Attraction of the week

Definitely one of Pingyao's must-see attractions, the city's 6-kilometer-long (4 mi), 12-meter-high (40 ft), nearly 700-year-old city walls (gǔchéng qiáng, 古城墙)...


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The sight of the Buddhist Longhua Temple (Lónghúa Sì, 龙华寺) pagoda rising into the sky against the backdrop of Shanghai's 21st century high-rise skyline can be both jarring and sublime. As the city's largest remaining pagoda, the 40 m (130 ft) tower stands as a monument to China's traditional culture, which so often seems lost in the thicket of Shanghai's metastasizing glass-and-steel high-rise developments and freeway flyovers. At the same time, the pagoda and the busy temple grounds surrounding it illustrate a deep and vibrant continuity..

Though no longer China's tallest building (having been eclipsed by the neighboring World Financial Center), the Jin Mao Tower (Jīn Mào Dàshà, 金茂大厦) remains Shanghai's most elegant and distinctive skyscraper. It also still proudly houses the world's highest hotel, post office and bar. Situated in the heart of the Lujiazui financial district, the Jin Mao's design is based on the lucky number eight: 88 floors soar upward, divided into 16 segments, each 1/8 smaller than the preceding one. Architecturally a..

People's Square (Rénmín Guǎngchǎng, 人民广场), like much of today's Shanghai, is a showcase. Fortunately, it's also home to beautifully maintained gardens and parkscapes, culminating in People's Park (Rénmín Gōngyuán, 人民公园), which occupies the northeastern quadrant of this massive tract of land in the middle of Puxi (the west bank of the Huangpu River).  Nowhere is the "showcase" aspect more apparent than at the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, where optimistic projections of..

The Yu Gardens (Yù Yuán, 豫园) are a classical oasis—albeit a generally crowded one—in Shanghai's relentlessly modernizing cityscape. The gardens, completed in 1577 by the aristocratic Ming Dynasty Pan family, retain their original grace and elegance even in the face of throngs of tourists and the commercial hubbub of Yuyuan Market just on the other side of the garden walls. Situated in the midst of the Old City near the Temple of the City God, the gardens make an excellent and restful stop in a walking tour of..

The smallest but most renowned Suzhou garden, the Garden of the Master of Nets (Wǎngshī Yuán, 网师园) welcomes visitors into another world. Lattice windows within the residence perfectly frame scenes of delicate flowers and bamboo outside while elaborate rock gardens complement adjacent fish ponds. Representative of classic Chinese garden design, no distinction is made between the natural or the man-made and the amazing use of space means visitors don't feel crowded, despite the small size. A must-see in Suzhou.

Cold Mountain Temple (Hánshān Sì, 寒山寺), named after a well-respected monk that lived during the short-lived Liang Dynasty, is one of China's most renowned Buddhist temples—mainly in part for its role in several Chinese legends, folk stories and poems by Tang Dynasty poet, Zhang Ji. Today's visitors admire the temple's unique black roof and domed bridge. Other buildings in the temple complex include a Grand Prayer Hall, Sutra-Collection Building, Bell Tower, Fengjiang Pavilion and Tablets Corridor. The surrounding..

Originally built during the Ming Dynasty, Lingering Garden (Liú Yuán, 留园) is a 3 hectare (7 acre) park located 3 km (2 mi) outside of the Suzhou city center. Designed by Zhou Shicheng, a local stone master, Lingering Garden is one of the most historic parks in China, officially named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. In addition to numerous pavilions and towers, the garden features a number of rockeries and small lakes, and the tranquil setting of the gardens has been an inpiration to budding and accomplished..

About 20 minutes north of the Qiantang River (Qiántáng Jiāng, 钱塘江) from Liuhe Pagoda, the Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies (Jiǔ Xī Shíbā Jiàn, 九溪十八涧) make for a lovely stroll or bike ride through attractive countryside. Heading north from the river, the main path passes through paddies and tea terraces, along pleasant streams and, ultimately, to a small lagoon, a teahouse and the Longjing Tea Plantations further into the hills, terminating at Longjing Village (Lóngjǐng Cūn, 龙井村). You can also head south from..

Liùhé Tǎ (六和塔), or "Six Harmonies Pagoda," stands south of West Lake, aside the Qiantang River. The 60 m (196 ft) tall pagoda was built during the Song Dynasty in part to gain the favor and assistance of Heaven in warding off floods and in moderating the Qiantang River's unique tidal bore, when a massive wall of water rushes upstream under optimal lunar conditions. The Qiantang tidal bore is the world's largest, rising up to 9 meters (30 ft) and attaining speeds up to 40 km per hour (25 mph). If you happen to be in..

The Xiling Seal Society (Xīlíng Yìnshè, 西泠印社) is a charming institution dedicated to the study, preservation and creation of classical Chinese inscriptions, printmaking and painting. Located in West Lake on Solitary Hill island just opposite Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán, 中山公园), the Society boasts a history of over 1,900 years. On a rising slope, the Xilin Seal Society grounds are covered in beautiful gardens, rockeries, and sculpture and provide a great place to explore or just relax. The Society has..

Completed in 1861, this elegant garden villa was built as a private retreat for a wealthy Qing Dynasty silk merchant. Guo's Villa (Guō Zhuāng, 郭庄) is a fine example of Chinese aesthetics in which the manmade and natural blend in harmonious balance. The main hall and courtyard are built in a traditional Zhejiang style, arranged to face the waters of West Lake. Facing the Su Causeway, the villa is also within view of Southern Screen Hill and the Baochu Pagoda. The villa is divided into two sections: the residential quarters and..

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”)..

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