Henan Province: Travel to the birthplace of Chinese civilization

Travel to Henan Province China

This article is a practical travel guide to visit Henan, the birthplace of Chinese civilization and martial arts. Here you’ll find:

  • Some basic info about Henan province.
  • Why you should visit Henan.
  • The places to visit in Henan (with information on how to get there, where to stay and what to do or see).
  • Some general suggestions for traveling in Henan.

A bit of history and clichés

Henan (河南), with nearly 100 million inhabitants, is one of the most populated provinces of China. Since most of the population is composed of farmers, this is one of the poorest regions of the country. For these reasons, together with Shangdong, people from Henan are the most numerous emigrant population in Beijing.

If you ask Chinese people about Henan, a lot of them will say that it’s a poor area and its inhabitants are dishonest. If you then talk with people from this province, most of them will end up complaining that the central government doesn’t want the province to develop so that they can keep on producing food for the rest of the country. However, Henan is much more than all these clichés!

Henan is considered to be the birth place of Chinese civilization and was the China’s political, cultural and economic center until one thousand years ago, when the Song Dynasty collapsed. Even if the title of “Old Chinese Capital” belongs to Xi’an, looking at the list of the Great Ancient Capitals of China, half of them are situated in Henan (Kaifeng, Luoyang, Anyang and Zhengzhou).

Why should you visit Henan?

Even if Henan attracts many Chinese tourists, most international travelers don’t even know the existence of this province. So the question is: why should you visit Henan?

As I mentioned before, Henan is the birthplace of Chinese culture and possesses plenty of interesting historical and natural sites. After Beijing, Henan is the Chinese province with more UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites in China.

Also, Henan is located between Beijing and Xi’an, and the trains that join these two cities have several stops in this province. Thus, if you’re traveling along the popular Beijing-Xi’an-Shanghai route a stopover in Henan is quite convenient.

Finally, Henan is the birthplace of Tai Chi Chuan (太极拳) and the Shaolin Temple is located here. Therefore, if Chinese martial arts fascinate you, in Henan, you’ll have the opportunity of learning more about their origin.

Places to visit in Henan

Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang, Henan, ChinaLongmen Grottoes a UNESCO world Heritage site, Luoyang – Creative Commons License Longmen Grottoes by dericafox

Luoyang (洛阳)

If you can only visit one place in Henan and you ask me where to go, I’d choose Luoyang. This ancient capital is extremely rich in culture and history and is believed to be the origin of Taoism. Also, here you can find the impressive Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

How to get there

  • By plane: Luoyang has an airport located 10 Km from the city center with regular flights coming from several Chinese cities.
  • By train: Probably the most convenient way as Luoyang is a major stop in the high speed line Beijing-Xi’an. The trip from Beijing takes around 4 hours and costs 400 Yuan. From Shanghai there are only slow trains; the journey takes around 14 hours and the hard sleeper ticket is around 250 Yuan (check out our guide on traveling by train in China to know more about Chinese trains and railways).

Where to stay

  • Luoyang Longmen Youth Hostel: This hostel is cheap, clean comfortable and the staff can speak a decent English. Also, from here getting the bus to the Longmen Grottoes is quite convenient.
  • Luoyang Aviation E-Home Inn: Even if this hotel is a bit far from the city center (1.5 Km), the rooms are clean and comfortable, overall, it offers a great quality for what you pay.

Also, click here to read our review of the best hotels in Luoyang.

Places to visit:

Luoyang has plenty of historical sites, several museums, and an impressive number of parks. Here are three places that, in my opinion, you shouldn’t miss:

  • Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟, Lomgmen shiku): Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000, it’s a huge complex of Buddhist statues carved on the mountain. Here you’ll walk around 1,400 caves that contain 100,000 statues carved in the rock. Located at 13 km from the city center, you can get there by taking bus number 81 from the east side of the Luoyang train station (1.5 Yuan). The entrance ticket should cost around 120 Yuan.
  • Baima Temple (白马寺; Baimasi): This is the first Buddhist temple in China and one of the oldest in the world. The Baima temple is located 12 km from Luoyang city center, you can get there by taking bus number 58 from the Luoyang train station (1.5 Yuan), the entrance fee should cost around 50 Yuan.
  • Luoyang Museum (洛阳博物馆; Luoyang bowugan) Reopened in 2011, this museum exposes a large collection of objects recovered in the area. At the present moment, the entrance is free.

