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Two days in Heqing (鹤庆县): discovering the ethnics minorities in China

Heqing (鹤庆县) is a charming small town in Yunnan, China. Discover the hidden gems and cultural wonders that make spending a few days in this tranquil locale worthwhile.

heqing pear trees bloom yunnan

This article discusses another off-the-beaten-path corner of Yunnan, one of China’s most fascinating provinces. After visiting Dashanbao and Luoping, it’s time to explore Heqing, one of those places never mentioned in the travel guides.

How to get to Heqing, and when it’s the best time to go

heqing yunnan

Heqing is located halfway between Dali and Lijiang. It can easily be reached by train (you can book your ticket here) or by plane. Lijiang Airport is closer to Heqing than to Lijiang.

If you plan to visit Dali and Lijiang, Heqing can be a good alternative to avoid the hordes of Chinese tourists for at least a few days. Heqing is geographically located on a plateau, like most of Yunnan, and is characterized by warm summers and cold winters. The climate is fairly dry and rarely rains during the year. The rainiest months are in summer.

The best time to visit Heqing is spring, around the second half of March, when in the nearby town of Qifeng (奇峰), you can see over 20000 pear trees in full bloom.

Traveling around China (here’s my guide) is relatively more difficult than any other country. This is especially true in places like Heqing, where no one can speak English, and most of the local people can’t even speak Mandarin; they speak local dialects. That’s why I recommend using a local travel agency.

Things to do in Heqing

bai qifeng

Most of the population of Heqing belongs to the Bai ethnic minority, one of the several ethnic groups in Yunnan. Visiting this small town is a good opportunity to learn more about them and to see the differences between the Bai and the Han (the largest ethnic group in China). You can do other things in this town and the surrounding area.

Heqing Qifeng (奇峰) pear flower festival

minority tibet

The local authorities invited me to the first festival in Qifeng to celebrate the pear blooming season, and I gladly accepted. The festival was held around mid-March, and the program included dancing and singing by some of China’s ethnic minorities.

As often happens in areas like this, I was the only foreigner, and the locals were friendly and welcoming. Here are some of the pictures I took during the festival:

Spending time walking in the countryside surrounded by beautiful scenery is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about China. But that’s exactly what you can do in Heqing.

Relaxing in one of the many parks

There are several nice ponds around Heqing. The biggest ones are the Yellow Dragon Pond and the Black Dragon Pond. The Yellow Dragon Pond has a footbridge that stretches over a part of the lake and is peaceful.

Furthermore, TNC has worked hard to create a natural reserve in one of the wetland areas in Heqing. More than 8000 birds come to this small town every year during winter.

Exploring the countryside

heqing farmers

Walking around, you’ll see how most Chinese people live: working hard in the fields for many hours daily. Men and women alike have tough lives, and I’m sure you’ll return home appreciating the comforts we enjoy a bit more.

Visiting the Heyang Temple

heyang temple heqing 1

When I visited the temple, it was still under construction. I guess it should be finished by now. It’s located on a hillside, and the scenery is beautiful and peaceful.

A visit to one of the several silver workshops

heqing silver smith

One of the cliches about China is that everything made in this country has poor quality. While this is usually true, in Heqing, you can find many incredibly talented silversmiths. They can create beautiful teapots made of silver or gold. The prices are not cheap, though.

Final considerations

temple heqing 1

I can say that I liked Heqing, and it was a nice surprise. It’s certainly not as famous as the nearby Dali, Lijiang, or Shaxi Old Town, but this does not mean it’s not an interesting place to visit. It’s not a tourist destination, so it’s still authentic. People are very kind, and even a few hotels can accommodate foreigners.

interview in china

Before visiting China, get a good VPN to access censored websites like Google. I use this VPN.

If you decide to visit Heqing, you will certainly be welcome and if you arrive at the right time you might even end up on a local TV like me…

Here are some of the pictures I took in Yunnan. Here is my travel guide to Jiangsu Province.

Here is an interesting post about TNC’s conservation efforts in China.

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