Zhengzhou, China

Close to the south bank of the Yellow River, ZHENGZHOU lies almost midway between Luoyang in 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. Excavations have revealed bronze foundries, bone-carving workshops and sacrificial altars, though there is little evidence of any history above ground except a stretch of the old city walls. Nowadays Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan Province, though this owes nothing to its past and everything to a position astride the meeting of the north-south (Beijing to Guangzhou) and west-east (Xi'an to Shanghai) rail lines. As probably the most important rail junction in China, it has a population of more than three million - and the industry to match. As an archetypal post-1949 boom town, Zhengzhou makes up in vitality what it lacks in beauty. The modern city is basically a business and transport centre, with no major tourist sights, but at least there's a good range of hotels and restaurants, fortunate as the place is difficult to avoid if you are travelling in central China. From here, Kaifeng and Luoyang are easily accessible, and you can take bus trips to Song Shan.
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