As one of the main transportation hubs of central China, it’s likely that you’ll pass through 3,000-year-old Zhengzhou at one time or another. And as the home of the renowned Shaolin Monastery – one of the main temples of Chan Buddhism and recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site – the city caters to those in search of both serenity and commerce.
In addition, Zhengzhou is growing rapidly, both in terms of its economy and population, and it’s now a major centre of the Silk Road Economic Belt – so you’ll be hearing a lot more about it in the future.
The best place to start exploring Zhengzhou is Erqi (February 7) Square, the city’s commercial centre. A big public square with a lively evening market, it’s also home to the 14-storey Erqi Memorial Tower, a monument to workers’ rights, which you can climb for an excellent view of the city. The Henan Provincial Museum is a treasure trove of information on the area’s incredible past and is packed with relics that range from porcelain to bronzes to fossils. In 2014, the city was added to China’s list of historical capitals after excavation unearthed early Shang dynasty finds – making it one of the Eight Great Ancient Capitals of China.
The imposing and majestic City God Temple, which was built 600 years ago during the Ming Dynasty, is a must-see, particularly if you can time your visit to coincide with one of the folk art and craft fairs. Yet it’s also beautiful in its own right. Visitors can go for a stroll on the top of the old city walls (you might need to clamber a bit), which don’t look terribly impressive but actually date back more than 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty.
As a base from which to explore the Yellow River, Zhengzhou works well (it’s just 25km from town), and multiple bus tours to the Shaolin Monastery leave from opposite the train station each day. The city has a good selection of hotels catering to both business and leisure travellers, including many international names like Sofitel and Le Meridien.