Shengliver’s Note: My home city hosted the 4th World Traditional Wushu Festival in October, 2010. A lot of foreigners came to town for the occasion. The city is little known in other parts of China, let alone in the world. I have written this entry to promote the name Shiyan on the Web. Hopefully searches for the name Shiyan will include it. May my home city stay as beautiful as ever and not sacrifice her green environment for a burgeoning economy.




The City of Shiyan is under the administration of the Hubei provincial government. The provincial capital is the City of Wuhan. The City of Shiyan is tucked away in a corner of North-western Hubei. See the map below for its exact location in Hubei Province. Shiyan and Wuhan are linked by rail, expressway and air.

map of hubei 



Shiyan as a city is pretty young. Its name was not formally put on a Chinese map until 1969, in which year the State Council approved its city status. The central government started to build its No. 2 Auto Factory in the 1960s in the mountains here for military considerations. Large numbers of constructors, technicians, and engineers migrated to the little villages of Shiyan from around China. Thus a city was born.


Before its birth, Shiyan was part of Yunyang, a town on the river Hanjiang. Yunyang was the seat of government of the Yunyang Prefecture, which ruled much of North-western Hubei. After Shiyan gained its city status, it coexisted with the Yunyang Prefecture until 1994. That year, the two regional administrative organs under the provincial government were merged into one geopolitical entity—Shiyan City. Greater Shiyan covers what was the Yunyang Prefecture. Around the city proper lie the following satellite counties that made up Yunyang—Danjiangkou to the east, Yunxian and Yunxi to the north, Zhushan and Zhuxi to the west, and Fangxian to the southwest. Around the turn of the century, the Mt Wudang Special Economic Zone was set up. The scenic spot Mt Wudang used to be administered by Danjiangkou. For a lack of resources and expertise, Mt Wudang was left almost derelict for many decades. Now Mt Wudang is under the direct rule of the municipal government. The government both on the city level and on the provincial level plans to further tap its potential as a tourist destination.

yunyang on hanjiang 

The city proper has around 600,000 inhabitants. The population of Greater Shiyan (the city proper plus its satellite counties and Mt Wudang) totals 3,500,000. It is one of the smallest regions of Hubei Province both in population and area.




Outsiders are often puzzled by the name of the town, Shiyan. It literally means ten (shi) weirs (yan). Some of my epals asked whether there are really ten weirs in the city.

shiyan city 

The answer is positive. Centuries before the city was founded, peasants here dammed two streams in the area for irrigation and flood control. One is called Bai’erhe and the other Jianghe. Altogether ten weirs were constructed on them. Hence the area itself was named Shiyan in ancient times.


Even today, a visitor would see in the city place names like Wuyan, Liuyan, Sanyan, and Eryan. Wuyan and Liuyan are the downtown. The train station and the coach station are both located at Sanyan. The town hall was built at Liuyan, but has been relocated to a new site on Beijing Road.




Shiyan is endowed with a clean environment rarely seen in Central China. The striking features of its environment are the plentiful woodland, mountains, and rivers. Both in the city proper and in its satellite counties, anywhere you go, forested mountains meet the eye. On average, forests cover 51.6% of the land. One county, Fangxian, is distinguished for its forest coverage.

fangxian jiudao 

The biggest river that drains the region is Hanjiang. The Danjiangkou Hydroelectric Power Station was built on it in the 1960s at the city of Danjiangkou. The town, Danjiangkou, is nicknamed Water Capital of China because the reservoir behind the dam is the starting point of the nation’s ambitious Water Diversion Project, which carries water through a man-made channel from Central China to the north of the country. The quality of water in the water bank is excellent. A lot of polluters along the river have been closed down in the past few decades to ensure its cleanness.

prince slope 

All the streams and creeks of the area are branches or sub-branches of Hanjiang, the largest tributary of the Yangtze. The rough terrain of the land, coupled with rivers rushing over cliffs and down valleys, makes the region rich in hydroelectric power. On a river called Duhe lies another large-scale power producer—the Huanglongtan Power Station. It meets electrical needs of the city’s industrial production and home use. Moreover, all the water used both in homes and factories flows from the lake behind the dam.


Besides the Danjiangkou Hydroelectric Power Station and the Huanglongtan Power Station, there are numerous small-scale power plants on the streams and creeks found in the mountains of the region. In my home village, two such small power plants were constructed as far back as the 1970s. In my earliest memory, our family cottage was lit up in the evening by light bulbs.




