This is part two of my adventures in Henan Province when I visited the ancient capital of Anyang to see the Sheng Oracle Bones. Click here to read about my day in Zhengzhou. Stay tuned for more weekly updates of my trip!
Anyang in Henan Province is a small town almost at the borders of Shanxi and Hebei provinces. Originally, I wasn’t going to visit, even though it’s an ancient capital with lots of amazing history because it was so far north but I’m so happy I made it work. I think it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area.
I arrived in Anyang on Tuesday afternoon on a highspeed train from Zhengzhou and took an unlicensed taxi (which I almost immediately regretted because I paid twice as much as a normal taxi would have been) from Anyang East Railway station to where my hotel, Meitu Youth Hostel*, was supposed to be, according to the map.
Of course, the hotel was not there. Fortunately, Booking.com lists the phone number of the owner, so a woman at the location was able to call the guy who owned the hotel, who arrived on a motorbike and invited me to hop on the back. (Side note: because I was planning on doing a lot of traveling, I brought my backpacking backpack, which, while heavy to carry, was much easier to use when navigating trains and, in this case, riding on the back of a motorbike).
The actual location of the hotel was much nicer, and actually a lot closer to the main site I wanted to visit, Yin Xu / the Yin Dynasty Ruins, which is the reason people travel to Anyang.
The hotel was in a 2-bedroom apartment with four bunk beds in one room. When I booked, Booking.com said, “hurry up, there are only four beds left at this price.” This ended up being pretty funny because I was the only one staying there.
Tuesday afternoon: Yuan Shih-Kai Mausoleum
I got in too late on Tuesday to visit Yin Xu, which really deserves a full day if you have it. The hotel owner looked at the Trip Advisor recommended sites with me, and told me what was good to see and what wasn’t. (Mashi Manor, for example, is listed as number 5 on Trip Advisor for Anyang. The hostel owner gave that a “meh”.) He told me to go to one after dark to visit the night market – more on that later.
The owner took me to the Yuan Shih-Kai Mausoleum, a general’s tomb that is only about 100 years old, and modeled after General Grant’s tomb. (RMB 35 entrance fee; open between 8am and 5:30pm; takes about an hour to visit).
Tuesday night: Anyang Night Market and Wenfeng Tower
From there, I took a bus to the city’s main temple, the Wenfeng Tower of Anyang. If you have time during the day (it’s open 8am to 6pm), you can pay the entrance fee to go into the location, but I was able to see it just walking around the block. It’s walking distance from the city’s bell and drum tower and night market, where I got some noodles. After the sun went down, I decided to walk back to see the temple at night, which was in the direction of my hotel.
My plan was to have an early night so I could be up bright and early to visit the sites I wanted to see – my train to Kaifeng, stop 3 on my trip, left at 4pm on Wednesday, so I needed to be efficient if I wanted to see everything. However, I saw an outdoor restaurant serving beer and thought I’d pick up a pint since it was a nice night. The waiters asked if I wanted a big beer or a small beer. I figured a small beer would be 330 ml and a big beer would be 500 ml (about a pint) or 750 ml. However, when it came, it was a full 1.5 L, for all of 35 RMB (about US $5).
Not being one to step down from a challenge, I settled in and after it got dark enough, the bar set up a projector and showed Pacific Rim 2, in English with Chinese subtitles. I finished most of the beer and the movie before deciding to call it a night and catching a cab back to the hotel.
Wednesday Morning: Yin Xu sites
I still made my wakeup call and walked the 1km from the hotel to Yin Xu. There are two sites that you visit when you go here. The first is called the Yin Dynasty Ruins. You’ll buy a ticket here for RMB 100 (about US $15). This ticket will get you into the main site, the museum at the main site, and then the Royal Cemetery (which I believe is this Trip Advisor link). There is a free bus that links the Yin Dynasty Ruins to the Royal Cemetery.
You can easily spend a full day at the Yin Dynasty Ruins. I, unfortunately, only had a morning to hit up both.
