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Things to Do in China

China, the king of Asia, is simultaneously ancient and futuristic, rural and metropolitan, traditional and cosmopolitan. In a land of paradoxes, culture and cuisine project a distinct identity enhanced by vast landscapes and iconic landmarks. Tick off a New7Wonder of the World at the Great Wall of China; soak up Hong Kong’s unique island culture; and immerse yourself in attractions such as the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of the endangered species. Each city, be it Shanghai, Beijing, or Xi’an, offers fine food, lively entertainment, and rich history.
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Terracotta Warriors Museum (Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum)
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837 Tours and Activities

The 1974 discovery of thousands of life-sized Terracotta Warriors near Xian was one of the archaeological sensations of the 20th century. The figures date from 210 BC and were meant to guard the first emperor of China in the afterlife.

A huge statue of the emperor now guards the entrance to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, undeniable high point of any trip to Xian. To avoid disturbing these priceless treasures, they were left in situ with enormous structures now shielding them from the elements.

Three enormous pits are filled with row upon row of these remarkable effigies, with the first pit alone holding some 6,000 examples in excellent condition. There is a fourth exhibition space which holds other pieces found here, including bronze horses and chariots.

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Mutianyu Great Wall
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Located 56 miles (90 kilometers) northeast of Beijing, the Great Wall at Mutianyu was restored in 1986 after the section at Badaling rose in popularity. This section of the great wall includes a long, flat segment winding along the heavily forested hilltops of the area. This segment extends 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) with 22 watchtowers spread out along the way, allowing you to walk the wall for more than an hour, sometimes in solitude. If you have a full day to spare for a Great Wall tour, the Mutianyu segment is a good choice. It’s less crowded than Badaling but is still easily accessible and incredibly scenic, particularly on a misty day. Visitors can either climb to the top, with steps in good condition and handrails the entire way, or take a cable car to the top. When you’re ready to return to the bottom, either take the cable car back down or ride a toboggan back to the base.
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Forbidden City (Palace Museum)
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Have you ever wondered what's so forbidden about the Forbidden City? It's called that because it was closed to the outside world for 500 years. This was the seat of the Ming and the Qing emperors, and no one could enter - or leave - the imperial domain without their permission. These days, the Chinese mainly call it Gu Gong, or Former Palace.

The Forbidden City, or Beijing Imperial Palace, is BIG - you'll need to allow at least one day for your visit. UNESCO have listed it as the largest collection of ancient wooden structures in the world. There are nearly 1,000 rooms in over 800 buildings. However, because it's been ransacked by invaders and gutted by fire several times (wooden buildings, lanterns, you do the math) most of the structures date from the 18th century on. As you move around the gardens and palatial buildings, which have now been converted to museums, you'll start to get a feel for what it was like to live the imperial life.

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Li River (Li Jiang)
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The Li River’s reputation as the most beautiful in all China rests on a stretch totaling less than a quarter of its length; the 60-odd miles (100 kilometers) starting in Guilin and heading south. Here dramatic karst outcrops, dense vegetation and the clear, winding river itself create magical vistas which loom large in the Chinese imagination, having inspired art and verse for centuries.

Outside of the main cities, the painters and poets who so prized the river would find life going on here much as they remember it; water buffalo tilling terraced rice paddies, fishers angling off bamboo rafts, vendors in market towns selling the bounty of this fertile region.

The river is a year-round delight, just as stunning under blazing blue skies or wrapped in winter mists. From Guilin to Yangshuo there’s never a dull stretch, but most agree that the scenic high point comes about two-thirds the way along, at the area between the towns of Yangdi and Xingping.

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Impression Sanjie Liu
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Impression Sanjie Liu is a unique outdoor night show directed by the renowned director, Zhang Yimou and staged at the Li River in Yangshuo. This is the world’s largest natural theater, using the setting of the Li River as its stage and the mist-shrouded karst hills as its backdrop – along with whatever weather the evening may bring. For this open-aired spectacle, which is performed twice every evening in the summer, the audience watch from designated terraces while hundreds of performers appear to float on the water before them. Most of these performers are fishermen from the villages along the river, and the show itself depicts the story of the history and culture of the local Yangshuo people. Throughout the performance, impressive lighting, sound, and special smoke effects blend in harmoniously with the natural landscape of the river and its surroundings, creating a truly mesmerizing experience.

