Hebei (河北; Héběi) is a province in China of approximately 75 million people surrounding Beijing. The province’s land area forms the core of the pancake flat China Northern Plain. This is industrial China at its most raw: smog, relentless and incredible construction, and traffic stretching along expressways. While its attractions are obscured by its industrial output, the province has plenty of sightseeing, outdoors, and skiing in a region where few international tourists venture.
Table of Contents
- Middle point between Beijing and Tianjin
- Sanhe – Administratively part of Langfang, but this exclave of Hebei is becoming an exburb of Beijing
- Tangshan – Steelmaking city that alone produces more steel than the United States
- Xiongan New Area – Eco-friendly city under construction for relocation of non-core government offices and personnel from Beijing
- Baoding – Historic capital of Hebei
- Dingzhou – Tallest surviving, pre-modern pagoda in China rises over the small city
- Handan – Home of the Xiangtangshan Grottoes, Buddhist reliefs carved into limestone cliffs
- Xingtai – Industrial city with settlement history stretching back 3,500 years to the Shang Dynasty
- Hengshui – Industrial city known for fine handicrafts including glass bodied painted enamel and inside painted snuff bottles
- Cangzhou – City of the famed 1000-year old Iron Lion statue
- Eastern Qing Dynasty and Western Qing Dynasty tombs – Imperial burial grounds on opposite sides outside of Beijing
- Beidaihe – Beijing’s seaside resort in the summer and the best beach in the region
- Baiyangdian Lake – One of the largest freshwater lakes in the north China; during the summer a popular place for boat rides through blossoming lotus pads
- Baishi Mountain – One of north China’s most picturesque mountains
- Zhengding Ancient City – Walled city with over 1,000 years of history as an administrative and religious center including towering pagoda temples
- Chongli – Some of the country’s best ski resorts, location will be the skiing venue of the 2022 Winter Olympics
- Hongya Valley (Hongyagu Scenic Area) – Walk across the world’s longest glass bridge
- Bashang Grasslands – Grasslands of far north Hebei hosted the imperial hunting grounds of Mulan Weichang during the Qing Dynasty; today the scenery is a mosaic of grassland pastures, beautiful fields of yellow canola flowers, and sheep herds
Hebei is located in the northern part of the People’s Republic of China. It is encircled by the Municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin. It adjoins Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to the north, Henan Province to the south, Liaoning Province to the northeast and Shandong Province to the southeast.
Chronicle of Hebei
Chengde, Hebei ProvinceThere were several changes which happened in the region around Chengde, also part of the Rehe state and the region around Zhangjuakou, then a part of the Chahar state. These were later united into Hebei and broadened its region beyond north of the Great Wall of China. During those time, the capital moved from Tianjin for a short period to Shijiazhuang.
The most painful earthquake hit Tangshan on 28th July 1976. It killed over 240000 people. Several small scale earthquakes struck the city in the coming years.
Geography of Hebei
Most part of Hebei is covered by Hai watershed in the central and southern part. It is adjoining with the Bohai Sea in the east. There are a number of reservoirs in the hills and mountains of Hebei. In Anxin county, one of the largest lake of Hebei is known as Baiyangdian.
Hebei Province has a continental monsoon climate and the temperature during January varies from -16o Celsius to -3o Celsius and in July between 20o Celsius – 27o Celsius. It mostly rains in the summer months with about 400mm to 800mm a year.
The city of Zhangjiakou, Handan, Qinhuangdao, Baoding, Tangshan and Shijiazhuang are the most important cities in the province of Hebei.
Economy of Hebei
Hebei ranked 6th in 2006 with a GDP of 1.16 trillion Yuan, an increase of 12.9 % from the previous year. The GDP per capita hit 16570 Renminbi and an unemployment rate of just 4%.
Cereal crops like wheat, maize and sorghum are the main agricultural products in the province of Hebei. There are other cash crops produced in Hebei Province such as cotton, peanut, sesame and soya. Hebei has a fully developed textiles, coal, steel, iron, engineering, chemical production, petroleum, ceramic, food industries.
