This small city, just across the Yālù River from North Korea, was once part of the Koguryo (高句丽, Gāogōulì) kingdom, a Korean dynasty that ruled areas of northern China and the Korean peninsula from 37 BC to AD 668. Jí’ān’s (集安) extensive Koguryo pyramids, ruins and tombs resulted in Unesco designating it a World Heritage Site in 2004. Archaeologists have unearthed remains of three cities plus some 40 tombs around Jí’ān and the town of Huánrén (in Liáoníng province).
With a drive to capitalise on its Korean heritage’s tourism potential, modern-day Jí’ān has transformed itself into one of northern China’s more pleasant towns, with well-tended parks, leafy streets and a renovated riverfront area where you can gaze across to North Korea. Add in the town’s mountain backdrop, excellent Korean food, friendly locals and scenic train or bus rides getting here, and it’s a great little stopover on a loop through Dōngběi.