The sleepy hamlet Jīmíngyì (鸡鸣驿) is a delightful surprise to find amid the scruffy northern Héběi countryside. This walled town, established during the Yuan dynasty (1206–1368), is China’s oldest surviving post station, a historic reminder of a system that endured for 2000 years and enabled the officials in the Forbidden City to keep in touch with their far-flung counterparts around China. Whipped by dust storms in the spring and with archaic, fading Mao-era slogans still visible on walls, Jīmíngyì sees few visitors and feels much further from the gleaming capital than the 140km distance would suggest.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Jīmíngyì had considerably more bustle and wealth, as evidenced by its numerous surviving temples and town wall. Many of its courtyard houses remain, though in dilapidated condition.
There's been a flurry of activity recently, with local government attempts to boosts Jīmíngyì's appeal as a tourist destination.