This is the year to tour, taste and experience Chinese culture from ancient tribal customs (hanging funeral boats), philosophies (Confucianism) and imperial majesty, to the creation of soccer and world famous beer.
China National Tourist OfficeThe world’s most populous country is home to 56 ethnic groups who blend and create a kaleidoscope of cuisines, art and monuments that complement its magnificent natural wonders.
Renowned sites like the Great Wall, Terra-Cotta Warriors, and Beijing’s Summer Palace, are on everyone’s itinerary. But make time explore cities like Shanghai, Guilin, Kunming and Guangzhou. Book a cruise on the Yangtze River or an expedition to Lhasa.
The China National Tourism Administration is inviting the world to come and see China’s national treasure – its culture – with the launch of “China Cultural Tour 2011”, a new campaign that highlights the country’s 5,000 years of recorded history, its 40 UNESCO World Heritage sites and, of course, its people.
China National Tourist OfficeShandong Shines – Through The Ages
You can see the entire scope of China’s cultural development, from Neolithic settlements to modern edifices in the cities and villages of Shandong.
People have lived in Qingdao for 6,000 years, probably drawn to the natural beauty and the beach. After all, the city boasts the largest bathing beach in Asia.
A more modern legacy is the architecture and institutions built by the Germans during the early 20th century – particularly the craft of brewing beer. Qingdao is the home of world-renowned Tsingtao beer. The Qingdao Beer Museum chronicles local brewing traditions, and every August the Qingdao International Beer Festival celebrates the local beverage along with 100 brands from around the world.
Once the capital of an ancient kingdom, Linzi displays its past glory at the Linzi Qi City Relics Museum and the Ancient Chariot Museum.
On a more modern note, FIFA has named Linzi the official birthplace of modern day soccer. Called “cuju”, the game was invented sometime between 770 and 476 BC, and was first played using leather stuffed with feathers.
You can walk in the footsteps of Chinese emperors at Tai Shan, a UNESCO World Heritage site that has been the most sacred mountain in China, for over 3,000 years. Rock inscriptions, stone tablets and temples testify regal visits over the millenia. Even renowned philosopher Confucius was known to compose poetry and prose on the mountain.
Speaking of Confucius, Qufu, his hometown is nearby and you can tour his family home, his family cemetery and the temple built to honour him. About a fifth of the residents here have Kong as a surname and are direct descendants of Confucius. Confucius Forest is the largest artificial park and the best preserved cemetery in China. The 200-hectare site is covered with pine and cypress trees planted by the philosopher’s students.
China National Tourist OfficeStunning Shaanxi
Blessed with stunning natural beauty, Shaanxi is also the cradle of the Chinese civilization that developed along the mighty Yellow River, and the base for 13 dynasties that established capitals here over thousands of years.
One of China’s five sacred mountains, Huashan Mountain is here. A 12-kilometre path winds its way to the top past twisted pines, sheer drops and breath-taking views. Buddhist and Taoist temples, pavilions and buildings, along with sculptures and engravings dot the route.
Taibai Mountain National Forest Park is the highest national forest in China and has been dubbed the “Natural Botanical Garden of Asia” and “Natural Zoo of China” for its abundance of plant and animal species. The breath-taking scenery, and natural hot springs, have drawn visitors, particularly poets, for thousands of years.
Of course, the most famous attraction is the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses. To date, over 7,000 life-size pottery soldiers, horses, chariots and weapons have been unearthed from the pits, filling three exhibition halls. A significant archaeological discovery, work is still continuing at this site. Other historic sites include Banpo Village Remains, from the Neolithic era; the Xi’an City Wall, the largest and best-preserved ancient city wall in the country; the Bell Tower; the Drum Tower; and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, built in 652 to store the first Buddhist scriptures that came from India.
This year, Xi’an hosts the International Horticultural Exposition April 28 to October 22. A major event for both commercial and private gardeners, you can watch competitions and enjoy over-the-top displays laid out in parks and pavilions. Themed areas include European Avenue, Southeast Asian Street, Romantic Ba River, Science & Technology Park and Five Continents Park.
China National Tourist OfficeHistoric Henan
Henan, too, claims to be the birthplace of ancient Chinese culture. According to ancient myths, Emperor Fuxi led his people from Gansu Province and settled here over 6,500 years ago. Fuxi is credited with creating surnames, formulating regulations and developing weapons. Today, the Chinese Surnames Festival welcomes Chinese descendants worldwide in search of their roots.
The Longmen Grottos in Luoyang were started around 493 development lasted another 400 years and grew to encompass over 1,300 caves with 100,000 statues and 2,800 steles. The stone carvings are the earliest grotto art of Gandhara Buddhism. Other historic sites include the Yin Ruins Museum near Anyang, and the Manor of Millionaire Kang near Zhengzhou.
To see Henan’s beautiful countryside, head to the Yellow River Scenic Area, also near Zhengzhou and drink in the pretty views of pavilions, winding rivers and gardens. Yuntai Mountain Geological Park offers a much wilder perspective with tower waterfalls and lush vegetation.
The most famous site in Henan is the Shaolin Temple. Housing the Hall of Heavenly Kings, Mahavira Hall and the Pagoda Forest, the main attraction is the Shaolin Temple Martial Art Training Center and demonstration.
The not-to-be-missed Zen Music ShaoLin Grand ceremony, created by Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun is performed daily in nearby Dengfeng.
You can follow Chinese cultures from Neolithic to revolutionary in Fujian province. Start at the dawn of time with a visit to the site of the Tanshishan Primitive Tribe in Minhou County for a peek at clan culture from the late Neolithic Age to 221 BC. Or tour the Min Yue Royal Capital. The ruins, and the boat-shaped coffins suspended from cliffs, are the best-preserved, intact, ancient city ruins in the Western Han Dynasty with the largest number of historical relics south of the Yangtze River.
Moving forward in time, the Tulou (Earth Tower of Hakka) offers a look at a rural dwelling from the 12th century. The large, enclosed, fortified buildings at this UNESCO World Heritage site were made from readily available materials like earth, stone, bamboo and wood.
Today you can catch a glimpse of the special lifestyle of the Hui’an women at the Xiaozuo Conservation Area for the Folk Custom of Hui’an Women. This unique female community hangs on to costumes and customs that can be traced back to the Ming (1368-1644) Dynasty.
Soothe your soul with a float down Nine Twist Stream at the foot of Wuyi Mountain, A UNESCO site near Wuyishan. Drink in the tranquility as the green water and red rocks glide past in “the most beautiful scenery in southeast China.”
• Getting There: Air Canada, Air China, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines offer non-stop flights from Canada.
• Getting Around: Domestic flights, trains and bus coaches can be used to travel around the country. Trains have four seat categories: “soft sleeper”, “hard sleeper”, “soft seat” and “hard seat”. There is also a newer D-Train, a higher speed locomotive offering bigger seats, dedicated waiting rooms and staff that speak English. Subway travel is available within big cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, where there are English signs and schedules. Tickets are priced from 2 to 5 yuan. Flag down rates for taxis range from RMB 5 to 12. It is recommended that travellers stick to licenced taxis.
• Visa: Required to enter Mainland China. Need to be obtained prior to arrival. Tourist visas are valid for three months.
• Currency: Renminbi (RMB, Yuan). Most hotels and shopping malls accept major credit cards but check before making a purchase. Credit cards cannot be used in some small restaurants or convenience stores.
• Electricity: AC 220V. Most outlets fit two-pronged parallel or three-pronged triangular plugs.
More Information: China National Tourist Office (Toronto), Tel: (416) 599-6636, website: www.tourismchina.org