Song shan shaolin TempleA monk inside the Shaolin Temple. Is he a Kung Fu master? Yes, he is!

Dengfeng (登封) and Shaolin Temple (少林寺)

Dengfeng is a small rural town located at the feet of the Mount Song, one of the five sacred Chinese mountains and the location of the Shaolin Temple. Even if you don’t need to stay a night in Dengfeng as you can visit the Shaolin temple in one day coming from Luoyang or Zhengzhou, Dengfeng offers more than the Shaolin temple. If you have a bit of time it’s not a bad idea to spend one night here and enjoy the calm of rural China. For the ones interested in Chinese martial arts, you may want to know that, besides the Shalin Temple, here there’re more than sixty schools of martial arts.

How to get there

The only way to reach Dengfeng is by bus:

  • From Zhengzhou: There’re frequent buses from both the North (北中心站) and South Central Station (南中心站). The trip takes 1:30 hours and the ticket costs 24-28 Yuan.
  • From Luoyang: There’re frequent buses from Luoyang Bus Station (洛阳汽车站). The trip takes around 2 hours and the ticket costs around 14 Yuan.
  • Where to stay

    What to do

    • “The Centre of Heaven and Earth” UNESCO world heritages sites: A group of eight historic sites across Dengfeng that have been included onto the UNESCO World Heritage list.
    • Shaolin Temple (少林寺; Shaolin Si) and Song Shan National Park (嵩山国家森林公园; Songshan guojia senlingongyuan): The temple is located inside the park. Today I’m not going to describe it as we’ll write a whole article about it. You can get here by bus from Dengfeng, Luoyang (main bus station) or Zhengzhou (in front of the train station). The entrance fee is about 200 Yuan.
    • Kung Fu (功夫; Gongfu) lessons: If you are interested in Chinese martial arts, as I said before in Denfeng there’re several schools. Just to give you an example, at the Shaolin Warriors Monks School the prices range between 15 and 50 USD per day (the price includes the lessons, food and accomodation).

    Dengfeng HenanBuddhas carved in stone, Dengfeng

    Kaifeng (开封)

    Capital of China during various dynasties, Kaifeng features a beautiful lake, a city wall where you can take a walk and numerous rebuilt historical buildings.

    How to get there

    • By plane: The nearest airport is in Zhengzhou, which is located around 70 Km from Kaifeng.
    • By train: Kaifeng is well connected with train lines coming from several major cities in China. While from Shanghai you can take a high-speed train (6:30 hours and 230 Yuan), from Beijing there’re only night trains, the trip takes 9:30 hours and the ticket costs 180 Yuan (for a hard sleeper bed).
    • By Bus: There’re regular buses arriving from many cities in Henan, including Zhengzhou (North Long Distance Bus Station “郑州市长途汽车北站” and Longhai Bus Station “郑州市陇海汽车站”) and Luoyang (Central Bus Station “洛阳市汽车站”).

    Where to stay

    What to visit

    • Dragon Pavilion (龙亭; Longting): This building belongs to the old Song imperial palace and it has been rebuilt many times throughout its history. The entrance fee is 50 Yuan.
    • Song Imperial Street (宋都御街; Song duyujie): This is the reconstruction of the ancient city of Kaifeng during the Song Dynasty.
    • Youguo Temple (佑国寺; Youguosi) and Iron Pagoda (铁塔; Tieta): An impressive Buddhist monastery built during the Song Dynasty, you can climb the pagoda (but if you are claustrophobic you better don’t) for 30 Yuan. The entrance fee is 50 Yuan.

    Learn Tai Chi ChinaYuntai Mountain, Jiaozuo


    Jiaozuo is a typical, ugly third-tier city from Northern China that grew thanks to the coal mines in the area. However, in recent years the local government has been taking a great effort to improve the infrastructures and attract tourists to the area. Jiaozuo was declared the birthplace of Tai Chi Chuan and hosts an annual international meeting at the end of August.

