The Middle Kingdom is said to have 5,000 years of culture and these are just the places to learn about the rich history of China, whether you're interested in religion, politics, warfare or peoples.

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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 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,..

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.

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..

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..

Beihai Park (Běihǎi Gōngyuán, 北海公园) lies just to the west of the Forbidden City and until 1925, it was considered part of the imperial complex and therefore off-limits to the masses. The heart of the park consists of three man-made lakes: Beihai (Běihǎi, 北海), Zhonghai (Zhōnghǎi, 中海) and Nanhai (Nánhǎi, 南海). The lakes are connected by the Jade Islet (Qióng Dǎo, 琼岛) which, along with the lakes, was created during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234 AD), although the site's history as an imperial playground goes back even further..

Also translated as the Great Wave Pavilion, the Blue Wave Pavilion (Cānglàng Tíng, 沧浪亭) is the oldest of the numerous UNESCO World Heritage site gardens in Suzhou. Built in 1044 by Song Dynasty poet Su Shunqing, on the site of an earlier imperial flower garden (and taking its name from a line by another poet, Qu Yuan), the garden retains its original Song layout, and in its more ramshackle corners looks as if it has perhaps not been tended since that time. Of the various buildings on the site, the largest is the Enlightenment..

Named for the collection of rocks resembling lions, the Lion Grove Garden (Shī Zǐ Lín, 狮子林), or Lion Forest Garden, was built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty by a group of Zen Buddhists. For centuries, the garden has welcomed and inspired local writers, poets, and monks. Today, visitors try to lose themselves in the limestone labyrinth, lined with stone lions in different poses. The grounds contain over 20 buildings of various styles built over the centuries. Beautifully carved calligraphy can be found on the grove's large collection..

Less frequented than the other UNESCO gardens in Suzhou, the Couple's Garden (ǒu Yuán, 耦园), sometimes referred to as the Couple's Retreat Garden, was first developed during the 18th century, before being rebuilt by a magistrate from nearby Susong county at the end of the 19th century. Surrounded by canals on three sides, and divided into two parts (the "couple" from which it takes its name), it's a fine place to enjoy some peace and quiet away from the tourist hordes that often overwhelm the more popular gardens. Jiangsu guide |..

The Shuzhuang Garden (Shūzhuāng Huāyuán, 菽庄花园) is located on the quaint island of Gulangyu, just a short ferry ride across the Lujiang Channel from Xiamen. The garden, which was once the private residence of a Taiwanese businessman, was originally constructed to recreate the feel of a garden residence found in Taiwan. The grounds are filled with snaking paths that cross koi ponds, wind through rock sculptures and possess hidden sculptures of all 12 zodiac animals (can you find them all?). The garden is also home..

Comprised of the Red Carp Pool and the Peony Garden, Flower Harbor (Huā Gǎng, 花港) is the sight of a former private garden built and owned by Lu Yunsheng, an imperial official of the Southern Song Dynasty, along West Lake. Watching the fish of Red Carp Pool in Flower Harbor was part of the traditional "Ten Scenes of West Lake" later standardized by Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi. Today, Flower Harbor is open to the public, providing year-round natural beauty. Spring in the Peony Garden is glorious with pink, violet and custard-colored blossoms..

These pleasant hot springs situated at the foot of Lishan (Mount Li) have been in use for around 2,500 years; the mineral-rich waters bubbling up from the earth have soothed emperors dating back to the notorious Qin Shihuang, and during the Tang Dynasty they became a primary imperial summer residence. Today, many imperial-era buildings and pools remain, accompanied by a small museum and marble boat (both of which date from the latter half of the 20th century). Today, you can take a dip in the waters once reserved for members of the..

Yuyuan (Yu Garden)
Yuyuan (Yu Garden)
Classical Gardens.
Old Summer Palace (Yuanming Yuan)
Old Summer Palace..
Lifestyle.
Garden of the Master of Nets
Garden of the..
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Liu Yuan (Lingering Garden)
Liu Yuan..
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Guo's Villa
Guo's Villa
Travel.
Beihai Park
Beihai Park
Lifestyle.
Blue Wave Pavilion (Great Wave Pavilion)
Blue Wave Pavilion..
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Lion Grove Garden
Lion Grove Garden
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Couple's Garden
Couple's Garden
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Shuzhuang Garden
Shuzhuang Garden
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Flower Harbor (Hua Gang)
Flower Harbor (Hua..
Travel.
Huaqing Pool
Huaqing Pool
hot springs.

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