How to Get to Dongchuan Red Earth

April 1st, 2015
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Dubbed as “God’ Palette”, Dongchuan Red Earth (红土地) is a rising star, attracting more and more photography enthusiasts and casual travelers home and abroad. The colorful red earth is formed by the iron oxide in the soil.  Its bumpy roads and primitive accommodations don’t deter travelers at all. It is still an untouched place, for clean fresh air, fabulous views and superb color landscapes, a true photographers haven.

Dongchuan Red Earth

Dongchuan Red Earth

Dongchuan Red Earth has an altitude of 1800-2600, stretching an area of 50 kilometers. It is situated in Xintian Village (新田乡), 40km southwest of Dongchuan District (东川区) and 250km northeast of Kunming city center. Experts say the Red Earth in Dongchuan is the most beautiful and spectacular in the world. The mountains and the quiltwork of the farmed land give out pieces of colors – deep red, purplish red and brick red, with hilltops and hill slopes dotted with rapeseed flowers, and potato flowers with backdrops of waves of golden grain, blue sky and white clouds. What a surreal scene!

 When to Visit Dongchuan Red Earth
Dongchuan Red Earth is situated in Wumeng Mountains with plateau features, crisscrossed with peaks and gullies against the boundless red hills.

September – December: It is the best time for photo taking.  It is the harvest time for rapeseed plants,  potatoes and buckwheat;  budding winter wheat, and the golden autumn leaves along roads and in the villages, a charming palette.

January – February: also a good photogenic time with rapid growth of wheat and farmed lands filled with water.

May -June: a colorful season with rapeseed blossoms and the golden wheat.

Dongchuan Red Earth

Dongchuan Red Earth

How to Get to Dongchuan Red Earth from Kunming
1) Bus Route: Kunming – Fazhe (Red Earth)
Take one of the daily two shuttle buses from Kunming to Fazhe (法者) .  The bus passes by Dongchuan Red Earth. One bus starts from Kunming North Bus Station at 7:50am and 8:50am, a 3-hour bus ride.

2)  Bus Route:  Kunming – Dongchuan – Red Earth
First take the bus from Kunming North Passenger Bus Station ( 昆明市区的北部客运站 ) to Dongchuan District. The buses between the two places run between 7:00am and 7:00pm. You don’t have to wait long, just full and go and bus fare 55 yuan.

Arriving at Dongchuan District,  you change for the local bus going to the Red Earth Scenic Area. But there are only to two daily buses going from Dongchuan to Fazhe (法者) – one starting at 8:00am and the other at 2:50am. The two buses pass by the major accommodation areas in the Red Earth. Alternatively, you may take or share a taxi from Dongchuan to the Red Earth, approx. 150 yuan per taxi. For a return trip, you may take the bus or taxi back to Dongchuan, then continue your bus ride to Kunming.

3) Self-Drive:  Drive along Kunqu Expressway (昆曲高速) from Kunming – Kunsong Expressway (昆嵩高速) – Songming Expressway (嵩明高速)- Songdai Expressway (嵩待高速)- exit from Longtan Exit (龙潭出口) and drive to Dingchuan District and head to the Red Earth Scenic Area.

Get Around in Dongchuan Red Earth
The attractions and photogenic spots are widely scattered around Dongchuan Red Earth. Basically you need to hire or share a local vehicle to visit the major sites for your day trip.  A car rental with a driver costs between 150 yuan and 200 yuan per day. If you prefer to walk,  it is impossible to travel all the major areas in Dongchuan Red Earth on your day trip.

Basically, your guesthouse host will arrange your transport to visit the major sites in Dongchuan Red Earth.

Two travel routes:
1) Moon Terraced Field (月亮梯田) – Luoxia Gully (落霞沟景点)  – Thousand Year Tree (千年龙树景点) – Red Earth Grand View – T Fork “T”字路口分叉点.

Luoxia Gully

Luoxia Gully

2) “T”Fork (“T”字路口分叉点) – Qicai Po (Seven-Color Slope -七彩坡) – Qinxiu Garden(锦绣园) – Damakan (打马坎) – Yupuao (Sunken Musical Scores – 乐普凹).

Yupuao (乐普凹)

Yupuao (乐普凹)

Where to Stay in Dongchuan Red Earth 
It is recommended that you would  stay there overnight to view sunset or sunrise.  At the time of my writing, the Red Earth is not yet a touristy destination.  Though there are a few guesthouses, in peak season people have to stay overnight at farm guesthouses,  village farmhouse-turned guesthouses.

1) Red Earth Impression Hotel 红土映象宾馆: 200 – 200 yuan per night
2) Hong Tu Ren Jia Hotel ( Red Earth Family Guesthouse) 红土人家:  around 260 yuan per night
3) Hong Yu Qing Yuan Guesthouse 红土情缘: Madam Zhao and her husband have good service.
4) Red Earth Shanju Hotel 红土地山居酒店: a nice courtyard hotel

( Red Earth Family Guesthouse) 红土人家

( Red Earth Rejia Guesthouse) 红土人家

For village guesthouses,  you pay approx. 50-70 yuan per room per night.

