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.
Once known as the "wild wall" for the extent to which nature had reclaimed it, the Great Wall at Huanghua (Huánghuā Chángchéng, 黄花长城) was partly renovated in 2005. However, it's still a long way from becoming anything like the super-touristy Badaling and, as such, Huanghua makes a great alternative Great Wall hike for those willing to do a bit of climbing. Like other sections of the Great Wall near Beijing, Huanghua snakes along mountain ridges, rising and falling with the peaks. On the site's..
Only a 70 km (44 mi) drive from Beijing, Badaling (Bādálǐng, 八达岭) is the most visited section of the Great Wall. Constructed during the Ming Dynasty, Badaling underwent extensive reconstruction during the 1950s and 1980s and now features amenities that invading barbarians would certainly kill for, from cable car rides to snack stands, caged bears, souvenir shops and restaurants, not to mention air-conditioned tour buses traveling down the expressway which links this length of wall to the capital. With all the extras and the site's..
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..
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..
Sitting well exposed to the glare of the sun, the summer experience at Potala Palace prompted the Seventh Dalai Lama (1708-1757) to have Norbulingka built, a summer palace for Lhasa’s governing officials. Each year in spring, a grand procession took the current Dalai Lama and government officials from Potala Palace to Norbulingka. Translating to “Jewel Park,” Norbulingka was centered around a walled garden and the favorite residence of the current Dalai Lama who had the New Summer Palace addition constructed as his own..
Jokhang Temple (Dàzhāo Sì, 大昭寺) is the most important and sacred temple in Tibetan Buddhism and a key center of pilgrimage. The symbolic power of the site has made it one of the most politically sensitive spots within the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Founded in 647 during the reign of Tibetan ruler Songstän Gampo, this temple was initially constructed to house the Jowo Sakyamuni, a sacred image of the 12-year old Buddha. Located in the temple's main hall, this is the most revered Buddha statue in Tibet. The four-storey..
Once you've seen the Forbidden City, where all but two of fifteen Ming emperors lived, take a trip out to their final resting place, the Ming Tombs, or "Thirteen Tombs" (Shísān Líng, 十三陵). The third Ming emperor, Yongle (1402-1424), chose the site based on its excellent feng shui and the harmonic balance of wooded mountains to the north, rich dark earth and calm waters is as pleasant today as it must have been when chosen as the last resting place of emperors. Only three of the tombs are presently open to the public,..
Running along a Jundu Shan (Jūndū Shān, 军都山) ridge, this section of the Great Wall is particularly scenic, with its renovated watchtowers looking out over wooded hills that change with the seasons. Spring sees blossoming trees set against dark hills and budding green leaves; summer gives way to a lusher green carpeting the slopes and ridges; snow dusts the hilltops in winter; and autumn at Mutianyu (Mùtiányù, 慕田峪) is especially well-known for its colorful foliage. Located in Huairou Rural District..
Any great wall needs at least one great pass and, by Chinese estimation (they ought to know), Juyong Pass (Jūyōng Guān, 居庸关) is one of three great passes punctuating the ancient defense line as it winds its way across northern China. The other two mark each end of the Great Wall, with Shanhaiguan to the east overlooking the Yellow Sea and Jiayuguan at the far western extremity of China's most famous—and the world's largest—landmark. The pass—a convenient 50 km (31 mi) north of Beijing—overlooks the 18..
The Leshan Giant Buddha (Lèshān Dàfó, 乐山大佛) is situated at the confluence of the Min (Mín Jiāng, 岷江) and Dadu Rivers (Dàdù Hé, 大渡河) and was originally built to protect and watch over passing ships in the night. Haitong, a Chinese monk, began work on the project in 713 and it was not completed until 90 years later. Despite this monk's dedication (he gauged out his own eyes to secure funding) he did not live to see the statue completed. Haitong's work was continued by the monks Zangchou..
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..
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 |..