Travel to China

Travel to China

This East Asian powerhouse is an amalgam of sacred Buddhist temples, urban ingenuity, and a landscape as diverse as its dialects.

Home to the world’s largest population and a civilization stretching back thousands of years, China is a truly astonishing place to visit. Some of the biggest, most exciting cities on the planet are here. Beijing, which has been the country’s nerve center for hundreds of years, is a feast for the eyes: At its heart, check out the Forbidden City, a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site marking the longtime imperial hub of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Shanghai, meanwhile, is China’s largest urban area and offers varied spectacles all its own, including the tranquil (and historic) Yu Garden and the bustling Bund waterfront quarter. Other extraordinary destinations in China include the Terracotta Army (in the ancient city of Xi'an), the iconic Great Wall, and the Stone Forest of Shilin. You’ll see scenery at a mighty scale while cruising the noble Yangtze, one of the world’s greatest rivers. Meanwhile, you could devote vacation after vacation purely to exploring the bottomless depths of Chinese cuisine, from Cantonese sweet-and-sour pork to the famously fiery Sichuan dishes.

China has one of the oldest continuous cultures; its 5,000 year old history has created a culture which is both rich and complex. Although the population is over 90 percent ethnic Chinese, there are over 50 recognized ethnic groups in the country. The official language of the country is Mandarin, though not surprisingly there are many other dialects spoken in a country this large.

Calligraphy, a highly stylized form of writing is considered to be the highest form of visual art in the country. Paper cutting is another ancient art dating back to the 6th century; this decorative art was usually practiced by women in rural areas.

Although not as familiar to westerners, China has a rich literary tradition from classical literature to present-day authors. Westerners might also be surprised by Chinese opera which is an art form distinct from the operas of the West. The performers have exaggerated designs painted on their faces and the opera includes spectacular acrobatics. Visitors to the country will enjoy the opportunity to experience this colorful and exciting type of opera.

Kung Fu is the sport most associated with China. However, in China kung fu is not just considered athletic exercise, but a practice of self-discipline as well as an art. However, there is much more to sports in China than martial arts. Influenced by the unusually tall Yao Ming, basketball has won the hearts of the Chinese nation. Soccer is one of the most popular spectator sports, but China has yet to dominate in this arena as it has with other athletics. Badminton and ping pong are among the most played recreational sports.

The Chinese gastronomy is based on the five flavor principles of spicy, sweet, sour, bitter and salty balanced together. Dishes are made from fresh ingredients and food is prepared in bite sized pieces since chopsticks are the common eating utensil used to consume the delicious food.

Chinese food can be generally summarized by saying the northern part of the country consumes steamed buns or noodles rather than rice and the southern region employs stir-fry as its main cooking method and rice is a main part of the diet. Due to the size of the country, the Chinese divide their gastronomy into eight main regional cuisines, though the four main ones are Cantonese, Szechuan, Shanghai and Beijing styles.

Cantonese is the most popular outside of China, so its dim sum and char siu (barbecued pork) should be familiar to visitors. Soups and seafood are main components of Cantonese cooking. Szechuan food is known for its fiery qualities originating from the garlic and chili peppers used in so many of its dishes, although ginger and peanuts are also often used ingredients such as in Kung Pau Chicken and Tea Smoked Duck. Shanghai cuisine is characterized by its use of flavored sauces and sugar. Despite the unappetizing name, smelly tofu is a dish that visitors find tasty once they try it. Beijing's most famous dish is Peking duck; the crisp skin is supposed to be the best part, but people enjoy the delicious plum sauce too. Lamb hot pot is considered to be the second best known Beijing style dish. Although travelers can find familiar dishes, Chinese cooking has many other wonderful ancient and exotic dishes to try.

China is known for its 4,000 year old tea culture and remains the most popular drink in the country today. The West has only recently started to learn about the health benefits of green tea which the Chinese have been avidly drinking for thousands of years along with black tea.

Located in Southeast Asia, China is the third biggest country in the world. Its immense size lends itself to a wide variety of topography. Two-thirds of the country is covered by mountains and there are numerous lakes and rivers. The longest river in China, the Yangtze, is the third longest river in the world and the famous Himalayas lie in the western part of the country. The Gobi Desert, shared by northwest China and Mongolia, is the largest desert in the world. The majority of the population lives in the eastern region, particularly in the north, where the lowlands offer more opportunities for agriculture.

China borders a number of bodies of water including the South China Sea, the Yellow Sea, Korea Bay and the East China Sea. The country shares its borders with fourteen other nations: Vietnam, Tajikstan, Russia, Nepal, Pakistan, Laos, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, Kazakhstan, India, Burma, Bhutan and Afghanistan.

Beijing is the exciting capital of the country. While it's a modern city with high rises it also proudly displays its traditional heritage including attractions such the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. Although Beijing is the capital, Shanghai is the largest city in China as well as the commercial and financial center. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province, known for its spicy food and is also the hometown of the giant pandas. Located in northwest China, Xian is well known for its Terra Cotta Warriors and the Great Wild Goose pagoda.

Most visited cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xian

China was a land populated by primitive nomadic and hill tribes who supported themselves by agriculture. A slave society began in the 21st century BC and lasted until almost 2,000 years later when the first Chinese dynasties were established. This period began with the Xia Dynasty; the dynasty system ended with the Qing dynasty in the early 20th century. These dynasties established bureaucratic systems that assisted Chinese emperors in ruling over such a vast territory. It was during the Qin Dynasty that work on the Great Wall of China began and the Han Dynasty was associated with the spread of Confucianism.

The Qing dynasty was greatly weakened from its defeat by the British in the first Opium War. A series of rebellions followed and the Qing dynasty became the last of a system which had endured for thousands of years.

Slavery in China was abolished in 1910 and a revolutionary uprising occurred in 1911 which led to the formation of the Republic of China in 1912. The new republic was administered by a form of provincial government and a president. With the abdication of Yuan Shikai in 1915 China entered a 'warlord' era with competing military leaders seeking to rule the country. In 1949 the Chinese Communist Party established the People's Republic of China. Although initially Chairman Mao's leadership increased the country's national income and led to the rise of new kinds of industries, it was the ten-year period between 1966 and 1976, known as the 'Cultural Revolution,' that caused serious setbacks to the people and the nation. The end of the Cultural Revolution was marked by a new openness to the outside world and a series of reforms under Deng Xiaoping which led to profound changes in modernizing the country and vigorous economic growth. Today the country is interesting for the great contrast between its modern industrialized large cities and its rural agrarian countryside where visitors can still feel the Chinas of thousands of years ago.

China Vacations

Beijing at Its Best
Shanghai at Its Best
Shanghai & Hong Kong
Beijing & Shanghai
Beijing & Hong Kong
Beijing, Shanghai & Hong Kong

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