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A guide to the main attractions
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Selected by piero scaruffi | Back to the travel page | Suggestions
My pictures of China
This page provides a list of the main things to see in China. "++" identifies the top attractions.
Beijing (north):
  • +Summer Palace of 1888 (Marble boat in Kunming Lake) [Subway to Xizhimen+Line 13 to Wu Dao Kou + taxi]
  • Old Summer Palace/ Changchun Yuan/ European garden/Fountain ruins of 18th c [Subway to Xizhimen+Line 13 to Wu Dao Kou + taxi]
  • Guguan Xiangta observatory of 1446 [Jianguomen]
  • Yonghegong temple of 1694 [Yonghgong]
  • Kong Miao temple of Confucius of 1306 [near Yonghegong]
  • Sunrise Kempinski Hotel (Yanshui Road, Yanqi Lake, Huairou District, one hour north of downtown)
Beijing (central):
  • +Qian Men (1420)
  • Tianan Men
  • +++Forbidden city (1420)
  • Museum of History
  • Grand Theater/ Opera House [subway line 1 to Tiananmen Square West station exit C]
Beijing (west):
  • Baiyuan taoist temple of 741 [Nanlishilu or Muxidi]
  • West railway station [Junshibowuguan]
Beijing (southwest):
  • Niujie Libaisi mosque of 996 [Changchunjie]
  • Faiyuan temple of 696 [near mosque]
  • Beijing World Park [in Fengtai district]
Beijing (east):
  • Dongyue temple [Chaoyangmen]
  • China World Trade Center Tower 3 (2010) in the Central Business District at Jiangoo Menwai & East Chang Am Ave, tallest building in Beijing
  • Rem Koolhaas' CCTV Tower headquarters near the WTC-Datong-Luoyan
  • Headquarters of Bank of China
  • Linked Hybrid Building
  • Olympic Village (Bird Nest)
  • Phoenix International Media Center (Chaoyang Park)
  • Reconstruction of the Daguanyuan/ Prospect Garden of the "Dream of the Red Chamber", Xuanwu District
Beijing (south):
  • +Tiantan/ Temple of Heaven (1420) [10' south of Qian Men, subway Line 5 to Tiantandongmen Station]
Near Beijing:
  • Tanzche Si temple of 3rd c (45 km west) [Subway to Pingguoyuan + one-hour bus to temple]
  • Shisanling tombs (Ming tombs) of 15th-17th c (50 km NW)
  • +Great Wall (usually seen at Badaling but better hiked from Jinshanling to Simatai)
  • Handan: Xiang-tang Shan caves (late 6th c AD) with +Bas-relief of Western Paradise
  • Tianjin: European villas, World Financial Center
  • Pinggu (100 kms from Beijing): Shilinxia viewing platform (world's biggest glass viewing platform as of 2018)

