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  • The Great Wall of China
  • The world famous Terra Cotta Warriors of Xian are a must inclusion on all China tours.
  • Fishermen on the misty Li River at dusk - Guilin
  • People playing Taiji on the Bund - Shanghai
  • Protection around the Forbidden City - Beijing

China, being the 4th largest country in area in the World and the 4th most visited country by foreigners, provides so many reasons to spend time here. To mention a few, there is its incredible diverse landscapes, its rich historical heritage with 5000 years of culture, its mouthwatering cuisine, its emergence into the modern world and its friendly people. 

To understand China, it is necessary to look back at the influences of its long history. From the days of the feudal system came a united China under the first emperor to rule the complete country. This was followed by the many dynasties that ruled China up to as late as 1912 after which it became a republic followed by a Communist regime from 1949. 

An interesting fact is that 50% of the country’s population lives in rural areas even though only 10% of the land is arable. China also has some of the most populated cities to be found anywhere. The official language is Mandarin although Cantonese is spoken widely in the south east. 

Here are some other interesting facts about China. It is the oldest continuous civilization. There exist more than 50 different ethnic groups although 90% of the population is Han Chinese. China has the third largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites after Italy and Spain. There are 5 sacred mountains associated with Taoism and 4 with Buddhism. China has only one time zone spread over the whole country. It is called the “Middle Kingdom” as the Chinese once perceived their country as the centre of the world. Ice cream and pasta originated in China and were introduced to the western world by Marco Polo. The high speed trains which travel from Beijing to Guangzhou and Shanghai reach a speed of up to 430 kilometres/268 miles per hour.

 


China is also known for its martial arts, the practice of Tai Chi, its calligraphy and its scroll paintings. For shoppers, important items include porcelain, antique furniture, fine arts, jade, carpets and pearls.  

It is impossible to really sum up China in words. It is far preferable to visit the country and discover for oneself. A dilemma could be where to start and what to leave out.

The capital, Beijing is definitely the place to begin one’s journey. At its heart is Tian An Men Square, the world’s largest public square where one finds Mao Tse Tung’s mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People (the seat of government) and the entrance to the Forbidden City (also known as the Imperial Palace) which is a city-within-a-city with 9999 rooms spread over 250 acres. During the Ming and Qing Dynasty, 24 emperors made their home here. The name came from the fact that commoners were forbidden from entering. It has now been transformed into a museum that holds many treasures of Imperial families. A part of the Great Wall of China is located 80 kilometrers/50 miles north of Beijing. It is an amazing sight and was built originally to keep out warring invaders from the north. The Badaling section is the best preserved section of the Wall. One can walk along the wall in either direction as it snakes ahead through the mountains as far as one can see. The beautiful architectural masterpiece, the Temple of Heaven is one of the world’s most photographed buildings and is where the emperors used to worship dating back to the 15th Century. The Summer Palace in the suburbs of Beijing overlooks a tranquil lake on which is moored the only boat made of marble. The Ming Tombs, close to the Great Wall, are a complex of tombs in which emperors were buried.  The Hutongs in the older parts of the city are worth visiting as they are fast disappearing. They were once the original houses belonging to affluent families located in narrow alleyways hidden away from the rest of the city. In 2008, the summer Olympics were held in Beijing and one can view the landmark”Bird’s Nest” Stadium and the “Water Cube” Aquatic Centre. 

Shanghai is the most influential city in Eastern China economically, culturally, and technologically. It is the epitome of just how far China has evolved into the modern era. Some of the highlights include The Bund, the famous waterfront with its 1930’s era buildings including the renowned Peace Hotel and a great place just to stroll, Nanjing road, a major shopping street and very popular with visitors and locals alike, the Jade Buddha Temple with figures carved from white jade and the 16th Yu Yuan Gardens, a maze of colourful pavilions, ponds, stone dragons, trees, flowers and a zigzag bridge. Next to the gardens is Shanghai’s old town with its narrow alleyways and a local bazaar and shopping district offering traditional handicrafts. 

Xian is China’s ancient capital and one of its oldest cities. It is rich in history and features ancient ruins, museums, and cultural relics. Two highlights are the ancient perfectly preserved city wall which encircles the city centre around which one can walk the entire length and the famous Terra Cotta Warriors consisting of 8000 life size soldiers, 600 horses and over 100 chariots, all amazingly discovered and excavated from under the ground as recently as 1974.

