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Jimingyi Post Station
2006-02-10 11:57:12

Text / photos by Li Fengfeng                                                        (Click on the thumbnails for larger pictures)

Jimingyi, also called Jimingshanyi, is one of the most famous postal stations in Chinese history. It is situated in Huailai county, Hebei province, on the north side of the Yang River and at the foot of Jiming Mountain. It is about 140 km northwest of Beijing, a 2-hour drive via the super-highway towards Zhangjiakou. It is one of the many wonderful daytrip destinations near Beijing. Jimingyi is noted for its extensive history, well-preserved ancient residential houses, undeveloped ancient township, and the biggest post-house in China to date.
Jimingyi's history dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). In 1219, Genghis Khan, the great leader of the Mongolians, implemented a post road and built a postal station -- Jimingyi -- midway between Beijing and the northern town of Xuanhua. Eighty percent of the architecture in Jimingyi is from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The oldest construction is Ningyong Temple, dating back 800 years. In 1913, after the Government of Beiyang repealed Jimingyi and enabled a new postal system, the oldest postal station in China ended its historical role and became a memorable Chinese town.
The Origin of Postal Stations

Postal station was the lifeline of the country throughout Chinese history. In the past, horses were used to convey authoritative information. Postal carriers who delivered these messages rode the horses to their destinations. Because the physical strength and distance that horses can run is limited, postmen had to change mounts midway in order to complete the distance of hundreds of kilometers. The midway location was called the post-house. Gradually, simple post-houses evolved to be towns, where officeholders and merchants could settle and recuperate. At the same time, a post- house could serve as a protective fortress.

My Trip

On January 11th, 2005, my family embarked on a trip to Jimingyi, the biggest and oldest postal station in Chinese history. Driving along the highway from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, after passing through the Tunnel of Badaling then across Badaling Mountain, we finally spotted Guanting Lake. There a strange mountain loomed up through the mist -- Jiming Mountain, like a volcano standing alone in the distance. About half an hour down the road, we saw the signpost leading to the entrance of Jimingyi. Turning in and following the route that drew us closer, we finally reached the auburn-soiled, peaceful and venerable Jimingyi Town.
Jimingyi, with a 2330-meter perimeter wall forming a square, has the chessboard construction layout of a typical ancient Chinese town. There are two gates, facing east and west. We drove in through the east gate and found a barnyard where we could park our car. To our surprise, there was not even a ticket office, meaning anyone could visit this historical town for free. We climbed the ancient steps to the top of the wall to get a panoramic view of the old city. Besides the traditional grid layout, the town also has a complete surviving ancient military defense system. The whole town is encircled by rampart fortifications about 1 meter wide and 12 meters high. There are two towers standing imposingly at the east and west gates. Unfortunately, the ancient constructions 

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