Shanxi province is one of the birthplaces of the Chinese people with a long history, brilliant civilization and a large amount of historical and cultural heritage. Many mythologies of China such as Goddess making up the sky, Houyi shooting the sun, Jingwei filling the sea with stones and Yugong removing the mountain all happened here.In those relics of the period of Old Stone Tools, more than 20 are in Shanxi province which in a sense indicates that Shanxi was a cultural center of the country in the period of Old Stone Tools. The relics of Xihoudu culture and Dingcun culture indicate that as early as in the period of Old Stone Tools, human beings were living here.Emperor Huang and emperor Yan, the first emperors of the Chinese people in the legend, both took Shanxi as the main place for their activities. Until now it has a 3000-year written history and has always been called the museum of the ancient Chinese culture.In prehistoric period of China, the three great figures Yao, Shun and Yuused to establish their capital in Shanxi. The first slavery state Xia Dynasty was also founded in the south of Shanxi. In Shang Dynasty, Shanxi was the main administration area. In Zhou Dynasty, Jin State rose in Shanxi and Wengong of Jin used to be one of the five tyrants of the period of Spring and Autumn.
For a long time, Jin State was the top powerful state in the Yellow River Valley which led those small and medium states to fight against the powerful Chu State in the Yangtze River valley. This is the famous period of Jin and Chu Competing for Power in history.At the beginning of the period of War States, Jin State was divided by Han, Zhao and Wei which were the so-called Three Jin. However, the three states were still the big states at that time and their capitals were in Shanxi in the early period. During the periods of Qin, Han, Wei and Jin, Shanxi played a very important role in politics, military, economy and culture and was the place where Han nationality and minorities integrated. At the beginning of Donghan Dynasty, Buddhism was introduced to Shanxi.Guangyu in the period of Three Kingdoms was born in Jiezhou (Yuncheng now) of Shanxi and was honored to be Lord of Guan. During the period of South and North Dynasties, Shanxi was the central area under the administration of North Dynasty. Beiwei Dynasty used to take Pingcheng (Datong now) as its capital. Later Dongwei and Beiqi both took Jinyang (Taiyuan now) as their capitals as well. This plays a very positive part in promoting the development of Shanxi province.The pioneer of the tourism of China Li Daoyuan also lived at this time. He used to travel in Mount Wutai and Mount Heng and wrote two articles in Notes on Waterways. In late Sui Dynasty, the governor of Taiyuan Liyuan and his son Li Shimin rebelled in Taiyuan and founded Tang Dynasty. Therefore Shanxi was regarded by the Taizong of Tang Dynasty Li Shimin as the rising place of Dragon and the key area of Tang Dynasty. Taiyuan was made the north capital of Tang Dynasty.Shanxi has always been well-known for its special position and prosperous economy and culture. According to the investigation of experts, 70% of the poems of Tang Dynasty were written by Shanxi poets or are associated with something about Shanxi. In the period of five dynasties and ten states, Shanxi still played a decisive part in the politics and military of north China. Among the five dynasties, three including Houtang, Houjin and Houhan were founded with Taiyuan as the base by Shatuo people. As Tang Dynasty started from Taiyuan, the first emperor of Song Dynasty destroyed Taiyuan city----the rising place of Dragon. However in Song and Liao Dynasties, Shanxi was more thriving and became the developed region in economy and culture of north China.In Yuan Dynasty, there were 11 provinces in total and Shanxi together with Shandong and Hebei was called the key area of Yuan Dynasty.
The three cities including Taiyuan, Datong and Pingyang (Linfen now) became famous cities in the Yellow River Valley. At that time, the business of Shanxi developed very well and the prosperity of economy and culture used to be spoken highly of by the great Italian traveler Marc Polo.In Jin and Yuan Dynasties, as Shanxi was always the place of Huabei area where the economy developed fast and the population was dense, and wars did not happen much, it appeared to be densely populated till the early Ming Dynasty. However in Hebei Plain on the east of Mount Taihang, the population was scarce because of wars, so the large-scale compulsive migration took place in early Ming Dynasty. The proverb “where is my hometown, it is the giant locust tree of Hongdong County in Shanxi” originated here. In Ming and Qing Dynasties, the business in Shanxi developed very fast and used to take lead in the whole country. Jin merchants were particularly active and were well-known all over the world. They did business in Japan in the east and Russia in the north. The most famous is Shanxi Bank which was the ancestor of the finance of China. Mr Yu Qiuyu wrote his famous work Guilty for Shanxi for this. In Xinhai Revolution, Shanxi was one of the 13 provinces where the revolution started firstly. In anti-Japanese war, the headquarters of the eighth route army led by CPC and its three regiments all stayed in Shanxi and fought against the Japanese invaders. After the foundation of new China, Shanxi province has contributed a lot to the construction of China as the industrial base of energy of our country. Taihang spirit, Lvliang spirit and Youyu spirit have become the most beautiful flowers in the spiritual garden of Shanxi people. Today Shanxi province has stepped onto the way of scientific development---transformation and leapfrog development. The new Shanxi province as “Friendly and beautiful Jin” says is ready to embrace friends from all over the world.
