The pull of the mysterious Orient has never been stronger than now, as more and more people are drawn to China. According to the World Tourism Organization, China is well on its way to becoming the world’s most popular tourist attraction in the not too distant 2020.
And why not! From ultra high-tech megacities to mesmerizing off-the-beaten-path destinations and everything in between, China’s versatility as a tourist destination and the splendor of its myriad sights and sounds will not fail to impress even the fussiest of travelers.
First-time visitors to this vast and diverse country, generally, head for the glitz and glamour of the big cities – the new face of China.
Experienced and adventurous travelers, on the other hand, spread out in other directions to soak in the natural beauty and awesome sights of this ancient land of the Ming, and the Yuan, and the Qing dynasties, to name a few.
Not far from the punishing pace of the gleaming cities and extending to the far reaches of this great country, awaits a different and vastly diverse China; a China of colossal palaces, ancient cliff-top temples, giant Buddha statues, beautiful pagodas, intricately terraced paddy fields hugging the hills and mountain slopes, and much more – it’s truly a painter’s dream come true!
Based on the aforementioned, we present to you the best of both Chinas, if you will, in our selection of seven top places to visit in this country of many surprises – almost all of them pleasant.
No matter how many times you have been to Shanghai or how well you think you know the place, be prepared for a shock. Shanghai has grown ten years for every year you have been away.
The Shanghai you return to is nothing like the Shanghai you remember from an earlier trip, even if it was just a year back. It’s this rapid growth that makes Shanghai one of the most amazing places on earth.
If you are seeking a super-city getaway, there’s no place like Shanghai, what with its state-of-the-art modernity, art deco architecture, and an ever-evolving skyline.
The Bund – The Bund is a famous 1500-meter-long waterside promenade with awesome city views.
Yu Garden – Yu Garden is a 16th-century garden featuring Ming dynasty pavilions, ponds, rockeries, and arched bridges.
Jade Buddha Temple – The Jade Buddha Temple is known for its large, ornate jade Buddha sculptures.
Shanghai Museum – The Shanghai Museum is a science and technology-themed museum, with educational programs, multimedia exhibits & theaters.
Longhua Temple – The Longhua Temple is a reconstructed 3rd-century Buddhist temple complex featuring towers, a library, and a traditional garden
Shanghai Zoo – The Shanghai Zoological Gardens is a storied zoo featuring thousands of native & exotic animal species, an aviary, and a reptile house.
Shanghai Natural History Museum – It is a museum on human civilization and animals, including ancient species including dinosaurs.
Shanghai History Museum – The Shanghai History Museum exhibits city’s past with photos & artifacts
Confucian Temple of Shanghai – The Confucian Temple of Shanghai is a rebuilt temple complex honoring Confucius, with pavilions, a towering pagoda, sculptures & gardens.
Gongqing Forest Park – The Gongqing Forest Park is a sprawling urban park with picnic & BBQ facilities, plus a kids’ playground & boat rentals.
Zhongshan Park – The Zhongshan is a serene park featuring a lush array of plantings, including roses & lotus flowers
Lèshān Giant Buddha
“The Mountain is a Buddha and the Buddha is the Mountain.” Nothing can be better said about the Lèshān giant Buddha than this local Chinese saying.
Near the city of Lèshān in the Sichuan Province of China, sculpted out of a cliff face, sits the colossal Lèshān Buddha.
Not only is it an important site for Buddhist pilgrims from around the world, this great ancient wonder – a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996 – attracts millions of tourists from across the world every year.
Construction of the 230-foot-tall statue, by far the largest and tallest of its kind in the world, was ordered by a monk named Hai Tong during the rule of the Tang Dynasty.
The project commenced in 713 AD and it took thousands of workers 90 long years of chipping away at the cliff face before it finally finished in 803 AD.
The overall immenseness of the statue can be gauged from the fact that 100 people can sit on the statue’s 30-foot instep, while the 79-foot-wide shoulders almost as big as a basketball court.
Skilfully embedded in the Buddha’s head are 1,021 coiled buns of hair. The ears are made of wood with a layer of mud decoration on their surface, each 23 feet long. The nose is 20 feet long while each eyebrow is 18 feet in length.
The Rivers Min and Dadu converge at this point and flow below the giant feet of the awesome Buddha, making it an even more spectacular sight.
A popular destination in the north-western part of the Yunnan Province, Lìjiāng is a fairyland of majestic snow mountains, gurgling streams, and crisp fresh air.
While Lìjiāng is modern and new, its twin town – the Lìjiāng Old Town – is brimming with history and attracts huge numbers of tourists every year.
The Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage site with a history dating back more than 1000 years. It is a quiet, charming destination with some of the best preserved ancient buildings and a rich Naxi culture.
The Old Town was once the center of Lìjiāng and still retains the original flavor from way back, including the architecture and organized system of bridges and waterways.
Beijing – a sprawling, vibrant, and constantly-evolving high-tech modern city – is the capital of China and the second most populous city in the world.
Formerly known as Peking, Beijing has transitioned into one of the world’s most modern cities and, needless to say, it’s a continuing metamorphosis.
However, the grandeur of its imperial legacy and its impressive socialist realism are evident from its historic landmarks, labyrinthine alleyways, ancient temples, and more.
The new has been made to blend seamlessly with the old and there lies the charm of this great world capital!
Some of the top Beijing attractions
The Forbidden City – The Forbidden City is a massive palace complex and museum featuring art exhibits, guided tours, and restaurants. It served as the Chinese imperial palace between 1420 and 1912 – right from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty.
Summer Palace – This lakefront palace complex is known for its ornate temples, works of art, and extravagantly landscaped gardens. It is a popular tourist attraction and recreational park in Beijing.
Tiananmen Square – Located in the heart of the Chinese capital, Tiananmen Square is a massive city square and meeting place of great historical significance.
Temple of Heaven – A renowned temple complex from 1420 AD featuring distinctive circular buildings set in a popular park.
Ming tombs – Tombs of 13 Ming Dynasty emperors are housed in this ancient complex also featuring impressive statues and enchanting pathways.
Beijing National Stadium – The Beijing National Stadium is a modern sporting complex with a seating capacity of 80,000. Also known as the Bird’s Nest, it was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. It is now used for concerts and sporting events.
Yonghe Temple – Built in 1694, the Yonghe Temple is an Ornate Buddhist temple complex housing bronze statues and incense burners.
Prince Gong Mansion – It is a grand, well-preserved, historic 18th-century mansion with courtyards and gardens.
Wangfujing – Located in the Dongcheng District of Beijing, Wangfujing is a famous, largely pedestrianized shopping area popular with locals and tourists alike.
Mausoleum of Mao Zedong – Also known as the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, it is the final resting place of Mao Zedong as well as a museum dedicated to the great leader.
Great Wall of China – We have covered this epic landmark separately.
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is the ultimate tourist experience – an absolutely awesome place to go to, notwithstanding some hassles you may experience reaching this wonder of the world.
Viewed from Badaling, the world’s largest man-made construction snakes majestically across misty mountains, rising and dipping with the contours of the terrain it traverses.
Original sections of the wall are believed to have been built in 888 BC, during an era when walls were made from compressed clay and palisades. It was built as a fortification against invasions from the north.
Further sections of the wall were completed during the reign of Emperor Shi Huangdi, thereby, creating an almost continuous wall that extends from Dandong in the east to Lop Lake along a gigantic arc.
Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces
The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, also known by the names Longsheng Rice Terraces and Longji Rice Terraces, are located in the southeast portion of the Longsheng County.
Layers and layers of terraces coil up the slopes, starting at the foot of the mountain and rising all the way to the top, landscaping the mountain slopes into layers that change dramatically with every passing season.
If you happen to visit the terraces in spring you’ll be treated to a view of layer upon layer of shimmering water which will change to layers of refreshing green rice shoots in summer. Ripening millets in autumn decorate the slopes with layers of and layers of gold, while during the winter months the slopes transform into layers of frost.
In addition to the scenic bonanza Longji affords, it is an excellent place to experience the culture of China’s ethnic minority, largely the Zhuang people and a scattering of Yao nationalities.
Xī’ān is the capital of the Shănxī province and one of the oldest cities in China. It is the oldest among the four great ancient capitals of the world and was once the starting point of the Silk Road – or you could call it the end of the Silk Road, looking from the opposite perspective.
It was a thriving capital under some of the most historically significant dynasties including the Qin, Sui, and Tang dynasties, among several others.
The archaeological sites from times gone by lie scattered around Xī’ān, making it an important destination for the historically inclined.
Some of the archaeological wonders include an excavated Neolithic village, many royal graves including the tomb of Qin Shi Huang and the world-famous Terracotta Warriors.
China’s march towards modernity is even evident in this ancient capital. Of late, Xī’ān has emerged as an important tourist hub and cultural center, what with its grand museums, ancient pagodas, an interesting Muslim Quarter and a surprisingly vibrant nightlife.
Source – Google, Remote Traveler