China has nearly 4,000 years of history and it has been the economic powerhouse of the world for the vast majority of that time. Often accredited with being the fulcrum for numerous scientific and technological advancements, China also has a rich, diverse culture and a wide range of magnificent geographical features.
A country full of history and beauty, so much to explore, here’s a brief guide to some of China’s best sights: –
The Great Wall of China is perhaps the most famous of China’s sights, it is a remarkable feat of human endeavour and is well worth its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stretching over 5,500 miles, spanning various geographical regions, it winds its way across northern China where invaders were a constant threat. The construction of the Great Wall continued until the end of the Ming Dynasty (1644).
50 kilometres from Beijing are the Ming Tombs, home to 13 Emperor’s Tombs of the Ming Dynasty. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was designed to strict Feng Shui and is accompanied by the “Spirit Path”; a 7km road lined by statues of animals and officials with the intent of guarding the tombs China’s silk road economic belt.
In the centre of Beijing lies Tiananmen Square; the largest city square in the world (440,000 m²). The square has been the site of many important historical and cultural events. The most recognisable adjacent buildings are perhaps the massive gates of Tiananmen to the north and Qianmen to the south.
Through Tiananmen gate is the Forbidden City, a grand palace which was home to 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. A designated World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO, the Forbidden City is one of the most important palaces in the world. The Palace Museum contains a great hoard of Chinese cultural and historical relics.
Just 15km from Beijing, the Summer Palace is a beautiful park previously used by the Imperial family as a summer retreat. A World Heritage Site, it is a natural beauty of hills and waterways, complimented by corridors, bridges, pavilions, temples and palaces.
Built in AD 1420, the Temple of Heaven is perceived as being the most holy of Beijing’s imperial temples. It is where the emperor would worship heaven and pray for a good harvest.
The Terracotta Warriors lie 2km east of the Tomb of Qin Shihuang. Over 2,200 years ago a triumphant army united China under the rule of emperor Qin Shihuang, consequently he ordered the creation of the terracotta army with the aim of helping him rule another empire in the afterlife.
The fortifications of Xi’an’s City Wall are amongst the oldest and most well-preserved of all China’s walls. Built during the Ming Dynasty the 12m high wall is the defence for part of the old city.
Standing at a height of 64 metres tall, Xi’an’s Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a sight sure to capture the imagination of many a traveller. The current pagoda stands 7 stories high, having been rebuilt several times because of earthquake damage since its original build around 680 AD.
A tribute to Shaanxi provinces glorious past, the Tang dynasty style Shanxi Provincial Museum is filled with more than 37,000 historical relics which depict the impressive imperial history of Xi’an and surrounds. Xi’an was the capital of China for 10 dynasties, spanning over 1,100 years from 221 BC to 904 AD.
Covering almost 5 acres of the centre of Shanghai Old City, the Suzhou style Yuyuan Garden is an exquisite mix of ponds, rockeries halls, pavilions, towers, bridges and halls (est. 1559).
Within central Shanghai is Nanjing Road; one of the busiest shopping streets in the world, it attracts around 1 million visitors daily and at 6km long, it is the longest shopping street in the world.
In central Shanghai along the western bank of the Huangpu River lies The Bund. A place to take in some great views and excellent architecture, The Bund is a pleasant walkway where many people take exercise in the mornings, but much more than that it is a symbol of proud Shanghai.
Built around 1918 in the style of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Jade Buddha Temple is an active temple with around 70 resident monks. Inside the temple resides the 1.9 metre high jade Buddha, encrusted with jewels.
“There is a paradise on the heaven, there are two on the earth, Suzhou and Hangzhou”, the birthplace of Wu culture and the city with beautiful scenery, Suzhou is simply filled with historical remnants and culture.
The awe-inspiring karst landscape of Guilin makes it one of the best natural sights in China. Located on the Li River, the city with beautiful landscape is surrounded by mountains with excellent rock formations and crystal clear rivers.
Deep in the Himalaya Mountains, at an altitude over 3,7000 meters, lies Lhasa; the capital city of Tibet. To the west of Lhasa is Potala Palace, previously home to many a Dalai Lama, this World Heritage Site is now home to a rich collection of precious sculptures, Buddha statues, scriptures, murals, antiques, and religious jewellery. It is an imposing sight at 117 meters high with walls averaging 3 meters thick.
Contained within Jianxi province is Jingdezhen, the “Porcelain Capital”; which has been producing quality pottery for over 1,700 years. The porcelain produced by this region are world-renowned for their quality and significant place in the history of ceramics, items from Jingdezhan often fetch the highest prices at auction.
Bordering Tibet to the north-west, Myanmar to the west, Laos to the south and Vietnam to the south-east lies the mountainous Yunnan province. Yunnan contains many natural and cultural sights, most notably UNESCO World Heritage sight Lijiang Village; giving a great insight into old China, the Naxi culture and unique water systems. In the surrounding area is Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, scenic parks, hiking trails, Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Yangtze River.