Culturally, China has one of the most rich histories of all civilizations that encompasses over 5,000 years. This is rich stuff for a traveler. A vast and extraordinary country spanning thousands of miles from the deserts in the west to the ocean on the east, China is also rich in breathtaking natural scenery. The following top 10 things are strongly recommended.
The Forbidden City, or Palace Museum, sits at the center of Beijing, directly north of Tiananmen Square. It was the imperial seat for the 24 Ming and Qing dynasty emperors from 1420 until 1912 when the last emperor, Pu Yi, abdicated. As the world's largest surviving palace complex, the Forbidden City is the ideal place to explore the imperial history and culture of China!
Built from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 square metres (7,800,000 square feet). The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
The Great Wall winds its way across North China streching over 4,000 miles (6,700km). Construction of the Great Wall began over 2,000 years ago, while the latest construction occurred after 1368 during the Ming Dynasty when the Great Wall became the world's largest military structure. In fact, the Great Wall is actually made up of a number of interconnecting walls spanning China that different dynasties and warlords constructed over the years to prevent the penetration of conquerors from the North.
Beijing, without a doubt, is the best place to take a Great Wall hiking. In Beijing you can visit many different sections of the wall which is one of the largest allures for visiting Beijing. Different sections of the Great Wall present different features and different scenery. Badaling and Juyong Pass are the most visited and most easily accessible part of the Great Wall. The scenery of the Mutianyu Great Wall is extremely beautiful in autumn while the section between Jinshanling and Simatai require more physical stamina to climb. The Water Great Wall Huanghuacheng as well as the miniature of the Great Wall Huangyaguan is becoming more popular with hikers do to the magnificent scenery surrounding these areas.
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The museum of the Terracotta Army is located in Xian, Shaanxi province. Discovered in 1974 when a local farmer was digging a well, the terracotta army, buried in 210 BC with the first emporer of the Qin dynasty, astounded the world with their artistry and sheer numbers. You'll never miss this breathtaking site while taking a Xian tour. The thousands of life-size figures have individually unique faces and hair and armor styles appropriate to their rank.
The terracotta army was constructed to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang, the founding emperor of the Qin Dynasty, and the emperor who united China. It is truly mind boggling to think that this amazing site was built so long ago by such primitive tools and only to guard a tomb. In 1987, this archeological treasure was added to UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage List.
Located in the south of China in Guangxi province, the amazing Karst mountain scenery can best be viewed from Yangshuo, a small town outside Guilin, a major city in Guangxi Province. Illustrating the 20 Renminbi (Chinese currency) note, the karst mountains are famously beautiful in China.
The best way to admire the amazing Karst mountain scener is to take a Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. It is the centerpiece of all Guilin tours, as well as one of the highlights of any China tour. This section of the Li River appears like a classic Chinese ink painting with its green hills, crystal water, verdant bamboo and clear water reflection. From Guilin to Yangshuo, the Li River gracefully flows over 83 kilometers and the banks of the river offer the most beautiful scenery. The great Tang Dynasty poet Han Yu vividly described the landscape as "the river winds like a green silk ribbon, while the hills are like jade hairpins".
Rising in the Tanggula Mountains in west-central China, the Yangtze River flows southeast before turning northeast and then generally east across south-central and east-central China to the East China Sea near Shanghai.
The Yangtze River along with the Three Gorges is a splendid scenic spot of unparalleled natural wonder, but this area has more than just natural beauty, it has amazing and ancient folk traditions as well. Best seen by tour boat down the Yangtze River, the Three Gorges Dam is a modern construction marvel. The dam is the world's largest as well as the world's biggest hydroelectric power station. The river itself is the world's third longest and the Three Gorges are the natural highlight of the Yangtze River Cruise.
Jiuzhaigou Valley is a nature reserve located in south western China's Sichuan province. A beautiful example of China's varied landscape, Jiuzhaigou is famous for colorful lakes and multi-level waterfalls and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
It is populated by a number of Tibetan villages so it is also a superb place to see and experience Tibetan local culture.Jiuzhaigou's landscape is made up of high-altitude karsts shaped by glacial, hydrological and tectonic activity. It lies on major faultlines on the diverging belt between the Qinghai-Tibet Plate and the Yangtze Plate, and earthquakes have also shaped the landscape.
The Potala Palace is located in the center of the city of Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is the religious center of Tibetan Buddhism and the former residence of the Dalai Lama.
Famous for its imposing white walls surrounding the inner red palace, the Potala Palace is perched on top of Marpo Ri Hill at 3,700 meters or over 12,000 feet. It is the main destination of any trip to Tibet. Visitors have never failed to be humbled by the amazing structure. It's simple, but grand exterior hides the exquisite interiors covered with beautiful frescos and priceless works of art. The Potala Palace was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1994.
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As a landmark of Shanghai, the Bund is located at the bank of Huangpu River in the Shanghai center. The Bund, meaning embankment, was historically the seat of Shanghai's most powerful businessmen in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Bund is a fabulous place to see examples of Shanghai's rich architectural history, illustrated by the HSBC Building, built in 1923 and at the time said to be the most luxurious building between the Suez Canal and the Bering Strait. There are a lot of buildings of different styles, such as the Gothic building, the Romanesque building, the Baroque building, etc. It is really an extensive architecture group. And the Bund is also called the Oriental Wall Street. The Bund at night is extremely fascinating.
Three hours outside Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is the Wolong Nature Preserve, the largest panda reserve in China. The giant panda, regarded as one of China's National Treasures, is on the verge of extinction. The center tries to ensure the Giant Panda species can continue to exist. Tourists can observe pandas in their natural habitat and can also help researchers feed and play with these beautiful and threatened animals.
See modern China - and Asia - at the cutting edge with a visit to Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region located in Southern China.
This amazing city is bustling and beautiful, glitzy and glamorous. With its beauty and diversity, Hong Kong has something for everyone and is an amazing shopping paradise. Walking down the Kowloon side promenade gives the traveler a view of some of the most beautiful modern architecture in China. Hong Kong is filled with history and beauty as its many museums and parks amply demonstrate. Hong Kong is a beautiful blend of western and eastern, ancient, and modern and no trip to China is complete without a stop Hong Kong.