Shanxi Province is one of the oldest territories in the current country of China with a history leading back to well before the Spring & Autumn Period (722 - 403 BC) when it was the location of the military powerful state of Jin. The State of Jin dis-integrated into three states, starting off the Warring States Period (403 BC - 221 BC). The Warring States Period finally gave Rise to the very first Imperial Dynasty of China - the Qin, who first united all under one Government. Under the Han and Tang Dynasties already, Shanxi was a territory or Province of China. At that Time however, Shanxi Territory included a larger Surface Area today. Todays Shanxi Province was established in Name and Practice by the Ming Dynasty, making it one of the 9 Districts in Defense of the Great Wall.
Full Historic Introduction to Shanxi Province of China
Shanxi Province of China
- Click Map to Enlarge to Full Detail -
Map of the Gobi Desert & Yellow River Flow
Satellite Image Map of the Gobi Desert Region. Map overviews North-West Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Mongolia, Inner Mongolia and North and North-Eastern China giving a Full Overview of the Gobi Deserts and Yellow River Basin. Map includes country borders, name + location of Cities and Villages (clearly visible).
China Report - Map of the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty
Satellite image of China and North-East Asia, with a super-imposed schematic Map of the location and Path of the Great Wall as constructed during the Reign of the Ming Dynasty. Included for reference are City names, geographical features of landscape, Names and locations of Passes on the Great Wall of China.
Shanxi Province is bordered in the West by the Huang He, the mighty Yellow River. Flowing North-South along the border with Shaanxi Province, the wild and dustladen yellow river is both the blessing and the sorrow of Shanxi and neighboring Provinces, even China as a whole. Known as the true cradle of Chinese Civilization, it is this river that spawned the earliest chinese kingdoms and Dynasties with the fertile Loess soil carried in its waters. Its frequent floodings during wet
seasons,however, have caused major disasters throughout historyequalling its blessings. Notable features of the Yellow River Basin are the dry and arrid conditions in the North, North-East and North-West mainly, owing to the encroaching of the Gobi Desert and the continuous loess-deposits of yellow dust blown in from the Gobi Desert and the Yellow River Basin (in Shanxi-, Shaanxi-, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia and Gansu Provinces).
In the South of Shanxi Province, around TaiYuan and beyond the situation is slightly different from the dry and yellow North, where the lands and hillsides slowly turn more green towards the south and leading into Shaanxi and Henan Provinces. In the South the fertile lands reminscant of central and coastal provinces return and farmlands grow more and more abundant and lush.
Shanxi Province includes the Capital at TaiYuan in Central Shanxi Province and the Northern City of Datong, both ancient Hsien Cities, or Capitals of centrally administered District of a Province. As such they had their own city walls constructed at the beginnings of the Ming Dynasty, as did PingYao.
These currently are both main industrial centers of Coal and Iron Production, as well as homes to significant Electricity Generation Plants supplying the North. Both cities are further famed for their signifiant cultural heritage, with the ancient Ming Walled City of Pingyao located near TaiYuan world famous for its historic scenery, and the Yungang Cloud Ridge Caves with their ancient Buddha's near Datong, the main attractions.Much more ancient relic sites are hidden around the Province, among
Shanxi Province, which is a major heavy industrial center
with a booming growth, and significant responsibility
for the energy supply of China and thus the national
economy. Also traditionally functioning as a central
railway transportation hub, TaiYuan is an administrative
center now easily accesible by air through its National
Airport (TaiYuan). Further TaiYuan is recently home to a
growing tourist industry, mainly focussed on PingYao.
TaiYuan, the Capital lies strategically located in the
center of the Province, reachable from the rough North from Datong and ShuoZhou, passing West along Heng Shan and Yunzhong Shan and through the strategic Xinzhou Pass (Xinzhou Guan) below the Inner layer of the Great Wall of China in Shanxi Province.
