Guides for China
City, Guangdong (August 2010)
Shaoguan (韶关; Sháoguān) is a small city in Guangdong
Province and is famous for its surrounding nature and
the hot springs.
Shaoguan City is an ancient historic centre and this
guide refers to the whole of Shaoguan City District
covering some 7, 000 square miles. Shaoguan is known
as the Gateway to Guangdong Province, and features the
only overland mountain pass connecting Guangdong with
northern China. Meiguan pass was so treacherous in olden
times that it was deemed unsuitable for mules!
Shaoguan region can be dated back to 129, 000 BC with
the discovery of 'Maba Man', making this area one of
the cradles of Chinese civilisation. Much later Shaoguan
area belonged to the Chu Kingdom during the Warring
States Period (476BC-221BC). The place was named 'Shao'
in the Sui Dynasty (581-618), and in Ming (1368-1644)
and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties it gained the name 'Shaoguan'
for the government established passes here to collect
However, today the main industry is tourism with Danxiashan
(Dan Xia Mountain), Nanhua Temple, and hot springs being
the main attractions. Most visitors are Chinese as this
lovely area has not yet been discovered by western tour
Lying in the south part of the Nanling Mountains, Shaoguan
has vast areas of karst landforms. Hilly areas constitute
the main land of the city. The Danxia Landform is revered
for the red sandstone of Mt. Danxia in Renhua County.
Generally the terrain is higher in the north and lower
in the south.
Enjoying a subtropical humid monsoon climate, the city
is affected by the seasonal winds all the year round.
Spring is overcast and rainy, while precipitation in
autumn is less. March to August is the rainy season
and September to February the next year is the dry season.
When to Go:
Shaoguan has abundant rainfall and moderate weather,
so visitors can get there at anytime, especially in
spring and autumn.
Shaoguan does not have a civilian airport, but is linked
to Guangzhou and all major Chinese cities by rail. The
new Express Train to Guangzhou takes 45 minutes, whilst
through trains to Hong Kong take less than 4 hours.
Ferries also provide good and cost-effective local transportation.
New Shaoguan Port is a commercial centre for large container
ships with connections to other Chinese cities, and
especially Hong Kong Tunmen Port, and Macao. Unfortunately
there do not appear to be any equivalent passenger ferries
There are two main bus stations known as East bus station
and West bus station. Both service all main destinations,
whilst the East bus station also services Danxia Mountain
area. The main bus terminal is just next to the train
station. Buses leave from here to the major sights.
Locally operating buses start here, but the town centre
is within walking distance. Just cross the river opposite
the train station and you are almost there.
Tourist guides will occasionally offer their services
to newly arrived travellers. Prices obviously are subject
What to Do
Shopping is mainly restricted to the modern pedestrianised
thoroughfares that mark the city centre, and Fengdu
Road. Here you will find an abundance of modern and
entertaining shopping experiences of western standard.
Restaurants in Shaoguan are not set as densely as in
Guangzhou. A good place to find many restaurants is
Heping Road (和平路) at the northern end of the main shopping
and pedestrian area. The choices include a McDonalds
and various styles of Chinese cuisine.
Shaoguan's downtown area lies on a peninsula shaped
by the Zhen River on the east side and the Wu River
on the west, which merge at the peninsula's southern
tip to form the Bei River. The main street, Fengdu Road,
runs north-south through the centre, crossed by Fengcai
Road at the north end of town, and Jiefang Rd in the
south. Most of the town is functional and modern.
There are a few western bars, disco's and western restaurants;
but they are not as common as in larger cities. So far
we have none to recommend, but will personally research
these later in 2010.
Most of Shaoguan District features standard Guangdong
white and red tiled housing, along with typical and
missable apartment blocks. Outside the city, and especially
in ethnic towns, this becomes a softer white and orange,
with a little more style and marked Buddhist influence.
Meanwhile Yao structures are traditionally made of wood
and bamboo, as can be seen in the accompanying photographs.