Where to Dine
Basically, the local guesthouses and villager farmhouses cook your meals. The local favorite food include Dongchuan noodle, Dongchuan potatoes, Dongchuan mutton and yak hotpot.

If you visit Lijiang Yunnan,  you may stop at Kunming for 1 or 3 days for an excursion to Dongchuan Red Earth.

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Visit Eastern Qing Tombs in Spring

March 30th, 2015
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The Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day,  is around the corner.  The festival falls on either 4 or 5 April, the 15th day after the Spring Equinox of a given year. Now it is a statutory public holiday in China. Basically, the week around 4 or 5 April is generally regarded as the festival period though officially people only have one day off for the holiday.

“Qingming” literally means”Clear and Bright”, suggesting the Qingming Festival is the time for people to go out and enjoy the greenery embracing the coming spring time. The Qingming Festival is also the time for people to pay tribute to their deceased loved ones and ancestors. In a word, the Qingming Festival is a time for people to enjoy the green spring and visit the graves of their deceased beloved ones.

If you happen to visit Beijing during the Qingming Festival, it is a good idea to visit the Eastern Qing Tombs to experience China’s ancestor veneration and tread in the greenery outside Beijing.  Of course, you may come to the Eastern Qing Tombs any time,  summer or autumn, also a good season to visit the site. The Qing Eastern Tombs are about 130km to the northeast of Beijing city center, and located in Zunhua, Hebei Province. Enlisted as World Cultural Heritage Site, the royal mausoleums in Qing Dynasty ( 1644 – 1911 ) are regarded as the largest, most complete and the best preserved imperial tombs in China.

The whole burial site is surrounded by the mountains on its four sides –  Changrui Mountain, Jinxing Mountain, Huanghua Mountain, and Yingfei Daoyang Mountain, extending 80 square kilometers with good fengshui. Totally, five emperors in Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) – Shunzhi, Kangxi, Qianlong, Xianfeng, and Tongzhi, were buried here accompanied by 15 empresses, 136 imperial concubines, three princes, and two princesses of the Qing dynasty who were also buried here. The tomb of  Ding Dongling was where Dowager Empress Cixi was buried.

Yuling is the tomb of the Qianlong Emperor,  the fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty(1644-1911), is considered  the the most splendid one of all the royal tombs in Chinese history. It has a ornate and delicate chamber  which is composed of nine vaults divided by four solid marble doors lying at a depth of 54 meters. All the walls, ceilings and gates are carved and painted with Buddhist figures and over 30,000 words of Tibetan scripture and Sanskrit.

The basic layout of the Eastern Qing Tombs is composed of  three areas: spirit way, palaces, and offering kitchens. The Spirit Way is 6,000 meters long, much longer than the Spirit Way in the Ming Tombs in the suburban Beijing. Altogether, the construction of the whole mausoleum took 247 years ( 1661 – 1908).

How to get there
Entrance fee: 152 yuan ( including electric buggy service ).
Opening Hours: 08:30 -17:00)
Add:  below Changrui Mountain in Zunhua City
Self-Drive Route(about 2 hours): Jingping Expressway (京平高速) -Jinyu Expressway (津蓟高速)- S302 Xibang Road (喜邦路).
Escorted Private Day Tour: Beijing Eastern Qing Tombs Day Tour

The starting point of the Spirit Way – the Stone Decorated Archway

 The starting point of the Spirit Way - the Stone Decorated Archway

The starting point of the Spirit Way – the Stone Decorated Archway

A Stone officer along the Spirit Way

A Stone Officer

A Stone Officer

A Stone official along the Spirit Way

A Stone Official along the Spirit  Way

A Stone Official along the Spirit Way

The Dragon and Phoenix Gate along the Spirit Way

The Dragon and Poenix

The Dragon and Poenix Gate

The marble bridges in front of the Yuling (Emperor Qianlong ) compound.

The marble bridges in front of Yuling Tomb

The marble bridges in front of Yuling Tomb

The palace of Yuling Tomb ( tower and underground chamber)

The palace of Yuling Tomb

The palace of Yuling Tomb

Go down the chamber of Yuling Tomb

Go down the chamber of Yuling Tomb

Go down the chamber of Yuling Tomb

The delicate Buddhist carving

The delicate Buddhist carving

The delicate Buddhist carving

The burial site for Dowager Empress Cixi

The burial site for Dowager Empress Cixi

The burial site for Dowager Empress Cixi

Inside the compound of Dowager Empress Cixi Tomb

Inside the compound of Dowager Empress Cixi Tomb

Inside the compound of Dowager Empress Cixi Tomb

The exterior of the burial site for Empress Dowager Xiaozhuan Burial Site

Empress Dowager Xiaozhuan Burial Site

Empress Dowager Xiaozhuan Burial Site

Inside the compound of Empress Dowager Xiaozhuan Burial Site

Empress Dowager Xiaozhuan Burial Site

Empress Dowager Xiaozhuan Burial Site

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Beijing Excursions 
Beijing Side Trips

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Pingyao, Bring you 2700 Years Back

March 26th, 2015
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While you are planning either Beijing tour or Xian tour, the two highlights sought after by most of the oversea first-time visitors coming to China, one gem you should not miss, which lies between Beijing (610km to the southwest of Beijing) and Xian (543km to the northeast of Xian) – that’s the ancient city of Pingyao (平遥古城), the most well-preserved ancient city in China. It was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1997, including the outlying Zhenguo Temple and Shuanglin Temple.