HEILONGJIANG (northeast)
Harbin: +Snow & Ice Festival (january)
LIAONING (northeast)
Shenyang: Gugong (imperial palace of 1636)
HEBEI (north of Beijing)
Hongyagu: world's longest glass bridge (as of 2018)
East Taihang: cracking glass walkway
Chengde/Jehol (3 hr from Beijing): Summer Palace, Liao-period white pagoda/ Yongyousi-Ta (12th c)
Mancheng (25 km west of Baoding, near Chengde, 137km south of Beijing): Han-period tomb of Liu Sheng, king of Zhongshan (206 AD)
Dingzhou City: Kaiyuan temple with Liaodi Pagoda (1055 AD), 84 meters high, eleven storeys, tallest of all extant ancient buildings
Zhengding (200 kms south of Beijing, near Shijiazhuang): Taoist and Buddhist temples in the old town
SHANDONG (south of Beijing)
Qufu: +Kong Miao/Temple of Confucius of 1724 (Han dynasty gates, Great Pavilion of Constellations of the Scholars of 1190) and Wung Fu (1567)
Taian: Tai Shan (Taoist pilgrimage mountain)
Zaozhuang/Taierzhuang: Grand Canal
Qingzhou (west of Weifang): museum (with Tang-era Buddha statues unearthed in 1996)
Maoshan (Daoist mountain)
JIANGSU (south of Shandong)
Nanjing: Ming tombs on Zijin Shan (Ming Xiaoling) and Zhongshan Ling (1920 mausoleum of Sun Yatsen/ Sun Yixian), Greenland Financial Center or Zifeng Tower, Qinhuai River (prostitutes quarter)
Zhenjiang: Jueshan/Jiaoshan
Changzhou: China Dinosaur Park, Tianning Temple, Yancheng Ruins (warning: see the Notes)
Wuxi: Wanda Cultural Center (teapot-shaped building, Juqu Rd & Lihu Ave, 1 km south of Changguangxi metro), Lingshan Buddha and Lingshan Buddhist Palace on Taihu Lake
  • Suzhou (north to south): Suzhou Museum (Pei-designed); Silk Museum (more interesting building than the Museum); Administrator gardens; Confucian Temple/ Wenmiao with stelae carved during the Southern Song dynasty (1137-1279) including a map of old Suzhou, detailing the canal system, and an astronomy stele from 1190 - one of the oldest astronomy charts in the world; Pingjiang Lu (pedestrian area with several opera performances); Gate of the Orient (2014, 3km east of the old town, Dongfangzhimen station of Line 1 metro); Temple of Mystery/ Xuanmiao (Daoist, 1181 and the sole surviving example of Song architecture in Suzhou); Twin Pagodas/ Shuang Ta; +Pan Gate Scenic Area (one ticket for all): Pan Men (1355), Wumen Bridge (Wumen Qiao), Ruiguang Pagoda (Ruiguang Ta).
  • Slightly outside Suzhou (northwest): North Temple Pagoda in Bao'en Si (The tallest pagoda south of the Yangzi); Shantang Street from Changmen Gate (the west gate) on the northern bank of the Shantang River ending at Tiger Hill for seven li (3.5 kms); Tiger Hill/ Huqiu Shan with seven-storey Cloud Rock Pagoda (Yunyan Ta) atop the hill (very popular with Chinese tourists but wildly overpriced); West Garden temple/ Xiyuan Si (3km from town), constructed in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the largest temple in Suzhou; +Hanshan temple in Fengqiao town (5km west of Suzhou, 1 km from Xiyuan Si), the best temple in the province.
  • Watertowns near Suzhou: Tongli and +Zhouzhuang (pronounced Joju-a)

    SHANXI (between Beijing and Xian)
    Taiyuan: Shuangta monastery with 13-storey pagoda, Jin monastery of 1020 (25 km southwest of Taiyuan), cave temples of 6th c (sculptures of Cave 19) on Mt Tianlong (near Jinci, 50 kms from Taiyuan)
    Datong/ Tatung: Nine dragon screen in Jiulong Bi, +++Yungang/Yunkang caves of 386-534 AD (++Cave 6 of 5th c AD, +Cave 7 of 480, +Cave9, Cave 12's west wall, +Cave 13, +Colossal 5th c.AD Buddha of cave 20)
    Hunyuan: Xuan-kong Si (Hanging Monastery) of 1140
    Heng Shan (Buddhist holy mountain)
    Yingxian: Pagoda (11th c) of Fogong Temple, oldest extant wooden pagoda
    +Pingyao (traditional village of Ming dynasty, 1.5 hour from Taiyuan)
    Zhenguo Temple (near Pingyao)
    Jincheng: Tomb of the Red Emperor (14th c), Jin Dynasty theater, Yuhuang temple (Daoist, with 260 statues), Xiyagou canyon, Manghe natural reserve in Sanglin town, Qinglian temple/ Blue Lotus temple (5th c AD) at Lingshi Mountain (17 km southeast of Jingcheng)
    Wutai Shan/ Mount Wutai (the five-terrace holy mountain of Buddhists): East Main Hall of Foguang Temple (857), 5kms north of Doucunzhen, and main hall of Nanchan Temple 782), two of the oldest wooden buildings in the world, and Shuxiang Temple
    Ruicheng: The Five Dragons Temple/ Wu Long Mao, Taoist temple, with wooden Main Hall of 833