There are also a few Hakka Tulou towards the east of
Where to Stay
Dongyuan Hotel (东园招待所; DōngyuánZhāodàisuǒ), (Next
to the river at the junction of Jianguolu (健国路) and
Dongdinanlu (东堤南路)). Rooms can be bargained down to
¥50 per bed and night.
Hot Spring Hotel (泉景酒店; Quánjǐngjiǔdiàn), 1 Huanyuan
West Street (环园西路1号; Huányuánxīlù), ☎ +86 751 8186068..
Danxia Hotel (大丹霞酒店; Dàdānxiájiǔdiàn), 128 Jiefang
Road (解放路128号; Jiěfànglù), ☎ +86 751 8188206.
City Sights and Tourism:
City sightseeing is limited, but worth visiting are:
Fengcailou Mansion, Mausoleum of Zhang jiuling, Mt.
Furong and Maozifeng Peak. However, the soul of this
area lies elsewhere, as described below.
Nanhua Temple (南化神寺; Nánhuāshénsì
). The former temple of Huineng (the sixth patriarch
of Zen Buddhism) and the location of his mummified remains.
As such, the temple is an important pilgrimage site
for practitioners of Zen Buddhism.
Nanhua Buddhist Temple lies on the side of Caoxi, six
kilometres away from Maba Town, Qujiang County. The
temple was first built in A.D.502 and is situated some
22 kilometres (14 miles) from the Shaoguan downtown.
It is a famous Buddhist site, where the sixth founder
of the Buddhism generation in the Tang Dynasty (618-907),
Hui Neng, established the southern sect of Zen. With
a history of 1,500 years, the temple keeps many national
treasures, including the Da Zang Sutra, decree and cassock
of thousand years ago.
More than 300 national first class historical relics
such as gold-silked cassock with one thousand Buddha's,
and the Decree by Wu Zetian, wood-carved arhat of the
Beisong Dynasty, copper clock of thousand Jin's , pan
of thousand people in Yuan Dynasty, steel tower of thousand
Buddha in Qing Dynasty and Dazang Sutra written with
gold, The temple is surrounded by ancient trees, several
of which are over 40 meters in height, and are rare
species in world today.
Danxia Mountain (丹霞山; Dānxiáshān
). A canyon like valley carved into the stone. The main
attractions include an old monastery on top and various
formations with sexual characteristics.
Male stone is the natural pillar which looks like male
genitals. It is 28m in height and 7m in diameter. Titled
as “the first grotesque stone in the world” and “the
first unique scenery in the world”, the stone pillar
has experienced a history of 300,000 years.
Female stone is the natural cavern which looks like
female genitalia. It is 10.3m in height, 4.8m in width
and the cavern is approximately 4.3m in depth.
These two stones integrate Yin and Yang, hardness and
softness, largeness and smallness. These vivid and lifelike
portrayals are coincidently located in the same scenic
The mountain boasts of the largest scenic area and the
most beautiful scenery in Guangdong. It is also a world
famous geopark. The Danxia Landform is the name given
to this area, as exemplified in Danxia mountain. The
area contains nearly 700 crags of large red glutenite
and many grotto temples. Some are hidden and can only
be seen from Jinjiang river.
Jinjiang River Cruise is something
we came across simply because of Lamy Chan's excellent
photography. By datestamp we conclude this is an optional
part of the standard 2-3 day tour of: Nanhua Temple,
and especially Danxia Mountain. Whilst many of Lamy's
pictures are fascinating, we note he was not particularly
impressed with the hot spring resort = looked great,
but standards internally appear low in reality.
That stated, the river cruise itself looked excellent
value from his photographs, and we would consider this
to be a 'must-do'!
Hot Springs - one quarter of all Guangdong
hot springs lie in Shaoguan, making this an ideal destination
for those seeking warm water and mud therapy. The promoted
one is called Caoxi Hot Spring Holiday Village, and
is part of the Nanhua hot spring region. This lies adjacent
to Nanhua Temple, and also very close to Maba Man grotto.
