Whether you're intrigued by paint and ceramic or brick and mortar, discover the art and architecture of China from the ancient to the contemporary.
Replicas of Qing Dynasty mansions line Jinli Old Street (Jǐnlǐ Gǔjiē, 锦里古街) selling local souvenirs as well as tea, books, musical instruments and caricatures. While several large restaurants can be found here, the real charm lies in the small snack alley between Wuhou Temple and Jinli. Here the overpowering odor of stinky tofu is softened by sweet caramel, spicy beef, rice cakes, noodles and sesame buns—made to order amidst the din of hawkers and touts shouting their products. Locals fill the street nightly—especially on..
The Temple of Heaven (Tiāntán, 天坛), completed in 1420 during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, was the most sacred space in which the emperor—also known as the Son of Heaven—performed the most important sacrifices and rites. The gods of earth, water, war, and civilian affairs were all honored, but it was the god of agriculture who received special attention. On the winter solstice, the emperor, after ritual fasts and purification, would beseech Heaven for bountiful harvests. The temple's layout reflects the..
The Old Summer Palace, known in Chinese as the "Gardens of Perfect Clarity" (Yuánmíng Yuán, 圆明园), served as a retreat for the imperial Qing court before it was looted and leveled in 1860 during the second Opium War by British and French troops under the command of James Bruce, the Earl of Elgin, in retaliation for the torture and killing of troops sent to negotiate with the Qing government. Today it is a haunting but melancholy place, with the ruins only hinting at what was once a resplendent complex of fountains,..
A large and colorful archway greets you at the entrance of Tianjin's Ancient Culture Street (Gǔwénhuà Jiē, 古文化街). Like its counterpart in Beijing, the famous Liulichang (Liúlíchǎng,琉璃厂), the street is an attempt to recreate a traditional Chinese neighborhood in the middle of a modern urban landscape. Though almost everything a fabrication of "old China," it's not hard to appreciate the careful inclusion of authentic-enough details, including carved and brightly colored columns, curved balconies and stylized..
Ningbo-born Ni Tianzeng (1937-1992) joined the Communist Party and came to Shanghai after graduating from Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Ni built a reputation for himself as a tireless, upstanding politician during his time working first in positions related to his studies in architecture and later as the vice mayor. The Ni Family Residence (Ní Zhái, 倪宅) in Xitang, named Chéngqìng Táng (承庆堂) by the family, is both an example of a traditional Jiangnan (“south of the Yangtze River”)..
Located next to the Drum Tower, the massive stone Beijing Bell Tower (Běijīng Zhōnglóu, 北京钟楼) dates back to 1745, though the original wooden tower was completed in 1272 under the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. A grand stone structure the Bell Tower features China's largest and heaviest bell (7 m tall, it weighs 63 tons), which is rung by a large wooden beam suspended from the ceiling. If you're lucky, you'll be allowed a few rings of the deeply resonant bell, a charming accompaniment to the excellent views of the city and the..
Located approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Tianjin in Jixian County, Pan Shan (Pán Shān, 盘山) makes for a great getaway from hyper-urban Tianjin and Beijing. Pan Shan's green slopes are famed for their jade pines and rock formations shaped into fantastic shapes by centuries of wind and water. In addition to the jade pines, the mountain is home to over 320 different types of tree, making Pan Shan a botanist's paradise. The main peak, Hanging Moon Peak (Guàyuè Fēng, 挂月峰), rises sharply to 864 meters..
Baidi Cheng (Báidìchéng, 白帝城) or "White Emperor City" is situated on Baidi Shan (Báidì Shān, 白帝山), now an island, at the entrance to Qutang Gorge, one of the famous Three Gorges of the Yangtze River. The approach to this historic site from nearby Fengjie (Fèngjié Xiàn, 奉节县) passes through scenes of pagoda-topped hillsides but the view is sadly marred by factories and workers' housing built in the 1970s. Once ashore, however, the complex of temples and halls and great views of..
The city's oldest Buddhist structure, the three-story Fan Pagoda, built in 977 AD, is a testament to the persistence of Kaifeng's long history. The hexagonal structure, originally 80 meters and nine stories high, was built during the Southern Song Dynasty, only to be partially torn down during the beginning of the Ming era because the new Emperor found pagoda's massive height to be intimidating. During the Qing Dynasty, six levels of the pagoda were restored, only to be vandalized once again during the Cultural Revolution. ..
Longting Gongyuan, or Dragon Pavilion Park as it is known in English, is home to the annual Kaifeng Chrysanthemum Festival (held in late September and early October, depending on when it falls in the Chinese Lunar calendar) and is one of the most recognizable sights in the city. A former imperial palace during six dynasties from the later Liang (907-923) through part of the Jin (1115-1234), Longting offers the beautiful views of Kaifeng amid the tranquil beauty of the park's lakes, bridges and the Dragon Pavilion itself,..
Located in a small, non-descript alley near Shudian Street and Zhongshan Road, the Shanshanguan Guild Hall was initially established as a temporary residence and community center for out-of-town merchants visiting Kaifeng. An excellent example of Qing Dynasty architecture, Shanshanguan was later used as a school, until finally being designated a tourist attraction. Of note are the lavish wood carvings that re-tell the daily workings of merchant life, in particular a scene depicting a man being dragged by..
Built in 1049 AD, the Iron Pagoda (Tie Ta) is the most famous monument in Kaifeng. Ironically not made of iron, but actually glazed bricks, the Buddhist pavillion is still completely structurally sound from its Song-era construction, and visitors can climb to the top by scaling the challenging series of stairs. At over 55 meters in height, the Iron Pagoda has survived earthquakes and floods that have leveled much of historic Kaifeng, making it a marvel of resiliency.