| | | Why Travelers World?
 
 
 
China
 
China, (People's Republic of China), is situated in eastern Asia, bounded by the Pacific in the east. It has an area of 9.6 million square kilometers, or one-fifteenth of the world's land mass. Towering mountains and dramatic landscapes make up China's wealth - background scenery to the fall of dynasties, the rise of emperors and the turning of the revolutionary wheel. China isn't a country - it's it's own world. Frosm shop-till-you-drop metropolises to the epic grasslands of Inner Mongolia - with deserts, sacred peaks, astounding caves, and imperial ruins - it's a land of cultural and geographic schisms.
Beijing
 
The entire area of Beijing within the city limits is - in many ways - one great historic museum. The original city plan was divided in four. The innermost rectangle is the Forbidden City, now a museum and public park, but formerly the residence of the Ming and Qing emperors. The second rectangle forms the boundaries of the Imperial City, enclosing residences and parks for the former senior government officials. The outer rectangle forms the outer city with its markets and old residential districts. The Imperial Palace, lying inside the Forbidden City and surrounded by a high wall and broad moat, is probably China’s greatest surviving historical site. Dating from the 15th century, the Palace was home to a total of 24 emperors and, today, its fabulous halls, palaces and gardens house a huge collection of priceless relics from various dynasties. The surviving city walls are impressive monuments, as are the traditional hutongs, enclosed neighborhoods of alleys and courtyards. Other points of interest are the Coal Hill (Mei Shan), a beautiful elevated park with breathtaking views; Beihai Park, the loveliest in Beijing; Tiananmen Square, the largest public square in the world, surrounded by museums, parks, the zoo and Beijing University; the Temple of Heaven, an excellent example of 15th-century Chinese architecture; the Summer Palace, the former court resort for the emperors of the Qing Dynasty reconstructed in traditional style in the early 1900s after Western attacks, looking out over the Lake; the Great Wall (see below), the section at Badaling being some 72km (45 miles) from Beijing; and the Ming Tombs, where 13 out of the 16 Ming emperors chose to be buried. Two magnificent tombs here have been excavated, one of which is open to the public. Beijing is facing great investment in both tourism infrastructure and historical renovation due to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The World Heritage sites, the Peking Man ruins at Zhoukoudian, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and the Ming Tombs have been selected for restoration in the coming years.
 
The Great Wall
 
 
The Great Wall, built up in stages over 2000 years and said to be the only manmade structure visible from the moon, is a spectacular sight which should not be missed. Stretching for a distance of 5400km (3375 miles), it starts at the Shanhaiguan Pass in the east and ends at the Jiayuguan Pass in the west. The section at Badaling, built in stone and brick and dating back to the Ming Dynasty, is roughly 8m (26ft) high and 6m (20ft) wide.
 
Beyond Beijing
 
The Yungang Caves near Datong, west of Beijing, have awe-inspiring monumental Buddhist effigies carved into them. Equally impressive is the nearby Hanging Temple, clinging to a cliff, and the Yingxian Pagoda, China’s oldest surviving wooden pagoda. Beidaihe, a small seacoast resort with beaches, temples and parks, is a popular vacation area 277km (172 miles) from Beijing, favored by the ruling elite. Attractions include the Yansai Lake and Shan Hai Guan, a massive gateway at the very start of the Great Wall, as well as elegant colonial-era villas.

Chengde is the former summer retreat of the Qing emperors and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many temples and parks, including the remains of the Qing Summer Palace with its impressive Imperial Garden. The Eight Outer Temples, lying at the foot of the hills to the northeast of the Palace, include the architectural styles of the Mongolians, Tibetans and other subject peoples.
   
