Chibei: An Irresistible City at the Foot of Changbai Mountain

Changbai Mountain (长白山) has been a mystery since ancient times. The mountain is located in the south-eastern part of the Jilin Province, China. The mountain range contains the highest peak in the east of the Eurasia Continent. The three major rivers in the north-east of mainland China, Songhua River (松花江), Tumen River (图们江) and Yalu River (鸭绿江), have their source in this region. And it has been the home to many Chinese ancestors since the later Paleolithic age. During the Qing Dynasty (清朝 1644-1911), Changbai Mountain was venerated as the Holy Mountain—a birthplace of kings and home of dragons. It was referred to as the Forbidden Holy Mountain, ruled by the imperial governments with access to the mountain restricted for 300 years, further adding to its mystery. Today this mystery has been revealed from the mist as we are now allowed to return. It is a magical place, an ecological paradise which people are reluctant to leave.

-Four seasons at the same time (Copyright: Song Yanwen)

The political, economic and cultural center of Changbai Mountain is Chibei (池北), an appealing ecological city that is livable and an ideal tourist destination. The charming and unique city is packed with the history and culture of this mountainous region. Chibei is 34km away from the North Changbai Mountains Scenic Area (长白山北景区). With convenient transportation, Chibei serves as the gateway to Changbai Mountain, and is an important tourist hub in north-east China. As a crucial ecological tourist city in the Changbai Mountain Characteristic Economic Circle (长白山特色经济环线), Chibei embraces tourists from every corner of the world.

The reason Chibei attracts so many tourists is because it is a city with a rich culture. Dating all the way back to the Tang (唐朝 618-907), Liao (辽朝907-1125) and Jin (金朝 1115-1234) Dynasties, people started living there, which is proved by the ruins of the ancient city Baoma (宝马) from the Tang Dynasty found in the north-west part of the city. Chibei today remains home to many ethnic groups, such as Han, Korean, Manchu and other nationalities. Different ethnic cultures met and blended with one another, giving birth to the distinct regional characteristics. Here you can get to know agricultural culture, fishing and hunting culture, wood torch culture and nomadic culture and experience the outgoing and passionate personalities of the people in north-east China. You can even feel the regional culture from the names of the streets, such as ’Changbai Mountain Street’ (长白山大街), ‘Heaven Lake Street’ (天池大街), ‘Beauty Pine Road’ (美人松路) and ‘Yangxing (staring at stars) Bridge’ (仰星桥) while walking around the streets and squares of the city.

-Car-free road system (Copyright: Liu Yanjun)

Today, the culturally diversified Chibei continues to enrich itself, seeing the establishments of over 30 associations and organisations, including the Changbai Mountain Literary Federation, Photographers’ Association, Artists’ Association and Calligraphers’ Association, which have attracted all kinds of artists to gather in this city. The Changbai Mountain Goddess of Mercy Temple (长白山观音庙), which echoes the Shaolin Temple (少林寺) in remote Songshan (嵩山), is under construction. In addition, over ten world-renowned universities, domestic and foreign, are planning to build branch institutions in Chibei, e.g. Repin College in Russia and the Academy of Art & Design from Tsinghua University. These establishments recognise educational advantages in Chibei for its high-end tourism management, culture, arts and health. ,. This unique city, blending traditional and modern cultures well, is poised to usher in its brighter future. Chibei is unequalled in terms of culture.

In addition to its unique cultural aspects, Chibei is also a city that respects nature. To counter the increasingly severe ecological problems in mainland China, Chibei has abandoned the development pattern in pursuit of economic growth rather than ecological health. It attaches the highest priority to protecting the environment and has paved the way for the development of unique urbanisation processes, developing itself into an ecologically friendly city embraced by the green of the Changbai Mountain Range.

As a result, what you can see in Chibei is blue sky, clear water and green mountains instead of the common factories in north-east China. Changbai Mountain, the Alps and the Caucasus are the three best-quality water sources in the world. Therefore, the water quality of Chibei has reached national top class status. Besides the water, the air quality there has also reached national top class level, making Chibei a natural oxygen bar far from smoggy cities, where you can enjoy the clean and pure air as much as you like. Chibei is worthy of the name ‘a land of idyllic beauty’ in modern China. Do not be surprised if you see high trees in the middle of a street, the direction of which having been modified for the purpose of making room for the trees, since respect for and protection of nature is one of the characteristics and a mindset of this city.

Because of these positive attitudes towards nature, Chibei has an incomparable natural charm. Tianchi (天池) water crosses the city through the Erdobai River (二道白河), and you can see people and wild animals getting along well with each other in the unique landscape belts along the river banks. When you watch mallards and mandarin ducks joyfully swimming in the river, you might also spot the national Class I protected sea duck, the Chinese merganser. In the Changbai region you will also find the rare tree species of ‘Beauty Pines’ growing in the city, which has, therefore, acquired the nickname ‘Hometown of Beauty Pines’. Each pine is given a unique identity number and is specially taken care of for the purpose of protecting these tall, elegant and rare trees. Changbai Mountain Museum of Natural History in the south of Chibei and Changbai Mountain Wetland Park, which is currently still under construction, will show you the natural beauty of this city and the mountain behind it in a more concentrated and vivid manner.

