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.
- 1 Shijiazhuang - The capital
- 2 Chengde - Here is Hebei's best known attraction, the Mountain Resort, a vast palace and garden used by Qing emperors during the summer
- 3 Qinhuangdao - port city at the eastern end of the Great Wall, where the Wall emerges from the sea at the Old Dragon's Head
- 4 Zhangjiakou - Lots of ski resorts and hot springs and the Huailai Valley winegrowing region
- 5 Tangshan - Steelmaking city that alone produces more steel than the United States and home to the Eastern Qing Dynasty tombs
- 6 Xiongan New Area - Planned eco-friendly city under construction for the relocation of personnel from central government agencies, state owned enterprises, and research institutes
- 7 Baoding - Historic capital of Hebei, landmark highlights are the Lotus Pond Garden and the Western Qing Dynasty tombs
- 8 Handan - Home of the Xiangtangshan Grottoes, Buddhist reliefs carved into limestone cliffs
- 9 Hengshui - Industrial city with a history of fine handicrafts including glass bodied painted enamel and inside painted snuff bottles
- 10 Cangzhou - City of the famed 1000-year old Iron Lion statue
- 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
- 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
- Chongli District - Some of the country's best ski resorts and will be venue for the skiing events of the 2022 Winter Olympics
- Hongyagu (Red Cliff Valley) - Come walk across the valley by way of the world's longest glass bottomed bridge
- Zhengding County - For over 1,000 years has been an important religious site with four well preserved famous pagodas and the Longxing Monastery
- Laiyuan County
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 Hebei 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 with high speed rail connecting major points within an hour. As part of the integration plan, the Xiongan New Area was announced in 2017, aggregating three rural counties in the province to form a special zone for the relocation from Beijing of the 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 an emerging tourism centered belt. On the coast is Beidaihe, the nearest beach getaway from the capital and Shanhaiguan the start of the Great Wall; in the far north is the grasslands beyond Chengde, the city home to the can't miss Mountain Resort, the summer residence of Qing emperors; and the northwest will co-host the Winter Olympics in 2022 at Chongli County, augmenting the existing ski and transportation infrastructure.
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 and on clear sky days, there are excellent outdoor sights. The Anji Bridge in Shijiazhuang and Iron Lion of Cangzhou are marvels of durable construction and a fitting tribute to the history of skilled engineering of the province. The former site is the world's oldest open-spandrel segmental stone arch bridge, constructed around the year 600, and the latter is the oldest surviving iron-cast artwork in China, made over 1,000 years ago.
Take advantage of winter sights and activities. There's skiing in the north and ice skating at Baiyangdian Lake. Ice waterfalls with thousands of hanging icicles are breathtaking and located on the outskirts of Baoding (Longyu Icefall) and Shijiazhuang (Mimishui).
- Skiing - Some of the best domestic skiing facilities are in Chongli in Zhangjiakou, the city that will host skiing events for the Winter Olympics in 2022
- Diving the Great Wall - Dive under the Panjiakou Reservoir to see a submerged part of the Great Wall
- Kung fu training - Kung fu academies located in Handan offer 1-month training packages
- Wine tasting - Many vineyards are in the Huailai Valley counties of Zhangjiakou
- 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 in winter. Wear a mask with a PM2.5 filter on polluted days.