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Hong Kong Disneyland®
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Anyone who’s experienced either of the Disney Magic Kingdom resorts in the United States will feel a sense of déjà vu when walking in to Hong Kong Disneyland. The Disney franchise has stayed true to form with a topnotch amusement park experience combining a few classic attractions, like Space Mountain and the Jungle Cruise with some new offerings, like the Toy Soldier Parachute Drop in the newly opened Toy Story Land. The park is split into six themed areas: Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Toy Story Land, Grizzly Gulch and Adventureland.

Weekdays have the lightest crowds, but no matter when you visit, remember to pick up a Fast Pass for the big attractions.

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More Things to Do in China

Erhai (Lake Er)

Erhai (Lake Er)

55 Tours and Activities

The name ‘Erhai’ translates to ‘ear-shaped sea’ — the name giving to the 97-square-mile (250-square-kilometer) lake sandwiched between the town of Dali and the Cangshan Mountains in China’s Yunnan Province. It’s one of the seven biggest freshwater lakes in all of China and the seconds largest highland lake after Dianchi.

The local Bai people — one of China’s 56 recognized ethnic minority groups — have long used the waters of the lake for fishing using a rather unusual method. Fisherman train cormorants to catch fish (mostly carp) and return them to the fishing boat. Parks along the banks of the lake offer hiking and cycling opportunities, but most visitors choose to explore the lake by boat. These tours allow visitors to see cormorant fishing in action as well as visit some of the lake’s many islands and temples.

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Victoria Harbour

Victoria Harbour

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Riding a Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island is a signature Hong Kong experience.

The low-slung, double-decker, green and cream ferries are a Hong Kong emblem, dating back to 1888. Until the cross-harbor road tunnel and underground train link were built, the only way to cross between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island was by ferry.

Take a trip by day to experience the harbor and see the buildings on both sides, then take another trip at night to see the buildings light up and enjoy the nightly Symphony of Lights.

You can also cruise Victoria Harbour aboard a circular Star Ferry harbor tour, or book yourself onto an evening dinner cruise to sit back and drink in those twinkling views.

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Qufu Temple of Confucius (Kong Miao)

Qufu Temple of Confucius (Kong Miao)

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The Confucius Temple, located in the heart of Qufu city, is the oldest and largest temple of its kind within China. Along with the Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion, the temple forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site collectively known as San Kong (meaning ‘The Three Confucian Sites’). Built in 479 BC, shortly after Confucius’ death, the temple features an impressive 466 halls, pavilions, and other rooms that are surprisingly still intact. Over the years, alterations and expansions on the temple building have transformed it into a sprawling complex with nine rows of courtyards leading up to a statue of Confucius before the temple entrance. The Great Accomplishment Hall forms the main basis of the building, which features another statue of Confucius and a stone inscription of the Ming Dynasty, with various images depicting the story of Confucius.

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Xizhou Town

Xizhou Town

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Canton Tower

Canton Tower

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As the tallest structure in China and the fourth tallest freestanding structure in the world, the Canton Tower dominates Guangzhou’s modern skyline. The twisted, tapering tower rising just over 2,000 feet (609.6 meters) is home to the world’s highest and largest outdoor observatory at 1,601 feet (488 meters) above the ground. Sixteen transparent cabins carry passengers around the slanting, elliptical rooftop, offering views that extend as far as Hong Kong and Macau.

Thrill seekers can plummet from a height of 1,600 feet (488 meters) down the side of the tower with the Mega Drop. For a milder thrill, take on the Spider Walk, the world’s longest sky stairs with 1,028 steps, some of which have transparent glass flooring with views of the ground far below. For the tame of heart, the Canton Tower houses a rotating restaurant on the 106th floor as well as a 4D cinema, wine bar and science exhibition center highlighting the engineering technology behind the tower.

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Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si)

Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si)

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Yufo Si is a working Buddhist community - one of the few in China - but the star attractions of the Jade Buddha Temple are two figures brought to Shanghai by a Burmese monk in the 19th century.

