From China Horizons                      
Story Courtesy China Radio International


A Jewel among China’s Ancient Cities

You may not be familiar with the city of Hanzhong in south Shaanxi province, but this hide-away is a jewel among China’s ancient cities. It boasts historical sites which date back as far as the early Western Han Dynasty more than 2,200 years ago, vast areas of untouched natural beauty, and even some of the most rare plant and animal life on the planet.  

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Hanzhong is situated in the south of Shaanxi province. It’s a medium sized city, very green, very quiet and amazingly there’s very little traffic here-the perfect place to get away from it all, it would seem.


Hanzhong is one of the few cities in China in which endangered animals still roam, an attraction in itself for nature lovers. But beneath this veneer of tranquil beauty lies a fascinating and turbulent history. Take a walk along its streets and you’ll find the remnants of ancient history everywhere.


The earliest inhabitants settled in Hanzhong during the Shang Dynasty, more than 3,500 years ago. Over the next thousand years Hanzhong was to become an important political and military stronghold, especially during the Three Kingdom period.


In the year 206 B.C, Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Western Han Dynasty, appointed military general Han Xin to lead his army. Under Han Xin’s expert military guidance it eventually seized control over the whole of China. At Baijiangtan, located at the center of what is now downtown Hanzhong, you can see the pavilion where Han Xing was officially appointed army chief by the emperor.


Near Baijiangtai, right at the center of Hanzhong, is Guhantai, the ruins of the ancient palace of Liu Bang. Thousands of years have reduced this monument of splendor to a pile of yellow earth.


Liu Bang Palace figured prominently in the annals of Chinese history and many of the emperors in the following dynasties added their own memorials to the site in honor of Liu Bang. Now the only buildings left standing are those that were built in the more recent dynasties. But the ancient trees that were planted in the Liu Bang period can still be seen today.


This whole area has now become a museum, surrounded by beautifully picturesque gardens. This is really the place to come if you’re seeking peace, and relaxation.


If you’re interested in Chinese calligraphy, you’ll find many examples of the works of the old Chinese masters at the museum.


The city of Hanzhong is also surrounded by beautiful countryside, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to take long walks and do some communing with nature.


Seventeen kilometers south of downtown Hanzhong is Nanhu, the South Lake. It’s a man-made lake that was built in the 1950s. Because tourism is the only industry to speak of in the local area, there is no pollution, so wildlife, both plant and animal has flourished here.


Considering this is north China, which is troubled with its lack of water and periods of drought, the lush vegetation is an amazing discovery. Unlike other places in northwest China’s Shaanxi province, the Hanzhong landscape is more like that of south China, with plenty of rainfall and sufficient supplies of water.


In several of the districts, which come under the municipal administration of Hanzhong, you can find very rare animal life like the Zhuhan, or the Red Ibis. This graceful big bird is the most endangered bird species in the world. Eighteen years ago, seven such birds were found in Yangxuan district. It’s the last remaining habitat of the native Red Ibis in the world. With care and protection the number has now risen to more than 180 and avid birdwatchers can get close enough to see the rare species.


One hundred and fifty eight kilometers north of downtown Hanzhong is Foping Nature Reserve, where the giant pandas roam along with other rare animals like the golden monkey and the leopard.


You can also pay a visit to Wuhoumu, the tomb of Zhuge Liang, the famous military counselor and politician of the Three-kingdom Period. The whole tomb covers a vast area and many of the original ancient buildings are still standing today. And if trees could talk,the twenty-four cypress trees, surrounding the tomb, which were planted over 2,000 years ago, would tell a fascinating tale of the rise and fall of many dynasties.


Of course in a place with such a long history, one program would be far from adequate to list all the fascination that Hanzhong holds. Suffice it to say that this is an enchanting place of evergreen forests, Buddhist temples, ancient memorials and it would be a shame to miss it.