10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Henan Before Any Other Province in China

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Henan Before Any Other Province in China

Have you heard of Henan before? If you haven't, don't be ashamed. There are so many interesting things to see in Henan that we've never known! Check them outttttt.

So you haven’t heard much about Henan and you blame it on the enormity of China or how the great cities of Beijing and Shanghai overshadow other destinations in the country. For those who have no idea where Henan is, this province is located in Central China’s Yellow River Valley, which is also widely recognized as the birthplace of Chinese civilization. How cool is that?

Here I present to you ten reasons why Henan should be your next travel destination – even if you haven’t even seen any other provinces in China.

In Henan, you can…

1. Visit HALF of the Eight Great Ancient Capitals of China

Yellow River or Huang He is said to be the cradle of Chinese civilization, hence it is no surprise that Henan houses more Great Ancient Capitals than any other province in China. In fact, Henan has FOUR such capitals within its borders, which already make for half of the list! Luoyang, Anyang, Kaifeng and Zhengzhou each hold beautiful traces and enthralling stories of the dynasties they were once capitals of.

Image credit: drnan tu

2. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites for an eye-opening retreat

Not one, not two, and not three.

No, there is a jaw-dropping total of FIVE UNESCO World Heritages Sites in Henan! You can easily spend a day or two wandering through these quaint, otherworldly historical landmarks and feast your eyes as well as your soul with the magnificent products of ancient Chinese wisdom.

Image credit: Rita Heine

Longmen Grottoes, Yin Xu, Historic Monuments of Dengfeng, Silk Roads and the Grand Canal – I can’t wait to see all of them for myself! Just be sure to bring extra batteries and memory card for your camera because seriously, each and every one of these great attractions has to be perfectly documented!

3. Witness the majestic charm of the Number One Temple under Heaven

The Number One Temple under Heaven goes to (*drum roll*) Shaolin Monastery in Dengfeng, Henan! Yes, I’m referring to the mighty Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Si in all the Chinese martial arts movies – the ORIGINAL one! This temple on Song Mountain and its Pagoda Forest are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Monuments of Dengfeng. Prepare to be awestruck by the antiquated buildings and its surrounding scenery!

Image credit: drnan tu

Image credit: eefeewahfah

Truly awe-inspiring, no?

4. Get to know the real Kung Fu at the original hometown of Chinese martial arts

As someone who grew up watching Jackie Chan films, I was greatly inspired by the Kung Fu spirit of justice and uprightness, and the dazzling martial arts moves. Do not leave this temple – the place where Chinese martial arts was nurtured in its early existence – without watching the Shaolin Kung Fu performance. It. Will. Blow. Your mind.

Image credit: drnan tu

Come on, is such a move even possible?!

5. Feast your eyes on the spectacular view of the Yellow River Scenic Area

The Yellow River is the iconic symbol of Chinese geography and history, and the Yellow River Scenic Area in Zhengzhou definitely does the glorious river justice. The area comprises five scenic spots – namely the Five Dragons Peak, the Camel Mountain Range, the Yueshan Temple, the Stone Figures of Yandi and Huangdi, and the Ancient City of Liu Bang and Xiang Yu – all equally majestic and filled with compelling stories. You can take a leisurely stroll along the river or simply take a hovercraft ride to indulge in the spellbinding oriental views while sipping some aromatic Chinese tea – ahhh, that is life!

Image credit: Ken Power

Maybe even stop by the massive statues of Emperor Yan and Emperor Huang and make a little prayer?

6. Let your worries slip away amidst the stunning gorges and valleys at Yuntaishan Geopark

Yuntaishan Geopark is a 5A Class Scenic Area (the highest rank awarded by the China National Tourism Administration; FYI there are only 66 of them in the whole country) and a true blue heaven for nature lovers, photographers or just any human being. There are cascading waterfalls, dramatic rocks and mountains, mesmerizing lakes and gorges… The landscapes featured in Yuntaishan Geopark are nothing short of impressive! Here’s a sneak peek:

Image credit: li yong

Image credit: li yong

If such scenery doesn’t make you feel like visiting, then I don’t know what will!

7. Treat yourself to one of the world’s finest Chinese Buddhist art exhibitions at Longmen Grottoes

No one should miss Longmen Grottoes while at Henan. In fact, most travellers actually come to the province specially for the Longmen Grottoes. The caves were dug from a one kilometre stretch of cliff running along both banks of the river and they house a dazzling amount of statues of Buddha and his disciples. It’s really hard to believe that these extraordinary stone carvings of Longmen Grottoes were actually made in Tang Dynasty, some one thousand over years ago!

Image credit: Ryan MacFarland

Image credit: Xuan Che

Just look at that artistry, and that skill!

8. Transport yourself back to the Qin Dynasty when you visit the Terracotta Army or Bing Ma Yong

Technically speaking, the Terracotta Army pits are not located within Henan but in the ancient city of Xi’an. However, Xi’an is only less than two hours away from Luoyang by train, so you can easily take a day trip to see the tens of thousands of life-sized terracotta soldiers and horses as well as visit the mysterious Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Often cited as the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century, the Terracotta Army is surely a sight not be missed!

Image credit: Bernd Thaller

9. Experience China’s incredibly sophisticated high-speed rail

If you are embarking on the Terracotta Army tour, there’s a high chance that you will find yourself travelling with China’s high-speed rail (HSR), particularly on the Zhengzhou-Xi’an line. China has the world’s largest and still-expanding HSR network and the ticket prices are surprisingly affordable given the connectivity and comfortability. Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan, has long been the transport hub in Central China, and it serves as an ideal gateway to other areas in China, especially through HSR.

Image credit: Fabio Achilli

10. Indulge in the delectable regional cuisines of Henan – the variety and taste just can’t be beat!

Luoyang Water Banquet, Kaifeng Steamed Stuffed Buns (Guan Tang Bao, similar to Xiao Long Bao), Yuntaishan Beggar’s Chicken (Jiao Hua Ji), Zhengzhou Style Steamboat and Braised Yellow Carp, the local favourite dessert of Fried Jelly (Chao Liang Fen)… mouth-watering signature dishes await you at every turn in the province! Regardless of your taste in food, the bottom line is you will never feel hungry in Henan – what more could we ask for?

Image credit: tak.wing

So there you have it, ten reasons why you should visit Henan before any other provinces in China. Here’s a bonus: Tigerair recently launched direct flights from Singapore to Zhengzhou, the capital city of the Henan Province. What else can I say? Book that air ticket already!

About Author


A Malaysian Chinese currently studying Economics at National University of Singapore, Jojo spent almost half a year travelling around Japan under the guise of an exchange student (oops). She studies hard (very very hard) during the school term and makes sure to reward herself a trip every semester, be it a local staycation or an overseas adventure (when she saves enough from all her random part-time jobs). She will never let fear or insecurity stop her from trying new things – until the day that she finally finds her true passion.