My Journey Route In China Over The Past 2 Weeks
Qikou is a small town about a 6 hour bus ride from Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi Province. For more than two centuries, when transportation in the area was still undeveloped, the Yellow River constituted the main transportation route for commodities between Northwest and North China. Qikou served as a vital trading point marking the eastern terminus for river-bound freight.
During the Kangxi and Qianlong reigns of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.), Qikou was the commercial center and commodity transfer harbor, where dozens, sometimes hundreds of boats, berthed every day. Cereals, oils, salt, furs, medicines and many other products came to Qikou on water routes from Northwest China, before being transported to other parts of the country by horse and camel. Meanwhile, silk, tea, cigarettes and liquor were transported from central China to the northwest. It is said that more than two thousand dock hands worked in the harbor at that time, and that thousands of horses and camels carried commodities on the transportation route that brought prosperity to Qikou merchants.
This is one of the two reasons why travellers visit Qikou…SUNSET BY YELLOW RIVER. Picture taken outside our accommodation, Qikou Kezhan
Yellow River (Huang He)
Qikou Kezhan (hotel)
L-R: Sherine, David, Yugern Shultz (a German backpacker friend)
(Inside our cave room)
Qikou’s prosperity, however, ended with the War of Resistance against the Japanese that started in 1938, when the Japanese army invaded Qikou and destroyed the local economy. Most merchants fled, never to return. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the flood-prone Yellow River ravaged Qikou’s streets and shop. Although Qikou Town has now faded from recent memory, it has nevertheless retained its original outlook.
The significance of the site stems from the architectural ingenuity used to integrate a challenging terrain with traditional Chinese architectural forms to support the economic life of the community. The result is a dramatic landscape of buildings and nature composed of a series of cave-dwellings in a traditional townscape with satellite villages.
The main street runs parallel to the Yellow River and the Qiushui River; 13 lanes connect with it at right angles. Many shops stand along the streets, normally 5 or 6 meters above the river bank, and have enclosing walls for safety. Most of the families in Qikou live in the architectural style most typical of the Loess Plateau: cave dwellings with courtyards before them. On steeper slopes there are up to six layers of cave dwellings — a spectacular sight.
This was a real highlight of my trip to Qikou, a chance to stay in a real cave dwelling! It took me two hours of walk to get to the top of Lijiashan but it was really worth it. The journey there was also interesting (i can tell you all the stories over a beer session).
We reached the top of the mountain and were met by many of the locals who lived up there. Lijiashan means “mountain home of the Li family”. 80 percent of people here share the same surname. That’s 32 people out of the population of 40! As we rounded the mountain top the village emerged through the clouds of dust. It was a breathtaking moment and we immediately felt the journey had been worth it. It is indeed a very picturesque mountain village where the people live in caves. Apparently 1.5 million people in the Shanxi area live this way. Their homes have electric and are warmer than ordinary houses in winter and cooler in summer. The downside though is the lack of running water! The toilets are basic, to be polite, and taking a wash is a bit of a struggle.
However, it’s lovely and peaceful here, and just walking around the village listening to sound of the birds singing and the chickens clucking is good medicine for the soul. We’ve enjoyed a nice trek around the mountain before our lunch. We had a lovely time sitting on the wall outside Mr Li’s home, admiring the view of this ancient village, soaking in the sun, drinking tea and chatting. After a fantastic lunch, Sherine and i headed down the mountain towards the ancient Ming town of Qikou…
Journey began early in the morning from our hotel to Lijiashan. Journey took 2 hours
I had to cross this bridge that separated Qikou and Lijiashan
After 1 hour, we saw the signboard as described by the Lonely Planet guide, another hour to go before reaching the top
Finally we reached the peak of Lijiashan. The main reason why every traveller visits Qikou
All villagers here live in cave houses
Me…at my cave house. Inside is the bedroom
My lunch, prepared by the lady owner of the cave house
I’m having my lunch in my cave room
My cave room. Warm during winter without any heating device, cool during summer.
L-R: Sherine, Mrs. Li, Mr. Li and me
Mao Zedong memorial. This is where he led his army crossing the Yellow River to Qikou
Cheng Huang Miao (temple)
View of Yellow River from the peak of Cheng Huang Miao
Folk Customs and Products:
Qikou Town receives guests all year round, but autumn is the best season for traveling there. The Red Date Festival is held in mid-September, and includes folk operas, dramas and dance performances. Wooden rowing boats and speed boats take tourists for tours on the Yellow River or drifting to Datong Qi. The best souvenirs of Qikou are its red dates and Yellow River pebbles.
Qikou Town is situated in the Luliang Prefecture of Shanxi Province, 230 kilometers from Taiyuan, capital city of Shanxi Province, and 48 kilometers from Lishi City, capital of Luliang Prefecture. There are buses leaving Qikou to Taiyuan at 5:35 a.m. every day that come back from Taiyuan at 12:30 p.m. The bus ride takes six hours and tickets are 40 yuan.