 
The Northern Provinces Xi’an
 
The capital of Shaanxi Province and often regarded as the true historic capital of China, Xi’an was once amongst the most magnificent cities in the world. For 13 dynasties, from the 11th century BC, the city was also the capital of China. It was the starting point of the ancient trade route with the West known as the Silk Road (see Silk Road section) and is now, after Beijing, the most popular tourist attraction in China. The city is most famous for the Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di, who first united China under the Qin Dynasty in 200 BC, and its terracotta figures - over 6000 life-sized Terracotta Warriors and horses buried along with the emperor. Many other tombs from the Han and Tang Dynasties are still unexcavated. Despite damage inflicted during the Cultural Revolution, there are still numerous tombs, pavilions, museums and pagodas to be seen, such as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda with its spiral staircase, and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda.
 
Beyond Xi’an
 
   
 
Luoyang, lying east of Xi’an and its historical twin capital, has a fine museum of treasures. The fifth-century Longmen Buddhist Caves are among some of China’s finest, lined with carved effigies and monuments. Kaifeng, east of Luoyang and a Northern Song Dynasty capital, has a Jewish quarter formerly home to indigenous Chinese Jews, the Xiangguo Monastery, the Iron Pagoda from AD 1049, Fan Bo Pagoda (c. AD 977), and other relics of ancient courts and poets.
 
Art centers
The village of Ubud is the center of Bali’s considerable art colony and contains the galleries of the most successful painters, including those of artists of foreign extraction who have settled on the island. Set in a hilltop garden is the Museam Puri Lukistan (Palace of Fine Arts) with its fine display of sculpture and paintings in both old and contemporary styles. Kamasan, near Klungkung, is another center, but the painting style of the artists is predominantly wayang (highly stylised). Other artistic centers include Celuk (gold and silver working), Denpasar (woodworking and painting) and Batubulan (stone carving).
 
Jinan
The capital of Shandong Province, Jinan is known as the ‘City of Springs’; these provide the main tourist attraction. The city also has Buddhist relics, parks and lakes. Of particular interest is the Square Four Gate Pagoda, the oldest stone pagoda in China. Outside the city, Mount Taishan’s 72 peaks make up a mountain park with ancient pine and cypress trees, spectacular waterfalls, 1800 stone sculptures and a kilometer-long mountain stairway known as the ‘Ladder to Heaven’.
 
Beyond Jinan
 
   
Qingdao is admired for its blue seas and abundance of trees and flowers and is a former Treaty Port annexed by Germany. Like elsewhere in Asia, the Germans brought breweries, creating China’s ubiquitous Tsingtao Lager in 1902, but also built the fine German Concession buildings; there are also attractive traditional areas. Laoshan, east of Qingdao, is a fine mountain region with a famous monastery, the Taiqing Palace. In Qufu, close to Qingdao, the Mansion of Confucius was home to the sage’s descendants, and the enormous Temple of Confucius, with its many pavilions, was a center for his worshippers. Today, the buildings store and display important historical records, art and cultural artifacts. Confucius’s tomb is in a cemetery just north of Qufu.
 
Far North-Eastern Regions
 
   
Shenyang was once an imperial capital. Remains from this period include the Imperial Palace and two interesting tombs. The North Imperial Tomb, about 20km (13 miles) from the city, is the burial place of the founding father of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty. Dalian is China’s third port. Formerly occupied by the Soviets, it is an airy and interesting bi-cultural city with some Russian architecture.

Hohhot (meaning ‘green city’ in Mongolian) is the capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and one of the most colorful cities in China, with unique local architecture including the Five-Pagoda Temple. Tours of the grasslands can also be arranged. Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province, is a Russian-style industrial city. Harbin is host to the annual Harbin Summer Music Festival and a winter Ice Festival of ice sculptures.
 
Far North-Western Regions
 
Lanzhou is an oasis on the Silk Road (see Silk Road section), and capital of Gansu Province, but the ugly city is chiefly noteworthy as a center to visit the 34 early Buddhist caves at Bingling Lamasery. The White Pagoda Mountain Park is also an attractive retreat.