    How to get there

    You can take a bus or train from Luoyang and Zhengzhou or a long-distance train from Beijing West Station (the trip lasts 8 hours and the ticket costs 175 Yuan for a hard sleeper bed).

    Where to stay

    • 7 Days Inn: Jiaozuo doesn’t have any hostels and most of the cheap hotels don’t accept foreigners, thus the 7 Days Inn is probably the cheapest and decent way to spend the night here.
    • Days Hotel And Suites Jiaozuo: This is an excellent hotel located at the city center. If you don’t mind to spend a bit more you shall stay here.

    Places to visit

    • Yuntai Mountain (云台山; Yuntaishan): The Yuntai Geo Park scenic area is classified as a AAAAA scenic area by the China National Tourism Administration and it attracts tourists from all over the country. This spectacular natural resort has “state of the art facilities” with finger print recognition associated with your entrance ticket. The entrance ticket is valid for two days and during the peak season costs 150 Yuan (60 Yuan during low season).

      As it also happens in Jiuzhaigou, the bus fee (60 Yuan) isn’t mandatory but necessary as walking from a site to another inside the park isn’t practical (because of the huge distances).

      You can get there by taxi (around 70 Yuan one way), by bus from Luoyang (from the Main Bus Station), Zhengzhou (from the Main Bus Station) or Jiaozuo (Train Station).

    • Chenjiagou Village (陈家沟; Chenjiagou): Located 5 km from the Wen County (温县) that belongs to Jiaozuo (41km from the city center), this is the place where Chen Bu established the Tai Chi Chuan (Chen style or shadowboxing). It’s a sacred place of Tai Chi Culture and a peregrination destination for Tai Chi lovers.

      You can get there from Zhengzhou by taking the line Zhengzhou-Wen County line (郑州-温县, 21 Yuan, 2 hours) and then transfer to the local bus line 1 (1路) to Chenjiagou (2 Yuan). You can also take a taxi from Jiaozuo (it costs less than 100 Yuan, one way).

    Tai chi chuanA Tai Chi master doing a demonstration in Jiaozuo

    Anyang (安阳)

    Anyang is the first known capital of China and here you can find the first library of inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells that is believed to be the origin of Chinese characters.

    How to get there

    • By plane: You can take a direct bus from the Zhengzhou airport (the ticket costs around 70 Yuan) but they are not so frequent.
    • By train: There’re frequent trains arriving at Anyang from all the major cities in Henan. Also, you can take a fast train from Beijing West Station ( the trip takes 2:30 or 3:30 hours and the ticket costs 160 or 240 Yuan).
    • By Bus: There’re regular buses connecting Anyang with most of the cities in Henan, Hebei, and Shanxi provinces.

    Where to stay

    Places to visit

    • Yinxu (殷墟; yinxu): Anyang has plenty of interesting historical sites, but Yinxiu alone justifies the trip. Declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006, this massive archaeological site was the location of the ancient capital. Here were found the earliest Chinese scriptures, that were used for divination. The entrance fee is 90 Yuan.

    Zhengzhou HenanOne of the new areas in Zhengzhou

    Zhengzhou (郑州)

    This metropolis is the capital of Henan province and hasn’t much to offer to travelers besides its train hub.

    How to get there

    You can get there by plane or train from most major cities in China. As an example, from Beijing West Train Station to Zhengzhou Train Station the fast train takes 2:30-3:00 hours and the ticket costs 300 Yuan.

    Where to stay

    As I said Zhengzhou is a huge city and I don’t have any special recommendations, just choose something convenient for you. Notice that you won’t find international hostels here. Here you can get a complete list of hotels in Zhengzhou.

    What to do

    As I said before, Zhengzhou isn’t that interesting. However, you may enjoy visiting these two places:

    • Yellow River Scenic Area (黄河风景区; Huanghe fengjingqu): A tour that will bring you to five scenic and touristic spots: Five Dragons Peak, Camel Mountain Range, Yueshan Temple, Stone Figures, and the Ancient cities of Liubang and Xiangyu. You can get the by bus from Zhengzhou Train Station. The ticket costs 30 Yuan.
    • Henan Provincial Museum (河南省博物馆; Henan sheng bowuguan): This is one of the most important museums in China; it especially focused in ancient civilizations.

