Close to the south bank of the Yellow River, ZHENGZHOU (郑州, zhèngzhōu) lies almost midway between Luoyang to the west and Kaifeng to the east. The walled town that existed here 3500 years ago was probably an early capital of the Shang dynasty, and excavations have revealed bronze foundries, bone-carving workshops and sacrificial altars. Today’s Zhengzhou, however, is an entirely modern city, rebuilt virtually from scratch after heavy bombing in the war against Japan. Despite the resultant dearth of historical sights, and the industrial trappings inevitably springing from a position atop China’s two main rail routes, Zhengzhou is one of the most pleasant large cities in the Chinese interior, its broad, leafy avenues lined with shopping malls and boutiques. Kaifeng and Luoyang are easily accessible, and you can take a bus trip to Song Shan, but decent hotels and restaurants – and one excellent museum – mean Zhengzhou is worth a night’s stay.

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