Handan (邯郸; Hándān) is a city in Hebei, North China. Handan is one of the oldest cities in China, being continuously inhabited for over 4000 years. Handan has a reputation as an industrial city, and is far off the tourist trail. However, industry has created a lot of wealth, and is mainly located out-of-town. The city is clean with excellent parks, good transport connections, and has a lot of hidden gems to see.
Handan is also the gateway for Guangfu water city- an ancient walled town surrounded by a moat and famous for being the birthplace of Tai-Chi
There are two train stations, Handan Train Station (邯郸火车站 Hándān huǒchē zhàn) and Handan East Station (邯郸东站 Hándān dōng zhàn). Handan East Station is the newer of the two and also the main station for the high speed trains - on bus stop signs, it is referred to as 高铁站 (Gāotiě zhàn, or high-speed train station). Handan East Station is a bit far from the city center as well; to travel between the two train stations by bus, you can take bus 11 or 46 for 1RMB. Depending on traffic, the traveling time could take anywhere from 40 to 50 minutes.
- Jinjiluyu Martyrs Cemetery (晋冀鲁豫烈士陵园 Jìnjìlǔyù lièshì língyuán) - a cemetery of soldiers and heroes in odd-shaped mausoleums who died during the war against Japan. There are also a few Communist-era statues and a couple free museums about the soldiers as well, with some English captions. Opened in 1950, it has been visited by high-level officials such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Despite being a cemetery, the atmosphere is closer to a park, with many people coming here to walk around, bring their children to play or kick around Chinese hacky sack. Hours: 6AM to 6PM.
- Congtai Park (丛台公园 Cóngtái gōngyuán) - a park which has won many accolades throughout Hebei province, the main sight is Congtai Terrace itself, originally constructed around 300BC for the king to enjoy performances and military drills. A Communist statue of the worker, peasant, and soldier built in 1972 is near one of the entrances. A collection of steles, the most impressive being a huge epitaph from the end of the Tang dynasty, is also part of the park.
- Dragon Lake Park (龙湖公园 Lónghú gōngyuán) - a park beautifully illuminated at night.
- Guangfu Ancient City (广府古城 Guǎngfǔ gǔchéng) - similar to the more-famous Pingyao, it's a walled city surrounded by a moat with a history of roughly 2,600 years. Located 20km from Handan in Yongnian county.
- Mausoleums of the Zhao Kings (赵王陵 Zhàowánglíng) – these mausoleums date back to the Warring States Period roughly 2,300 years ago. There is not much to see aside from the burial mounds. There are three mausoleums located in Sanling Township (三陵乡) which are all 2-3km apart and roughly 20km from Handan city. There are two more in Yongnian county.
- Xiangtangshan Grottoes (响堂山石窟 Xiǎngtángshān shíkū) - located in Fengfeng Mining District, the Xiangtangshan Grottoes are caves carved into the mountain as temples. They are the largest grottoes in Hebei province and also one of the largest in China. Digging of the grottoes began during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577) and continued through the Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties. There are 16 grottoes and about 4,000 statues on the north and south sides of the mountain. The distance between the north and south sides are about 15km and a taxi should only cost about 25RMB to go from one side to the other. Hours: 8AM to 5:30PM. Admission: 40RMB. Public transport: Travelers can take bus 604 in front of Handan Train Station - not Handan East Station - for 10RMB. The ride takes over two hours. Take note the northern section covers a large area, and just to walk to the grottoes from the parking lot could take an hour.
- Laoyeshan Stone Carvings (老爷山石窟 Lǎoyéshān shíkū) - located in Fengfeng Mining District, they are not far from the southern side of Xiangtangshan Grottoes. A small gallery of statues from the Song dynasty. In contrast to grottoes, the statues are outside and not inside a cave.
- Shuiyusi Grottoes (水浴寺石窟 Shuǐyùsì shíkū) - located in Fengfeng Mining District at Sihoupo village (寺后坡村). It's also known as 'Little Xiangtangshan'. There are four grottoes all together that date back to the Northern Qi Dynasty.
- Canglongshan Grottoes (苍龙山石窟 Cānglóngshān shíkū) – located in Fengfeng Mining District in Houxizuo Village (后西佐村), the grottoes are divided into east and west sections. The tallest niche of Buddha carved into the mountainside is only 1.15 meters tall.
- Zhifang Jade Emperor Pavilion (纸坊玉皇阁 Zhǐfāng yùhuáng gé) – located in Fengfeng Mining District, this building was constructed between 1567-1572 and later rebuilt in 1842. It is within walking distance from the southern side of the Xiangtangshan Grottoes.