    HENAN (between Beijing and Xian)
    Fuxi mountain: glass U-shaped bridge
    Zhengzhou: Yellow River Scenic Area, Shang ruins
    Anyang (200 kms north of Zhengzhou): Yinxu Bowuguan museum (Shang Dynasty ruins), Wenfeng pagoda
    Luoyang (120 kms west of Zhengzhou): +Longmen Caves of 494-750 AD (1352 grottoes, 40 pagodas including +Seated Buddha in cave 13 of 527, +cave 20, +cave 6, +Pinyang Cave T69 of 6th c AD, Vairocana Buddha of 675), Baima monastery of 1st c BC (first Buddhist temple in China), Han-dynasty tomb of 1st c BC (with earliest wall painting of China), Laojun Mountain (Daoist mountain, the mountain with the greatest number of "golden halls" in the world)
    Dengfeng (60 km southeast of Luoyang): +Mt Sung/Song with 12-sided Songyue Pagoda (6th c), Fawang Temple's pagodas, +Shaolin Temple (the birthplace of Zen Buddhism, with collection of pagoda forest), Zhongyue Temple (one of the earliest Taoist temples),
    Kaifeng: +Iron Pagoda (1049), Da Xiangguo Si (Song Dynasty's largest temple but rebuilt in 1766)
    Zhaocun (Lushan County): +128-meters Spring Temple Buddha (tallest statue in the world, 2008)
    Mt Bao: funerary niches near Lingquan monastery

    HUBEI (central)
    Wuhan: Phoenix Towers (1km tall)
    ANHUI (central)
    +Huangshan Mountains National Park ("Yellow Mountains") with Valley of Wild Monkeys,
    Huangshan City: Cheng Dawei Abacus Museum (more than 1,000 abaci), Cheng's Three Houses , MAD Architects' mountain village at Huangshan Taiping Lake (2016)
    Huangshan City: traditional villages of southern Anhui, i.e. Wan Nan (Hongcun, +Xidi)
    Chizhou: Jiuhua holy mountain
    JIANGXI (northeast)
    Sanqingshan National Park (40 km north of Yushan County)
    HUNAN (central)
    Tianmen mountain: glass walkways (Coiling Dragon Cliff Walk) and the world's longest cable car ride
    Zhangjiajie (northwestern Hunan): +Wulingyuan National Park; glass walkway of Tianmen mountain (2016)
    Hengyang: Grand Temple/ Nanyue Damiao of Mount Heng, largest temple complex in China
    Fenghuang: ancient town
    Changsha: Zaha Hadid's Meixihu International Culture & Arts Centre
    Pingjiang: Shiniuzhai National Geological Park with +Brave Man's Bridge/ Haohan Qiao (2017)

    SHAANXI (central)
    • city walls
    • history museum
    • Dayan Ta pagoda of 652
    • ++Qin Shi's tomb of 210 BC (with 8,000 +terracotta soldiers, ++bronze chariots)
    • +Jingi
    Near Xian
    • Maoling (45 kms from Xian, mausoleum of emperor Wudi, 87 BC)
    • +Qianling (80 kms northwest of Xian, mausoleum of Tang emperor Gao Zong, his consort and his children, 690 AD, with stone animal carvings, statues of foreign envoys) and murals of tomb of Princess Yong Tai
    • +Zhaoling (83 kms from Xian, mausoleum of Tang emperor Taizong/Li Shimin, 741 AD, first tomb not in tumulus)
    • +Banpo neolithic village (5km east of Xian): Museum of Yangshao culture (4,000 BC)
    • Huayin: Hua Shan, one of the five sacred Taoist mountains and a legendary trail

    SHANGHAI (central East Coast)
    • Bund/Waitan on Zhongshan Rd (waterfront promenade)
    • Yu Yuan bridge of 16th c in Yu Yuan gardens
    • Jade Buddha temple (with two white jade Buddhas)
    • Yangpu bridge (world's longest suspension bridge)
    • Tomorrow Square (2003)
    • World Financial Center (2006)
    • Jin Mao Building (1998)
    • Oriental Pearl TV tower (one of the world's tallest buildings)
    • Jin Mao building (1998),
    • Hong Kong New World Centre (2001)
    • Shanghai Tower (tallest skyscraper in China in 2016)
    • Sky Soho (2014, Zaha Hadid) - Songhong Road Metro Station of Line 2
    • Hongkou SOHO - No.575 Wusong Road & Sichuan North Road (2015, Kengo Kuma)
    • M50/ 50 Moganshan Lu (art galleries)
    • Poly Grand Theatre at Yuanxiang Lake, 159 Baiyin Road, Jiading (2014, Tadao Ando) - Baiyin Road station (Line 11)