In October of 1937 AD, at the time of the Japanese final Battle for TaiYuan, the Xinzhou Guan Pass was the strongest defended pass in Shanxi entire, fortified by over 100.000 troops well-equipped forces of the warlord
Last but not least should be mentioned the Yellow River overpass at Yixian. Nearby lie the famous waterfalls on the Yellow River, the spectacular Hukou (or Hugou) Falls. Especially when the water comes during the wet seasons, many flock to Hukou Falls to see the spectacular scene of the Yellow River plunging through narrows into the Yellow River Canyon below Yixian. It continous spectacularly down south until joining the river Fen and flowing peacefully into Henan Province.
The Outer Layer, protected by the Datong Garrison, arches North around Datong. This is the ancient pass into Inner Mongolia and into the wild areas beyond the Wall. Not much is known about this section.
To the South of Datong lies the Inner Layer of the Great Wall of China in Shanxi Province. The Inner layer has four main Passes which were garrisonned and backed up by the TaiYuan Garrison to the South.
Of these the most visited pass of the Great Wall of China in Shanxi Province lies South-west of Datong at YanMenGuan. The next visited site is the PingXing Pass famous from the anti-Japanese Battle. Here, near Hunyuan, on the road to Wu Tai Shan lies a narrow pass lies between Mount Hengshan and the continuing TaiHang Range to the South- and West, in an impressive gorge. Original renmants of the Gates and two fortresses on the Wall can be visited. Other sites include the Pass at PianGuan in the North-West, where the outer layer of the Great Wall is interrupted by the great Yellow River. Ningwu Guan lies in between.
The spectular IMAX special about the Life, Times and Legacy of China's 1st Emperor Ch'In.
Buy it at Movie Universe - Click Here
Topography of Shanxi Province -
Shanxi translates from chinese as West of the Mountains due to its rugged terrain of which a long Eastern Mountain Range is the main Topographical Feature. This range, the TaiHang Shan, runs neatly North-South bordering the North China Plain and seperating Shanxi from Hebei Province. The Area of North Shanxi Province is especially rough and home to one of China's Five Holiest Mountains, the Five Terrace Mountain or Wu Tai Shan.
Datong in turn, is the Coal Capital of China, a former industrial model city of the Cultural Revolution and near 1 million inhabitants in size. Quite different from the Capital, Datong lies exposed in the loesslands undernearth a mountain range and a Pass on the Great Wall of China named YanMenGuan.
Other cities of Shanxi Province are LinFen in the South-West along the banks of the Fen River, Lishi on the western border with Shaanxi Province, and Changzhi in the South-East of the Province far below TaiYuan and PingYao. Smaller but not lesser attractions such as the Wu Tai Shan Holy Mountain and its magnificent Monasteries lie in the high mountains in the North-West beyond Datong City on the border with Hebei Province. Take the train to YangMingBao and beyond to isolated and remote Shahe Village for best access to to this world cultural heritage area. Shahe, off-season is still a relatively small village-city with hotels, temples, a gate and traditional wall.
Need we Say More? Great DVD on the even Greater Wall of China.
Buy it at Movie Universe - Click Here
Yen Hsi-Shan and Nationalist troops from further South under command of General Wei Li-Huang. The Battle for control of Shanxi Province raged on from September until at least the end of Februari 1938 AD and left some 30.000 dead. Earlier, in one of the opening battles, on September 25Th
One of the Famous Photos of the PingXingGuan Battle taken by reporter James Bertram, author of "First Act in China" and "North China Front". Except for Agnes Smedley, Bertram was the only reporter in the area at that time, as he walked across no man`s land between three fighting parties. Japanese, KuoMinTang Nationalist and the boycotted Communist Area`s.
During most of the Republic of China's period of rule over mainland China (1912-1949), Shanxi was held by warlord Yen Hsi-shan, although the arrival in the Northern Area of the communist rebels via their long march would change the situation by 1936 AD. Although nominally under the rule of the Chinese Central Government in Nanjing (Jiangsu Province), Yen Hsi-shan commanded his own loyal troops and was the real power-dealer.
