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China has always been a place of mystic since the early ages when it was first discovered through the writing of Marco Polo. Even in the ultra-modern state that China has set up today, it holds to its tradition and culture and is an embodiment of mystery and exotica. The Chinese have preserved numerous relics from its rich past including such features as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace in Beijing, etc. which marks the magnificent rule of the Chinese emperors. The Great Wall of China is known throughout the world and is supposedly visible from space. China is full of exciting places and things to do from enjoying yourself on an exotic cruise to finding yourself in the tranquil solitude of some hidden temple.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China, known to the Chinese as Changcheng or the "Long Wall" spans over a length of 6,000 kilometers. It connects the Shanhaiguan fortress on the eastern side and Jiayuguan on the western side. It is so long that the provinces of Hebei, Tientsin, and Beijing fall on their way and contain the most well-preserved sections of the wall.
The wall is rich in history as well as in its architectural marvel. It has an average height of 6 to 8 meters, but in some places, the Great Wall goes as high as 16 meters in length. It is also astoundingly wide and could allow 10 men or 5 horses to pass through in a straight chain. The origins of this wall date back as early as the 7th century BC. The Wall has been kind of an ongoing project and the most popular sections were added much later around 210 BC. It was also around this time that various sections of the wall were joined together.
Notable sections of the wall that you could visit to take in the magnanimity of the structure are- Badaling Pass near Beijing; Mutianyu towards the northeast side of Beijing, about 70 km away; and Gubeikou, 130 km away from Beijing.
The Forbidden City in Beijing
Zǐjìnchéng or the Forbidden City is an immense building complex housing many splendid palaces right at the heart of Beijing. It is also known as the Imperial Palace and its construction started way back in 1271-1368. However, much of the more recent sections of the palace were added between the years 1406 and 1420. The Forbidden City used to be the residential complex of 24 Emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Entry for anybody other than the royal family along with their courtesans was not permitted and hence the exclusive name of the palace.
The entire complex covers a ground area of 720,000 m2 and has a 10m wall surrounding it. There are watchtowers on all sides and the palace is even surrounded by a moat. Examining and exploring the palace properly will take you hours simply because of its vastness, not to mention the impressive history that it carries. The most sought out sections of the palace for a quick tour include the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the five Golden River Bridges constructed from white marble, and the Palace Museum which houses a terrific collection of artifacts and relics from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The Summer Palace in Beijing
The Summer Palace is located about 15 km away from Beijing and is truly an extraordinary sight to behold. It is spread out on 700 acres of land and attracts tourists from all around the world. The palace was initially constructed in 1153 and the huge lake was a later addition around the 14th century.
The Summer Palace, like the Forbidden City, could take you appreciable time to look through properly. However, if you are on a quick tour, you have to visit the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity or the Renshou Dian hosting the throne and the Great Theatre. The Great Theatre is an especially remarkable sight- this 3-story structure was built to satisfy the royal family's love for opera and traditional Chinese plays and musical events are still regularly held in this place.
Le Shou Tang Hall or the Hall f Happiness and Longevity is a picturesque section of the palace. There are beautiful gardens and peaceful courtyards in this section and you could go on a calming walk on any of the relaxing trails. If you could, also try to put in a visit to the ruins of the Old Summer Place while in this area which happens to be an even more astounding building.
The Terracotta Army in Xi’an
Another picture from China that is illustrated in books throughout the world is that of an immense army crafted entirely from terracotta. While farmers were digging wells in the 1970s just at the outskirts of Xi'an, they stumbled upon one of the most important and interesting archaeological finds in China. This army was designed to guard the tomb of the First Emperor and spans over 3 large pits consisting of over 8,000 life-sized individual figures, over 100 chariots, and a plethora of non-military figures, all dating back to 280 BC.
The site of the Terracotta Army, Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum Site Park, is one of the most important tourist attractions in all of China. The centuries-old army stands as proof of the importance that the Chinese gave to their Emperor as well as to the afterlife.
In the northeast corner of the Guangxi province lies the town of Guilin, with the Li River flowing through the beautiful countryside. This town is one of the most romantic places from all around the world and it has stolen the fancy of many poets and artists throughout the centuries. The land has been referred to in numerous folklore and fairy tales of Chinese origin, such as the mystic of the place. Nowadays. It is frolicked by tourists looking forward to indulging in the blissful glory of nature.