This famous hot spring boasts: more than 130 villas
and 600 luxurious guest rooms as well as auxiliary facilities
such as restaurants, bars, dancing hall, International
Conference Centre and business centre. If this all sounds
fantastic, then look at Lamy Chan's photographs of the
room he was given to stay in one night. You may prefer
to stay at one of the smaller profile competitors?
However apart form Lamy, others who have visited these
springs, including my good friend Neal from UK, state
this is a very excellent place to visit and he had a
great overnight stay. He particularly enjoyed the hot
mud springs which have excellent therapeutic value for
the body, and this was followed by great massage ...
and then great nightlife. You better try it yourself
and tell me about your personal experiences.
Tea Picking Opera. Quejiang country,
is famous for its “Tea Picking Opera”. It has been honoured
the “National Model County of Culture” and the “Guangdong's
Model County for Implementation of South Guangdong Splendour
Engineering Project”. Well, for tourists it is great
and well worth seeing. These working songs have developed
over centuries and now form a distinct heritage of Shaoguan.
Here you will also find the distinct 'White-leaf Tea',
which is peculiar to this region of China only.
White Water Rafting
This sport is available on the Wu River not far from
the city centre. Nine Rapids and Eighteen Beaches Drift
lies along the Wujiang River, between Pingshi Town and
the urban area of Lechang city. It runs 60 kilometres
with 65 meters of drop. The name comes from the nine
rapids and eighteen dangerous beaches. The river-rapids
wind their way with peaks rising on both sides, making
this a thoroughly scenic and occasionally dauntingly
safe experience for 'first-timers'.
We suggest you head for Yunji Mountain, which appears
to be part of the Danxia Range, but listed separately
in tourist information. It is also the source of Xingfeng
jiang reservoir and is to be found in Xingfeng County.
Jinji Mountain is located in pingshi Town, Lechang City.
The mountain is named because there is a huge stone
which looks like the crowing cock. There are many scenic
spots in Jinji Mountain,among which Yizi (dash-form)Peak,
Jinji Stone,canyon and site of Hong Xuanjiao’s revolting
against the Qing forces are the most prominent.
Shaoshi Scenic Spot is an important component of Danxia
Mountain world geological park. This is the terminal
point of “Emperor Shun’s Southward Inspection” and the
birthplace of Shao music. The Scenic spot includes Shiding
sightseeing area, Baizai Top exploring and sightseeing
area and Jingui Rock sightseeing area. While Emperor
Shun was playing music here one day, 36 surprisingly
strange stones suddenly appeared.
Nanling National Forest Park
This natural reserve lies within the boundaries of Yao
Autonomous County of Ruyuan, and is the only virgin
forest remaining in Guangdong Province. Some scenic
spots have been developed, including the highest the
peak in Guangdong (Shikeng Kong, 1920m)
Cheba Ridge: eco-heritage region
This Chinese area of natural protection lies in the
southeast of Shixing County, 46 kilometres away from
the county seat. It is characterised by widespread virgin
forest inhabited by many rare and endangered animals
under national-level protection, such as Huanan tigers.
The protection area, integrating scientific research,
amusement and leisure, as well as exploration and body
buildup, is one of the main scenic spots of eco-tour
in Guangdong Province.
Ancient Buddha Rock
This large grotto complex lies 5km west of Lechang city.
this large limestone cave offers stalactites and stalagmites,
and there are three layers with the highest point at
This is what the official Tourism Bureau says "The
cave is about 12000square meters with various kinds
of stone bamboo speots, stone flowers, stone posts and
stone curtains. Besider, there are corallites 300 million
years ago and rare large-scale stone brains".
I've just got to see those 'stone brains', as I have
a sneaking suspicion that many people I know are actually
still using them to this very day!
Yao Cultural Heritage Village
for those seeking cultural exchange at ethnic level,
then Bibei Yao Fastness is highly recommended by official
sources. It lies in Bibei Town, Ruyuan Yao Autonomous
County. The name comes from “back of turtle”. In Chinese
,turtle is pronounced as Bi in local language. Because
the “鳖” (turtle in Chinese) is so complicated that the
name becomes Bibei. Bibei Yao Fastness is the origin
of the overseas Yao nationality. Please also refer to
our notes below describing the Yao Ethnic
Mantang Enclosed Building
This Hakka structure is regarded as the finest architectural
masterpiece of Hakka building in all of China. It is
located in Aizi Town, Shixing County. Whilst it is regarded
as the very best example of Hakka residences to Chinese
authorities, to the western eyes it resembles a none-de
script square fortress. Tourists may find this building
fascinating, but will be far better rewarded by visiting
one of the open roundhouses nearby.Our
Hakka section lies below...