The City of Shiyan is one of China’s leading auto production centres. China No. 2 Auto Manufacturer was built here, and for this reason the city came into existence. Later the name of the auto maker was changed to Dongfeng Motor Corporation. It is still a state-owned enterprise. In the 1990s, the corporation relocated its headquarters to the city of Wuhan, the provincial capital, but a lot of its plants remain in the city. Also the city itself has developed a lot of auto-related factories. Auto-manufacturing is its pillar industry, employing a large proportion of the workforce.


Geographically, the city lies where the Qinling Mountain Range and the Daba Mountain Range converge. Different varieties of herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are found in the mountains here. Some herbs have been farmed for mass production in the city. In recent years, a number of pharmaceutical companies have been established in the region, exploiting its herbal resources.




The city is a hub of China’s rail network and expressway grid. Its status as a transport centre is only to be strengthened in the years to come.

 shiyan highway

The Xiangyang-Chongqing Railway, built in the early decades of the Republic, crosses the city. It is linked to Wuhan by the Shiyan-Wuhan Expressway, which has been extended to Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province. My family could reach either provincial capital, Wuhan or Xi’an, in a matter of hours by expressway. National Highway 209 and National Highway 316 crisscross the area. An expressway under construction to link Yinchuan (capital of Ningxia) to Wuhan snakes its way through the region as well. The construction of a new railway, which connects Shiyan with Yichang, a regional capital of Western Hubei, is to be started.


An airport, named Wudang Airport, has been built somewhere close to Mt Wudang, to provide easy access to the tourist destination. It connects the town closely to other domestic cities and foreign countries as well.




Hubei Province is one of China’s biggest barns. An ancient Chinese saying goes that a bumper harvest of rice in Hubei and Hunan would be more than enough to feed the whole nation. A large quantity of rice is produced in the province’s Jianghan Plain, which is drained by the Yangtze and Hanjiang. Because of its mountainous terrain, however, Shiyan is not a big grain grower. Most of the grains raised here, mainly corn, wheat, and rice, are consumed locally, leaving no big surplus for trade.

wood ears fangxian 

Despite its modest grain yield, Shiyan is renowned for its various cash crops cultivated in its forests and mountains. Mushrooms and Wood Ears (an edible fungus thriving on tree trunks) farmed in Fangxian are sold all over the country and exported as well. Fruits, such as oranges and yangtao (known as kiwi fruit in the West), are of high quality and unique flavour. Yangtao, also called Monkey Fruit, is indigenous to the area. Wild yangtao vines flourish in the mountains of the region. A large number of herbs are raised for medicinal uses. Green tea from plantations in the high mountains of Zhuxi County and Zhushan County, being of a very high class, is sold across the country and as far as Japan, Australia, and Europe. The tung tree is found in all parts of the city. Oil extracted from its seeds is widely applied in the production of varnish and lacquer. Tung oil from this region, prized for its special properties, is much in demand on the domestic market.




Shiyan is yet to further exploit its tourism. It is rich both in cultural and natural resources. If you would like to come here, the following should be a must on your tour.


Mt Wudang


Mt Wudang is a celebrated Taoist holy site. Emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368—1644) had the site re-constructed and renovated for its religious significance. Tourists today can see a lot of architecture constructed in the Ming and Qing dynasties. The building materials are mainly wood and brick. Mt Wudang is listed as a World Heritage Site for its unique ancient Chinese architecture. All the walls, steps, and temples blend in perfectly with their surroundings. During construction, ancient builders avoided altering the landscape, adhering to a principle of harmony between man and nature.

base of golden top wudang 

If you have a special interest in Taoism, then Mt Wudang will be a perfect place to be. You have access to its Taoist religious services. You can even exchange ideas with Taoist monks here.


The city and Mt Wudang have been working hard to revive Wudang Wushu. Wudang Wushu and Shaolin Wushu are two schools of Chinese kung fu. Equal in significance to its Shaolin cousin, Wudang Wushu has been a household name in China since antiquity. It is a subject of Chinese legends and folklore. You would read a lot about it in Chinese literature. Today a number of Wushu academies offer instruction in the art at the town of Wudang. Wushu enthusiasts from both home and abroad get together in these schools.




Fangxian is a site I would recommend to tourists in Shiyan. To experience nature, a tourist would not miss it. Fangxian is just next to Shennongjia. Forests everywhere, the county is titled Hometown of Chinese Mushroom. You could also taste delicacies from the mountains—wild vegetables picked from nature.


Close to the county town lies a hot spring. All year round the water temperature is suitable for bathing. The mineral-rich thermal spring water proves to be of benefit to human skin.


