What most people read, see and hear about China is filtered. These days, the term “China” is often associated with large-scale development and industrialisation, exploitation, suppression, pollution, a massive population, wealth and strange food. However, there is a lot more to China than its politics and mammoth cities.
China has the second highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. Its cultural and natural diversity are astounding and with a continuous civilisation dating back to 3,000 BC, it’s an incredibly rewarding and important destination for history buffs with a vast pool of rich architectural and cultural treasures.
Although most travellers focus on the iconic sights in and around Beijing, Xian, Chengdu and Shanghai, smaller towns and remote countryside farther afield offer an incredible array of experiences for those seeking to get away from large crowds and discover the cultural roots of this ancient civilisation. Whether it is:
- Hiking in the Himalayas
- Exploring remote ethnic minority villages
- Taking a relaxing river cruise on the Yangtze up to the awe-inspiring Three Gorges Dam
- Exploring stunning colonial architecture of Gulangu Island and visiting unique Tulou houses of the Hakka community in Fujian province
- Witnessing and even learning traditional martial arts at the 1,500-year old Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county
Where should I go?
China is the most populous country in the world with approximately 1.38 billion inhabitants. In terms of area, it is the third largest country, spread across 9.6 million square kilometres. It shares its boarders with 14 countries and spans from towering rugged mountains in the west and sunken basins and rolling plateaus in the north to a vast 18,000 kilometre coastline and fertile areas in the east and south. The country is blessed with some of the biggest rivers, lakes and mountains in the world.
- For most people, the word “China” conjures images of the legendary Terracotta Warriors, Forbidden City and Great Wall. It is also home to the beloved giant panda, which has turned into a global conservation icon. According to WWF, “it is a living proof that conservation works”!
- Beijing and Shanghai are China’s yin and yang and they represent modern-day China.
- Those interested in history and architecture, Beijing, Xian, Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and the ancient city of Pingyao are incredible.
- For adventure-seekers, the possibilities are endless from hiking, trekking, cycling, kayaking, horse riding, camping with nomadic tribes in the mountains and viewing Mount Everest from the North Side.
- Art-lovers will be amazed by the incredible variety of contemporary as well as traditional works ranging from painting, pottery and textiles.
- Those interested in landscape and scenery can explore the Tibetan Plateau, hike in the sacred mountains beyond Shangri-la in Yunnan province, see the surreal Karst Mountains along the Li River, explore the breath-taking Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces near Guilin and take in the beautiful landscape gardens of Suzhou and fairy-tale landscape of Hangzhou.
- Wildlife lovers can enjoy the company of the famous giant panda near Chengdu and hike in the forested mountains of central and Southwest China in search of the golden snub-nosed monkey.
- The creatively inclined can visit the Dashanzi Art Zone in Beijing with its plethora of galleries and open spaces featuring ground-breaking contemporary art and visit villages around Dali specialising in ancient art forms including watercolour painting, block printing and pottery.
With the rapid development and urbanisation taking place all over the country, it’s more important than ever to visit this fascinating country sooner than later!
A selection of pictures by courtesy of Wild China