Xingcheng China



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Description: It is almost impossible nowadays to come across superb destinations that are fundamentally interesting and yet still untrampeled by the tourist herds. China's share of first-rate historical locations are rapidly coming t

It is almost impossible nowadays to come across superb destinations that are fundamentally interesting and yet still untrampeled by the tourist herds. China’s share of first-rate historical locations are rapidly coming to light-old towns like Pingyao and Fenghuang have, in recent decades, come to the attention of the backpacker set and now have fully-fledged tourist industries. Visit these places now and you may feel that their historical authenticity has been diluted by the tourist machine.

However, just a short ride away from Beijing lies a small town of that rare, pristine variety. For several compelling reasons, the ancient city of Xingcheng makes for a great weekend away: it’s the best preserved of only four Ming dynasty cities in China that retain their original and complete city walls, and its location on the coast ensures great ocean views and ample opportunities for summer swimming and lazing on the beach. In addition, the city is blessed with natural hot springs. Discovered in the Tang dynasty, the spring water is potable and has given rise to a number of geothermal sanatoriums and natural spa resorts-not to mention private spas for crafty locals who’ve managed to build houses over some of the vents.

Despite all these attractions, tourist activity in Xingcheng is minimal. The ancient quarter is hidden away within what from a distance looks like a rundown old town. Regional visitors and a regular number of sightseers from Vladivostok make up the city’s peak traffic during the May break.

The walls enclosing Xingcheng’s ancient quarter have stood since 1428, the early days of the Ming dynasty when the city held strategic importance as the first outpost beyond the Great Wall. They proved impenetrable to Nurhachi, the great Manchu leader who consolidated the tribes of Manchuria and laid the foundations for what would become the Qing dynasty. He lamented as he was carried away from his defeated 1626 siege of the city, dying from injuries inflicted by Ming cannon-fire, that Xingcheng (then called Ningyuan) had been his only failed campaign.

Each gate is topped by a central Arrow Tower: Yanhui (south), Chunhe(east), Yongning (west) and Weiyuan (north). The towers were built on top of the vaulted gateways which gave access through the city walls.They are in the form of two storey timber pavilions, built on a rectangular base on top of the brick gateways. They are roofed with tiles with mythological animals on the hips.

The Drum tower, in the centre of the walled city was built in 1454. It is 17.6m high and is square in plan, with a cruciform vaulted passage beneath where the four main streets of the city meet. The tower was used for reporting time in times of peace and for sounding the alarm in wartime.

The City Wall is 3274m long and square in plan, with central gates at the compass points to the north, south, east and west, with outer protective semi-circular barbicans, originally entered from side arches, but since 1968 pierced to allow direct access.On top of each gate is an arrow-tower. At the north and southgates there is a special horse ramp to the top of the walls which visitors can use to gain access to the walkway: cost:¥15. There are bastions at the four corners, some of themarmed with cannon. The Kuixing tower is in the south-east corner. The circuit takes about an hour, or you can do half of it at a time, and it gives you a unique view of the city and the people who live in it today.

The General’s House is located inside the walled city. It was rebuilt in 2002 and covers 1,1000m. Thebuildings them selves occupy 4,000m2.The complex includes two halls, Meizhai,Kefang, Yinbiguan, general’s house, Tudisi, etc. It is constructed in animitation ofthe Ming-dynasty building style.

These special archways stand in Yanhui Street, the main north-south street of the Walled City. They were built in honour of the brothers Zu Dashou and Zu Dale by the Ming Emperor ongzhen for their contribution in guarding the borders of the country. The first pailou was built in 1631, and the secondin 1638. The carvings are of double dragons, lucky animals and flowers, and they are flanked by pairs of lions, with closedand open mouths. In 1963 the Pailous were added to the list of Provincial Protected Relics.

The Confucius temple is in the south-east of the walled city and was built in 1430. The area is 16800m2. The temple has inner and outer sections and its structures include the Lingxing Gate, PanBridge, Qian Gate, Dacheng Hall, etc.The outer part is a grassy court.lt has been on the list of Provincial Protected Relics since 1984.

The City God Temple is in the west of North Street inside the walls.It was built in 1442 and the area is 3400m2. It is well preserved and contains theLinggong Hall, Chenghuang Hall,Liuzu Palace and the gate of mountains. The statues in the temple are very vivid. It has a pleasant environment and was added to the list of Provincial Protected Relics in 2003.

The Gao house is in the south-east corner of the walled city.It is a well-preserved building and was built in 1926. The owner,Gao Eulian, was a superior commander in the army of Zhang ueliang. He settled down here when he left the army in 1928.The ground area of the Gao house is 5000m2 and the area covered by buildings is 575 m2. It is in twosections,comprising the house and the garden. The living quarters are in the west courtyard. It is in the typical north-eastern style of official’shouse.

The Zhou House is in the south street of the Walled City. It was built in the Guomindang period. It is anenclosed courtyard with a Liaoning -style curved roof on each range.The original owner of the house was a rich businessman.The Zhou House is a complete complex, spacious and bright.It had 7 rooms in the central range, which was built of bricks, 3 rooms in each of the flanking wings and 6 rooms in the gatehouse. The Zhou House is on the list of protected city relics.

You won’t have too long to enjoy the relative seclusion Xingcheng offers-heads are beginning to turn and the city administration, perhaps indignant at the unfair lack of attention the city receives, is endeavoring to attract more visitors. For now, however, Xingcheng’s ancient architecture and lonely seashores remain relatively untouched-for a limited time, the city can still be seen without the crowds that are destined to change this place into something less unique.




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