Chinese cuisine has a very
long history and is famous worldwide. Cantonese
(the style most Westerners are usually familiar with) is only
one regional style of Chinese cuisine. There are eight
major schools of Chinese cuisine, named for the places
where they were conceived: Anhui, Fujian,
Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangsu,
Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejian.
For a brief appreciation of the cuisine, one can break it
down into four main regional categories:
Beijing, which has evolved
from the Shandong school, is well known for
Peking Duck, which is roasted in a unique
way, and eaten as part of a thin pancake with a sweet plumb
sauce and cucumber. Another specialty of
the North is Mongolian Hotpot, which is the
Chinese version of fondue. It is eaten in a communal style
and has a central simmering soup in a special large round
pot into which is dipped various raw meats and vegetables,
which are cooked on the spot.
An inexpensive and delicious
local dish is shuijiao,
which consists of pasta-like dough wrapped round pork meat,
onions and chives, similar to to Italian ravioli. These can
be purchased by the jin (pound) from street markets and small
restaurants, and are an ideal filler if you are out all day
and do not want a large restaurant dinner. It should, however,
be noted that for hygiene purposes, it is advised to take
one’s own chopsticks.
food is well known for being the most exotic
in China. The food markets in Guangzhou are proof of this,
and the Western visitor is usually shocked by the huge variety
of exotic and rare animals that are staple in the cuisine,
including dog, snake, wildcat and turtle.
Shanghai and Zhejiang
cuisine is sweet and rich,
often pickled. Well known for seafood, noodles,
vegetables and hot and sour soup.
Sichuan and Hunan
food is spicy, and is usually sour
and peppery. Specialties include diced chicken
stirred with soy sauce and peanuts, and spicy doufu (beancurd).
One of the most famous national drinks is
maotai, a fiery spirit made from rice wine.
Local beers are good quality, particularly
Qingdao, which is much like German lager.
There are now even some pretty good wines, which are produced
primarily for tourists and export.
Visitors can adhere to itineraries made in advance, when enjoying
the nightlife of the larger cities, including a selection
of prearranged restaurant meals and trips to Chinese
opera, Chinese state circus, ballet
and theatre. Local Chinese usually only drink
socially with a formal meal so bars and nightclubs are generally
only found in the more cosmopolitan cities and major towns.
Karaoke (written OK on Chinese signs) is
a popular form of nighttime entertainment.
The Government sets all consumer
prices, and there is no price bargaining
in shops and department stores, however one can bargain
fiercely in small outdoor markets (of which there are many)
for items such as jade, silk garments and antique ceramics.
All antiques more than 100 years old are
marked with a red wax seal
by the Government, and must have an export customs certificate.
Access to normal shops is allowed, offering cheap souvenirs,
work clothes, books and posters; if accompanied by an interpreter,
this will prove much easier, although it is possible to point
or ask for assistance of a nearby English-speaker. Items are
sometimes in short supply, however prices will not vary much
from one place to another.
In larger cities such as Shanghai and
Beijing, there are big department stores
with four or five floors, offering a wide variety of products.
The best shopping is in local factories, hotels and shops
specializing in selling handicrafts. Arts and crafts department
stores sell local handicrafts. Special purchases items include
jade jewellery, calligraphy, embroidery, paintings and carvings
in wood, bamboo and stone. It is recommended to retain receipts,
as visitors could be asked to produce them at Customs before
Shopping hours: Monday-Sunday
The most important festival in the year for
the Chinese, is Spring Festival when families
gather to share a sumptuous meal on the eve of the Chinese
new year. Homes are festooned with pictures and banners to
bring good fortune. Additional activities associated with
the festival include the lion dance, the
dragon-lantern dance and stilt
walking. For a full schedule of events contact the
China National Tourism Administration (see
The below list is a selection of special events occurring
in China in 2005:
||Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
||Spring Festival (Chinese New Year),
||Tibetan New Year
||Great Prayer Festival, Tibet
||Saga Dawa Festival, Tibet.
||Qintong Boat Festival in Yangzhou.
||Hainan International Coconut Festival
||Water-Sprinkling Festival of the Dai,
||Fujian Mazu Festival, Meizhou Island
||Torch Festival of the Yi Minority,
|Jul 25-Aug 25
||Wutai Mountain Tourist Month, Shanxi
||Qingdao Int’l Beer Festival
Horse Race Festival, Qiangtan, Tibet; Shoton Festival,
||Shaolin Int’l Martial Arts Festival,
|Sep 26-Oct 10
||Qufu International Confucius Culture
differences sometimes create misunderstandings between visitors
and local people. The Chinese don't generally volunteer information,
therefore the visitor is advised to ask questions. Hotels,
train dining cars and restaurants will usually ask for criticisms
and suggestions, which will be considered seriously.
not take offense when being followed by crowds, this is merely
curiosity and interest in visitors who are rare in the remoter
people are usually reserved in manner, courtesy rather than
familiarity being preferred.
official title of the country is ‘The People’s
Republic of China’, and this should be used in all formal
communications. ‘China’ can be used informally,
however, one should never imply that another China exists.
shaking hands may be sufficient, a visitor will often be greeted
by applause as a sign of welcome. The customary response is
to return the applause.
if felt, is expected not be shown and public arguments may
attract hostile attention.
China the family name is always be mentioned first.
customary to arrive a little early when invited out socially.
at a meal is customary, as is the custom of taking a treat
when visiting someone’s home, for example, fruit, confectionery
or a souvenir from a home country. If it is the home of friends
or relatives, money may be given to the children. When visiting
a school or a factory, a gift from the visitor’s home
country, especially something which would be unavailable in
China (a text book if visiting a school, for example), would
be very much appreciated. Stamps are also popular gifts, as
stamp-collecting is a popular hobby in China. A proper gift
for an official guide is a Western reference book about China.
casual clothing is generally acceptable everywhere. Revealing
attire should be avoided since they may cause offence.
should not express political or religious views.
is not permitted in airports. Historic and scenic places may
be photographed, however permission is needed before photographing
military installations, government buildings or other possibly
Officially not encouraged, but accepted from visitors.