Dunhuang, a 2000-year-old town on the edge of the desert, once an important Silk Road caravan stop, is famous for the Mogao Caves, some of the oldest Buddhist shrines in China and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These ancient murals and hand-carved shrines are a national treasure and represent a thousand years of devotion to Buddha between the 4th and 14th centuries. Some 500 exist today, and large areas of frescoes can still be seen. Also worth a visit when in Dunhuang are the Yueya (Crescent Moon) Spring, the Yang Guan Pass and the Mingsha Hill.

Turpan and Urumqi are situated in the far northwest on the edge of the vast deserts of Xinjiang Province. These Muslim cities, lying on the Silk Road, are well known for the distinctive Islamic culture of the inhabitants. Turpan has a distinct and well-preserved architectural character, and is surrounded by spectacular scenery and interesting sites, including two ruined cities. Turpan is also the hottest place in China, lying in the Turpan Depression, the second-lowest point on earth next only to the Dead Sea. Nearby are the Flaming Mountains, which glow brightly at sunset. Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The city is inhabited by people of 13 different nationalities, including Mongolian, Kazakh, Russian, Tartar and Uzbek. The majority of the inhabitants are Muslim Uygurs who speak a Turkish language completely unrelated to Chinese. Northwest of Urumqi, a few hours’ bus ride away, is the beautiful Tianchi (Heavenly) Lake, a clear turquoise-colored lake set in the midst of the Tian Shan range of mountains. Museums in both cities trace their fascinating histories.
 
Shanghai
 
   
This is one of the world’s largest cities and one of China’s most famous - more like New York or Paris than Beijing. Lying on the estuary of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) River, it is the center of China’s trade and industry. European-style architecture, traditional Chinese buildings and sleek modern developments all co-exist in this cosmopolitan metropolis. The Yuyuan Gardens date back over 400 years: although relatively small, they are impressive thanks to their intricate design, with pavilions, rockeries, ponds and a complete traditional theater woven together in an ornate maze. The gardens are reached via the Town God Temple Bazaar, a touristy but impressive warren of lanes and stalls. The French Concession area has quiet, characterful colonial parks and neighborhoods, while the Bund (a waterfront promenade) along the Huangpu River has the celebrated strip of Art Deco towers. From here, the dynamic new Pudong Development Area and the Oriental Pearl Tower can be viewed across the water. The city is paradise for gourmets with over 1000 restaurants serving over 16 styles of Chinese food.
 
Nanjing
 
Another former capital of China, Nanjing (meaning ‘southern capital’) is now capital of Jiangsu Province. The city lies on the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) River at the foot of Zijinshan (Purple Mountain). It abounds with temples, tombs, parks and lakes, museums, and monuments - foremost amongst them being the Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, founding father of the Ming Dynasty and the only Ming emperor to be buried outside Beijing. The Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum of China’s first president, Dr Sun Yat-sen, is also here. Other places of interest are the ruins of the Ming Palace, the Ming city wall, the Yangtze River Bridge with its observation deck, the Purple and Gold Mountains Observatory and the Tombs of the Southern Tang Dynasty, known as the ‘Underground Palace’.
 
Suzhou
 
This is one of China’s oldest cities, dating back some 2500 years. An old proverb says that ‘in Heaven there is Paradise; on earth, Suzhou’. Its riverside streets are reminiscent of Venice and there are many famous water gardens. There are over 400 historical sites and relics under the protection of the Government, such as the Blue-Waves Pavilion Garden on the outskirts, the Lion-Grove Garden which has rockeries resembling lions, the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Garden of the Master of the Nets. The Grand Canal and Tiger Hill are also worth a visit. There are numerous silk mills producing exquisite fabrics, and the local embroidery is an unparalleled art form.
 