    Jiaozuo Henan

    Some random suggestions

    • Even if Henan isn’t a famous destination among international travelers, there are a lot of Chinese tourists that come here. Thus be prepared to find hordes of tourists in the most famous spots such as the Luoyang grottoes, the Yuntai Moutain, or the Shaolin temple.
    • <

    • Related to the previous point, most of the cities receive very few foreign tourists and for this reason, many hotels aren’t prepared (not even allowed, actually) to host foreigners. Even if many hotels won’t care so much as far as you pay, some of them won’t allow you to stay. I suggest you book in advance and avoid the unpleasant situation of trying dozens of hotels and being rejected in all of them (I’ve been there in Zhengzhou and it can be frustrating).
    • Most of the foreigners that arrive here already live in China and can speak a bit of Chinese, so don’t expect to find many people able to speak English.
    • Despite their reputation, Henan people aren’t more dishonest than the average Chinese person. So don’t worry, they won’t try to cheat you all the time.
    • Zhengzhou people have a strange sense of distance. If you come here and ask for directions, never trust them when they say “it’s only five minutes by walking” because you’ll end up walking more than half an hour.
    • Henan has plenty of local dishes, you should not leave this province without tasting one of the several types of noodles. One of the most famous is the huimian (烩面).

    Notice that all the information that you found on this guide comes from my personal experience, the few English sources available (most of them incomplete and with several mistakes), and some Chinese sources. If you’ve visited this province before, I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions you may have to improve the guide. Also, if you have any questions just ask using the comments section below.

    Photo Credits: Photos by Sapore di Cina

    16 thoughts on “Henan Province: Travel to the birthplace of Chinese civilization”

    1. My name is Robert and I am from a rural village (Located at Yexian county,Pingdingshan City,Henan province). I have been working for an US company since the Oct. 2010 and just at this moment I am wring the comment in Mineeapolise,MN.
      The author of this article has spent a lot wring this guide. Henan is famous in China mainly because it is the birthplace of Chinese civilization. People from Henan province have a bad reputation in China, that is true. Probably because Henan has a population of 100 million and at the end of last century, some of them moved to the coastal cities like Beijing,shanghai and Shenzhen to make money. These people were low-skilled and had to do some work that others were not willing to do, there is no doubt that these people were not welcomed by native people.
      Nowadays, more and more educated people are leaving Henan and working at Beiing ,shanghai and some of them have been hired by Foreign companies. These people are easy to work with and very warm-hearted. Just 2 months ago, there was a news that a nurse from Henan province brought a Japanese back to life when she was in Japan.
      Henan people are shy but they are willing to give you help when it is needed. Look the good side of Henan province and enjoy the tour in Henan province.
      As one of the 100000000 Henan people, I am glad to help you when I am available in Henan. You could add me on your wechat ( 502500012) or contact me through 502500012@ qq.com I am glad to discuss more about Henan and China with you.

      1. Thank you for your comment, I agree in everything you say and I must add that Henan is one of my favourite provinces in China, mainly because of their people.

    2. Hello everybody! We are planning a 12 days trip through which we want to know Luoyang/DengDeng, Xi’An, Zhanghjiajie and Guilin. We will be starting from Beijing and ending in Guangzhou. What would you reccomend? Which transports/tours/accomodations/routes do you suggest? Hoy many days would it be ideal to spend at each location? Is it possible to do such a thing?
      Thanks in advance for your answer!
      Best regards

    3. Very interesting. I’m planning to visit soonish and wondered about the popular route you mentioned; Beijing, henan, Xian, Shanghai and which order would you travel by train?
      Thanks in advance.

    4. I’m an American that has traveled and stayed in Kaifeng, Henan, China many times. In fact, I married a a beautiful Kaifeng woman. I have also traveled much of the country and can compare Kaifeng with other cities. I am baffled why you think Chinese people have a preconceived notion that Henan people are dishonest. That is absolutely irresponsible for you to publish defamatory and generalized comments about the people of Henan Province. Chinese people make those kind of statements about every province other than their own. Henan is relatively poor, but not at the bottom. From my experience, people in Henan (specifically Kaifeng) are extremely friendly and honest. The night market is known as one of the best in China (many international articles and TV shows highlight the market). And Kaifeng is not as polluted as the more prosperous cities – money comes at a price. You didn’t mention the Kaifeng Jews, another unique aspect of Kaifeng history. If you want to slam a province, I can think of several that deserve your negativity more than Henan. Maybe you had a bad visit, or maybe you need to speak to people that actually spend time there.