We would advise you to spend a week in and around Shaoguan
and 'Do it yourself'. By this we mean catch the local
buses and do a round trip picking out the major towns
around, and asking locally for their advice of what
to see and do. You will be amazed at just how many people
hereabouts speak very good English - and it gets you
into the heart of the culture! This is ideal for independent
travellers, and those with a spirit of adventure.
We plan to do this ourselves later in 2010, or you can
find Mark's Travelogue presentation for CCTV 9 (Official
English channel in China) where he documents and excellent
Pearl Lane and Plum Pass
These two highly related and interesting sites lie in
the extreme north of Guangdong, and concern the only
land passage between Guangdong and northern China. They
are of utmost importance to the history and development
of Guangdong in particular, and China as a whole.
Ancient Meiguan Path
Meiguan Path or Plum Pass represents the Ancient land
corridor and the main (only) traffic artery between
the Central Plains of the Yangtze, and Lingnan (NanYue,
Nanling, or Canton). This is the place where the only
old road north out of Guangdong begins. The trail was
treacherous in olden times, and not fit for mules. The
Guangdong side is mainly set with pines and bamboo,
and follows the Zhen River. The side in Jiangxi Province
is lined with plum trees - hence the name. There
is a fortress at the top, which resembles a small fortified
archway. It was was called Hengpuguan or Qinguan in
the ancient times, and is located on Mei Ridge, 20 kilometres
north of Nanxiong City.
The path was first built during the period of Qin and
Han Dynasty's (over 2 centuries BC), and later widened
under the leadership of Zhang Jiuling ,a famous prime
minister and poet in the year of A.D.716. Meiguan is
a beautiful place, and Ancient Meiguan path (at the
present length of 8,000 meters) with plum blossoms all
over the mountain has attracted countless poets from
all parts of China. They have come here to pay a visit,
linger, and seek inspiration for their works of art.
Ancient Zhuji Lane
This ancient town is one of the most important in the
history of Guangdong, and also China as a whole. Zhujixiang
lies 9 kilometres to the north of Nanxiong City. The
road surface is built with cobblestones and lined on
both sides by ancient homes built by fleeing officials
and families. Some of these buildings are still erect
today and offer shrines outside their doors for honouring
ancestors. Many Guangdong residents can trace their
ancestry back over millennia to this small village.
""This place is quite unique, even for China,
as it became a focal point of congregation in northern
Guangdong Province for all the different clans that
fled south, which also included court officials during
the waning years of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279)
(南宋朝). It consists of a lake with three gates, the South
Gate (南門) which also serves as the main entrance, the
Middle Gate (中門) and the Northern Gate (北門) with a cobbled
lane, Pearl Lane/Zhujixiang (珠璣巷) connecting them. All
the clans had official residences lining both sides
of the cobbled lane and even today these old buildings
have been preserved as remembrance clan shrines. Banyan
trees were planted in several locations and the one
identified as a “thousand year old banyan” (千年榕樹) is
located beside the Double Dragon Bridge (雙龍橋) which
is not far from the new Chen shrine."" Extract
courtesy of Al Chinn and House
Up until 824 this town was known as Jingzongxiang, but
a gift of pearls to a leading official Zhang Chang required
the town be renamed to avoid offending the Emperor who's
name was also Jingzong. The town then adopted its new
name of zhujixiang or Pearl Lane.
The town is also linked to the favoured courtesan Hu
Fei, who's life became forfeit due to misunderstandings
during the 8th month of the 8th year of the Southern
Song Emperor Du Zong's reign (1272). Sentenced to an
obscure life as a nun, she later fled and found a new
home as courtesan to Huang Zhuwan in Zhujixiang town.