Figure 1：Shanxi ancient territory Map
Figure 2: Houma Jin ruins
Figure 3: the site of the ancient city of Jinyang
Celebrities of Shanxi
Emperors of various dynasties in Chinese history including the first emperor of Qin Dynasty, Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty, Taizong Emperor of Tang Dynasty and Taizu Emperor of Song Dynasty all made both literature and military achievements in Shanxi province. The first emperor of Qin Dynasty Yingzheng had been to Jin twice before he died and left his footprints in Taiyuan and Shangdang. Wu Emperor of Han Dynasty Liuche who controlled China for more than half a century led his ministers to Hedong County to offer sacrifices to Houtu and here he wrote the well-know Lyrics of Autumn Wind. In 19 of Zhenguan period of Tang Dynasty, Taizong Emperor Li Shimin stayed in Taiyuan for three months on his way from conquering Gaoli to the capital and here he inscribed the tablet Ming of Memorial Temple of Jin and Preface which can be compared with Wang Xizhi(a famous calligrapher in ancient China) in calligraphy.
The Yellow River flows through Shanxi province and cultivated many heroes and outstanding figures. In various historical periods of China, many politicians, militarists, scientists, littérateurs and historians appeared in Shanxi province. Those most well-known include Zhong’er(one of the dominators in Spring and Autumn Period), the only female emperor---the outstanding politician of Tang Dynasty Wu Zetian, the Saint of War of China---the famous general Guanyu in Three Kingdoms Period, the famous prime ministers Di Renjie and Peidu in Tang Dynasty, the well-known generals Weiqing and Huo Qubing in Han Dynasty who fought against Xiongnu tribe, the famous historian Sima Guang in Beisong Dynasty, the cartographer Peixiu in Xijin Dynasty who invented Six Rules of Cartography, the littérateur of Romance of Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong, the famous poets of Tang Dynasty Wangbo, Wang Zhihuan, Wangwei, Wang Changling and Baijuyi, the famous littérateur, philosopher and political reformer Liu Zongyuan in Tang Dynasty, the littérateur and poet Yuan Haowen in Yuan Dynasty, the three dramatists of the famous Four Yuan Drama Maters in Yuan Dynasty Guan Hanqing, Baipu and Zheng Guangzu, the ideologist, littérateur, medical expert and painter Fushan, and Yang Shenxiu who was one of the Six Martyrs of Wuxu Innovation at the end of Qing Dynasty. In a word, Shanxi is really a place with outstanding figures and beautiful sceneries.
Figure 4: Stork Tower
The ancient architecture in Shanxi province has distinctive artistic features and high cultural values. There are 18118 existent ancient buildings of different of types now in Shanxi province, some of which are unique samples of architecture in China and the world. Now there are recognized 146 wooden buildings established before Jin Dynasty and 106 of them are in Shanxi province. 7 of them were built in Tang Dynasty and the period of Five Dynasties, which have high artistic value and cultural value. Four existent well-structured wooden buildings established in Tang Dynasty including the main hall of Nanchan Temple on Mount Wutai, east main hall of Foguang Temple, the main hall of Guangren King Temple in Ruicheng and the main hall of Tiantai Temple in Pingshun are all located in Shanxi province. Wars broke out frequently during the period of Five Kingdoms and Ten States after Tang Dynasty, but three wooden buildings established in this period have been preserved in Shanxi province---the west hall of Longmen Temple in Pingshun, the main hall of Dayun Temple and the Wanfo Hall of Zhenguo Temple in Pingyao which are the pearls of the ancient oriental art.