Wuxi
 
This industrial and resort city on the north bank of Lake Taihu, some 125km (75 miles) west of Shanghai, has some celebrated lakeside parks and gardens. Yangzhou to the west, supposedly once governed by Marco Polo, has a fine poetic tradition of gardens such as the Xu Garden and others along the Narrow West Lake, and old merchant houses. To the southwest, on Huangshan Mountain in the southern Anhui Province, trees cling to breathtaking rocky precipices amongst seas of cloud and clear natural springs and lakes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site for its natural beauty and wildlife, the mountain has a cablecar linking the summit and base.
 
Wuhan
Wuhan spans the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) River. As the capital of Hubei Province, it is an industrial center. There are also Buddhist temples, lakes and parks, as well as the Yellow Crane Tower and the Hubei Provincial Museum, home to the famous Chime Bells, manufactured over 2400 years ago. Nearby in Danjiangou City, Wudang or Taihe Mountain houses an ancient building complex with temples, nunneries, palaces and pavilions. The Yangtze Three Gorges Dam project is the largest water conservation project in the world; it is located just outside Yichang City. Work has begun and it is due to be completed in 2009.
 
 
Chengdu
 
This booming capital of mountainous, distinctive Sichuan Province lies at the foot of the Tibetan plateau. Attractions include Tang Dynasty shrines, the house of the celebrated poet Du Fu, ancient parks and bamboo forests (the last stronghold of the giant panda), Buddhist temples and an ancient Buddhist monastery. Chengdu is a base for visiting Emei Shan, a famous mountain to which Buddhist pilgrims flock every year, and the holy mountains of Gongga and Siguniang. There is also the spectacular Grand Buddha of Leshan, a 70.7m- (225ft-) high colored sculpture carved out of a cliff, so enormous that 100 people can fit on its instep, with the Grand Buddha Temple and Lingbao Pagoda beside it. In the Jiuzhaigou Ravine in northern Sichuan Province, there is a vast nature reserve where giant pandas can be seen in their natural habitat. The six official ‘scenic spots’ among the snowy peaks include Shuzheng, with waterfalls and 40 lakes of different colors where swimming and boating are allowed. Further north, the concentration of mineral salts in the water at Huanglong (Yellow Dragon) nature reserve has created beautifully colored natural talpatate ponds and rock formations.
 
Chongqing
 
Located east of Dazu, Chongqing is perched magnificently above the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) River. A prosperous rather than beautiful city, it is a natural starting point for excursions to the Yangtze Gorges, whose most popular stretches are further east with poetic names like Witches Gorge and Shadow play Gorge. These natural wonders are due to be completely submerged by 2009 after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam. In Dazu County, the Dazu Rock Carvings represent the pinnacle of Chinese rock art.
 
Fuzhou
 
Situated in Fujian Province on the southeast coast opposite Taiwan, this beautiful city lies on the banks of the Min River. Dating back some 1400 years (to the Tang Dynasty), the city has numerous parks and temples, including the White Pagoda and Black Pagoda, and maritime reminders of its past as a colonial Treaty Port. Fuzhou also has hot springs dotted throughout the city. Further south, Mount Wuyi is an outstanding area of natural beauty and the cradle of neo-Confucianism.
 
Guangzhou (Canton)
 
Sometimes known as the ‘City of Flowers’, Guangzhou is a subtropical metropolis on the south coast. As a Special Economic Zone only 182km (113 miles) from Hong Kong, Guangzhou is developing at breakneck speed, but it has more established attractions, since it dates back to 221 BC and first welcomed European traders in 1516. Parks, museums, temples, hot springs and colonial architecture – especially on Shamian Island – are the main attractions. The Chenhai Tower, a 15th-century observation tower overlooking the Pearl River, the Huaisheng Mosque built by Arab merchants in AD 650, and the Tomb of the King of Southern Yue, a 2000-year-old relic of one of the region’s short-lived splinter kingdoms, are also worth visiting. Other attractions for those drawn by the gold rush mentality of Shenzhen include theme parks such as the World of Splendid China (with miniatures of Chinese heritage sites), and the China Folk Culture Villages.