Spotlight on a Chinese Province: Henan

Longmen Grottoes
Longmen Grottoes | © Kevin Poh / Flickr
Photo of Rachel Deason
5 March 2018

Henan is the third most populous province in China, located south of Hebei on the North China Plain. It is commonly regarded as the cradle of Chinese civilization, and the origin of most Chinese surnames. Archaeological evidence shows that the area has been inhabited since the Neolithic Era, with China’s first literate dynasty, the Shang (16th–11th centuries BC), also taking up residence here. Thus, Henan is incredibly important in Chinese history, and much of the tourism industry in the province is built around that importance.

Major cities


Zhengzhou is the current capital of Henan province. Here you can see ruins of the Shang dynasty, including parts of the old city wall, past which is the Shangcheng Bonsai Garden. There are plenty of other heritage sites in the city, including one of China’s oldest Confucian temples and the Erqi Memorial Tower. Located just outside the city is the Yellow River Scenic Area, a beautiful spot from which to experience the gushing Yellow River and several peaks and temples.

Zhengzhou at Night | ©Lee Junjie/Flickr


Anyang, one of Henan’s smaller cities, is also one of Eight Ancient Capitals of China. Its biggest claim to fame is being where the oracle bones were buried and discovered over 4000 years later. Now located at a museum in Yinxu, the oracle bones are inscriptions on tortoise shells and ox bones, used for divination. The inscriptions are written in ancient Chinese writing, the earliest form of writing whose direct ancestor is still in use today.

Oracle Bones Pit | ©Xuan Che/Flickr


Luoyang is, you guessed it, also one of the Eight Ancient Capitals of China. It is located at the juncture of the Luo and Yellow Rivers. It is also the site of Longmen National Park, an impressive area containing nearly 2000-year-old grottoes, which some consider the home of the finest Chinese Buddhist art. In the year 2000, the grottoes were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the epithet “an outstanding manifestation of human artistic creativity.”

Luoyang | ©Ken Marshall/Flickr

Other travel destinations

Shaolin Temple

Part of Songshan National Park, Shaolin Temple gained fame as the breeding-grounds for kung-fu-practicing monks and has been featured in several Wushu movies. Not only is the temple the birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu, it is also the primary temple of the Shaolin school of of Buddhism.

Shaolin Temple | ©ivyst/Flickr

Baligou Valley

Baligou Valley is part of the Taihang Mountain scenic area, located near Xinxiang City. The valley is made up of Peach Bay, Mountain Temple, Sheep State, Hongshi River, and One-Line Sky, as well as an impressive waterfall and more than 1,700 plant species. The Taihang Mountains themselves are also worthy of a visit.

Baligou Valley | ©FANG Chen/Flickr


Henan cuisine is a culinary cross between the cooking styles of Jiangsu and Beijing and features the heavy use of onions, pork, and animal fat. It is one of China’s oldest cuisines and is particularly known for its soups. Famous dishes include wild yams, almond tea soup and braised yellow carp.

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