The architecture in Shanxi province achieved its highest level in Song, Liao, Jin and Yuan Dynasties. Liao and Jin Dynasties which were founded by minorities absorbed much of the culture of Han nationality and built a lot of grand buildings with unique styles by making some bold innovations based on their traditions. The typical ones include Shanhua Temple and Huayan Temple in Datong, Guangsheng Temple in Hongdong, Yongle Palace in Ruicheng, Niuwang Temple in Linfen, Court of Huozhou etc. The grand and beautiful Wooden Tower of Ying County built in Liao Dynasty is the existent oldest and highest wooden architecture in China and even in the world.
The ancient architecture of bricks and stones in Shanxi province also achieved a lot. The existent ancient great wall in Shanxi covers the biggest time span and about more than 2500km ancient great wall from the period of War States have been preserved in Shanxi province. The great walls built in Dongwei Dynasty, Beiqi Dynasty, Sui and Song Dynasties exist only in Shanxi province now. The ancient bridges built in the form of cross-shaped flying beam can be found in the ancient paintings and history books. The Yuzhao Flying Beam made of white marble in Memorial Temple of Jin is the only existent sample in the world. The spacious Goddess Hall of the Memorial Temple of Jin built by means of pillar-reduction for the mother of Shuyu has completely preserved the form and structure of the architecture in Song Dynasty and has become a classic masterpiece of Song architecture.
Figure 5: Mount Wutai
Figure 6: Jinci
Treasure of colored sculpture
Shanxi is one of the provinces with the most colored sculptures in China and there are 12712 colored sculptures made from Tang Dynasty in Shanxi province. The colored sculptures of Tang Dynasty are mainly preserved in the east main hall of Foguang Temple on Mount Wutai, the main hall of Nanchan Temple and Qinglian Temple of Jincheng city. The typical colored sculpture of Song Dynasty is represented by more than 30 female servants’ sculptures which have beautiful figures and vivid expressions and are really the summit of the sculpture art of Song Dynasty and the sculpture of women in ancient China. In Liao and Jin Dynasties, Shanxi province was the frontier of national integration which was also embodied in the art of colored sculptures such as the sculptures of Bodhisattva in Shanhua Temple of Datong. It is not only the treasure of the art of colored sculptures of Liao Dynasty but also the crystallization of the integration of national arts. The style of the colored sculptures of Yuan Dynasty is much similar to that of Liao and Jin Dynasties which is represented by the sculptures in Dafo Hall of Guangji Temple, west hall and central hall of Taoist Jade Emperor Temple, the down hall of Guangsheng Temple of Hongdong County and Temple of Water God etc. There are 11630 colored sculptures built in Ming and Qing Dynasties in Shanxi province with a very typical feature of civilian culture which is compatible with the development of the society. Shuanglin Temple in Pingyao has a history of more than one thousand years and there are over 2ooo colored sculptures in the temple which were built in Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties which range over many characters of Buddhism world and the realistic world. Therefore it really deserves the title of Treasure of Oriental Colored Sculptures.
Figure 7: the Shuanglin Temple sculpture
Precious wall paintings
More than 27000 ㎡wall paintings from Han and Tang Dynasties to Ming and Qing Dynasties can be found in Shanxi province now and they embody the art of the constantly developing wall paintings in ancient China. The wall painting in the east hall of Foguang Temple of Mount Wutai is the only existent wall painting of Tang Dynasty. There are 6 wall paintings of Song, Liao and Jin Dynasties in Shanxi which are about one thousand㎡. Sculptures and wall paintings can be found in each floor of Wooden Tower of Ying County. You can see the vivid flying Gods in the wall painting. The wall painting in Wenshu Hall of Yanshan Temple of Jin Dynasty in Fanzhi is about 100 ㎡with a high value of appreciation. There are 9 wall paintings of Yuan Dynasty with over 1700 ㎡which are represented by the wall paintings in Yongle Palace in Ruicheng, Guangsheng Temple, the wall painting of Qinglong Temple in Jishan and Temple of Water God. There is a wall painting about a performance of Yuan drama with a variety of characters and a grand scene which reflected the prosperity of Yuan drama.
The wall painting in Yongle Palace was made in Yuan Dynasty with over 1000㎡in total and colorful contents with a high-level painting skill. More than 10 colors are adopted based on the cold tone of blue and green colors. In addition, the method of using paste and sticking golden paper adds the spectacular artistic effect to the solemn picture. It has left a brilliant page in the history of the Chinese wall paintings.
