Photo of the Week: Old Town Langzhong

Though perhaps more famous amongst travelers for cuddly pandas and fiery food, China’s Sichuan province is also home to some of the country’s most atmospheric restored old villages. Historic towns that have been around for thousands of years, once-great seats of empires from an era when current-capital Chengdu was simultaneously a distant memory and an unforeseeable future. Of these the most famous, and arguably the most beautiful, is the historic center of old town Langzhong (阆中).

A sea of slate rooftops stretching towards the Jiangling River on three sides and a row of temple-studded and pagoda-topped mountainous foothills just beyond, a visit to Langzhong is in many ways a step back into the atmosphere of China’s Warring States period (475-221 BC) and the architecture, costumes, and foods that defined the era.

Though the illusion is spoiled a bit by souvenir-sellers and modern coffee and tea shops during the daylight hours, a walk through the streets of Langzhong after dark is particularly atmospheric; locals stroll, musicians sing, and evocative old pagodas tower over it all.

The old-town of Langzhong night in Sichuan, China.

Langzhong is a fantastic place to relax during a trip through China, particularly after visiting some of Sichuan province’s more action/adventure destinations like Jiuzhaigou National Park. Combined with the wide range of restored B&B’s and traditional courtyard inns on the periphery of the Langzhong old town, it’s very possible to wander all day through the historic quarter without ever stepping foot into to the modern city that surrounds it.

There are plenty of historic sites, temples, and museums throughout the town; but many travelers will find it just as rewarding to simply walk the quiet back lanes or stroll along the riverside. The one temple not to be missed, for history-minded visitors at any rate, is the Zhang Fei Miao. Dedicated to the eponymous warrior / statesman of Romance of the Three Kingdoms fame, the local hero whose bones are enshrined here is still said to defend the city in times of great need. Even if his ghost doesn’t make an appearance during your trip, his face certainly will: Zhang Fei Beef (张飞牛肉) is a local delicacy, and packs of the dried treat are sold all throughout the province. A small slice of old town Langzhong to take home.