The capital of Shaanxi Province and often times
considered the true historic capital of China,
Xi’an was once one of the most magnificent cities in the world.
During 11 dynasties, starting from the 11th century BC, the city
was also the capital of China. It was the starting location of the
ancient trade route with the West known as the Silk Road
(see Silk Road section) and is presently, after Beijing,
the most popular tourist destination in China. The city is most
well known for the Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi,
who first united China under the Qin Dynasty in 200 BC, also its
terracotta figures, more than 6000 life size Terracotta
Warriors and horses buried along with the emperor.
Numerous other tombs from the Han and Tang Dynasties have yet to
be excavated. Despite damage suffered during the Cultural Revolution,
there are still many tombs, museums, pavilions, and pagodas to be
visited, such as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda with
its spiral staircase and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda.
Luoyang, located east of Xi’an
and its historical twin capital, has a great museum
of treasures. The 5th-century Longmen Buddhist Caves
are some of China’s best, lined with carved monuments and
effigies. Kaifeng, to the east of Luoyang and a
Northern Song Dynasty capital, has a Jewish
quarter previously home to indigenous Chinese Jews, the
Xiangguo Monastery, the Iron Pagoda
from AD 1049, Fan Bo Pagoda (c. AD 977), and many
relics of ancient courts and poets.
The capital of Shandong Province, Jinan is known
as the ‘City of Springs’; which provide
the main tourist attraction. The city also has Buddhist relics,
lakes and parks. Of specific interest is the Square Four
Gate Pagoda, the oldest stone pagoda in China. Outside
the city, Mount Taishan’s 72 peaks make up
a mountain park with ancient pine and cypress trees, stunning waterfalls,
1,800 stone sculptures and a kilometre long mountain stairway famous
as the ‘Ladder to Heaven’.
was once a Treaty Port annexed by Germany. similar to elsewhere
in Asia, the Germans came with breweries, creating China’s
ubiquitous Tsingtao Lager in 1902, but also erected the fine German
Concession buildings; there are also appealing traditional areas.
Laoshan, east of Qingdao, is a fine mountain region
with a well known monastery, the Taiqing Palace.
In Qufu, near Qingdao, the Mansion of Confucius
housed sage’s descendants, and the huge Temple of
Confucius, with its many pavilions, was a hub for his worshippers.
Presently the buildings display and store important historical documents,
art and cultural artifacts. Confucius’s tomb is located in
a cemetery just north of Qufu.
Shenyang was formerly an imperial capital. Remains
from this period include the Imperial Palace and
a pair of intersecting tombs. The North Imperial Tomb,
around 20 kilometres (13 miles) from the city, is the burial site
of the founding father of the Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty.
Dalian is China’s 3rd port. Previously occupied
by the Soviets, it is an airy and intriguing bi-cultural city containing
some Russian architecture.
Hohhot (translates to‘green
city’ in Mongolian) is the capital of the
Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and among the most colourful
cities in China, contains unique local architecture including the
Five-Pagoda Temple. Tours of the grasslands can
also be organized.Harbin, the capital of
Heilongjiang Province, is a industrial Russian-style city.
Harbin hosts the annual Harbin Summer Music Festival and
a winter Ice Festival with ice sculptures.
Far Northwestern Regions
Lanzhou is an oasis situated on the Silk
Road (see Silk Road section)
and capital of Gansu Province, but the unattractive
city is mainly noteworthy as a centre to visit the 34 early
Buddhist caves at Bingling. The White
Pagoda Mountain Park is also an attractive option.
Dunhuang, a 2000-year-old town situated on
the edge of the desert, formerly an important Silk Road caravan
stop, is well known for the Mogao Caves, many of
the oldest Buddhist shrines in China and a UNESCO World Heritage
Site. These ancient murals and hand-carved shrines are national
treasures and depict a thousand years of devotion to Buddha through
the 4th and 14th centuries. About 500 remain today, and huge areas
of frescoes are still seen. Also well worth visiting when in Dunhuang
are the Crescent Lake, the Yang Guan Pass
and the Mingsha Hill.
and Urumqi are located in the far northwest on
the edge of the sprawling deserts of Xinjiang Province. These Muslim
cities, on the Silk Road, are famous for the distinctive
Islamic culture of the inhabitants.
Turpan enjoys a unique and well-preserved architectural
style, and is surrounded by amazing scenery and interesting sites,
including 2 destroyed cities. Turpan is also the hottest
place in China, sitting in the Turpan Depression, the 2nd-lowest
point on earth next only to the Dead Sea. Close by are the Flaming
Mountains, which can be seen glowing brightly at sunset.
Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous
Region with a population of 13 different nationalities,
including Kazakh, Mongolian, Trattar, Russian, and Uzbek. Most of
the inhabitants are Muslim Uygurs who speak a Turkish language which
is completely unrelated to Chinese. Northwest of Urumqi, only a
few hours’ ride by bus, sits the beautiful Lake of Heaven,
a lake of clear turquoise-colour lying in the midst of the Tian
Shan range of mountains. Museums in both cities display their amazing