Much later a disgruntled servant gave her presence away
to Court Officials, and the town was besieged and there
was bloody conflict. To spare further slaughter Hu Fei
took her own life by jumping down a well. This well
still exists, and is now a shrine in her honour. You
can read the full story , known as Hu Fei's Turmoil
To learn more about this area and its unique history
and presence in the annals of Chinese development, please
refer to the excellent website by Al Chinn called House
of Chinn. His pages concerning Meiguan
and Zhujixiang begin here
To take a walk on the wild side of Chinese culture,
tread the trails trodden 2, 240 years ago, and experience
at first hand one of the most beautiful hidden treasures
of China - we suggest you stay overnight and enjoy the
fullness and variety Meiguan and Zhujixiang offer.
Shaoguan is regarded as being the home of the second
most widely spoken form of Cantonese (in order: Guangzhou
Cantonese, Shaoguan Cantonese, Taishan Cantonese, and
Hong Kong Cantonese). The modern differences are minor,
and non-local people will find it difficult to differentiate
Shaoguan Cantonese from that spoken in Guangzhou.
Otherwise common local languages are spoken by the Yao
ethnic group and the Hakka minority. There are a few
other languages spoken by other groups - too small to
focus on in this general introductory guide.
Teaching English opportunities exist
in Shaoguan city, and anyone interested in teaching
there can contact us for more information concerning
both public and private schools. In particular our good
friend Sally Fan runs a private English Training Centre
right in the heart of town, and would welcome additional
native English teachers who hold TEFL or equivalent
qualifications. Her offer is very good, so contact us
for further information
Yao Ethnic Minority
Whilst the majority of the population are Han Chinese,
there is a large ethnic group located here called the
Yao. They maintain their own customs and traditions,
native colourful dress, language, and dance. They are
renowned for their 'Tea Picking Opera' and Marriage
Ceremonies. They are a very welcoming people and it
is possible to stay with them in their homes and join
in their daily lives. However, visitors are usually
required to drink a glass of the local liquor in respect
of the village Matriarch before welcome is fully extended.
Whilst almost 3 million Yao live in China (Mainly in
the southern Provinces of: Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan),
they are a multi-country group with half a million relatives
in Vietnam, and presence in Laos and Siam also.
The typical houses of the Yao are rectangular and they
have structures made of wood and bamboo. Normally it
has three rooms: a room and two dormitories in the lateral
side. Each one of these rooms has a small oven to cook.
The men and the women cover their heads with a black
or red scarf. Some women substitute this scarf by a
turban that can adopt different forms.
The traditional suit of the women is of bright colours.
They also decorate their shirts with decorations made
out of silver.
In Vietnam, Yao people celebrate many exciting and meaningful
festivals such as Nhơn chung lỉnh (literally: Red rice,
Green rice"), Nhiang chằm đao (literally: Jumping
Marriage is traditionally arranged by go-between's who
represent the boy's family to the girl's parents at
the age of 12. If the union is acceptable, a bride-price
is negotiated, typically ranging from three to ten silver
bars, worth about US$100 each, a partial artifact from
the opium trade. The wedding takes place in two installments,
first at the bride's house, followed by a procession
to the groom's house where a second ceremony occurs.
Although there are 45 million Hakka in the world today,
with 60% living in Huizhou District of northeastern
Guangdong Province; the Hakka are considered to be a
Han sub-group, and not in indigenous ethnic minority.
Over 500 years of southerly migration they are now considered
widely to be one of the Cantonese peoples or Yue. This
was not always an easy integration, but time heals old
wounds and they now have a homeland, language, and social
identity of their own. Famous Hakka's include Dr Sun
Yat Sen and Deng Xiaoping. From this you may infer they
are open and liberated, and do not mind having their
own opinions about life!
Due to their agrarian lifestyle, the Hakka's have a
unique architecture based on defence and communal living,
and a hearty savory cuisine based on an equal balance
between texturised meat and vegetables, and fresh vegetables.