The most impressive is the sitting Buddha, a 1.9 m (6.5 ft) giant encrusted with semi-precious stones. This Buddha is sitting in the pose which captures the moment of his enlightenment by meditation. The other Buddha is smaller and in the attitude of 'happy repose', as he goes peacefully to death. Both Buddhas are carved from white jade. Facing the reclining Buddha is a large copy in stone, brought to the monastery from Singapore. These are the main points of a visit to the temple, but take a look at the halls while you're there, particularly the Grand Hall with its golden 'Gods of the Twenty Heavens'. There's also a restaurant that serves the public, with a simple downstairs and a swankier upstairs.

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Ladies Market

Ladies Market

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Mongkok’s Ladies Market is one of Hong Kong’s most legendary street markets. Originally, it got its name from the large amount of women's clothing and accessories that are for sale.

A little less than a mile long (1km), crammed with all manners of clothing stalls and accessories like handbags, shoes and watches, the market also caters to men and children of all ages.

Of course, it’s not just clothing you’ll find in this Aladdin’s den. The northern section sells goldfish, household items and everything and anything you may be interested in purchasing.

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Tsingtao Beer Museum

Tsingtao Beer Museum

17 Tours and Activities
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West Street (Xi Jie)

West Street (Xi Jie)

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If the Li and Little Li Rivers are the lifeblood of Yangshuo, West Street (Xi Jie) is the heart. This marble-paved street, the oldest street in Yangshuo County, is lined with boutique shops, Western cafes, Chinese restaurants and youth hostels. The traditional architecture and close quarters lend a sense of antiquity to the area in spite of the neon lights that illuminate the street at night.

By day, West Street has a sleepy vibe as travelers lounge outside cafes and hostels sipping on tea and munching on banana crepes, a local breakfast specialty. By night, the area transforms into a vivacious hot spot replete with busy night clubs, relaxed beer gardens and a seemingly endless array of restaurants serving the local favorite: beer fish, and shops touting all sorts of tourist souvenirs.

Visitors planning to do some shopping along West Street should plan to visit in the evenings when most of the smaller vendors have their stalls set up.

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Zhujiajiao

Zhujiajiao

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For a genuine experience that not only show you the history of China, but also showcase its beauty, try a visit to China’s great ancient water town known as Zhujiajiao. Formed over 1,700 years ago, this wonderful canal laden town that was once an important trading hub, has seen the days of both the Yuan, Qing and Ming dynasties, and has flourished today as a an up-and-coming bohemia of Asia.

In order to truly have an understanding of this beautiful place, one must visit the towns many bridges and canals. The Fangsheng Bridge is the biggest around, wonderfully engraved with eight dragons coiling around a shining pearl. Once you’ve done that, take a boat ride on the canal gondola, where you will experience wonderful views of this historic and well-preserved town. You can also take longer boat rides lakeside, experiencing the town from a different angle and perspective.

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Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

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There are few images more iconic to southwestern China than that of the giant panda. Unfortunately, despite its status as a Chinese national treasure, the giant panda population has been whittled down to just 1,000 pandas due to mass human development over the last century.

As a response to this ecological crisis the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding was opened in 1987 and began caring for six pandas rescued from the wild. During the 25 years since its founding the Chengdu Panda Base has employed some of the world’s leading giant panda researchers to manage an open air sanctuary where giant pandas can be bred and raised in an effort to eventually be reintroduced into wild populations.

Located only seven miles from downtown Chengdu, the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is inarguably one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of southern China.

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Avenue of Stars

Avenue of Stars

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The Avenue of Stars, located on the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, is Hong Kong’s answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Hong Kong film industry has enjoyed a long history as the third largest in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood, and as the second largest exporter of movies, many of Hong Kong’s locales and celebrities have become familiar to foreign audiences who’ve never stepped foot in the city.

Along the quarter-mile (440 meter) stretch, you’ll notice a large replica of the statue presented to winners of the Hong Kong Film Awards as well as a bronze statue of Hong Kong’s most famous celebrity, Bruce Lee. Star-shaped plaques inlaid into the promenade contain names and sometimes autographs and handprints of other industry celebrities.

Even if you’re not familiar with the Hong Kong film industry, a visit to the Avenue of Stars will reward you with unobstructed panoramic views of the Hong Kong Island skyline in front of Victoria Peak.

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