At a location central to relations between the empires of the past and the ethnic peoples of Guizhou for thousands of years, the small city of Zhenyuan is now a hot tourism destination in the southwestern province.
Zhenyuan was among the earliest regions in Guizhou under the jurisdiction of imperial governments. It became a county in 202 BC during the early years of the powerful Han Dynasty .
In Chinese, Zhenyuan means "pacifying the remote regions", illustrating it was a stronghold and springboard for central empires to spread their influence and strengthen their control of Guizhou and the neighboring regions.
But far from pacifying, emperors' ambitions were usually met with conflict. The small city was turned into a battlefield time and time again.
As military forces marched on, merchants followed in their steps, seeking profit in the underdeveloped Guizhou and regions far beyond.
Thanks to the navigable Wuyang River that links to the Yuanjiang and Yangtze rivers, Zhenyuan became a commercial hub after the wars ended. It also became one of the starting points of the Southern Silk Road that went on to present-day Vietnam, Myanmar and India.
Cultures also blossomed with the frequent flow of people and commodities.
The wealthy merchants from the central and eastern regions of the country built many palace-like guild houses in the city. After a busy day of work, they would gather before opera stages inside the guild houses, entertained by performers from their hometowns.
As history turned a new page in the last century, Zhenyuan is now a calm city. Wars are long past and commerce is no longer prosperous due to other cities with better modern transportation that have emerged.
But the legacy left by stories and people over the past 2,000 years is still there in well-preserved ancient buildings and the rich cultural activities still practiced by the Han and other peoples such as the Miao and Dong.
That culture and history along with a beautiful landscape today make the city a popular tourism destination in Guizhou.
There are more than 200 well-preserved historic sites in Zhenyuan, including ancient city walls, streets, buildings, wells, and ancient wharfs.
The long wall atop the Jinpin Mountains is called the "Great Wall of the Miao Region" by locals.
There are eight well-preserved guild houses and 12 opera stages in Zhenyuan.
But the largest ancient building complex is in the Qinglong Cave area. The 212,000-sq-m complex combines Confucianist, Taoist and Buddhist cultures. Its architectural style is a fusion of many ethnic elements belonging to the Han, Miao and Dong peoples.
A thrilling new experience that Zhenyuan offers is rafting on the upper reaches of the Wuyang River, a safe and yet adventurous tour.
Source: China Daily