Their unique round (or sometimes square) homes called
'Tulou' are considered of world heritage status by UNESCO.
There is a large Hakka community in the east of Shaoguan
City District, where you can stay in a Tulou overnight
and enjoy their effervescent hospitality.
Maba Man (Traditional: 馬壩人, simplified: 马坝人 pinyin:
mǎbà-rén) is the pre-modern hominid whose remains were
discovered in caves near the town called Maba, near
Shaoguan city in the north part of Guangdong province,
The Maba Men lived in caves at Lion Rock, near Maba.
The site is now a park and tourist attraction including
the possibility to visit the cave and a museum nearby.
Although described at the site as "ape-men",
the Maba Men were not really very apelike and were comparable
to European Neanderthals
In 1958, a skull fossil of early Homo Sapiens (Maba
Man) was found in a karsts cave in Maba area in Qujiang
County, Guangdong Province. Maba Man was an early Homo
Sapiens of the middle Paleolithic Age. The skull fossil
found here belonged to a middle-aged man. The skull
had very coarse supercilliary arches and an extremely
contracted orbital surface. The frontal bone was longer
than the parietal bone. All these indicate the primitive
character of Homo Erectus, although the skull had thin
walls and the brain was larger than Beijing Man. Thus,
it has been classified as Homo Sapiens. Actually, this
individual represented a transitional state from Homo
Erectus to early Homo Sapiens. These remains can be
dated between the Middle and Late Pleistocene Epochs
-- about 200,000 to 100,000 years ago.
In the same cave where Maba Man was discovered, a large
quantity of animal fossils of the Fourth Ice Age has
Industry and Commerce
In the 1950s, Shaoguan became Guangdong's main base
of heavy industry and raw material (Shaoguan is the
home to a steel factory and some metal processing factories)
and it was once the 'power house' with a far-reaching
economic influence in Guangdong. Today the main established
industries are: steel and iron smelting, metal castings
and components manufacture, metallurgy, electricity,
forestry, mushrooms, and tobacco. The two remaining
large industries may bring the District into conflict
at some point; as Shaoguan is a major producer of construction
raw materials and basic products; whilst it's fastest
growing enterprise is Tourism.
Shaoguan remains an important steel producing area,
and also a major source of electricity production via
it's old coal fired power stations - not a pretty sight
in such an area of outstanding natural beauty! However,
this unsightly power station is responsible for only
30% of Shaoguan's electrical output, with 36% and 34%
respectively being produced via thermal and hydroelectric
generators. Thermal production is targeted to increase
dramatically, as Shaoguan responds to Guangdong Province's
call for more electricity.
New industry is a lot cleaner, with emphasis on new
factory developments for high tech research and production
in the fields of: computers, medical support industries
and related advanced electronics, consumer electronics,
and new materials
Shaoguan is the reputable “hometown of nonferrous metal”
in China. Rich in material resources, Shaoguan ranks
first in its forest resources. It is a key national
forest area, acclaimed as the biological gene bank of
south China. In 2011 GDP in Shaoguan is forecast to
exceed 12%. It is also fully integrating into the Pearl
River Economic Zone over the next five years.
Shaoguan is a fantastic destination for anyone seeking
to explore local South China and its culture. Being
a couple of hours by road from Guangzhou, it is a perfect
retreat from modern city life.
Western tourism is not particularly well developed,
but is very well supported by local communities. This
in our opinion makes this beautiful area ideal for more
independent travellers, and those who would like to
do their own thing.
We would recommend you get here before it becomes overly
commercialised, and perhaps as a result - looses some
This information is as supplied by China Expats, as
dated 2nd August 2010, and/or other reliable sources.
Pictures unless otherwise stated are courtesy of Lamy
Chan and Pbase.com, and reproduced with thanks under
Collective Commons 3 Licence.
Please check this information yourself as it may alter
without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure
it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for
any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
Excellent and relaxing base to
explore this most beautiful of regions in all China!
Based in Shangri-la,
Dedicated to Exploring Remote Areas of China
Committed to Nature Conservation and Preserving Ethnic
Cultures & Traditions
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