    ZHEJIANG (south of Shanghai)
    Hangzhou: West Lake and +Liuhe Pagoda (Six Harmonies Pagoda) of 1165 AD, Carlos Ott's Hangzhou Grand Theatre, +Lingyin Temple, Wansong Academy, Longjing village (tea village), Qiaoxi (Qiao Xi Li Shi Jie Qu) along the Grand Canal, Southern Song Imperial St (just south of Ding'an Rd metro station) and Hefang St (400 meters south of metro station Ding'an Rd)
    Yuhang (40 kms northwest of Hangzhou): Liangzhu Museum (David Chipperfield, 2008) for Liangzhu culture (3400-2250 BC)
    Wuzhen water town: +Dongda Jie (one hour from Main Bus Station), Opera theater, Munxi museum
    Huzhou: Sheraton Hot Spring Resort (Taihu Lake, north Zhejiang)
    Xinye (near Xin'anjiang) traditional village
    Putuoshan holy mountain of Guanyin Buddha (300 kms from Hangzhou): Duobao Pagoda (1334), Puji Temple (Song dynasty), Nanhai Guanyin (giant Buddha statue)
    Jinhua (170 km southwest of Hangzhou): Lanxi Zhuge Bagua ("Eight Trigrams") ancient village, laid out in the form of eight trigrams
    FUJIAN (south of Zhejiang)
    Quanzhou: twin pagodas of Kaiyuan temple
    +Anxi temple and old town
    GUANGDONG (southern East Coast)
    • Shamian Dao (island with colonial architecture)
    • Foshan's +Zumiao temple of Ming dynasty (16km from Guangzhou)
    • +Zaha Hadid's Opera House
    • +Zhujiang New Town
    • GuangXiao temple
    • Liurong temple
    • Sun Yat Sen memorial
    • Mausoleum of the Nanyue King
    • Joseph di Pasquale's Circle or GDPE Landmark Building - Reunion Mansion ( Hejing rd & Zijing Rd in Liwan Qu, 6 kms from Xilang Station, but visible from the other side of the river near Luoxi station of line 2)
    • Langham Place Hotel (2013) in Pazhou island (638 Xingang East Road - Xingangdong station on Line 8)

    • KK100 building (near Grand Theater subway station)
    • Ping An Finance Center (tallest in Shenzhen in 2016)
    • +Civic Center (Civic Center subway station on line 2)
    • Stock Exchange (Futian subway station on line 2)
    • Huaqiangbei Commercial street on Huaqiangbei North street, advertised as "the world's greatest electronics market", but way smaller than similar markets in Tokyo and Hong Kong (Huaqiang North metro station on line 1)
    • OCT museum by PeiZhu (Overseas Chinese Town/OCT subway station on line 1, south of Temple of Heaven)
    • OCT Loft (art galleries)
    • +Steven Holl's Vanke Center (2011)

    Kaiping: 1800 watchtowers
    Macau: colonial architecture, Mazu temple, +Grand Lisbon
    Hong Kong:
    • +++Northern Hong Kong Island
    • International Finance Center
    • Central Plaza (374m),
    • Bank of China Tower (369m)
    • The Centre (350m)
    • Cheung Kong Center (290m)
    • Manulife Plaza (240m)
    • International Commerce Center in Kowloon
    • Foster's Shangai Banking Building
    • Libeskind's Creative Media Centre (18 Tat Hong Avenue, 500 meters up the hill from the Kowloon Tong railway station, to the north of City University's main campus)
    • Ten-thousand Buddhas monastery (Tai Po Rd, Shatin subway station)
    • Giant Tian-tan Buddha (Lantau Island, Tung Chung subway station)