The ruins are the remains of the Shang Dynasty (approximately 1600-1050 BCE) capital that were located here. The Shang Dynasty is important because it’s the first one that we have contemporary knowledge of. That is, we have historic artifacts dating from this time. We only know about the earlier Xia dynasty because people in later eras wrote about it, so it is considered legendary.
The most important artifact we have of the Shang Dynasty are the Oracle Bones that were discovered at Yin Xu. There are nearly 80,000 different tortoise shells, ox bones, and other types of bones that were discovered in the sites here. The reconstructions of the sites just have piles and piles of the things. I was incredibly lucky to be able to see some (I think original) bones in the museums I visited. (Note: the sites and the museums were impressive, but there’s a possibility that a large part of what I saw was not original).
The Oracle Bones from Anyang are the earliest versions of Chinese writing that we have. Many of the characters on the bones are very similar, if not the same, as the characters people use today. People would carve questions on the bones or shells asking about the weather, farming, health, or other militaries. The bones were then heated up until they cracked, and a diviner would interpret the cracks and carve the answers to the questions on the other side of the bones.
After I finished at the main site at Yin Xu, I took the free bus to the Royal Cemetery, where other tombs were discovered and excavated. Some of the earliest excavated tombs were filled in and surrounded by hedgerows. Others were dug out and covered with glass so you could walk over to see the animals and people that were sacrificed. Some of the bigger tombs let you walk around them. They had a picture, but not even a reconstruction, of an elephant that was discovered in one of the tombs, suggesting that the climate 3,000+ years ago in Anyang was much warmer and more humid.
Wednesday Afternoon: Chinese Characters Museum
The Royal Cemetery was a bit off the beaten path so I took the shuttle back to the main site and from there grabbed a taxi to the Chinese Characters Museum. I loved this museum and was so happy that I was able to take the time to visit.
hinese written language, beginning with the Shang Oracle bones and ending with Chinese word processing computers. One of the special exhibits discussed creating the written languages for each of the minority ethnic groups in China.
The museum told the history of the C
Unfortunately, my time in Anyang was short lived and I had to get my bag to catch my train to Kaifeng.
A taxi driver recommended that if I had an extra day in Anyang, I could visit the Taihang Mountain Grand Canyon, in Linzhou, the next city west. Even though I didn’t have time that day, I’ve definitely put it on my list for my next visit north.
Visit my Photo Gallery to see all my pictures from Anyang!
Getting to and from Anyang
Anyang does not have an airport, so you can either take a train or bus into one of its two railway stations. The highspeed station, Anyang East, has several trains running every day to and from Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province. Anyang East is a good 20-minute drive from the city center.
Anyang Train Station is in the middle of town but only has slow trains. Trains from Beijing can take 3.5-4 hours to Anyang Train Station. My train to Kaifeng from Anyang was scheduled for 3 hours but took 4. There are also buses that run from Zhengzhou to Anyang.
I recommend using Kayak.com, Google Flights, and Trip.com* to find the flights and trains that are most convenient for your trips around the region.
Getting around Anyang
Unfortunately, I did not see any dockless bikes that I could take around the city. Buses only cost RMB 1. Both Google and Baidu Maps are fairly up to date with public transportation directions. If you’re in a rush, I recommend taking DiDis (China’s version of Uber). Most of the city center area is fairly compact and walkable. When taking buses or taxis, it felt like driving around the city took longer than it should for the distance.
Addresses of Places I visited
Meitu Youth Hostel*: Huanyuan Apartment, 270 Tiexi Road, 455000 Anyang, China; however, this was not the address of the actual hostel (possibly because of tax reasons? Who knows)
Yuan Shih-kai Mausoleum: Huanshang Village, Anyang, China
Wenfeng Tower: Within Wenfeng District, Wenfeng District, Anyang 455000, China
Bell and Drum Tower: Middle section of North Main Street, Wenfeng District, Anyang 455000, China
Yin Dynasty Ruins: Xiaotun Village, Wenfeng District, Anyang 455000, China
Chinese Character Museum: East Section of Renmin Avenue, Yindu District, Anyang 455000, China
* Disclosure: these links are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a reservation.