The original city construction of Pingyao goes back to Xuanwang in Xizhou Dynasty (827 BC – 782 BC). The present ancient city wall was built during the 3rd year of  Hongwu  in Ming Dynasty (1370).  The ancient city of Pingyao retains the basic layout of a county-level city in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), the most well-preserved ancient city built by Han people.

In the late Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911), Pingyao became the financial center of China. There were as many as over 20 financial institutions (Exchange Shops) within the city, making up more than half of total in the whole China. Rishengchang was founded in Qing Dynasty(1824) and well known as the first bank in China, the birthplace of China’s “Wall Street”.

You may be disappointed at the fast pace of urban and rural developments in China. Much of the rural areas have been urbanized with the rapid decrease of arable land; urban areas have been overdeveloped with high-rises booming and influx of rural migrants. Today’s China is probably a world of difference from what you expect. Pingyao is one of the few places where you are able  to see, feel and touch the real and authentic China in the past, thus allowing you to understand the present and modern China.

Pingyao is now accessible by high speed trains coming either from Beijing and Xian, making it a hot destination lying between Beijing and Xian. The regional capital city of Taiyuan, 80km north of Pingyao, is a good springboard for those who have a Pingyao tour since Taiyuan is a transportation hub in Shanxi Province.

There are still over 4,000 Ming- and Qing-style residences remaining in the old city. The main streets are rife with storefronts which still largely retain their historical appearance. Strolling along the old streets  and looking for a souvenir is feeling like going along the time passage,  like paper cuts, shoe soles, combs, and the list could be much longer. If you are a curio expert, maybe you can encounter a “real antique”.

A Paper Cut Vendor

A Paper Cut Vendor

A Paper Cut Vendor

Slab and stone paved streets lined with wooden houses selling numerous souvenirs.

Slab and stone paved streets lined with wooden houses

Slab and stone paved streets lined with wooden houses

Walking along the old streets, you may meet some stuff you like.

Walking along the old streets, you may meet some stuff you like.

Walking along the old streets, you may meet some stuff you like.

Pingyao has a myriad snacks with over 300 kinds of flour-made food.  The beef in Pingyao is a big draw, a must-buy local product in Pingyao.

The woman is making local pies for sales  in the front of her own residential place.

The woman is making local pies for sales  in the front of her own residential place.

The woman is making local pies for sales in the front of her own residential place.

The Ancient City of Ping Yao went through 25 renovations and reconstructions in Ming and Qing dynasties.  Now the city wall is square in shape with a perimeter of 6162.7 meters, a height of 10 meters, battlements 2 meters high, 3-5 meters wide on the wall top.

Pingyao Ancient City is favored by foreign tourists who come here to see  the real China.

Pingyao Ancient City is favored by foreign tourists who come here to see  the real China.

Pingyao Ancient City is favored by foreign tourists who come here to see the real China.

There are 3000 battlements built on the city wall top with 72 watch towers.

There are 3000 battlements built on the city wall top with 72 watch towers.

There are 3000 battlements built on the city wall top with 72 watch towers.

In 1824, Rishengchang, the first China bank was established here in Pingyao. In the late Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911), Pingyao became the financial center of China. There were as many as over 20 financial institutions (Exchange Shops) within the city, making up more than half of total in the whole China.

Rishengchang, the first bank in China

Rishengchang, the first bank in China

The through ticket allows you to visit over 20 paid sights inside the ancient Pingyao city including temples, pawns, old bodyguard offices, County Government Office and more.

Pingyao old County Government Office, a well preserved county-level office in China.

Pingyao old County Government Office, a well preserved county-level office in China.

Pingyao old County Government Office, a well preserved county-level office in China.

After dark, Pingyao is transformed into a quiet and pretty wonderland – bars and pubs are waving to you; numerous eateries are alluring to you. Strolling along the lit and sparkled streets is just pleasant and comfortable.

After dark, Pingyao is transformed into a quiet and pretty wonderland

After dark, Pingyao is transformed into a quiet and pretty wonderland

The ancient city at night is a perfect hangout, teemed with bars and pubs.

The ancient city at night is a perfect hangout, teemed with bars and pubs.

The ancient city at night is a perfect hangout, teemed with bars and pubs.

Any questions, just drop a line.