    GUANGXI (south)
    Guzhou/ Rongjiang old town
    Lijiang (Li River) National Park
    • +Taipei 101 (once the tallest building in the world)
    • Lungshan temple
    • +Chiang Kaishek (Jiang Zhongzheng) memorial
    • National Theater
    • Concert Hall
    • National Museum
    • Shilin Night Market
    • Presidential Office Building (NTU Hospital station of metro)
    • Jon Jerde's Core Pacific City (2001) (Nanjing Sanmin metro station)
    • Maokong, the tea suburb (there's a gondola from the Taipei Zoo metro station of the Wenshan Line)
  • Pingzi: Lantern Festival (february)
  • Beigang: Chaotien Temple (Taiwan's oldest Matsu shrine)
  • Chiayi: 16m-high shoe-shaped glass church (Chiayi Budai Seascape Park Taiwan Tourist Shuttle service (Southwest Coast Route)
  • Alishan National Scenic Area
  • Kenting National Park
  • -Puli: Chung Tai Shan temple
  • Kaohsiung (3 hours by train from Taipei): Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, Fo Guang Shan Buddha Memorial Center (the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, with Buddha Memorial Center and 36-meter Buddha statue, 1975), Lotus Lake/ Lianchi Tan with Dragon and Tiger Pagodas/ Longhu Ta (1976)
  • -Tainan, ancient capital: Confucius Temple (1665), Nankunshen Daitian Temple
  • Taichung: Rainbow Village in Nantun District painted by Huang Yung-Fu

    TIBET (southwest)
  • Lhasa: +++Potala Palace, +Jokhang Temple, +Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery
  • Near Lhasa: ++Ganden Monastery, Reting monastery/ Radreng monastery
  • Far from Lhasa: ++Shigatze, +Gyangtse, +Samye monasteries, +Sakya monastery (near Nepal border)
  • Very far from Lhasa: Lake Manasarova, ++Mt Kailash
  • Mt Kailash area
    SICHUAN (Eastern Tibet)
    Le Shan: ++Da Fo, largest Buddha in the world of 803
    Emeishan (near Leshan) pilgrimage mountain
    Chengdu: Manjushri Monastery (Wenshu Yuan), Qingyang Gong, Qintai Rd
    Baoguang monastery of 2nd c AD (18 kms north of Chengdu)
    Anren (one hour from Chengdu): Jianchuan Museum Cluster (largest museum complex in China in 2005, official propaganda about Mao's times)
    Pools of Huanglong ("Yellow Dragon", 150 kms northwest of Chengdu)
    Garze/Ganzi: Kandze monastery/ Ganzisi of 1642 (west of Aba)
    Baiyu County: Yarchen Gar in Garze/Ganzi prefecture: nun city (Yaqen Orgyan Temple)
    Sertar County: Seda in Garze/Ganzi prefecture: Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, the largest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world
    Dege County in Garze/Ganzi prefecture: Dzogchen monastery (main Buddhist temple in East Tibet), Palpung Monastery, Gongchen Monastery, Kathok Monastery, Palyul Monastery, Shechen Monastery
    Nuorilang: Jiuzhaigou nature reserve (Arrow Bamboo Falls, Five Flower Lake, Pearl Shawls Falls)

