Li Shixi is a wellknown and popular tour guide in Qikou. MA LIMING / FOR CHINA DAILY
A former transshipment hub for Shanxi merchants, Qikou is now a renowned attraction in Shanxi. MI LIMING / FOR CHINA DAILY
A live show called Dreamy Qikou made its debut on July 3 in Qikou in Linxian county, Shanxi province, showing how the ancient town achieved prosperity in different historical periods.
Qikou, by the Yellow River in the west of Shanxi, used to be a military stronghold a millennium ago because of its strategic position in defending against the invasion of nomads from the north and west.
It reached another peak in prosperity during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties as a transport hub for the renowned Shanxi merchants.
It is said the Shanxi merchants dominated commercial circles for more than five centuries by trading with regions in North Asia and Europe.
Qikou, which literally means "port by a torrential river", is located on the eastern bank of the Yellow River.
In the past, Shanxi merchants used the Yellow River as a channel to transport cargo.
However, cargo ships were often disrupted by the 500-meter-long Qikou Torrent, which has a height of more than 10 m.
To solve the problem, a transshipment port was developed in Qikou. Receiving more than 150 ships a day at its peak, Qikou had become a transportation hub for Shanxi merchants.
Home to more than 400 companies during that period, Qikou was called the "No 1 town by the Yellow River".
Nowadays, with highways and railways taking over from the Yellow River as the major means of transport, the town has developed into a destination for tourists.
Major attractions in the town include well-preserved historical residences, commercial properties, piers and temples.
Local resident Li Shixi, 64, is said to be the No 1 tour guide in the town.
The elderly man can be easily recognized among all the tour guides because of his unique dressing style. He usually wears a black, handmade jacket, with a white scarf on his head and a copper tobacco pipe in his mouth.
Li got his fame from his familiarity with the town's history.
According to Li, today's Qikou is only one-third the size of what it was a century ago.
Despite this, Qikou still retains its ancient style, with most of its old structures remaining intact.
Li said the Black Dragon Temple, which was dedicated to the river god, is a must-see attraction in the town.
"There were a lot of shows on the stage in the temple in the past. People hired folk opera troupes to perform when they held celebrations for the river god or sent off their relatives to do business overseas," Li said.
He also reminded people of the stone, wooden and brick engravings on the old buildings, saying that there are all rare artifacts that can be seldom seen in other places of the country.
Foreign Affairs Office of the People's Government of Shanxi Province
Address:International Building, No.366 Yingze Street, Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China | Post Code:030001