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 reputation, the province has plenty of sight seeing and skiing in a region where few international tourists venture.
- Shijiazhuang - The capital
- Chengde - Hebei's best known tourist sight, the Mountain Resort, a vast imperial garden and palace formerly used by the Qing emperors as a summer residence
- Qinhuangdao - Home to Beidaihe, Beijing's summer seaside resort and the best beaches in the region
- Zhangjiakou - Vineyards, hot springs, and the venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics ski events—what more could one ask for?
- Tangshan - Steel smelting city, alone produces more steel than the United States, and also home to a Qing Dynasty imperial mausoleum
- Xiongan New Area - Newly established special zone for the relocation of government and state owned enterprise employees
- Baoding - Manufacturing hub for solar panels but ironically the country's smoggiest cities
- Handan - City of the Xiangtangshan Grottoes, Buddhist reliefs carved into limestone cliffs
- Hengshui - A history of fine handicrafts including glass bodied painted enamel and inside painted snuff bottles
- Cangzhou - Famed for the 1000-year old Iron Lion of Cangzhou
- Bashang Grasslands - Scenery of far north Hebei is a mosaic of grassland pastures, beautiful fields of yellow canola flowers, and sheep grazing including the Qing Dynasty imperial hunting grounds of Mulan Weichang
- Shanhaiguan section of the Great Wall - The coastal town of Shanhaiguan is the eastern most part of the Great Wall, emerging from the sea at the Old Dragon's Head
- Baiyangdian Lake - One of the largest freshwater lakes in the north China; a popular place for boat rides along the blossoming lotus pads in the summer and ice skating over the frozen surface during the winter
- Baishi Mount - One of north China's most picturesque mountainous areas with a fabled tendency for the sea of fog to settle below the mountaintop
- Hongyagu (Red Cliff Valley) - Come walk across the valley on the world's longest glass bottomed bridge
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 any major points within an hour. As part of the integration plan, the Xiongan New Area was created in 2017 from three rural counties in the province to form a special zone for the relocation of a large number of Beijing 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.
There are train stations in virtually every part of the province except for the sparsely populated far north grasslands.
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 Zhangjiakou, 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. As a fitting tribute, in the industrial hinterland the Anji Bridge in Shijiazhuang and Iron Lion of Cangzhou are marvels of durable construction. The former is the world's oldest open-spandrel segmental stone arch bridge, constructed around 600, and the latter is the oldest surviving iron-cast artwork in China, made over 1,000 years ago. On clear sky days, there are excellent outdoor sights. Ice waterfalls with numerous hanging icicles are breathtaking and located on the outskirts of Baoding (Longyu Icefall) and Shijiazhuang (Mimishui). The Lotus Pond Garden is an elegant classical garden in Baoding.
- Skiing - Some of the best skiing facilities in China are in Zhangjiakou, host of the 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 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. Specialty restaurants in the grasslands offer feasts featuring a whole rack of lamb cooked in plain view. Pay careful attention to cleanliness ratings.
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.
Hebei has a wide range of local varieties of the liquor baijiu. Each city has its own favourite. 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.
- Inner Mongolia – Northern neighbor where the Bashang Grasslands continues across the border from far north Hebei