Top Shanxi cultural activities, what worthy doing

Eunice Tang
1356 Words/6 Minutes, By Eunice Tang, Updated March 07, 2023

Shanxi is one of the origin of ancient Chinese civilisation and one of the major avenues for trading expeditions, military, and the entrance of Buddhism. Here, you will encounter a spectrum of impressive and nearly-vanished cultural heritage, from imperial era splendours to traditional architectures. A province steeped in history, its historical veins run across mountains and river, wander between bricks and mortar, so far yet so close. Venture into this northern land with abundant of well-preserved cultural relics, hearty food, friendly people and enduring traditions.

Chinese knotting class

  • Type: Cultural Immersion/Art & Architecture
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Location: Datong
  • Requirement: Minimum of 10 people

Chinese Knotting is a type of national arts with long history and profound cultural meanings. Chinese knots were used for practical purposes before used for decoration in the period of Tang and Song dynasty, and reached its height during Ming and Qing dynasty. It is an aesthetic expression of Chinese folk symbolism, and were used to represent wishes for good fortune. Intricate knot works and vibrant colour combinations, Chinese knot has now become a kind of sophisticated and vibrant craft, rather than its original practical use. Chinese knots follow the fundamental principles of Chinese philosophy of balance, unity and interconnection. Some of the designs are inspired by Buddhism and Taoism, such as the eternal knot which comes from the Buddhist symbol of ultimate unity of all. In Chinese knotting class at Datong, the instructor will step by step introduce you to different kinds of knots and colour combinations. This handiwork can help you discover both relaxation and artistic satisfaction.

Coal mine tour

  • Type: History
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Location: Minimum of 6 people

Coal extraction has fueled China’s urbanisation and industrialisation throughout the 20th and 21st century. Shanxi was described as a “solid mountain of precious metal”. Vast reserves of coal and iron here support the heavy industrial development of the region. Datong, known as the coal capital, is the largest coal energy base in China. There are myriad of coal mines in Datong region and many locals work in coal mining industry. In this two hour tour, we will be visiting a vacant coal mine in Datong to understand the underground structure of a coal mine and the history of coal mining in Datong. Visit a museum first for the history and development of coal mining in Datong. Then, put on personal protective equipment before taking transportation down into the coal mine. Follow our guide and examine the equipment used to extract coal in the past.

Home visit & noodles / dumpling making (1.5 hours)

Visit a local family living in this ancient city and try your hand at noodles or dumpling making. Shanxi is the noodle heaven where you can encounter dozens of varieties of noodles. You will learn to make four different types of noodles from the local: Knife-cut noodles, “cat ear” noodles, “Boyu”, and “Jiupian”. Among all, the most well-known is the knife-cut noodles, or Dao Xiao Mian (dāo xiāo miàn, 刀削面). It is made by shaving a block of dough right into boiling water. Boil for a few minutes and serve the wide, thick and wavy-edged noodles with a rich sauce poured over. While “cat ear” noodles, each pressed by thumb, is a triangular shaped noodles with its edges curling inward. “Boyu” (bō yú, 拨鱼) is a kind of noodles in the shape of small fish and “Jiupian” (jiū piàn, 揪片)is a thumb-flicked, pasta-like noodles. Often served with thick sauce, these handmade noodles are smooth with a chewy bite. If you are interested to learn how to make dumplings instead, you will take part in making dumpling skin and wrapping up the filling. Taste these mouth-watering dishes at the end of the lesson.

Jin Opera

Shanxi, also known as Jin in short, is one of the birthplaces of Chinese opera art. Jin Opera or the Shanxi Bangzi, originated in the early Qing dynasty, is characterised by upbeat singing style and wooden clapper instruments of rhythm. Over the centuries, it has absorbed local folk song and other folk art rhymes, forming its own unique style. It was only performed for the elite group before gained popularity among the public. Strolling down the red-lantern-lit street when the night fall and with only a few visitors around, you will feel as if travel back in time to ancient China. In one of the old housing, listen to this old tune and singing with Chinese tea being served is a perfect option to spend the night in this ancient town.

You can also choose to participate in paper cutting, Chinese calligraphy writing, Chinese painting or opera mask painting that need maximum of 1.5 hours.

Chinese cloth tiger making

  • Type: Cultural Immersion/ Art & Architecture
  • Duration: 1.5 - 2 hours
  • Location: Zhangbi Ancient Castle
  • Requirement: Minimum of 10 people

Zhangbi Village or Zhangbi Ancient Castle has 1,600 years of history, but most of the buildings left today are from the Ming and Qing dynasty. Strolling down the cobblestone street, it’s hard to imagine there is a maze-like network of defence tunnels underground stretching over 10 km in this Village. Here in the village, besides visiting the underground tunnels, Chinese cloth tiger making class is also available here. In Chinese culture, tiger, is an auspicious symbol of good health, strength and courage. Chinese cloth tiger is one of the most widely circulate toy of children since the ancient time, as cloth tiger is believed to ward off evil spirits, thus, protecting children and bringing fortune and happiness. It is often given to children on Chinese festivals. There are different types of cloth tigers, including couple tigers, double head tiger and “pillow tiger”. At Zhangbi Ancient Castle, your guide will give you a short introduction on Chinese folk cloth tiger before you try your hand at making your very own cloth tiger. Sew pieces of already-cut cloths together, fill it with cotton wool and add in the details of cloth tiger. Suitable for all ages but this can be wonderful hands on experience for family with kids. At Zhangbi Ancient Castle flour milling is also available.

Buddhism enrichment trip

  • Type: Cultural Immersion/ Food/ Art & Architecture
  • Duration: 1 day
  • Location: Wutai Shan Mountain

Dedicated to Manjusri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, Wutai Shan, or the Mountain of Five Peaks, was and is a thriving Buddhist center. It is considered one of the four holy mountains sacred to Chinese Buddhism. Interestingly, Tibetan Buddhism coexists with Chinese Buddhism on this mountain. Temples have been built at Wutai Shan since Han dynasty. On this Buddhism enrichment trip, you will enjoy vegetarian food, eat it like never before by lingering over the feelings and sensations experienced; present lotus lamp to Buddha, which is believed that lighting the lamp can illuminate your future and aid in achieving enlightenment; meditate around pagoda to find your inner peace. There are two types of pilgrimage here, one being’ xiao chao tai’ which is a short version of pilgrimage at Dailuo Peak, while the other is ‘da chao tai’ that is the full version of pilgrimage to all five peaks. Depending on your stamina, you can choose to visit only Dailuo Peak or all peaks. Some devout pilgrims will visit all five peaks, prostrating themselves on their knees on each step as they clumber up the mountain. For this day trip, you can either hike or simply take your private transport up the mountain.

Eunice Tang

Hi, I’m Eunice Tang, if you like my article, please share it with your friends. Any sugguestions on this article, please contact me. Thanks!

Want to plan a private Shanxi tour? CREATE NOW


CHINA OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2019 We researched several companies and studied reviews on Trip Adviser before contacting who did a very China Culture Tour with an initial query. Right from the outset Grace who owns the company was excellent. She emailed detailed with pictures information and a suggested…read more details

Karen from US

Ready to Create a Unique Dream Travel?

Create My Vacation