Xuzhou is a relatively small city of about 2.5 million people that is situated at the half-way point between two major Chinese metropolises, Shanghai and Beijing. It is also a major transportation hub between several other cities as well. Originally sometimes translated to Suchow, it is formerly romanized as Xuzhou – but be sure not to confuse it with Suzhou, a city that sits just outside Shanghai. This city boasts a climate with cool winters, crisp and breezy autumns, and sultry summers, so travellers are sure to experience all four seasons during their stay.
In ancient times, this city was called PengCheng, originally built before 500 B.C and it was captured and re-captured throughout Chinese history, even functioning as the capital for several centuries. The first emperor of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – A.D. 220), Liu Bang, was even born in Xuxhou. Over the next millennia the city developed as a prosperous riverside community, expanding in industry and population, though this faltered when the ancient Yellow River shifted course. The original channel of the Yellow River, now covered with sediment, bisects the city. When you visit Xuxhou, you are stepping into an integral part of early Chinese history, which can be further explored at local museums and historic districts.
Things to Do
China is a massive country rich in culture that changes as you travel through different cities, and Xuxhou provides an interesting variety of activities to suit any sort of traveller.
Han Dynasty Stone Carvings Museum: For those who enjoy the pursuit of understanding history and expanding their knowledge, this museum is sure to delight as it offers a range of information and artifacts about the city’s rich ancient and modern history. The main feature of this museum is the Miniature Terracotta Warriors, a full (yet miniaturized) replication of the Terracotta warriors that were excavated in Xi’an, China. There are three pavilions that feature the three-foot tall statues under varying stages of excavation. There are even replicas sold to the public if you want to take home a piece of the experience (or offer one as a gift to your friends and family back home).
New Yellow River: Take a casual stroll along the New Yellow River and find yourself completely immersed in the local culture. Along the banks of the river, you can have your fortune told, purchase local specialties such as raw tobacco, and eat delicious Chinese food at a local restaurant. Don’t worry if you don’t see a menu, since many small restaurants rely on communication to relay the foods that they offer. Feel free to ask if they offer certain foods, or point to other tables in the restaurant with delicious looking foods you would like to try. After you eat, you can take a break to watch and listen to the travelling musicians who play on traditional instruments.
Yunlong Mountain and Yunlong Lake: These natural regions, translated as Cloud Dragon Mountain and Lake, are picturesque sites perfect for the adventurous and outdoorsy visitor. The mountain, the second tallest mountain in the region, sits at 142 meters above sea level, and the surface is covered in dense, beautiful forests. It is topped by nine dragon-like peaks which are surrounded by clouds year-round. Yunlong Lake, on the other hand, offers a picturesque walk for those who are less interested in climbing a mountain, and along the way you will come across Chinese pagodas, artistic sculptures, a music pavilion, and even a sandy beach to get near the water.
Xuzhou is easily accessible by train, an affordable option to travel across China, and is only three hours from Nanjing, a much larger city. In addition, this city sits halfway between Shanghai and Beijing, and these are major cities which offer almost any international amenities, and historical sites are about 8 hours away by train in either direction. If you choose to take the train to Xuxhou, you exit the station to immediately find a KFC, McDonald’s, and a line of taxis waiting to take you directly to your destination.
Xuzhou is a relatively small city, and its downtown can be almost entirely explored by foot. However, if you are carrying heavy bags or simply hoping to get to your destination faster, an efficient bus system is cheap and easy to manoeuvre. Finally, larger minibuses are available to take you to neighbouring rural towns if you are feeling adventurous. A subway is currently under construction in the city, and the first three lines are projected to be completed around 2020.
Downtown Xuzhou is similar to many mid-size cities in China, and it offers plenty of large malls, interesting department stores, and even western restaurants if you are craving a taste of home. In these locations you can often find stores that specialise in local goods, as well as import stores if you are looking to find something, such as foreign foods, that you don’t want to go without during your stay in China.
Elsewhere in Xuzhou, be sure to try the famous local Sha Tang soup. This local delicacy is a mixture of eels, chicken, and vegetables, and was once declared delicious by an emperor, who mistaken thought the soup was called “Sha Tang”, a phrase that translates to “What? Soup”.
Even though this city is smaller than most there are still several bars, clubs, and discos that are waiting to be visited by locals and foreigners alike. Armani is the classiest nightclub around, and you can buy a bottled beer here for 30 RMB. They also offer bottles of Chivas whiskey if you prefer liquor. The atmosphere is both relaxed but you can still come here if you’re ready to party. Nearby clubs that are worth visiting are Red Bar, S.O.S., Virgin Bar, and the Catwoman Bar.
If you want to take a walk on the wild side, visit the seedier Taiwan Bar, which is downtown on Huai Hai Lu and Jie Fan Lu. Here you can sing public karaoke, a rarity in a country of KTV, and drink cheap vodka. Most bars and clubs in Xuzhou are welcoming and pleased to service strangers.