-Cold fern (Copyright: Municipality of Chibei)

-Wild blueberry (Copyright: Municipality of Chibei)

Chibei city boasts about having the only car-free road system of Jilin Province. This road system is made up of promenades and bicycle lanes around the city with a total length of 50km, connecting important natural and cultural spots within the city. When you walk or ride slowly through the city’s streets, you can even feel the time slowing down. All the pressure from high-intensity work and rapid-paced life will fade away. Walking freely in nature, you can unload your burden and roam across the green and enjoy the clean forest and water. When you taste the happiness of ‘slow life’ on the road, or while strolling around the Roller Skating Square (轮滑广场), the Wild Duck Lake Park (野鸭湖公园), the Sculpture Park (雕塑公园) and the stone inscriptions of hundreds of Chinese family names, you will be surprised to find that there are no traffic lights anywhere. Still the traffic is in good order since the roads are reasonably planned and the drivers have adapted to the relaxed atmosphere.

The picturesque scenery, peaceful life and leisurely atmosphere provide rich nutrition for love, making Chibei a city very well-suited for romantic encounters. It is common to see sweet couples, young or old, in Beauty Pine forests (美人松), on the banks of Bai River (白河) and beside Lover’s Bridge (情人桥). A series of love festivals and events were generated in this city, such as ‘Changbai Lovers’ Day’ (for the purpose of exploring the legendary side of this mountain regarding eternal love and emotional bond, this yearly festival is held in August and includes thematic activities like dating, wedding photography and honeymoon trips), and ‘Love for Lifetime’ Changbai Mountain Romance Journal, spreading the blessing of Changbai Mountain of love to everybody there.

Chibei is also a city of special flavour. Everywhere, the city is brimming with the smell of delicious food. Chibei District is a convergence of multi-ethnic food and catering businesses are highly developed. You can have a taste of Korean food, such as delicate and cool cold noodles, spicy cabbage and glutinous rice cakes; steaming hot food of north-east China, such as All in One Pot (一锅出), Dish Pig (杀猪菜) and Braised Dish (乱炖); and gorgeous and rich Manchu dishes, such as Eight Bowls (八大碗) made up of mustard fried tofu, brine shrimp egg tofu, grilled pork, burning frog, chicken mushroom vermicelli, pork with braised vegetables, imperial fish in toona sinensis and Nurhaci Golden Meat (阿玛尊肉). Chibei is worthy of the title ’food paradise’.

Chibei is also permeated with the fragrance of vegetables and fruits. The primitive forests around the city abound in characteristic fruits such as sorbs, wild kiwi, amur grape and blueberry, and nearly 200 kinds of green wild vegetables such as nut-tree mushroom, fern and aralia elata. In the harvest season, the city becomes full of appealing smells as street vendors are competing to show off their fresh products. Chibei is also suffused with the fragrance of herbs. In the local specialty stores across the city, more than 200 kinds of unique Chinese herbs collected from Changbai Mountain are ready for sale, including mountain ginseng (山参), boschniakia (不老草), rhodiola (红景天), gastrodia (天麻), reishi (灵芝), and schizandra fruit (五味子), all of which are rare health medicines in traditional Chinese medicine.

Chibei also brims with the smell of hot springs. The first hot spring of Changbai Mountain, Jvlongquan Hot Spring (聚龙泉温泉群) located in Chibei, is permeated with a slight smell of sulphur. Containing a great deal of sulphureted hydrogen and various trace elements, the hot springs has high medical value, especially to people with chronic diseases such as intestinal tract disease, skin disease, high blood pressure and heart disease. After enjoying the beautiful scenery and the delicious food, you can totally relax yourself both physically and mentally in the hot springs. Not only can you refresh yourself, but you can also get rid of disease and keep healthy. The inviting fragrance of this city is irresistible.

Chibei is a city full of potential. After years of exploration and research, policy makers have successfully solved the bottleneck problem that hinders the development of ecological towns. They decided to take advantage of the rich resources of Changbai Mountain to actively develop tourism, culture, the characteristic ecological resources and mineral water on the premise that the eco-system and environment are strictly protected. Moreover, Chibei District has won the titles of the Pilot Town of UNDP ‘Sustainable Towns of China’ Project, the ‘National Key Town’ of the 500 Comprehensive Reform Model Towns of China, and one of the First Model Towns of Characteristic Urbanization Construction of Jilin Province, gaining many advantages over other regions in China in terms of investment. Chibei is attracting entrepreneurs from every corner of the globe to do business here. The development potential of Chibei is immeasurable.

Chibei is a unique ecological city with rich, diverse cultural influences. Its unique combination of traditional and modern cultures and its deep respect for nature make the city a worthwhile tourist destination. At the same time, because of its continuous development and growth potential, the city is also very attractive to entrepreneurs. Chibei city offers an unequalled combination of natural charm and economic potential.

- Aerial view of Chibei City (Copyright: Geng Mingsheng)