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Things to Do & Must-See Attractions 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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Zhujiajiao
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268 Tours and Activities

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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Terracotta Warriors Museum (Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum)
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879 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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Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
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366 Tours and Activities

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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Victoria Peak (The Peak)
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Overlooking the Central district on Hong Kong Island, Victoria Peak (Tai Ping Shan) is one of the best vantage points for stupendous views of the harbor and high-rises. Rising 1,810 feet (552 meters), Victoria Peak is topped with the touristy Peak Tower complex of shops, restaurants and 360-degree Sky Terrace viewing platform.

Go for a stroll through the Victoria Peak Garden, follow one of the many nature walks on the mountain, and stay on for nightfall to see Hong Kong's spectacular nightly light show.

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Lan Kwai Fong (LKF)
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With over 100 bars, restaurants, clubs and retailers, Lan Kwai Fong is considered Hong Kong’s dining and entertainment destination. Its convenient location just around the corner from Central makes the area a mainstay for locals, expats and travelers looking for the perfect nighttime hot spots.

Lan Kwai Fong’s history is varied, as the area has undergone a significant number of changes over the years. It was primarily filled with prostitutes back in the 1880’s and then it became a water catchment area at the turn of the century. Around the same time a flower market opened, giving rise to the name Lan Kwai Fong, meaning “Orchid Square”. Prior to the Second World War, the area saw legitimate businesses open their doors as prostitution was abolished, but it wasn’t until the early 1980s that Lan Kwai Fong became the entertainment district of Hong Kong.

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More Things to Do in China

Xin Tian Di

Xin Tian Di

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317 Tours and Activities

Xin Tian Di (Xintiandi) is a sleekly restored area of Shanghai, where the more successful of the city's young come to play. It's also a popular strolling area for tourists, who like to check out the 19th century architecture.

The district abounds in shikumen, stone houses that were a popular residential form in the late 19th century and early 20th century city. When the districts that contained these houses were being razed, developers stepped in to save and restore this area. Today the shikumen house galleries, bookshops, antique stores, upmarket boutiques, bars and restaurants. It's particularly ironic that this Westernized playground should be cheek-by-jowl with the Site of the First Conference of the Communist Party of China.

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Tang Dynasty Show

Tang Dynasty Show

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Shufen Yayun Teahouse (Shufeng Yayun)

Shufen Yayun Teahouse (Shufeng Yayun)

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Located in the Chengdu Culture Park, the Shufeng YaYun Teahouse was once a gathering place for famous Sichuan operatic actors. Now, it is one of the hot spots for visitors to Chengdu and holds the China Sichuan Opera Unique Skills Performance each evening. This helps preserve and share traditional Sichuan arts while providing a glimpse into the past as one of the most popular Sichuan Opera theaters in the area.

Don’t be misled by the term "opera" in relation to the performance that takes place here; instead, it’s more of a variety show of traditional Sichuan exhibitions like puppetry, dancing, singing, music, hand shadows, comedic theater and the culmination: face changing. The performances take place in an open-air theater, and light snacks are served. Knowledge of Mandarin is not necessary, as there is a translator at the show.

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Shanghai French Concession

Shanghai French Concession

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265 Tours and Activities

Shanghai’s Old French Concession, an area once leased to the French in the Luwan and Xuhui districts of the city, is a reminder of an older Shanghai. The visitor-friendly area is packed full of beautiful colonial mansions and hotels dating back to the first three decades of the twentieth century. The French took control of the area in 1849, but it wasn’t until the 1920s when the neighborhood reached its peak of popularity as one of Shanghai’s most elite neighborhoods.

When you walk through the heart of the area on the tree-lined streets between Julu Road and Huaihai Road, you’ll find a collection of nicer restaurants and boutique shops occupying the surviving historic structures alongside Shanghai locals going about their day to day life. The French Concession is a good place to grab some food as there are so many choices; you’ll find almost everything here from Indian to French, Spanish and Thai food.

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Yuyuan Garden (Yu Garden)

Yuyuan Garden (Yu Garden)

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The Bund (Waitan)

The Bund (Waitan)

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The Bund (or Waitan) is the grand center of Colonial architecture in Shanghai. The former International Settlement runs along the waterfront of the Huangpu River, facing the Pudong district ('Bund' is a word of Indian derivation meaning 'embankment'). Loosely known as the "museum of international architecture," the Bund attracts visitors who are interested in the artsy side of Shanghai.