Another beauty spot that Fangxian has to offer is the Savage Valley. Legend goes that folks there saw a yeti-like creature in the last century. It is a deep valley, with waterfalls and cascades, and even virgin forests. My family backpacked there some years ago in the summer, and it was an enjoyable trip. We followed a trail running along the bottom of the vale, wading in the streams and strolling in the shade of the woods, accompanied by the sound of water gushing down slopes and cliffs.


Foreign nationals are denied access to the county, however.


Fossilised Dinosaur Eggs

significance of yunxian in prehistoric human activity 

Clusters of fossilised dinosaur eggs were found in Yunxian last century. Visitors to Shiyan would not miss this place of geological interest. Also Yunxian is a place of mystery. The town, located on the river Hanjiang, was the seat of government of the part of China called Yunyang throughout Chinese dynasties. Human skulls excavated from a hillside in Yunxian are proved to date back to an earlier time than those unearthed at Zhoukoudian, Beijing. In a Chinese history textbook for secondary school, Yunxian is a spot of significance on the map of primitive human activities on the oriental land.


Water Diversion Project


The city of Danjiangkou was historically known as Junzhou, a famous town on the river Hanjiang. The old town was submerged because the Danjiangkou Hydroelectric Power Station was built where Junzhou was. Named Danjiangkou, a new town has been built below the dam. Danjiangkou literally means the mouth of the river Danjiang, for it is where one of Hanjiang’s tributaries, Danjiang, feeds the bigger river.

djk reservoir 

The lake behind the dam is a paradise-like experience if you take a cruise on it. At some point, you would find yourself encompassed by an immense body of bluish water, as if you were in the Pacific Ocean. One scenic spot is thus named Mini Pacific. The water quality is superb, and the lake teems with fish. The reservoir is said to be the largest artificial fresh-water lake in Asia.


The city of Danjiangkou is well known in China because it is where China’s Water Diversion Project starts its middle route. Water in the lake behind the dam is channelled up to North China to ease a water shortage keenly felt in that part of the country.




The city borders Henan Province on the east, Shaanxi on the north, and Chongqing on the southwest. Therefore the diet is heavily influenced by its neighbouring provinces. You would not find classic Hubei-style cuisine here. In Yunxian and Danjiangkou, noodles and other flour-based foods are a staple. In the western and northern counties, food is more of the Chongqing style—hot and spicy. Also vinegar is used in various dishes. Generally speaking, food in the east of the area is less interesting than that in the west. Folks in Zhuxi are said to have the best cooking to offer.




In the countryside traditional houses are of one storey, made of adobes and wood, roof covered with tiles. In the past few decades, a large proportion of traditional bungalows have been knocked down and replaced with two-storey brick-and-mortar structures. Housing has got more comfortable, and sanitation has been bettered very much as a result of improvements in toilets and sewerage.


In the city and county towns, the majority of families dwell in tower blocks, each occupying a flat.




In the city proper, you would hear Mandarin spoken on the street. The dialect is not a typical Hubei variety. On the whole, natives here speak a dialect very close to the Henanese version. However, I can pick up subtle nuances of each accent in the region. People from Yunxian and Danjiangkou talk more in the Henanese way. Those from Yunxi sound like their neighbours in Shaanxi. Naturally, in the western counties the speech takes on many features of the Chongqing vernacular. If you have no trouble with Mandarin, then you should have an easy time with the tongue here, for it comes across as pretty close to Standard Chinese.




There is a long distance between the city and the provincial capital, Wuhan, which boasts a large number of Chinese universities. In Shiyan itself, four institutions of tertiary education merit a mention.

wudang architecture 

Hubei University of Automotive Technology specialises in the discipline of auto manufacturing. It trains technicians and engineers needed in the auto field. The school used to serve China No. 2 Auto Maker. Now it recruits its freshmen from around the country.


Hubei University of Medicine recruits its students from around the country, too. It collaborates with the largest medical centre in North-western Hubei Province—Taihe Hospital. The school has expertise in some branches of medicine like anaesthetics. Of course its students can choose from a full range of medical courses available in most Chinese medical schools. A nursing institute was founded a decade ago and has been very successful ever since. Some disciplines offer master degree programmes.


Hanjiang Teachers College prepares teachers for the area’s secondary education. The school has been relocated twice. It was established in Yunxian in the 1970s. In the early 1980s it was moved to the city of Danjiangkou. Now it has been relocated to the city proper. The school offers associate and undergraduate degree programmes in Chinese Language and Literature, English Language Education, Mathematics, and others. Most of its graduates fill vacancies in primary and secondary schools of the region.


Hubei Industrial Polytechnic has been flourishing in the past two decades, thanks to the government’s advocacy of vocational education. Enrolled from around China, its students take a series of vocational courses from catering skills to automation.


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