China also officially known as the People’s Republic of China is situated in Eastern Asia.
This vast land is almost as big as the United States of America and has the largest population in the world. It shares its coastline with four major seas – East China Sea, South China Sea, Yellow Sea and the Korean Bay. It’s surrounded by 14 nations across its borders - India, Pakistan, Russia, Mongolia, Nepal, Vietnam, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and North Korea.
The ancient Chinese civilization started at about the same time as the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Indian civilizations. For centuries the Chinese civilization outpaced the rest of the world in science, arts, mathematics and astronomy. This advanced civilization has given the world gunpowder, the compass, paper and printing.
The Chinese knew about the solar system, Pythagoras theorem, and Pascal’s triangle centuries before the Western world discovered them. They performed grand feats of engineering centuries before their European counterparts, such as the Dujiangyan Irrigation System in Sichuan, the Grand Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou with its complex system of locks and the most popular of them all “The Great Wall of China”.
China was the first civilization, which implemented meritocracy. Unlike other old civilizations, official posts were not hereditary but had to be earned through a series of examinations. The Formal Imperial Examination system was open to all regardless of family background. Education was such an important aspect of Chinese civilization that to this day, Chinese parents take education very seriously.
China is a huge land with endless tourist destination spots that are affordable. Some important factors need to be noted when travelling. The climate is extremely diverse, from tropical regions in the south to subarctic in the north. Northern China has both blisteringly hot summers and bitter cold winters. The southern part has wet and mild climates. The climate gets drier as one travels further north or west of China.
China has a wide terrain with mountain ranges, high plateaus, deltas and deserts. Mount Everest is the highest point on the planet and Turpan Depression in Xinjiang is the second lowest point on earth after the Dead Sea.
One can travel around China by air, road and rail. While traveling inland by plane expect delays and flight cancellations as these are not uncommon. Train travel is a major form of transportation for the Chinese. Almost equivalent to a quarter of the world’s population travel on China’s extensive rail network. Trains are the best way to get around if your route and budget allow for train travel.
The Chinese money is called Renminbi (RMB) also popularly known as the Yuan. It is issued in the following denomination one, two, five, ten, twenty, fifty and hundred Yuan. The Chinese are credited to have invented the first paper currency in the world.
The official language is standard Mandarin. After Mandarin the largest groups are Wu, Cantonese, Hokkien and Hokchiu. Though English is taught as a compulsory subject in late elementary school, the focus of instruction is more on grammar and writing rather than conversation. When speaking to a local its best to speak English slowly and use simple sentences devoid of slang.
The regions include Liaoning, Heilongjiang and Jilin. These regions have vast forests; long snowy winters and one can see a lot of Russian, Korean and Japanese influence amongst the society.
Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, Tianjin and Beijing lie in this belt. North China – the Yellow River Basin is the cradle of the civilization. This is the historic heartland of China. It’s the birthplace of the nation and an ancient home of more than 200 emperors from more than 20 dynasties. The Yellow river and the mountains combined with 4000 years of history is a great tourist attraction spot.
Not as developed as the coastal regions this area encompasses the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai and Xinjiang. A long time ago Northwest China was renowned for its Silk route. The ancient Silk Road connected Asia to Europe. Caravans travelled this road for over 2000 years carrying silk from China to Rome. For almost 1000 years Northwest China was the capital of China. One of the earliest European explorers, the great Marco Polo followed this route to enter China.
One of the most breath-taking sceneries on the face of the planet. The area is mountainous and exotic and home to the minority ethnic groups in China. The provinces of Tibet (Autonomous region), Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan form the south-west region. The Tibetan plateau is home to the world’s tallest mountain – Mount Everest.
The provinces of Anhui, Sichuan, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi are collectively known as south-central region of China. The area is largely agricultural and also has a large industrial base as well.
includes the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan. The area is a traditional trading center and a manufacturing powerhouse. It is also the ancestral homeland of most overseas Chinese. The famous Cantonese food originates from this region.
includes the provinces of Jiangsu, Shanghai and Zhejiang. Hangzhou in the Zhejiang province is a favorite spot for domestic tourists. Marco Polo wrote of Hangzhou “the city is beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world”. Shanghai is China largest city and is both an economic and cultural powerhouse. The Jiangsu is a city of canals and gardens and now a major high-tech city.
Realistically speaking China is too large and vast a country to see in just one trip. Travelers would need to plan their trip by researching which areas or aspect of China that appeal to them the most. China is best travelled on its extensive rail system. There is also an extensive internal airline network to choose from. While the country is an endless storehouse of must see sites and must visit places, some of the popular hotspots are as follows.
The Great Wall of China:
This amazing architectural marvel stretches from Liaoning Province through Hebai, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi Province, Shaanxi Province and Ningxia Autonomous Region to Gansu province. Four different emperors beginning at 221 BC by the Qin Dynasty and ending in 1944 by the Ming dynasty built the wall. A rich and diverse wildlife of flora and fauna can be found along the length of the Great Wall.
The Yellow River (Huang He):
This historic river is the seat of the Chinese civilization and one of China’s greatest rivers. The Huang He is historic and by no accounts is a tame river. Only parts of it are navigable. Over centuries, the river has changed its course several times and often with disastrous consequences. Originating at the foothills of the Himalayas it runs north to Inner Mongolia. There it turns into a big arc and turns east towards the sea. The Chinese civilization first developed along the Yellow river. The river deposits yellow silt, which made the soil fertile in Ancient China, hence the name Yellow River.
The Songshan National Park located some two hours from Zhengzhou has something that is very Buddhist and known worldwide -The Shaolin Temple and the Art of Kung Fu. Also known as the Shaolin Monastery this temple is the birthplace for the famous Shaolin Kung Fu martial art and the Zen school.
The Forbidden City:
Located in Beijing was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty till the end of the Qing dynasty. For almost five hundred years, it served as the home of emperors, their households and even as the political and ceremonial center of the Chinese government. The Forbidden City is the world’s largest surviving palace complex. It took 15 years to build it and covers 178 acres. It consists of 980 surviving buildings and 8707 bays of rooms. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.
A crater lake on the border between China and North Korea that is located partly in the Jilin province.
Discovered in 1974 in Shaanxi province, this terracotta army has over 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots with over 500 horses and 150 cavalry horses. Made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987, the Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum is located about 30 minutes outside Xi'An proper by car.
Dazu Rock Carvings
A series of rock carvings and sculptures dating back to 7AD.
The Yellow Mountain:
Located in Anhui Province is a mountain range known for scenic beauty, sunsets and peculiarly shaped granite peaks. It’s a UNESCO World heritage site and a major tourist attraction spot in China.
Temple and cemetery of Confucius:
Located in Qufu and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historic place is both revered and sacred and attracts many tourists from all over the globe.
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