Northwest China was historically a border region with the beginning of the ancient Silk Road, much desert terrain, and mainly Muslim inhabitants including some nomads and some tribal groups. It has always had strong Chinese influences, though at times there were also independent kingdoms in the area.
The region is an almost dizzying agglomeration of desert, grassland, raging rivers and colossal mountains, attracting numerous travelers and especially photographers. Its charm is quite unique, and both the natural scene and culture are like nowhere else.
Despite the region’s impressive size, which alone would form the eighth largest country in the world, it contains only four percent of China’s population – quite a baffling statistic considering the region’s staggering ethnic variety. Xinjiang is home to, and indeed an autonomous province for, a large population of Uyghur, a predominantly Muslim people who speak a language far more proximate to Turkish than Chinese. The province’s deserts and mountains also harbor large communities of Kazakh, Kyrgyz and Tajik, making for the curious existence of occasional blond-haired, blue-eyed holders of a Chinese passport.
Today it is a rapidly growing region, though still less developed than coastal areas.
The most important city in north China is Beijing, China’s capital city, which also attracts the most visitors in the region. The modernity of Beijing comes as a surprise. Freeways, high-rises and numerous cars make this metropolis move in a busy and fast pace. Here you can visit the world’s largest palace complex and lots of other historical sites. Though today the city is a very different one, it remains spiritually and politically the heart of the country. Between the concrete and glass, you’ll find old temples, small lanes, and certainly the grandest remnants of the Imperial Age.
Also in the north part, we will recommend you two provinces not to be missed. One is Henan, which is the cradle of Chinese culture; another is Shanxi, which is also a place of great importance in Chinese history.
The east part of China is the most developed area in the country with its convenient transportation and superior location. Shanghai, the most dynamic and international city in China, is the representative of China’s reform and opening-up.
Nearly a third of China’s exports come from the area and it attracts almost a quarter of all the country’s foreign investment, more than any single developing country. Its skyline is filling with skyscrapers, and there are over four thousand now, more than twice as many as in New York. Grand shopping malls, luxurious hotels and arts centers are rising alongside. Overall, it’s a blend of old and new, east and west.
Water towns and old buildings are big attractions in the east region. Far from the hustle of modern city, people in the water town live a quite peaceful life in houses built thousands years ago.
The Yangzi River widens, slows down and loops through its flat, low-lying middle reaches, which form the middle part of China. In this part, people’s life has a lot to do with the big Yangzi River.
As well as watering one of China’s key rice- and tea-growing areas, this stretch of the Yangzi has long supported trade and transport; back in the thirteenth century, Marco Polo was awed by the “innumerable cities and towns along its banks, and the amount of shipping it carries, and the bulk of merchandise that merchants transport by it”. Rural fringes away from the river – including much of Anhui and Jiangxi provinces – remain some of the least developed regions in central China.
The gorges, lush mountains, and unique folk customs attract lots of visitors each year. The cuisine here is also very famous for its spicy and good look.
The southwest part of China consists of Sichuang, Yunnan, and Guizhou provinces. This area is one of the most scenic areas in China, boasting of various landforms like plains, hills, mountains and plateaus. The climate here is mild with plenty of rainfall, and visitors can enjoy a wide variety of beautiful landscapes including ravines, basin, rivers, lakes, hot springs, waterfalls and limestone caves, etc.
Sichuan Province is one of the largest provinces in China with an area of 485,000 km². Tourist site like Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area attracts so many visitors both from home and abroad. Moreover, the nice climate nurses a great number of rare plant and animal species, among which the giant pandas are most precious. Actually, 85% of China’s giant pandas are living in this mountain area, earning the province a reputation of ‘Hometown of Giant Pandas’.
The long history of early-developed civilization has left Sichuan abundant historical heritages, such as Dujiangyan Irrigation Project, Leshan Giant Buddha and Mt. Emei as well as distinctive local highlights like Sichuan Opera and the delicious local food. Sichuan Opera is one of the most famous operas in the country. Changing faces and spitting fire are the most attractive and mysterious skills of it. Sichuan food is also well-known all over the country and even in foreign countries. It is characterized by spicy and pungent flavors. Typical menu items are: Hot Pot, Smoked Duck,Kung Pao Chicken, Twice-Cooked Pork and Ma Po Tofu.
Yunnan, which refers to ‘the place south of the colorful clouds’, or ‘the place south of Yunling (cloudy ridge) Mountain’, is the most southwest province of China. Externally, it borders Vietnam, Laos and Burma; internally, it is neighbor to Guizhou, Guangxi, Chongqing, Sichuan and Tibet. It is a land of various ethnic groups, landscapes, natural scenery, creatures, etc.The topography changes a lot on this land due to the sharply decreasing altitude.
Yunnan has the most ethnic minorities in China. Of China’s 55 ethnic minorities, the province is home to 51. The residences of the ethnic minorities are various and characteristic; their clothes are colorful and distinctive; some of them have their own languages and writings, and they celebrate varied and colorful festivals. The most famous ones include the Torch Festival of Yi Nationality, the March Fair of Bai Nationality, the Water-splashing Festival of Dai Nationality, etc.
Yunnan has some of the most magical and diverse scenery in all of China. There are endless trekking opportunities in the south’s tropical rainforests, and in the north, snow-capped Tibetan peaks hide dozens of tiny villages and temples rarely visited by tourists.
The south part of China is the most developed area in the country, with its economy opening up in 1970s. Though occasionally taking centre stage in the country’s history, the provinces share a sense of being generally isolated from mainstream events by the mountain ranges surrounding Fujian and Guangdong, physically cutting them off from the rest of the empire. Forced to look seawards, the coastal regions have a long history of contact with the outside world, continually importing – or being forced to endure – foreign influences and styles. This is where Islam entered China, and porcelain and tea left it along the Maritime Silk Road; where the mid-nineteenth-century theatricals of the Opium Wars, colonialism, the Taiping Uprising and the mass overseas exodus of southern Chinese were played out; and where today you’ll find some of China’s most Westernized cities.
The handover of Asia’s last two European colonies, Hong Kong in 1997 and Macau in 1999, opened new eras for both places. While their colonial heritage remains obvious, the essentially Chinese character underlying these two SARs, or “Special Administrative Regions of China” is increasingly apparent.
With its emphasis on economics and consumerism, Hong Kong offers the greatest variety and concentration of shops and shopping on earth, along with a colossal range of cuisines, and vistas of sea and island, green mountains and futuristic cityscapes. The excellent infrastructure, including the efficient public transit system, the helpful tourist offices and all the other facilities of a genuinely international city make this an extremely soft entry into the Chinese world.
While Hong Kong is a place to do business, Macau has leapt ahead in recent years as a haven for gambling, a veritable Las Vegas of the East, with thirty-odd casinos. Their wealth has funded a modern cityscape, but evidence of its colonial past persist in extensive quarters of Mediterranean-style architecture, along with Portuguese wine and Macanese cooking, a fusion of colonial and Chinese styles.