Shanxi Province, whose name means land west of Taihang Mountain, lies in the middle reaches of the Yellow River and on the eastern edge of the Loess Plateau. The Yellow, Haihe, and Fenhe Rivers flow through Shanxi, whose splendid landscape is graced by the celebrated Taihang and Liliang Ranges and Hengshan and Wutai Mountains. Most parts of the province are more than 1000 meters above sea level.
Shanxi's long history is traced back to the days when it was a major cradle of Chinese civilization. In remote antiquity, southern Shanxi was the domain of three legendary kings, Yao (capital: Pingyuan or present day Linfen), Shen (capital: Puban or present day Yongji) and Yu (capital: Anyi or present day Xiaxian County).
A rich cultural heritage mixes with natural wonders to form Shanxi's bustling tourist scene. Datong, Wutai Mountain, Taiyuan, Pingyao, Linfen, and Yuncheng are locations full of historic and cultural significance. Several sites in Shanxi are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The main sites in Shanxi are clustered around the main provincial highway, an impressive modern tollway which runs from Datong in the north to Yuncheng in the south. This highway passes through or near such major tourist centers as Taiyuan (the capital city), Pingyao, and Linfen. Thus the key tourist sights in Shanxi are easily visited by car. (The main exception being Wutai Shan, which can be reached by car but which is not so close to this main highway.) Unfortunately it is not that easy to rent a car and/or driver in Shanxi, particularly if one is not a Chinese speaker. This is best arranged through a travel agency.
Shanxi also has a major rail line which runs parallel to this highway and which stops at the key cities. It is a good way to get from city to city, although one does need to check the schedules carefully as some cities are served infrequently.
The main airports are in Taiyuan and in Datong.
There are many local and long distance bus lines in Shanxi. In general the buses get to destinations more quickly than the train.
Taxis are freely available for local trips or for daily hire.
Landmarks and buildings
Portions of the Great Wall of China can be seen in the province, including The Outer Wall of Shanxi at Li'erkou to Deshengbu, Juqiangbu to Laoniuwan, and along the Yellow River, near Datong, as well as The Inner Wall of Shanxi at Yanmenguan, Guangwu Old City, Ningwu Pass and Niangziguan.
Pingyao Ancient City in Pingyao is an attraction in itself. Premier sights here are the two temples, Shuanglin Temple and Zhenguo Temple.
The province is dotted with other temples, including Jinci Temple on the outskirts of Taiyuan, Twin Pagodas Temple in Taiyuan, Guangsheng Temple (including Flying Rainbow Pagoda) near Linfen, Yao Temple near Linfen and Guan Di Temple in Xiezhou near Yuncheng.
Parks and nature
For an overview of the history of the province, see Shanxi Museum in Taiyuan. Other museums of interest includes two Folklore Museum, one at Dingcun village in Xiangfen near Linfen, and the other at Qiaojiabao in Taiyuan.
Shanxi has its own cuisine which is rather different than the more commonly experienced Cantonese, Beijing, Shanghai or Sichuan cuisines. Shanxi cuisine is particularly noted for its noodles, which come in many shapes and sizes and come accompanied with many different types of sauce.
Shanxi's violent crime rates are higher than China's average. But no tourists are reported to get hurt in tourist attractions. Normally, outer regions of the major cities in Shanxi are more dangerous than their inner regions.
Mine disasters in Shanxi are frequently reported. Most of them are caused by the lack of safety and the lag of equipments.
Shanxi sits between Beijing and Xi'an, home of the famous Terracotta Warriors. For those who have time, it makes much sense to travel from Beijing to northern Shanxi to southern Shanxi to Xi'an (in Shaanxi Province)--or from Xi'an to Beijing via Shanxi in the other direction.