Shanxi

Sights

Top ChoiceCave in Datong

Yungang Caves

Yungang Caves

One of China’s most supreme examples of Buddhist cave art, these 5th-century caves are simply magnificent. With 51,000 ancient statues and celestial beings, they put virtually everything else in the Shanxi shade....

Top ChoiceBuddhist Site in Pingyao

Shuanglin Temple

This fascinating Buddhist temple houses many incredibly rare, sublimely carved Tang, Song and Yuan painted statues. Rebuilt in 1571, it’s a mesmerising complex of ancient halls: the interiors of the Sakyamuni...

Top ChoiceTaoist Temple in Jincheng

Jade Emperor Temple

This picturesque temple littered with Taoist deities is an enjoyable place to visit by any measure. But what makes it exceptional are the painted sculptures of the 28 lunar mansions masterfully personified as...

Top ChoiceHistoric Site in Taiyuan

Jinci Temple

This sprawling complex sits on the source of the Jin River in arid Shanxi. The earliest structures and the irrigation canal (which still gushes on rainy days) were built between the 7th and 2nd centuries BC. Over...

Top ChoiceBuddhist Site in Wutai Shan

Tayuan Temple

At the base of Spirit Vulture Peak (灵鹫峰, Língjiù Fēng), Tayuan Temple is the most prominent landmark in Wutai Shan and virtually all pilgrims pass through here to spin the prayer wheels at its base or to...

Top ChoiceMuseum in Datong

Datong Museum

Housed in a contemporary building inspired by a dragon totem, this wonderful museum is chock-full of relics – religious, funereal, military, imperial and quotidian – dating from when Datong was a frontier known...

Top ChoiceBuddhist Temple in Datong

Yong‘an Temple

Yong‘an Temple at the foothills of Heng Shan (恆山) only unlocks its halls when there are visitors and for a good reason – this poised and serene 13th-century temple is the home of some of the most precious Yuan...

Top ChoiceHistoric Site in Pingyao

Pingyao City Walls

A good place to start your Pingyao experience is the magnificent city walls; they date from 1370 and are among the most complete in the nation. At 10m high and more than 6km in circumference, they are punctuated...

Top ChoiceCastle in Guoyu

Prime Minister Chen’s Castle

This well-preserved, magnificent Ming dynasty castle is the former residence of Chen Tingjing, prime minister under Emperor Kangxi in the late 17th century, and coauthor of China’s most famous dictionary. The...

Top ChoiceBuddhist Site in Wutai Shan

Xiantong Temple

Xiantong Temple – the largest temple in town – was erected in AD 68 and was the first Buddhist temple in the area. It comprises more than 100 halls and rooms. The Qianbo Wenshu Hall contains a 1000-armed,...

Top ChoiceBuddhist Site in Taiyuan

Twin Pagoda Temple/Yongzuo Temple

These gorgeous twin brick pagodas rise photogenically south of the Nansha River in Taiyuan’s southeast; they're lovely with the wind in their tinkling bells. There's not much left of the original Yongzuo Temple,...

Mountain in Pingyao

Mian Shan

With vertiginous and dizzying cliffs alongside a deep gorge, this astonishing mountain area is a splendid day trip from Pingyao. Lined with precariously perched temple architecture, scenic gully walks and...

Ruins in Datong

Bā Táizi

Alongside magnificently dilapidated earthen sections of the Great Wall that disappear over the top of Horsehead Hill (马头山, Mǎtóu Shān), a fabulous Gothic church ruin is quite a sight. All that remains of the Holy...

House in Shanxi

Qiao Family Compound

This 18th-century complex of courtyards covering 24,000 sq m is a fine example of a traditional private residence in China. Once home to a celebrated merchant, it’s an austere yet elegant maze of doorways and...

Historic Building in Pingyao

Wang Family Courtyard

More castle than cosy home, this grand Qing dynasty former merchant's residence has been very well maintained (note the wooden galleries fronting many of the courtyard buildings) and exudes an austere...

Buddhist Site in Pingyao

Zhenguo Temple

While not as famous as Shuanglin Temple, Zhenguo Temple also houses a magnificent collection of old halls and ancient statues. Don't miss the still-living 1000-year-old Dragon Scholar Tree. The incredible Hall of...

Tower in Shanxi

Bianjing Drum Tower

Smack in the centre of Daixian old town, this 14th-century drum tower will make up for all the times you felt let down by faux ancient towers or authentic ones you could only admire from afar. The majestic wooden...

Museum in Jincheng

Jincheng Museum

This remarkable museum gives fascinating context to the fort-like settlements, ancient temples, and vernacular housing around Jincheng. Using fine replicas, ‘Ancient Architecture Art of Jincheng’ (top floor)...

Buddhist Site in Datong

Huayan Temple

Built by the Khitan during the Liao dynasty (AD 907–1125), this 66,000-sq-metre temple faces east, not south (it’s said the Khitan were sun worshippers) and is divided into two separate complexes. One of these is...

Buddhist Site in Wutai Shan

Nanchan Temple

This very quiet temple near Dongye (东冶) contains a strikingly beautiful Great Buddha Hall that dates to 782, making it the most ancient surviving timber-frame building in China. The temple was built in the Tang...