- Wahuang Palace (娲皇宫 Wāhuánggōng) - also well-known as Grandma Temple (奶奶顶 Nǎinɑidǐng), it was first built during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550 - 577), constructed in remembrance of Nuwa, a goddess in Chinese mythology. The temple is built along the contours of a mountain amid beautiful scenery. There are also two grottoes with Buddha statues inside and 13,000 Chinese characters engraved on part of the mountain. It's far from Handan city center itself, but only 10km from She County (涉县). Hours of operation: 8:30AM-5PM. Admission: 80RMB.
- Aiyejiao Grottoes (艾叶交石窟 Àiyèjiāo shíkū) – located 23km from She County’s urban area, the grottoes here date back to the Northern Qi dynasty. Unfortunately, most of the statues are now gone and the caves are not in the best condition.
- Linwang Grottoes (林旺石窟 Línwàng shíkū) - Sui dynasty grottoes located 21 kilometers from She county's urban area. Of note is the entrance to the grottoes is carved similarly to a lama pagoda.
- Quli Village Thousand Buddha Grotto (曲里村千佛洞石窟 Qūlicūn qiān fó dòng shíkū) - located 20km from She county, this is a grotto about a 40 minute walk up the mountain.
- Tanggou Grotto (堂沟石窟 Tánggōu shíkū ) - located in She county about 3km from Mujing township in Mujing village (木井乡木井村), this grotto has stone carvings dating back to the Sui and Tang dynasties.
- Foyannao Grotto (佛岩脑石佛 Fóyán nǎo shíkè) - also located in She county's Mujing village, this grotto dates back to the Song dynasty.
- Zhaowang Temple Rock Carvings (赵王庙石刻 Zhào wáng miào shíkè) - located in She county in this village: 磁县陶泉乡南岔口村.
- Headquarters of the 129th Division of the Eighth Route Army (八路军一二九师司令部旧址 Bālùjūn yī'èrjiǔ shī sīlìng bù jiùzhǐ) - also located just a few kilometers from She County, this was the headquarters of the 129th Division from 1940-1945 during the War Against Japan. Worth noting is Deng Xiaoping, the chairman of China after Mao's death, was one of the leaders at this base. Worth a visit after returning from Wahuang Palace.
- Fahua Cave Grotto (法华洞石窟 Fǎ huá dòng shíkū) - located in Wu'an city in Qingyansi village of Shidong township (石洞乡青烟寺村), this small temple on a mountain has a grotto notable for its Thousand Arms Buddha relief, as well as other stone carvings made from the cave's walls. There is also an inscription in the cave that dates it to 985AD. Renovation was carried out in 2008.
- Thousand-Buddha Cave Grotto of Taoyuan Mountain (千佛洞石窟 Qiān fó dòng shíkū) - a small grotto dating from around 1108, there are no large statues of Buddha but rather 164 small carved statues on the cave's walls instead. The statues are near the entrance of the cave although the cave itself goes on for nearly 100 meters. Located 24 kilometers from Wu'an city on the hillside of Taoyuan Mountain.
- Office of the Jin-Ji-Lu-Yu Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and of the Military District (中共晋冀鲁豫中央局和军区旧址 Zhōnggòng jìn jì lǔ yù zhōngyāng jú hé jūnqū jiùzhǐ) – located roughly 23km from Wu’an, this was a center for the Red Army and Communists of the Hebei-Shandong-Henan border region during the War of Resistance Against Japan and later during the Civil War. A museum (little-to-no English) and buildings within the village, such as Deng Xiaoping's residence, are among the attractions.
- Jingniang Lake (京娘湖 Jīngniánghú) - located in Wu'an city, this is the most famous tourist attraction in Wu'an. People come here to go boating on the lake or hiking on the nearby mountain.
- Damingfu Old Town (大名府故城 Dàmíngfǔ gùchéng) – located in Daming County, this area used to be an ancient city going back as far as 360 AD. Supposedly there are some ruins from during the Song dynasty here.
Handan has the usual selection of Chinese malls, with a good mix of local and international brands. Being so far off the tourist trail, its a good place to get decently priced Chinese artifacts without being ripped off.
As with most other Chinese cities, good and relatively clean food can be found in the city's many malls. Western food consists mostly of KFC, McDonalds etc. Starbucks is also now available and filled with Handan's trendy youth.
- Tianwaitian Hotel (天外天商务酒店 Tiānwàitiān shāngwù jiǔdiàn) - located in Wu'an, this hotel accepts foreigners and has clean rooms with wifi at a decent price. Breakfast included. Standard rooms start at 128RMB. Address: 桥西路中段百货大楼南侧