Mian Shan and Zhang Bi, Shanxi, China Week 14 30th July 2011
The more observant among you will notice that Shaanxi is now spelled Shanxi.

Well spotted!

They are two different, adjacent, provinces.

Technically they should be spelled the same, just that us foreigners are incapable of recognising the tones so an allowance is made.

I'm still none the wiser but hope you are.

We woke up to sunshine. Went for a walk in the Shuitao Valley and photographed a waterfall.

Despite the sunshine, particularly after yesterday's none stop rain, I was a bit low.

Recovering from the cold, we'd slowed down, Tardis running well, the sun was shining, I should have been happy.

Perhaps it was all the people. Perhaps it was the mass of concrete which had been used to "improve" the stream. And on a broader front perhaps being unable to escape from being a tourist.

This concrete dinosaur was completely out of place.

Mian Sha is predominantly granite.

It has some remaining loess on top.

Yes, that's the track hanging off the side of the rock wall.

There was something about a cave and limestone on a sign.

It meant crawling through a 1m square hole while being sprayed with water.

I'm guessing the limestone bit was a bit of wishful thinking.

There were many signs along the way.

This one caught my attention as I couldn't quite work out what I was being urged to do.

More concrete things.

Lotus this time (at least I can recongise it now).

And back towards our car park.
We headed up the almost unpopulated Rattan Valley track.

Happened on this young squirrel.

We climbed quite steeply.

Met an old couple coming down who tried to explain that it wasn't a good track for old people.....

Opposite is the cable car, we are about level with the top.

Back to the campsite.

They were just looking and the usual friendly smiles as we approached.

Before we set out we were concerned that we would remain cocooned inside Tardis and not have any contact with locals.

We shouldn't have worried about China. Lot's of people have invited themselves in.

We set off down the hill.

This required a bit of reversing and waving of hands before we were past.

Buses don't take prisoners. But they are mostly scratch free.

Taken through the windscreen.

Driver was on the "safe" side.

We stopped to stretch our legs. Also have a bit of a rest, the concentration required was quite high. 
If we look carefully we can see the road in the distance.

It followed the cliff face almost horizontally.

In places the cliff below the road was undercut.

Just in case you missed it the first time.

Or we forgot.

It really is as impressive as it looks.

And Tardis really was there!
Once past the ticket office and descending we had a few hairpin bends to negotiate.

The mirrors helped enormously.

And at least 20km away (we really have slowed down) we reached Zhang Bi. A fortified village.

Surprise was when the guide started relating places in the village to a Chinese astrological map.

Apparently we Westerners don't have enough constellations.

We also began to learn a bit about the effect of the cultural revolution on this part of China. There's been little explicit mention of it so far.

Here it seemed to take the form of stories about how the villagers saved artefacts from destruction.

The upper grindstone is cylindrical. Rotates around the post to its left. An interesting design - or just upended?

Our local guide sponged some water on it to show us the outline of the dragon in the stone....

I have a standing joke with Susanna that I have no imagination for such things.

North Street.
And a bit further down North Street.

The village looks relatively "original".

Some of the houses go back to Qin Dynasty.

The stage of the Kehan Temple.

All of the temples in the village have stages. This is a small stage.

From the rooftops.

Not the same regulation design and courtyards as Han Cheng (Little Beijing) but definitely narrow lanes and courtyards.

Zhang Bi has been a little difficult to gather much information on.

Its a walled village with a bit of military history.

Under the village is a couple of km of tunnels in the loess.

Dating back about 1300 years.

This is a map of the tunnels. They are between 2 to 3 m and about 10m underground.

Lit by yellow led lights these days.

Just tall enough to walk through.

This is the General's quarters.

An earth bed as befits his status.

There is a communications hole to tunnels with soldiers.

Further on there was space for horses.

Also various traps and spy holes to limit and track the enemy should they intrude.

Ventilation seemed good. There was a well in the tunnels.

One of the entrances.

The village is surrounded on three sides by valley (and cliffs).

This was onto a walkway above a cliff.

There has been some water damage to the tunnels over the years.

The valley.

Now that I'm an expert I can describe it as "typical loess landscape".

The relatively original Zhenwu Temple.

The murals surrounding the god were about 300 years old. Incompatible with flash photography.

The roof line was more ornamental than we've previously seen.

On the far edge are glazed tiles with a turquoise colour.

Our understanding (from general knowledge and our local guide) is that the knowledge of how to produce the colour has been lost to antiquity.

One of only two turquoise coloured stone tablets in China.

The other one is on the other side of the temple door.

Both encased in steel bars and glass.

We have no idea what the writing says but it looks important.

A typical western tour group.

We studiously avoided eye contact and ignored each other as seems to be the predominant protocol.

We were mildly amused at the investigation of the round green things. It included cutting one open to eventually reach the nut inside.

A slow dawning of what it was.

If they'd have asked they would have been told "walnuts" by both ourselves and similarly mildly amused Chinese.

There are probably photographs of us floating about the web.

That wonderfully ornate roof from another angle.
There were many gates in the village.

Some were for lanes and streets, two were for external access.

Our car park campsite was next to a veggie garden.

All nice and quiet and rural feeling.

And no-one seemed to know the English name for this peculiar plant.

The leaves look like cabbage. Not sure about the bit in the middle.

Pingyao, Shanxi, China Week 15 31st July - 1st August 2011

George Jenkins Sun, 31 Jul 11 16:32:19 +1000
I'm waiting for more Julian - fascinating viewing


Sharon Sun, 31 Jul 11 19:16:18 +1000
The vegie at the bottom is a kohlrabi, and is in the cabbage family sometimes called a cabbage turnip, The taste is supposed to be a bit like broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter and a higher ratio of flesh to skin. It can be eaten raw or cooked.

jon Sun, 31 Jul 11 21:41:28 +1000
have to stay the photos of the valley were spectacular. I thought the vege was a broccoli tomato!! :-)

Eric Chen Mon, 01 Aug 11 00:38:35 +1000
the vegie is call piělan(in Chinese pinyin,we also clled it jie lan tou),Brassica oleraces var.carlorapa,belongs to Cruciferae.

Tony LEE Tue, 02 Aug 11 14:41:59 +1000
"This concrete dinosaur was completely out of place. "

You are correct. Its proper place is under the concrete Banyan tree just down the road.

John Head Wed, 03 Aug 11 21:24:26 +1000
I am very sure I would not be game to try and tow my van up or down that mountain. Well done Tardis

Doug McKean Thu, 04 Aug 11 11:30:08 +1000
The photographs of your drive through the mountain cutting are absolutely fascinating. Keep on posting them (with comments) as we enjoy following your journey. How is your schedule going in terms of being at your destination by a particular time?

Sorry, comments closed.