      1. Hey Will,

        take it easy. Sborto has lived in China 4 years, is closed related to people born in Henan and what he reported comes from what he heard. And he clearly stated it’s a cliché.

        So I don’t see nothing bad or irresponsible.



      2. Hi Will
        I think you took the article the wrong way, in fact the article pretends to put Henan in the map, as in my opinion it’s a province that offers a lot to visitors, especially about Chinese history and culture. Personally I’ve been many times in Henan and I consider it as my second home, also I let people from this province to read the article and no one feel like it was offensive, in fact the contrary, so I suggest you to read the whole article again.

        After saying that, I should thanks you for remembering that I have to mention Jewish importance in Kaifeng history.

        I hope after reading the article again you can get me an other feedback and help us to make the article better, as I think you have much more knowledge about Kaifeng than me.

      3. Will, I’ve lived here for 5 years , zhengzhou. I guess you don’t do much business here at least on a large scale, it is very true that Henan ren are extremely dishonest, not all of course but all business people. I personally have not lost out but ohhhh they all try with their lies and guanxi. Yes you married a nice Henan girl, typically the woman are much better than the men. When it comes to money Henan people are the most dishonest in trying to cheat money out of people! So if your a teacher or a small timer your not in the real circles and therefore your not worth the time or effort to be cheated on, so you won’t come across these ppl because they consider you have too little to take. There is a reason why Henan is so behind most of china it’s because they have the worst reputation and no one wants to deal with them.

        1. Pretty harsh comment. And I disagree with you.

          I don’t think Henan “is behind” cause it has the “worst” reputation in China. The reason is that it’s an internal province where farming was quite developed. When Deng Xiao Ping decided to open the country to foreign investment etc he chose Guangdong and Fujian (for obvious historical reasons) and then Shanghai and Zhejiang (again, an obvious choice).

          Nowadays the government is investing a lot in Sichuan and Hunan, while Henan is still out of the equation. Also, not all Chinese provinces are good for farming (try to grow something in Xinjiang…) and China already import a lot of food. So it wouldn’t be smart to transform Henan in an industrial pole while it’s one of the few provinces you can use for farming.

          It’s a strategic choice that has nothing to do with Henan people reputation.

          I do agree with you that if you’re a teacher it’s difficult to see the dark side of doing business with China.

        2. I totally agree with Furio’s comment and just want to stand with my opinion in the article, Henan people aren’t more dishonest or honest than other Chinese people, while doing business in China you’ll find plenty of dishonest people (is difficult to be successful if you are honest) and Henan is not an exception. In fact if you talk with some business people from the south, they’ll tell you that northern people (including Henan) are naive and easy to cheat (again a cliché). In my opinion the reputation comes because most of the poor emigrant people in Beijing come from this province and some of them had to do not so “clean” business in order to survive.

      4. Where in tarnation did you find a Kaifeng woman who was pretty AND nice? In my experience, I’ve found neither here! Some modestly pretty ones, perhaps, but nice? And as for the Jewish girls, I think JAP (JCP?) is a more accurate describer than “Nice Jewish Girl”. Trust me – there ain’t much to see of Jewish stuff here – yet.

        1. I have no idea about Jewish Girls, but in my opinion Kaifeng have some interesting woman. Maybe too strong character for you : )

      5. I was born in Zhengzhou and lived there until age 12. Sborto is 100% correct, “Henan ren” do have a bad reputation in the country, and people often made jokes about “Henan ren” being more “peasant” than the others. My parents were both not from Henan province and nor were most of their friends, but they all studied in Zhengzhou and at reunion dinners they will often make such comments. This was done jokingly most of the time but you can’t help but wonder if a lot of these people do indeed believe it.

        But remember, this is just the reputation, as Sborto mentioned. There is no concrete statistics proving that Henan people are really the worst in all of China.

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