China, (People’s Republic of China), is situated in eastern Asia, bounded by the
Pacific in the east. It is the third largest country in the world, next to Canada and
Russia, it has an area of 9.6 million square kilometres, or one-fifteenth of the world’s
Towering mountains and dramatic landscapes make up China’s wealth –
background scenery to the fall of dynasties, the rise of emperors and the turning of the
revolutionary wheel. Unless you have a couple of years to tour, it’s best to follow a
loose itinerary while visiting. Some suggestions would be; Beijing to Tibet via Xi’an’s
terracotta warriors, following the Silk Road route, sailing down the Yangzi River, or
exploring the Dr Seuss landscape of Guangxi Province.
China’s imperial jewel in the crown is of course Beijing. It has been the capital of
China for around 500 years and is home to sights such as the Forbidden City, the
off-limits palace of Ming and Qing emperors, their eunuch servants, princesses and harems.
The Summer Palace in Beijing was established in the late Qing period, but is also a major
attraction. Beijing is the starting point for China’s most famous imperial legacy – the
Great Wall. The wall can easily be viewed from many places, but most visitors approach it
With a population of close to five million, Tibetans make up one ‘of China’s largest
minorities. There are large Tibetan communities in parts of China, that once belonged to
Tibet. In the south-western Gansu Province, the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe is one of the
six major monasteries of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is very much a little
China’s sacred mountains have been pilgrimage destinations for centuries and all have
well marked trails to the summits. More often than not there are stairways carved into
rock faces, and sights en route include poems and inscriptions and numerous temples. The
chief attraction is, inevitably, sunrise at the summit, where camera toting crowds gather
to gaze on the , sea of clouds’. The most popular mountains with foreign visitors are
Huangshan, Taishan and Emeishan.
The Grand Buddha at Leshan (Sichuan Province) is the largest buddha in the world. At
71m high and carved into a cliff face overlooking the meeting of the Dadu and Min rivers.
China’s most famous collection of European architecture is lined up facing the sea on
the Bund in Shanghai. Xiamen (Fujian Province) has one of China’s most charming
collections of colonial architecture, on Gulangyu Island. The fact that there are no
motorised vehicles on the small island makes this one of the only places in the country
where it is possible to take peaceful walks and appreciate the buildings at leisure.
China isn’t a country – it’s it’s own world. From shop-till-you-drop metropolises to
the epic grasslands of Inner Mongolia – with deserts, sacred peaks, astounding caves, and
imperial ruins – it’s a land of cultural and geographic schisms.