Figure 8: Yongle Palace murals
Shanxi province is also very well-known for its art of grottoes. There are about more than 300 grotto temples built from Beiwei Dynasty to Ming and Wing Dynasties, among which Yungang Grottoes, Longshan Grottoes and Tianlongshan Grottoes are listed as the national-class protection grottoes with a very high artistic value. Yungang Grottoes which have been listed in the world cultural heritage was carved in Beiwei Dynasty and also the first supported by the government from the introduction of Buddhism to China. Yungang Grottoes are cave-shaped Buddhism architecture carved on the steep cliff and 53 caves are existent now with 51000 sculptures both inside and outside the caves. By combining the essences of the oriental and western cultures, the artists who carved Yungang Grottoes created a unique style of the sculpture which directly influenced the sculptures of Longmeng Grottoes in Luoyang after Xiaowen Emperor moved the capital and then the style of the grottoes in Dunhuang of Beiwei Dynasty, and add more vigor to the development of the Chinese sculptures after Sui and Tang Dynasties. Taoism is a religion rooted in China. The largest Taoism grotto is Longshan Grottoes in Taiyuan which includes 9 grottoes and 7 of them were carved in and before Yuan Dynasty. The classic works of Longshan Grottoes Temple is quite important in the art of the grotto temple of China.
Figure 9: Yungang Grottoes
Famous Cultural Cities
More than one thousand buildings of Ming and Qing Dynasties have been preserved in Shanxi. In addition to the traditional temples, palaces and opera stages, the artistic achievements in urban buildings and folk houses are particularly remarkable. There are a great many ancient cities among which Datong, Pingyao, Qi County, Dai County, Xinjiang and Taiyuan have been listed in the national historical and famous cultural cities. Pingyao is also included in the world cultural heritage because of its humanism architecture advantage---“One City and Two Temples” and also has become one of the two cities which are listed in the world cultural heritage. Pingyao---a place of ancient pottery which was recorded in the period of the emperors Yao and Shun, has become a living sample of the ancient town of Han nationality of China. The well-preserved Ancient City of Pingyao is not only surrounded by an ancient wall which is 12 meters high, 5 meters thick and 12Li in perimeter, but also has a variety of orderly arranged buildings which embody the development of the economy, culture, religion and society in Ming and Qing Dynasties. In the ancient city, the four big streets, eight lanes, seventy-two winding lanes, east Chenghuang, west county government, south Bodhisattva, north Guanyu, left Temple of Literature, right Temple of War, east Temple of Taoism, and west Temple of Buddhism will truly take you by surprise.There are also several other famous historical cities. For example, Dai County has preserved Temple of Literature which was built in early Tang Dynasty. Xinjiang has preserved the Hall of Jiangzhou government with the style of Tang Dynasty, and the garden of Sui Dynasty. Besides the bell tower, music tower and drum tower with special humanism spirit and artistic beauty which were built in Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasties have been preserved in Jiangzhou.
Figure 10: South Gate of Pingyao Ancient City
Figure 11: aerial view of Pingyao County
Grand Courtyards of Shanxi province
In Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Jin merchants were well-known both in China and all over the world. The grand courtyards where several generations of great Jin merchants lived have become the typical representatives of the folk houses in north China. As many as ten architecture groups of folk houses such as grand courtyards of Qiao Family, Wang Family, Cao Family, Qu Family and Chang Family which were built in Ming and Qing Dynasties are well preserved in Shanxi province now. Additionally, Royal Prime Minister’s Palace in the southeast of Jin, the ancient city of Guoyu, the folkhouse of Liu Family—Puzhai, the old house of Ding village in south of Jin and the ancient county of Qikou in northwest of Jin also completely reflect the remarkable achievements of the folk houses in Shanxi province. Many buildings are built against the mountains and the wooden carving, stone carving, brick carving, couplets and inscribed board in the doors and windows demonstrate much humanism information and embody the aesthetic taste and artistic pursuit of people in different times.
The history and culture of Shanxi province has abundant contents, profound roots, decent quality and distinctive characteristics. It has been developing for tens of thousands of years constantly, its advanced thoughts have been passed from one generation to another for several thousand years and its artistic spirit has spread tens of thousands of miles. The history and culture of Shanxi province is so powerful and inspiring that it is the crystallization of the excellent achievements of the traditional Chinese culture, the endless precious treasure granted by the ancestors and the source of power we still need to depend on.
Figure 12: Chang’s Courtyard
Figure 13 : Qiao’s Courtyard