That is, in the main cities (Hsien) of the Province.
After their arrival in the North in 1936 AD, the communist, who had their headquarters in Yan'an, Shaanxi, immediatly started raising peasant militia`s in the Shanxi countryside, and through a clear political program quickly won the hearts and minds of the local villagers, becoming a new player in the Province.
Yen Hsi-Shan was a clever Man. Ordered to attack the communist armies on several occassions, by the treacherous Chiang Kai Chek, Yen Hsi-Shan failed dismally in several half-hearted attempts to root them out. Flocks of his unhappy soldiers deserted and joined the communist army instead.
Always practical and mainly concerned for the well-being of his own Territory, Yen Hsi-Shan quickly struck a deal with the communist, basicly agreeing to tolerate them in his territory and cooperate with them covertly, where possible. Regardless of the wishes of the Central Government run by General Chiang, the Province of Shanxi had its own political arrangements.
By September of the next year, 1937 AD, China was under full-scale attack from Japan, who would send an army into the Province to take over by 1938 AD. The country-side of Shanxi Province, however would remain mostly under control of communist guerilla's harrassing the Japanese Troups.
Throughout the remainder of the Sino-Japanese War smaller and larger scale attacks would continue to disturb Japanese communications and transport, finally bogging them down on the Yellow River border with Shaanxi Province.
the PingXingGuan Great Wall Pass in North-Shanxi saw a dramatic battle between a small number of Guerilla Fighters of the 8Th Route Communist Army (1st Division under Lin Biao, later renamed 115Th) and one half of the Japanese Main Force. During a one day battle on the Pass, the chinese defenders used guerilla styled techniques to strike a major defeat on the Japanese Invaders. This was the first major victory achieved by the communist troops,
Arch-rivals Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-Chek toasting the Japanese Surrender in August of 1945 AD. This would be the opening signal of a battle for China between the two.
Overview Map of the Japenese Front-line and directions of Attack during the decisive Battle of TaiYuan in December 1937 to March 1938 AD. After taking Datong in fall of 1937 AD, the Japanese victory at TaiYuan ensured Japanese control of the vital railway lines needed for a further offensive West into China. The Northern attack was supposed to go through TaiYuan, then target Xi'An across the Yellow River in Shaanxi. The offensive never reached Xi'An.
"China Fights Back"
( available from our
Much later, after the Japanese Surrender in August of 1945 AD, the communist forces would go on to do battle with Nationalist Armies and American Troops in Shanxi Province during the 1946 (to 1949 AD) chinese Civil War.
In 1971 a spectacular 6188 meter railway tunnel was blasted through the steep cliffs and walls of PingXingGuan pass making for a very interesting railway journey to TaiYuan.
of 1937 AD, at the time of the Japanese advance from Datong in the North, towards the South into Shanxi Province,
A View of Xinzhou (Hsinkou) Pass in October 1937 from a Hillside. Photo taken by James Bertram in the days immediatly after the Battle for the Pass that left 15.000 Japanese and an equal number of Chinese Dead. - Click to Enlarge -
and in fact the entire National United Front Armies, in the war against Japan. Although the Japanese would eventually capture TaiYuan, the entire Province of Shanxi, rugged as it is, is extremely suitable for guerilla warfare and as such the communist guerilla forces would remain a nuisance to Japanese Forces until the very end of world
war II. Already not much after the succesful Japanese invasion, much of
the Shanxi Countryside was in the hands of communist forces.
TaiYuan is reached from the East through the NiangZi Valley
from ShiJiazhuang in Hebei Province and the Central Chinese Plain. To the South the Valley of the Fen River provides access to Shaanxi and Henan Provinces across the Yellow River. In the West through Mountains, Valleys and Green lies the way to Eastern- and Central Shaanxi Province, an arid area at the heart of the Yellow River Basin.
