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Introducing Hénán

Affluent Chinese roll their eyes at the mention of impoverished and land-locked Hénán (河南), yet the province’s heritage takes us back to the earliest days of Chinese antiquity. Ancient capitals rose and fell in Hénán’s north, where the capricious Yellow River (Huáng Hé) nourished the flowering of a great civilisation. Hénán is home to China’s oldest surviving Buddhist temple and one of the country’s most astonishing collections of Buddhist carvings, the Lóngmén Caves. There is also the Shàolín Temple, that legendary institution where the martial way and Buddhism found an unlikely but effective alliance. Hénán’s inability to catch up with the rest of the land perhaps helps explain why the unusual village of Nánjiēcūn still sees a future in Maoist collectivism. Hénán is also home to the excellent walled town of Kaīfēng and the 1000-year-old craft of woodblock printing in Zhūxiān.