Guilin is an extremely scenic city with magnificent landscapes. The region offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and is one of the most photographed areas of China. This includes places with fascinating names such as Elephant Trunk Hill, Seven Star Park, and Reed Flute Cave. However, the real highlight here is to take a cruise down the Li River and view the awesome limestone rock formations which rise dramatically out of the ground. The countryside seen on the cruise resembles a scene from a traditional Chinese painting.  The cruise finishes up in the quaint and picturesque town of Yangshuo

Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton, is the 3rd largest city in China. Situated on the Pearl River, it is 175 kilometres/108 miles north of Hong Kong. The major event here is the Canton Trade Fair which takes place each April and November. Other reasons to visit the city are the Canton Tower, a multi-purpose observation edifice and the 5th tallest freestanding structure in the world. Its “twisted” shape makes it fascinating architecturally. The attractive Chigang Pagoda is situated on the river and was built in 1619 of red sandstone.  Shamian Island is a wonderful place to stroll around with its collection of gothic, baroque and neoclassical architecture. Yuexiu Park consists of 3 artificial lakes and 7 hills and combines ecology with cultural relics. It houses the Guangzhou Museum which depicts the city’s history and the history of the Chinese Revolution plus an Art Gallery containing masterpieces of Chinese calligraphy. 

A city not far from Shanghai is Suzhou whose beauty is reflected in its ancient ornamental gardens containing pavillions, temples and rock sculptures with distinctive arrangements of trees and flowers and its network of atmospheric narrow canals together with its major waterway known as the Grand Canal. No wonder Suzhou is referred to as the “Venice of the East”. It is also the centre of the silk industry and a visit to a silk factory is a rewarding experience.

Also not far from Shanghai is one of China’s most scenic cities, Hangzhou. Marco Polo declared Hangzhou to be “the most beautiful and elegant city in the world”. West Lake is Hangzhou’s most famous, natural attraction surrounded by mountains and lined with historic and cultural sites. Add to this, its attractive parks, a tea plantation, restaurants, tea houses and shops and you will see why Hangzhou is so renowned. 

Kunming is situated in the southern part of the country and is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its ideal year round climate. A variety of historical sites, a fascinating city centre, good restaurants and beautiful scenery make Kunming an interesting place to visit.

Chengdu, in Sichuan Province home of the well known spicy cuisine, is more than 2000 years old and has retained its historical feel reflected in its many temples, old dwellings and teahouses. The older part of the city has narrow streets lined with scores of small restaurants and two-story buildings with balconies of sculptured wood. One major attraction here is a visit to the Panda sanctuary located outside the city.  The Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre imitates the rare Pandas' natural habitat in order that they might have the best possible environment for rearing and breeding.

Tibet is an autonomous region in China north east of the Himalayas. The capital, Lhasa is situated at 3500 metres/11,500 feet and is one of the highest cities in the world. It contains many significant Buddhist sites. The Potala Palace, former residence of the Dalai Lamas is a magnificent building perched on top of a hill towering fortress-like over the city. It is 13 storeys high and has over 1000 rooms. The 1300 year old Jokhang Temple is the spiritual heart of Tibet being the most sacred and important and as such, an important pilgrimage centre. The Sera Temple is home to around 600 monks in residence and has spectacular prayer halls and chapels. Probably the most important location in Lhasa is the atmospheric Barkhor Square where one can view colourfully dressed Tibetans be they locals, pilgrims or nomads from other parts of the country. 

The Yangtze River provides a different perspective of life in China. The section between Chongqing and Wuhan is the most picturesque stretch of the river with many cruise ships operating on a daily basis between the 2 cities offering usually 3 to 4 night cruises. Highlights apart from the gorgeous scenery in the Three Gorges are the small towns, ability to take trips along the tributaries and a visit to the Three Gorges Dam, the largest dam producing hydro-electric power in the world. 

The fabled Silk Route of China made famous by Marco Polo was originally a trading route from China through the Middle East to Europe. There is more than one route through China but the most popular route for visitors to cover in part or as a whole is the one known as the Northern Route commencing in Xian and heading west through Dunhuang with its Buddhist cave paintings, Turpan, the” orchard” of China and home to the fascinating Flaming Mountains, Urumqi, a somewhat isolated modern city and amazing Kashgar with its colourful Sunday market, something not to be missed.

All of the above covers a large part of China’s most interesting cities and regions but in many ways, there is so much more to discover. 

 

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China and Tibet Travel Information

At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy to navigate travel information section dedicated to China.

Learn about the history and culture of China, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about China's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering China for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our China tours today!

 

Extend Your Trip

After your China tour consider taking the time to visit other destinations. Goway offers exciting India tours and Thailand vacation packages plus a comprehensive selection of vacation packages in many other Asian countries.

 

 

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