China is a country on the move. Peasant farmers are moving to the cities in vast numbers and creating a huge growth in production and demand of resources. In this push in creating the modern China I hope the things that have made China great in the past are not forgotten. China is so huge and there is so much to see this list is almost impossible to limit to just 7, but I’ll try.
The following list is my top seven spots I’d like to see in China. I included the province of Tibet in the list, but exclude Taiwan sites from the list – as Taiwan is not part of communist China despite the parties one China policy. To avoid political controversy let’s just say this list is the top 7 of mainland China.
1) The Forbidden City.
Just the fact for much of its history an average pleb like me would have been kept out is reason enough to visit. To see the last palace of the Emperors. Even today look at a Google map of Beijing and its not hard to spot the forbidden city from the air. Not just the size of the place and the architecture, but the ornamental details such as the Chinese lions and the Imperial five-clawed dragons which hold interest here. While in Beijing which many will be for the Summer Olympics 2008, there are many temples and sites to see and a visit to the summer palace should also be included. The new Olympic venues like the bird nest stadium and bubble swimming center will be architecture wonders for decades after the games have finished.
2) The Great wall of China.
A wall thousands of miles long just has to be seen. It not my first pick because in reality much of the wall is in ruins. Not all the wall was made from stone. Some sections were compressed mud, but the aim was the same – to separate civilized China from the barbarians of the north. It failed at times as the Mongols clearly showed, but it was still an impressive construction feat. There are restored sections of the walls for the tourists, but to be honest its the original ruined sections that have more interest for me – as well as more history and character.
3) Mount Everest
The tallest mountain in the world. Apart from the amazing height – you likely to suffer attitude sickness even at base camp, visually Everest is a stunning mountain. Add to that the yaks, Sherpas and isolation in the plateau on top of the world and you have something that attracts the adventure. I have no desire to climb the mighty mountain, one I’m getting too old and second going into any death zone isn’t my cup of tea. But to climb some of the slopes could be fun.
Serving as the Capital to 11 Dynasties over 4,000 years you know there has to be something special about this site. The Xi’an City Walls 14km’s long, give you the sense traveling back in time. You can imagine arriving in a caravan from the west seeking China’s special silk and other products. Within the city as numerous pagodas, temple and places of interest including the Shaanxi History Museum.
5) The Terracotta Army
1000’s of life-size pottery figures modeled after soldiers of the era. The tomb of the first Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi is yet to be fully excavated. The Chinese have great respect for their ancestors so they are moving carefully with this project, though I for one would love to find out what other hidden treasures are yet to be discovered.
The bund is not technically Chinese but a hang over from the colonial exploitation of China by the western powers and Japan, which is must be said was a disgusting period of history with Britain and other nations forcing Opium on the Chinese populace – the drug trade is disgusting, to then enforce that trade at the point of the gun is despicable. The bund is the waterfront of Shanghai with a 1920’s art deco feel. Other must see places in Shanghai include the Shanghai museum, Yu Gardens and Bazaar
7) Finally the South West – in particular – the Landscape around Yangshuo, Guangxi – towering cliffs with rice paddy’s and river give the traditional Chinese feel as China was for thousands of years. These weathered limestone formations from Karst are a photographers dream and inspired thousands of landscapes.
I told you I would struggle to fit everything into seven top picks, this list is just a tip of a large iceberg – as its not yet complete – the 3 Gorges Dam is added as a bonus here. What will become the largest power plant/dam in the world will definitely be worth a visit. As well I’d love to watch the huge tidal bore that occurs on the yellow river as well.
China – home to 1/5 of the world’s population is overdue to become one of the world’s great tourist hotspots. I for one will be happy to led the charge.