Ever since the world first discovered China through the writings of adventurer Marco Polo more than 700 years ago, this large Asian country has come to be regarded as the embodiment of all that is mysterious and exotic. Discover fascinating, unusual, and adventurous things to do with our list of the top tourist attractions in China.
1. The Great Wall of China
The magnificent Great Wall of China – known in Chinese as ‘Changcheng’, or the ‘Long Wall’ – stretches more than 6,000 kilometers from the fortresses of Shanhaiguan in the east all the way to Jiayuguan in the west, passing through Hebei, Tientsin, Beijing – where the best preserved sections of the wall can be visited – Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and Gansu.
Averaging six to eight meters in height but rising as high as 16 meters – and wide enough in places for five horses or 10 men to pass – the wall boasts numerous battlements and watchtowers. Some of the wall’s oldest fortifications date back as far as the 7th century BC, with the best-known areas added around 210 BC when its various sections were joined together.
2. The Forbidden City & the Imperial Palace, Beijing
China’s largest and most important building, the Forbidden City (Zǐjìnchéng) – also known as the Imperial Palace – is situated in the very heart of Beijing and is a must-see when visiting the country. Started during the Yuan Dynasty between 1271-1368, much of the complex seen today was built between 1406 and 1420. Really many splendid palaces in one, this sprawlinng complex was the residence of 24 Ming and Qing Emperors, whose presence forbade the entry of anyone other than the imperial family and their courtesans.
Covering some 720,000 square meters and protected by a 10-meter-high wall with watchtowers and a wide moat, this massive complex consists of areas set aside for ceremonial and administrative purposes, as well as a private residence used by the emperor.
3. The Terracotta Army, Xi’an
It was while digging wells on the outskirts of Xi’an in the 1970s that farmers stumbled across what was to be China’s most important archeological find: the Terracotta Army. Distributed over three large underground pits and built to guard the First Emperor’s tomb, the find included more than 8,000 life-size warriors, some 520 horses, and more than 100 chariots, along with numerous other non-military characters dating from around 280 BC.
Although some were severely damaged due to the passing of time, many of the statues unearthed have been painstakingly re-assembled and stand as testament to the importance bestowed upon the emperor and the afterlife.
4. The Summer Palace, Beijing
An easy 15-kilometer commute from Beijing, the sumptuous Imperial Summer Palace (Yíhé Yuán) is set amid more than 700 acres of beautiful parkland and is one of China’s most visited attractions. While the palace itself was built in 1153, its large lake was added in the 14th century to enhance the Imperial Gardens.
Highlights include the magnificent Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshou Dian), with its throne; and the beautiful Great Theatre, a private three-story structure built in 1891 to satisfy the imperial family’s love of opera. This historic venue is still used for performances of traditional Chinese plays and musical events, and is worth a visit for a performance or show.
5. Cruising the Li River, Guilin
The town of Guilin, in the northeast corner of Guangxi, boasts some of China’s most beautiful countryside and is famous for the Li River, which meanders through the town and surrounding karst mountains. While for hundreds of years this unique scenery has attracted poets and artists and has been the subject of countless fairy tales and legends, these days, it’s popular with tourists from around the world wanting to see this natural splendor up close.
These are some of the top-most tourist attractions in China that you must visit during your China travel.