Located in China’s northeast corner, Harbin might be considered the country’s unofficial capital of winter—throughout January, temperatures can dip as low as -36 degrees Fahrenheit.
Its chilly temperatures and long, harsh winters filled with snow have earned it the nickname Ice City, but Harbin is far from dark and dead (even in the coldest winter months), thanks to the dazzling International Ice and Snow Festival held in the city each year.
A multi-million dollar production encompassing 8 million square feet of the city, the festival turns 31 this year and is expected to draw over one million visitors during its nearly two-month long run.
It’s one of the four largest ice and snow festivals in the world, alongside celebrations held in Sapporo, Norway and Quebec (though Harbin bills itself as the single largest ice festival in the world).
Mount Hua is located near the southeast corner of the Ordos Loop section of the Yellow River basin, south of the Wei River valley, at the eastern end of the Qin Mountains, in southern Shaanxi province.
It is part of the Qin Mountains, which divides not only northern and southern Shaanxi, but also China.
Traditionally, only the giant plateau with its summits to the south of the peak Wuyun Feng (五雲峰, Five Cloud Summit) was called Taihua Shan (太華山, Great Flower Mountain).
It could only be accessed through the ridge known as Canglong Ling (蒼龍嶺, Dark Dragon Ridge) until a second trail was built in the 1980s to go around Canglong Ling. Three peaks were identified with respective summits: the East, South, and West peaks.
The East peak consists of four summits. The highest summit is Zhaoyang Feng (朝陽峰, Facing Yang Summit, i.e. the summit facing the sun).
Its elevation is reported to be 2096.2 meters and its name is often used as the name for the whole East Peak. To the east of Zhaoyang Feng is Shilou Feng (石樓峰, Stone Tower Summit), to the south is Botai Feng (博臺峰, Broad Terrace Summit) and to the west is Yunű Feng (玉女峰, Jade Maiden Summit).
Today, Yunű Feng considered its own peak, most central on the mountain.
The South peak consists of three summits. The highest summit is Luoyan Feng (落雁峰, Landing Goose Summit), with an elevation of 2154.9 meters. To the east is Songgui Feng (松檜峰, Pines and Junipers Summit), and to the west is Xiaozi Feng (孝子峰, Filial Son Summit).
The West peak has only one summit and it is known as Lianhua Feng (蓮花峰) or Furong Feng (芙蓉峰), both meaning Lotus Flower Summit. The elevation is 2082.6 meters.
With the development of new trail to Hua Shan in the 3rd through 5th century along the Hua Shan Gorge, the peak immediately to the north of Canglong Ling, Yuntai Feng (雲臺峰, Cloud Terrace Peak), was identified as the North peak.
It is the lowest of the five peaks with an elevation of 1614.9 meters.
As early as the 2nd century BCE, there was a Daoist temple known as the Shrine of the Western Peak located at its base.
Daoists believed that in the mountain lives the god of the underworld. The temple at the foot of the mountain was often used for spirit mediums to contact the god and his underlings.
Unlike Taishan, which became a popular place of pilgrimage, Huashan, because of the inaccessibility of its summits, only received Imperial and local pilgrims, and was not well visited by pilgrims from the rest of China. Huashan was also an important place for immortality seekers, as many herbal Chinese medicines are grown and powerful drugs were reputed to be found there.
Kou Qianzhi (365–448), the founder of the Northern Celestial Masters received revelations there, as did Chen Tuan (920–989), who spent the last part of his life in hermitage on the west peak. In the 1230s, all the temples on the mountain came under control of the Daoist Quanzhen School.
In 1998, the management committee of Huashan agreed to turn over most of the mountain’s temples to the China Daoist Association. This was done to help protect the environment, as the presence of taoists and nuns deters poachers and loggers.
In Hunan Province, in South Central China, sits Zhangjiajie, a large prefecture-level city containing spectacular landforms and parks.
These include Tianmen Mountain and the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, which encompasses the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve, Yangjiajie Scenic Area, and more.
The region is famous for its towering quartzite cliffs, said to have inspired the filmmakers of the 2009 film Avatar.
While Wulingyuan was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, the area has seen recent development to accommodate and attract tourists, including the construction of glass-bottomed walkways and bridges, cable-car systems, and observation elevators.
Image Credit: Photograph by KoM-KoM / Shutterstock
It’s a bumpy ride, and it takes over an hour to go 12 miles.
But the trip from Shixi to Huangcunjing in rural Sichuan is one of the last regular passenger steam train services in the world – and a lifeline to locals, who could not travel to nearby towns without it
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Villagers ride a local coal powered steam train at a station in the town of Shix
A railway engineer preps a coal powered steam train before departing Shixi.