As one of Top Ten Tourist Town and an ancient town of the Miao people on a plateau in the mountains of the eastern part of Guizhou Province, Zhenyuan (镇远) is famous for its long history with many rich and generous cultural relics, making it much like a historic garden.
Located on eastern part of Guizhou Province, Zhenyuan has long been an ancient town of the Miao people. Time-honored history endows Zhenyuan Ancient Town with many rich and generous cultural relics, making it much like a historic garden. The town covers only an area of 3.1 square kilometers (about 1.2 square miles) but greets you with more than 160 scenic spots including caves, palaces, pavilions, temples and rivers with their unique architecture, exquisite engravings and marvelous natural landscape. Among them are the famous Wuyang River Scenic Area and elegant ancient complex in the the Black Dragon Cave (Qinglong Cave) – beckoning sights not to be missed by any visitor to eastern Guizhou.
Zhenyuan ancient town is a place whose beauty is difficult to express with words. It has experienced over 2,000 years of history. When one is tired of the hustle and bustle of more urban centers, Zhenyuan offers a quiet retreat for the soul.
What makes it really stand out is the way it gives the visitor a taste of other great qualities of China, all within a short ride or hike outside town.
Located at the edge of Yunnan-Guizhou plateau, Zhenyuan is sheltered by the mountains. Zhenyuan Ancient Town is a land-and-water transportation center since early times. In 202 BC, the town became a county instituted by Han Gaozu, Emperor Liu Bang, and then in 1956 – the capital of southeast Guizhou Autonomous Prefecture. Cut through by the Wuyang River, Zhenyuan Ancient Town is divided into two parts: south ‘Wei City’ and north ‘Fu City’, which forms a water town. Hence it is well-reputed as the ‘Oriental Venice’.
Zhenyuan’s section of the Great Wall may not be connected to the ones known and loved just outside of Beijing, but it is part of a 300-kilometer wall that extends east into Hunan province that protected the Ming Dynasty from the local Miao ethnic tribes more than 500 years ago.
It has been 2280 years since Zhenyuan was initially designated as a County by King Zhaoxiang of Qin or King Zhao of Qin (324–251 BC) in 277 BC, and more than 700 years as a Prefecture Center from Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to 1949. Celebrities in all ages such as Wang Yangming, Zhang Sanfeng, Lin Zexu, Zou Yigui, He Zhaogui, Li Liejun, Feng Yuxiang and so forth had left numerous pieces of poems and calligraphy works while stayed in Zhenyuan.
As an historic cultural city, Zhenyuan is rich in tourist resources. With sub-tropical humid climate, annual temperature in Zhenyuan averages 16.4 degree with four distinct seasons. It is therefore an ideal tourist destination all year round.
The Dragon Boat Festival, held on May 25th of every year, is the most ceremonious celebration in Zhenyuan.
Deep and narrow, the ancient alleys spread through Zhenyuan Ancient Town in a complex structure, among which Sifang Alley and Fuxing Alley are the most representative ones. These cross-linked alleys form the blood linkage of the ancient town, interspersed with old wells scattered throughout the whole town. These wells vary in shapes: some are round, others square; natural shallow wells or hanging shaft wells deeper than 3 meters. But they have one thing in common, that is, never drying in four seasons.
Black Dragon Cave (Qinglong Cave)
The Black Dragon Cave is in fact an ancient temple complex located on Zhonghe Mountain to the east of Zhenyuan Ancient Town and covers an area of some 21,000 square meters (approximately 226,050 square feet), and is the centerpiece of the all ancient monuments in Zhenyuan. The the Black Dragon Cave Temple as it is also known includes single and multi-storied pavilions, temples, shrines, palaces and so on. Surviving a couple of wars, the Black Dragon Cave was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and its current shape is the result of several renovations.
With many separate buildings, the Black Dragon Cave encompasses Zhusheng Bridge, Zhongyuan Temple, Ziyang Shuyuan (academy of classical learning), Yuhuang Ge (Jade Emperor Pavilion), Longevity Palace, Xianglu Yan. Among the ancient complexes of Zhenyuan, the Black Dragon Cave though very close to Zhenyuan Ancient Town has retained its natural flavor.
All of the buildings there were constructed in accordance with the natural features of Zhonghe Mountain which is precipitous. The architectural sculptures and adornments there are simple and unsophisticated and yet quietly elegant, and are quite unlike those of other temples which are ornately decorated. The way in which these Confucianist, Taoist and Buddhist temples are arranged together embodies the combination of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism in a way. One renowned architect once remarked that the Black Dragon Cave won the upper hand over the famous Hanging Monastery in Shanxi Province in terms of architectural art.
Against the green backdrop, the Black Dragon Cave seems to cling to the mountainside in an orderly tiered way due to the precipitous cliff, which makes it blend the characteristics of a garden with the style of a temple.
In 1988, the Black Dragon Cave was listed as a key cultural relic under state protection.
Wuyang River Scenic Area
Flowing through the Miaoling Mountains, the charming and lively Wuyang River runs 95 kilometers (about 59 miles) from Huangping to Zhenyuan, finally into Yuanjiang River in Hunan Province. Its scenic spots in Zhenyuan, Shibing and Huangping, three counties of Kaili, combine beautifully to form the National Wuyang Scenic Area. Famous for its beautiful landscape, historic sites and dense minority ethnic customs, Wuyang River Scenic Area, covering 625 square kilometers (about 241 square miles), is geographically divided into Upper (Shang) Wuyang between Huangping and Shibing and Down (Xia) Wuyang from Shibing to Zhenyuan. Within these two sections, the most sightworthy and impressive scenery could be enjoyed in Zhenyuan Ancient Town.
Whether you walk along or take a cruise on the Wuyang River, it will bring you one surprise after another. Grotesque gorges, perilous peaks and crystal-like waters present a wonderful picture before you, as if you were entering a wonderland.
Wuyang Three Gorges, a 35-kilometer-waterway, is the most beautiful section of the whole scenic area. It consists of Dragon King Gorge, East (Zhu Ge) Gorge and West Gorge. Secluded caves, gurgling springs, rugged rocks, dangerous passes and spectacular waterfalls interspersed on the mountains of both banks along the three gorges endow the Wuyang River, along with the dangers of Yangtze River Three Gorges and the elegance of Li River in Guilin. Each scenic spot has been given a fanciful name according to their beautiful legends.
Shanmu River is one of the ten scenic spots of the National Wuyang Scenic Area. The river is limpid, pure and a little greenish, which is well matched with the flourishing verdant plants growing on the surrounding mountains. Moreover, rafting on the Shanmu River is a most exciting and pleasant experience.
After enjoying the rafting on Shanmu River, a visit to Mount Yuntai (Cloudy Terrace) should be on the itinerary. Featured with the typical Karst physiognomy, Mount Yuntai, wreathed in cloud and mist all year round, is a popular tourist attraction. Primitive forests, fantastic flowers and plants and enigmatic valleys, with rare animals moving lively through, make the mountain a natural treasury. Temples, pavilions and stone inscriptions built during the Ming Dynasty are well-preserved and towering on the Mountain. Since Buddhist followers used to prefer staying here to cultivate their morality, it has become an old-line Buddhist resort of Guizhou Province.