The real "Mulan," the famous Shaolin Temple, and the whole Chinese nation in general, trace back their roots to Henan, the cradle of China's 5000-year-old civilization, the birthplace of Chinese family names, and the political, cultural, and economic powerhouse of over 200 emperors from more than 20 dynasties. As such, Henan is among China's provinces with the most historical relics (over 160,000). One-eighth of China's total museum treasures are found in Henan.
With nearly a hundred million inhabitants, Henan is China's most populous province by residency. The founder of Daoism, Lao Tzu, along with some of China's greatest poets, Du Fu and Han Yu, and greatest athletes like Deng Yaping and Ge Xin'ai, are all born in Henan.
Stone Age potteries and 8,000-year-old musical instruments were found on the banks of Yellow River, the "mother of the Chinese nation" that slices through the north of the province. The Yellow River was a center of activity for many kingdoms, starting from the 21 BC Xia Dynasty, to the 12 AD Northern Song Dynasty.
Three of China's Seven Ancient Capitals are in Henan: Anyang, Kaifeng and Luoyang. A home to prehistoric cavemen, Anyang has a museum, Yinxu, that is inscribed as a World Heritage Site for its Shang Dynasty ruins and Tomb of Lady Fu Tao, which contains the personal belongings and remains of a Chinese queen and military general, Fu Tao, from which the Legend of Mulan is said to be based.
Another World Heritage Site is Luoyang's rock-carved Longmen Grottoes, which has more than 30,000 Buddhist statues from the Northern Wei Dynasty. The town is also the site of Empress Dowager's Tomb, the resting place of a Northern Wei Dynasty queen and one of China's most controversial rulers.
Visited by Marco Polo, Kaifeng is famed for its brightly-lit City Wall and Iron Pagoda, China's most famous pagoda, built during the Yuan Dynasty. Kaifeng's Xiangguo Monastery has golden Buddhist goddess statues and several emerald Buddhas.
Henan has plenty of national parks, but the most visited is Songshan National Park, home of the kung fu center, Shaolin Temple. Songshan is a sacred Daoist mountain that has China's oldest brick pagoda (Songyue) and earliest observatory (Gaocheng Guanxing Tai). Around 40 kung fu schools are in Shaolin, and the largest is Tagou's Shaolin Monastery Wushu Institute that offers a one-day class including board and lodging.
Henan Province Landmarks:
Henan Province Traveler Advice
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