When foreign powers entered Shanghai after the Opium Wars of the 19th century, the Bund existed as a towpath. It quickly became the center of Shanghai as Western traders built banks, trading houses and consulates along its length, and has been synonymous with Shanghai's east-meets-west glamor ever since. Today the Bund faces the new wave of trading development - the vast towers of Jin Mao, the World Finance Center and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the financial district of Pudong.

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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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Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu)

Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu)

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Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road) is a shopping street with a history. When the British began trading in Shanghai after the Opium Wars of the 19th century, this was one of their commercial centers. In those days it was called Nanking Road, the 'k' being a more popular form of Anglicization.

Today it's not only the hectic heart of Shangai's shopping and tourism scene, but the longest shopping district in the world (6 km/3.5 mi of go-go-go). Even back in its earliest days when it served the International Settlement, it quickly became dominated by big department stores. The chains have well and truly moved in here, but really it's for the experience as much as anything that you should come. The street is divided into two lengths, east and west. The eastern section is pedestrianized. Avoid the Western generic stuff and concentrate on what are still the Shanghai specialties - silk, jade, clocks.

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Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan)

Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan)

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The first thing to note about the Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan) is its unusual design. The building, constructed in the 1990s, is supposed to resemble an ancient type of bronze cooking pot called a ding. It's a reference to the objects on display in the museum's five stories of rooms.

The museum's structure - a round building on a square base - also holds echoes of China's history. Ancient buildings in China were constructed like this because of the belief that heaven was round and the earth square. The collection, although sensitively ordered, is so large as to be somewhat overwhelming. Pick and choose your areas, or you may run out of steam. Definitely take in some of the ceramics, through which you can trace China's history from the Neolithic Age onwards. There are also furniture, calligraphy, religious sculptures and jade to enjoy.

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Huangpu River

Huangpu River

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The Huangpu River, extending over 71 miles (113 kilometers), flows through the middle of Shanghai’s, dividing the city into two parts – Pudong to the east and Puxi to the west. The port where the river empties into the East China Sea has now become the largest port in China and in 2012 became the world’s busiest container port.

Walking along the Huangpu River juxtaposes the colonial buildings of Old Shanghai with the towering, ultramodern skyscrapers that now dominate the skyline. While it’s possible to experience the Huangpu River from the banks with a walk along the Bund, the best way to see both sides is on a river cruise.

Most cruises start from the Bund and go upstream before turning south towards the Yangpu bridge. Boats depart throughout the day, but after the sun sets and the buildings to either side of the river light up, the Shanghai skyline becomes even more impressive than usual.

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Pudong

Pudong

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Pudong, the area of Shanghai east of the Huangpu River, is home to many of Shanghai’s most famous modern buildings. Formerly an agricultural area, Pudong is now Shanghai’s financial district and commercial hub -- a stark contrast to the colonial buildings of the Bund just across the river.

Pudong’s skyline includes notable buildings like the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV tower, Jinmao Tower Observatory, Shanghai Ocean Aquarium and the International Convention Center. Pudong New Area is also home to Century Park, the largest park in the city, as well as some of Shanghai’s best shopping opportunities, like Nanjing Road. Before visiting Pudong, take a walk along the Bund for the best views of the iconic Shanghai skyline across the river. Once you’ve crossed over, set aside some time to ride to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower, the 1,535-foot (468-meter) tall space age building that stands out among the other skyscrapers of Shanghai.

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People’s Square (Renmin Guangchang)

People’s Square (Renmin Guangchang)

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124 Tours and Activities

Located in the heart of Shanghai, People’s Square (Renmin Guang Chang) is the home to the city’s municipal government headquarters and, more importantly, serves as a major landmark and meeting point in Shanghai.

What was once an elite horse racing venue before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 is today a hotspot of cultural attractions. Within People’s Square, you’ll find some of the best museums in Shanghai, including the excellent collection of Chinese art housed within the Shanghai Museum and the impressive Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, where visitors are treated to a look at Shanghai’s past, present and future. The Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Art Museum and the all-glass Shanghai Grand Theater are also worth a look. The park within People’s Square offers cultural insights of its own, especially early in the mornings and on weekends when locals come out to practice tai chi, exercise or play card games.

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