faces. 

Shanxi is one of my favorite provinces, not only for its many historical sites and delicious food, but for the fact that it's aggressively addressing its formerly well-known environmental challenges. In fact, the change of its previous provincial focus and fortunes is evident in the Shanxi exhibition hall inside the Expo's popular China Pavilion titled "New Shanxi and the Crown of Flowers." New Shanxi is now moving away from coal to clean energy and cleaner air.

It was a coincidence that I visited an area of Shanxi last week, which I wrote about in the China Daily four years ago. The title of the piece was "City of Linfen rises from coal dust to restored beauty." Not many years ago, Time Magazine called Linfen one of the most polluted cities in the world and sarcastically wrote that "this soot-blackened city ... makes Dickensian London look as pristine as a nature park." Today's Linfen is what the "New Shanxi" is all about. Last Saturday, the day before I spoke at the Expo, Linfen's Air Quality Index (AQI) was 105 and its PM 2.5 was 20. Beijing's AQI was 135 and its PM2.5 was 50. Maybe Linfen should be renamed as "Phoenix City" because it has risen out of ash to become a place of blue skies, blue waters and natural beauty.

Linfen is huge and covers an area of more than 20,000 square kilometers and is home to nearly 4.5 million people. I was there last week to attend the Quwo county agricultural fair and to visit the fabulous state-of-the-art relics museum of the royal tombs of the Marquis of the fabled Jin Dynasty, which dates back to around 3,000 years ago. As was practiced in ancient Egypt at around the same time, the Western Zhou people entombed not only their nobility but a large number of their personal items too. Here, they buried real chariots and horses to accompany them to the next world.

Watching the Shanxi leaders' presentations for Shanxi Days at Expo reminded me of the many beautiful places there which I visited over the years. Two of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  

An aerial photo of the scenery of city walls and moat in Pingyao, north China's Shanxi province, on May 6, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

My oft-visited favorite is the ancient and beautiful city of Pingyao, once China's financial capital, and where the movie "Raise the Red Lantern" was filmed. It is a beautifully-restored ancient city that's truly a living museum of Ming and Qing Dynasty residences, shops and government offices and it also has a six-kilometer intact city wall. Walking the ancient streets, especially at night, conjures up the spirits of a bygone era.

My second favorite is the Yungang Grottoes, near Datong, with 252 caves hollowed from the mountain as well as 51,000 statues, representing the outstanding achievements of Buddhist cave art in China in the 5th and 6th centuries. The biggest statue is 17 meters high and the smallest one is a mere 2 centimeters in height. Just being there gives visitors an overwhelmingly spiritual and humbling experience.

Another favorite, but not yet UNESCO-listed, is the hanging monastery, also near Datong. It is a temple built on a cliff about 75 meters above the ground and dates back more than 1,400 years. It is the only existing temple that allows visitors to simultaneously worship Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. There are over 40 halls in the temple and more than 80 Buddhist sculptures. How they could achieve such an engineering feat 14 centuries ago is beyond me. The temple is a perpetual source of fascination to the many architects and engineers who come to marvel at its structure.

Another thing I love about Shanxi is its food, one aspect of its intangible cultural heritage. Shanxi cuisine is famous for noodles, fried flatbread and sour-tasting food. This unique taste comes from its seemingly infinite variety of locally produced vinegars. These vinegars not just make good food taste even better, but also promote good health as specific vinegars help alleviate different health conditions.

New Shanxi is a truly remarkable province with a rich past. It embraces a renewed prosperity in the new era, and looks ahead to an abundant future.

Harvey Dzodin is a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

If you would like to contribute, please contact us at

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from