Soundbonus - Yellow River Piano Concerto Part I The Wrath of The Yellow River
During the Song Dynasty, throughout the Yuan Dynasty and in the early Ming DynastyShanxi Province became a destitude place, an overcrowded province which had very few resources. Plagued by droughts, floods and infertility of the land Shanxi People perished from poverty or traveled across China in search of a livelyhood. Through a long and hard struggle, centuries on barren roads and by the grace of the strategic location of their Province between the Chinese Heartland and the Immense Defenses of the Great Wall of China, Shanxi People became wandering traders and the transporters of the empire. On their backs they caried grain from the Chinese Heartland (Henan and Shandong Province + beyond) to the 1.2 million defenders in the 9 fortress districts on the Great Wall, returning from the outer borders with much needed goods and salt from the Pond of Xiezhou in Shanxi Province, the salt as the payments of the Empire for their labors. Thus the first basis of Shanxi's transportation monopoly and later economic success was layed.
The Victory of the Ming Dynasty over the Northern Tribes brought stability to the Provinces leading once more to prosperity but also to a new population boom. Natural Disaster among which an 11 year drought brought new stresses to Shanxi Citizens, driving them once more on the path to other lands and trading prosperity. In this case the new lands lay beyond the Great Wall and beyond the West Pass (on the Great Wall in Shanxi Province).
Once more the strategic location of the barren province became the key to survival and eventual prosperity. When peace and stability ruled over the Inner Relations inside the Empire and Good Relations set in with the Northern Tribes, it were the Shanxi Merchant Societies that benifitted. Now the new markets of the lands beyond the Great Wall became the target and although these were rough and mainly unexplored new territories, the Shanxi Trading Families, through hard work and many challenges managed to set up new trade routes and towns, becoming rich in the process.
In the Qing Dynasty Era, the Shanxi Merchants as they were then known grew to be the most powerful economic clique in the Empire, controlling through transport most interior trade routes and therefor the economy of the entire Nation. In the wake of the Early Ching Dynasties military successes against the Northern Tribes in area's beyond the Great Wall, the Shanxi Businessmen followed and moved into new Markets. Due to the success of Shanxi Traders and their influence, Shanxi was extended northwards beyond the Great Wall to include parts of Inner Mongolia, including trading villages that are now the cities of BaoTou and Hohhot, the latter a city established by Chinese Shanxi Traders. The Authority of Shanxi Province overlapped with the jurisdiction of the Eight Banners and the Guihua Tümed banner in Inner Mongolia.
By the Time of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty the Shanxi Merchants and their various monopolies had made Shanxi Province the wealthiest province of the prospering nation, with more cash silver teals than the Imperial Coffers. Shanxi Businessmen controlled trading as far as Dunhuang in far Western Gansu Province, Xinjiang and well into area's now part of the Capital of the Republic of Mongolia. In the wake of their trade Chinese Han Culture, new technologies and Shanxi's Influence followed.
DVD - Shanxi BusinessMen, full 4 DVD disc set revealing the story of the Merchants Block from Shanxi !! Buy it Now.
"The Tea Road"
( available from our Online Store )
The Qing Dynasty Era (1644 AD - 1911 AD would become the Golden Age of Shanxi Province and the small City of Pingyao in particular. Already rich and nationally powerful traders the 1727 Treaty of Cakurtu, opening up trade with Russia provided another Golden Opportunity for the Shanxi Traders. The new Tea Trade with Russia, soon dubbed the Tea Road was soon monopolized by the Shanxi Traders, bringing a staggering 19% of China's imports and exports under their control. The Last and possibly most impressive economic and cultural contribution delivered by the Shanxi Merchants was the Invention and Establishment of the First National Drafts Bank, by Shanxi Trader Wei Lutai from Pingyao in Shanxi.
Turning Pingyao and Shanxi Merchants into the Bankers of China made them rank among the most powerful people in the Nation and Vital to the Empire. The year 1828 AD invention of the first bank in Pingyao, Rishengchang ensured the prosperity of Shanxi Province well into the 20Th Century, after which the recurrent wars, foreign encroachement and the
introduction of railways gradually reduced the Shanxi Merchants to bankruptcy