Culture of Hebei
The traditional Chinese opera in the province of Hebei are Pingju and the Hebei Bangzi. The easiest to understand is Pingju. Pingju is preferred by the majority of the audience. It started in the northeastern part of Hebei Province and has been charmed as well by the Beijing Opera.
Dingzhou porcelain which includes different vessels like vases, cups, plates, bowls are very famous from Central Hebei. Generally the porcelain is creamy white in color but is also made into other colors.
Transport facility in Hebei
Many important railway lines pass through Hebei as it is surrounded by Beijing. One of the most popular railways is the Jingguang railway line as it passes though many important cities like Xingtai, Shijiazhuang, Baoding and Handan from the North to South of Hebei. The Jingbao railway (Beijing-Baotou), Jinghu railway (Beijing-Shanghai), the Jinghu railway (Beijing-Kowloon) and Jinghu railway (Beijing-Harbin) are the other important railways.
Qinhuangdao is the second busiest shipping port in China along the Sea of Bohai. It has a capacity of over 100 million metric tones per annum. The other two ports along the Bohai Sea are Huanghua and Jingtang. If you visit Hebei, you will certainly fly into Shijiazhuang’s Zhengding Airport.
Tourist attraction in Hebei
The First Pass of the World is located on the east end of the Ming Great Wall coast at the Shanhaiguan pass near the city of Qinhuangdao. It was at this pass where General Wu Sangui opened the gates in Ming to the forces in 1644.
It is 300 years old and is also a mental entry and exit of Manchuria. A very popular beach resort for top communist government officials known as Beidaihe is located in Shanhaiguan.
The Chengde Mountain Resort forms the UNESCO world heritage site with a lot of temples in this area to visit. The Chengde Mountain Resort was also known as the Rehe Palace which was used as the summer resort for emperors of the Qing dynasty. The construction of the Chengde Mountain Resort took place between 1703 and 1792 and included a complex for the place, a big park area which consists of causeways, pavilions, lakes, bridges, etc. The area around has a lot of historical temple such as of Tibetan Buddhist and Han Chinese.
There are a lot of imperial tombs which also form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are imperial tombs of the Zunhua dynasty which form the east Qing tombs. There are 161 tombs of the royal family from the emperors, empresses that are rested here. There are also the imperial tombs of the Yixian dynasty which constitute the west Qing tombs.
One of the classic examples of the pre-modern Chinese civil engineering years such as the Zhaozhou Anji Bridge. It is the oldest stone arch bridge in China and it was constructed during the Sui Dynasty by Li Chun.
The historical Zhili Governor’s Residence is in Baoding which is also the old provincial capital.
Hebei means ‘North of the River’ due to it being located entirely North of the Yellow river. It is at the cradle of Chinese civilization with a rich archaeological record revealing thousands of years of history and still standing historical sites built over a 1,000 years ago.
The two mega-cities of Beijing and Tianjin are carved out from Hebei. The province surrounds both cities and in addition small exclave of Sanhe is wedged in between the two cities. However, with the launch of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (Jing-Jin-Ji) regional initiative, much of Hebei will be integrated with the two cities as part of a giant megalopolis binded together by high speed rail connecting major points to within an hour of each other. As part of the integration plan, the Xiongan New Area is under construction, aggregating three rural counties in Hebei to form a special zone for the relocation from Beijing of government bureaucracy, state owned enterprise employees, and research and development workforce.
The majority of people speak standard Mandarin (Putonghua). Hebei Mandarin is considered to have the most classical of dialects and accents, and is the model for the rest of China. However, each city has its own dialect which is more common amongst the working classes. English fluency is rare, but younger people are more likely to speak it.