Cruising through the Li River is one of the best ways to take in the beauty of the place. You could choose the kind of boat you want to go on too- you could choose the tourist cruise ships for a compact package or you could even choose the small bamboo boats for a more authentic feel. The trips could be for just a day or multiple days, depending upon your choice.
Chengdu Research Base
A visit to China is incomplete without meeting a giant panda and what place is better than the Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding situated in Chengdu?! Though you will see many amazing specimens of the animal throughout the zoos in China, the research base provides a more personal experience. You are too sure to view as many as 80 pandas surviving in a habitat much like their natural one in this place. The center not only houses some of the most excellent specimens but also provides various workshops and activities that would enhance your awareness about pandas and their conservation.
One of the best times to visit the research base would be in the morning during feeding time. They are most active during this time and you will get one of the most unique experiences of your life. You could even sign up for a volunteer program wherein you are allowed to feed and care for the pandas and may even get the opportunity to hold a baby panda in your hands.
Riding the Yangtze
The Yangtze River, also known as Chang Jiang or the Long River in Chinese, is like the lifeline of China. The riven spans over 6,000 km and is the longest river in China- it comes just after the Amazon and the Nile in terms of length. The river originates somewhere in Tibet and flows all the way to Shanghai, passing through 8 provinces. Covering 2,700 km, it has been a major route for transportation in China for more than 2,000 years. The river and its tributaries are so wide that it covers about 1/5th of the country. It also provides fresh water to 1/4th of the agricultural land in China.
One of the best places to witness the glory of the Yangtze River is the Three Gorges comprising of Qutang, Xiling, and Wu. The scenery here is dramatic and you can witness the river in all its glory through cruises and riverboats. You could also engage in different kinds of adventure sports on the river in regions where it flows through rugged terrain.
Zhongshun Lu, also known as the Bund, located in Shanghai gives you a European experience in China. This place has such a European look and feels to it that you would forget you are in China as you take a stroll along the banks of Huangpu Jiang River. The location gains its relevance from being the International Settlement and still features 52 unique and amazing buildings from that era. The buildings reflect various architectural styles of English and French origins ranging between Gothic and Renaissance styles. The buildings are mostly used as cafes, restaurants, and shops nowadays.
Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan
A Buddhist monk started carving out a cliff-face to mold it into the figure of Buddha in 713 AD and 90 years later, the result was the giant Buddha statue at Leshan in Sichuan Province, near Chengdu. This terrific Maitreya Buddha statue overlooks the river giving it a dramatic feel and also happens to be the largest Buddha statue in the world. It is such an intriguing site that it has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Numerous pilgrims flock to this statue of Giant Buddha every year from all corners of the world. You could easily reach the statue after a fun ride on a ferry boat starting from Leshan.
Hong Kong is the epitome of a modern city and boasts of one of the most stunning skylines in the entire world. The tall hills coupled with a very high density of skyscrapers give Hong Kong the much-needed tag of having the most splendid skyline in the world. The Victoria Peak within Hong Kong Island is one of the best places to view this stunning skyline. Visiting the peak after sunset offers a more dramatic view since the whole city will be glowing with lights like a jewel. A similarly stunning view can also be sought from Victoria Harbour- take a ferry ride into the waters and enjoy the magnanimity of the skyline through the light and laser show visible from the water. The best view of the light and laser show is from the Kowloon side of Victoria Harbour.
Zhangjiajie National Forest in Hunan
If you are looking forward to an out-of-this-world experience, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is the place for you to be. Situated in Hunan province, this national park has some of the most incredible geographic features ever. The unique rock formations taking up the mantle of gigantic pillars set an extraordinary tone. No doubt that director James Cameroon was inspired by this site for his hit movie Avatar.
Though it is one of the newer places to visit in China, brought to the spotlight thanks to Cameroon's Avatar, it is indeed worth it. One of the highest pillars is 1,080 m tall and has been renamed the Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. The picturesque setting is also loaded with many modern-day fun activities. One of the main attractions is the Hundred Dragons Sky Lift, which could carry 50 people up to a height of 326 minutes in a record 2 minutes. The Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge is another modern construction that has gained fame as the highest pedestrian bridge in the world. Though the bridge seems to be an exciting place to visit, it is recommended that you not do so if you are faint of heart.
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