Where ancient feats of architecture neighbour buzzing megalopolises and verdant valleys are shrouded in tumble-down ruins, China is a fascinating land of diversity. The world's oldest continuous civilisation may be an economic powerhouse, but its history, mystery, beauty and traditions offer culture enthusiasts myriad gems to discover.
The Great Wall of China, built and rebuilt across multiple dynasties, was created to protect Chinese empires from attacks by nomadic tribes. The easiest place to experience the Great Wall is from Beijing, though there are thousands of kilometres winding over picturesque mountain tops that will reward more adventurous travellers.
This palatial complex is also China's most well preserved collection of ancient structures. Ringed by a 52-metre-wide moat in Beijing, a visit is a fascinating insight into the imperial might of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Described as one of the four holy lands of Chinese Buddhism, the history of Emei Shan stretches back 2,000 years. There are over 30 temples, including the Giant Buddha of Leshan, and visitors usually spend three days hiking and exploring its natural and cultural wonders.
Flanked by white perimeter fences and Soviet-style buildings, Tiananmen Square is Beijing's epicentre. Visit the world's largest public square to see the spectacular flag-raising ceremony, Monument to the People's Heroes and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
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You'll be struck with awe the first time you see the Hanging Temple. Clinging to a cliff face at Jinxia Gorge, the structure has survived more than 1,400 years of exposure to the elements.
The Terracotta Army of Xi'an arguably rivals the Great Wall as China's most popular attraction. The army features 8,000 terracotta warriors that have silently stood guard over China's first unifier for around two millennia. What's even more astonishing is that no two warriors' features are alike.
Just beyond Beijing City at the foot of the Tianshou Mountain are the 13 Ming Tombs. Within these tombs lie the emperors from the namesake dynasty, whose history spans 230 years. Not only is the site grand, but visitors also come to appreciate the scenic surrounds.
At 300 hectares, the Summer Palace is China's largest imperial garden. UNESCO listed, the site was once a playground for wealthy families to escape the summer heat in Beijing. The palace is built into a cliff-face and is a sprawling assembly of lakes, pavilions, temples and bridges.
Ensure you have a pocket-sized phrasebook on hand as it's almost essential to learn a few key phrases of Mandarin when visiting China.
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