High speed rail
Hebei is served by several long distance high-speed rail lines including the Beijing–Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong high-speed railway which runs from Beijing West Station to the major Hebei cities of Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Handan. The Beijing–Shanghai high-speed railway starts from Beijing South Station and makes stops in Langfang and Cangzhou.
There are also short distance inter-city high speed rail lines including the Tianjin–Baoding intercity railway and Tianjin–Qinhuangdao high-speed railway. An intercity high speed rail line is under construction from Beijing to Zhangjiakou and will open in 2019.
Long distance buses from Liuliqiao Passenger Transportation Junction (六里桥长途汽车站) in Beijing depart every 30 minutes to Chengde (about 5 hours) and less frequently to towns in the rural counties in the grasslands of Hebei and Inner Mongolia.
There are train stations in virtually every part of the province except for the sparsely populated far north grasslands. However, it is common to reach county-level cities by bus due to infrequent train service outside of prefecture-level railway stops. Travel to even remoter parts of a county requires an additional trip by bus or minibus from the county seat.
North of Beijing, Hebei has a belt of tourism centered activities and sights. On the coast is Beidaihe, the nearest beach getaway; in the far north is the grassland beyond Chengde, once the hunting grounds of the Qing emperors; and the in the northwest are ski slopes and vineyards.
South of Beijing, the province is emblematic of the hand-in-hand relationship of dense industry and environmental problems in China. However the rich history, archaeology, and outdoors are not to be missed on clear sky days. There is especially a plethora of historical religious sites from the towering pagodas of Zhengding and Dingzhou to the Xiangtangshan Buddhist cave temples in Handan.
The Great Wall runs across the northern part of Hebei including beginning from the eastern end of the Great Wall at Shanhaiguan on the coast of Hebei. There is also a north-south direction inner spur of the Great Wall running down along the border of Hebei and Shanxi. Many sections are not restored like in Beijing, so are in a partially or completely ruined state (wild wall).
What to do in Hebei
- Skiing – Some of the best domestic skiing facilities are in Chongli, a district of Zhangjiakou, that will be the skiing venue for the Winter Olympics in 2022
- Diving, hiking and camping on the Great Wall – Don’t just go to the Great Wall, you can dive at the Panjiakou Reservoir and see the Great Wall submerged; take hikes exploring the “wild” or partially restored sections of the wall (e.g. Jinshanling section in Luanping County); and setup camp in a watchtower to catch the amazing sunrise from the Great Wall (e.g. Great Wall Valley in Huailai County).
- Hot springs – Hot spring resorts abound throughout the province, located in the areas of Zhangjiakou, Shijiazhuang, Baoding, etc.
- Wine tasting – Huailai Valley vineyards
- Gallop across the grasslands – Horses ranches in the Bashang Grasslands offer touristy, short rides over the grasslands landscape
Hebei cuisine is fairly meat heavy, with more noodles than rice, and fairly similar to Beijing cuisine. As a large province, there are regional specialties. Tangshan cuisine is known for its variety of seafood. In the grasslands restaurants offer feasts featuring a whole rack of lamb cooked in plain view.
The province is a major cultivator of dates (jujubes). Vendors in town markets or grocery stores sell the many varieties of this antioxidant and nutrient rich snack.
The Huailai Valley in the northwest is a winegrowing region where Great Wall, the big nationally distributed brand, has roots. Hebei also likes its baijiu, the strong liquor found throughout China, with each city possessing a favorite, often packaged into a unique shape. Shops in rest areas along expressways offer a varied selection from the province.
Almond beverages are popular. You can find it in the form of a package of almond powder or drink in a tin can.
Smog can be dangerously high especially from November to March. In fact, 7 out of the 20 most polluted cities in China in 2018 are in Hebei (Xingtai, Shijiazhuang, Handan, Baoding, Hengshui, Cangzhou, and Tangshan in descending order). Wear a mask with a PM2.5 filter on polluted days.
- Inner Mongolia – Northern neighbor where the Bashang Grasslands continues across the border from far north Hebei
- Shanxi – Province to the west and south