    CHONGQING (east of Sichuan)
    Chongqing. Jiulongpo District: +Huangjueping Graffiti Street, the largest graffiti art in China, starts from Huangjueping Railway Hospital and ends at 501 Art Gallery, with a total length of 1.25 km. Yuzhong District (subway line 2 to Linjiangmen Station): Hongya Cave (view from Qiansimen Bridge); +Guotai Arts Centre (red building); Skyscrapers (WFC, IFC, etc); +Times Square (pedestrian area amid the skyscrapers). Yuzhong District (subway line 2 to Zengjiayan Station): +Great Hall of the People, and across the square the Three-gorges Museum (with Han artifacts). Yuzhong District (subway line 2 to Fotuguan Station): General Stilwell Museum - Flying Tigers Museum (68 Jialingxin Road). Line 2 +Liziba station (high-rise light-rail station). Jiangbei District (line 6 to Grand Theater station: +Opera House and Science and Technology Museum. +Qiansimen Bridge (connects Opera House and Hongya Cave with great views of the skyline). +Moshe Safdie's "horizontal skyscraper" (under construction in 2018). Bishan Cultural and Art Center (2016): Dai Shan Da Dao, Bishan Qu, Chongqing Shi.
    Dazu: +Beishan caves of 9th-13th c (10,000 carved stone statues with 250m-long Buddha Crescent), +Baodingshan caves of 1179-1249, Duobao Pagoda (12th c)
    Cruise to Yangtze gorges: Shibao Zhai temple on an island
    GUIZHOU (south)
    YUNNAN (south of Sichuan)
    Lugu Lake: Mosuo matriarcal tribes
    Kunming: Qiongzhu temple
    Shi Lin: +stone forest (100 km southeast of Kunming)
    Lijiang (border of Tibet): +old town, water wheels, Naxi people (matriarchal and polytheistic)
    Baisha (10 km north of Lijiang): Mural of the Liuli Dian temple and Dabaoji Gong palace
    Hutiaoxia/Qiaotou (near Lijiang): +Tiger Jumping Gorge (16-km hike and "Sky Ladder", series of vertical ladders)
    Dali: old town, three pagodas
    Jinghong: Dai villages (e.g. Banla)
    Damenglong (south of Jinghong just a few kms from the border): Hanfeilong pagoda of 1204
    Shangri-La/ Zhongdian: +nature
    Shigu: great bend of the Yangtze around Cloud Mountain

    HAINAN ISLAND (south)
    +Nanshan Park in Sanya (Buddhist temples, statues and gardens, including Nanshan Temple, and the 108-meter statue of goddess Guan Ying)
    INNER MONGOLIA (north)
    Dongsheng: Genghis Khan's mausoleum (1952)
    Kublai Khan's palace of Xanadu (destroyed)
    Ordos: Exhibition Plaza (Kuanlu Architects, 2015) with +City Library and +Ordos Museum
    GANSU (east of Xinjiang)
    Dunhuang/Tun-Huan: +++ Mogao caves of 366-907 AD (Cave 272 of 420s with "Dome of Heaven" and "Lantern Ceiling"; Cave 259 of 450s with "Treasure Stupa"; Cave 254 of 470s with stupa pillar and Sivi and Mahsattva Jatakas; Cave 249 of 540 with fresco of Buddha in preaching pose and ceiling imagery mixing Chinese tradition and Buddhist belief; Cave 285 of 538 with Vihara architecture and ceiling imagery with traditional Chinese iconography; Cave 428 of 570 with stupa pillar, gable roof, decorative "Lantern" ceiling; Cave 96 of 690s with a female Buddha Maitreya; Cave 217 of 710 with western Paradise and Lotus Sutra; Cave 1's wall painting of Manjusri's pilgrimage; Cave 70's landscape painting of 8th c; Cave 139A's wall painting of the Western Paradise)
    Lanzhou: White Pagoda (seven-storey eight-sided pagoda with images of Buddha of 12th c)
    Mai-chi-shan rock-cut Buddhist caves (+stele of Cave 133)
    Jiayuguan fort of the Great Wall (1372)
    Jiayu Pass: remnants of the original Great Wall
    XINJIANG (far west)
    Urumqi: architecture (City Commercial Bank, New Holiday Inn and Xin Jiang Grand Hotel, Mopark , Jin Gu Hotel, China Construction Bank & Jinsin building, Entertainment Square, People's Hotel & Construction Bank, Hong Xin hotel, Hoi Tak hotel, Bank of China, Fountain Plaza, Hong Xin hotel, Li Hua hotel)
    Kashgar: 17th c mausoleum of Apak Khoja, 11th c mausoleum of Uygur poet Yusup Has Hajib, Id Kah mosque of 1442
    Kucha/Kuche (between Kashgar and Turfan): Buddhist monastery of Kyzyl Kara, Thousand Buddha caves of Kezier Qianfo Dong (70kms from Kucha, but very little left to see)
    Near Kucha: Kizil/Qizil Caves (6th c frescoes)
    Turfan: +Jiaohe (ancient capital of the Cheshi kingdom of 7th-10th c), +Gaochang (ancient Uygur capital)
  • Notes
  • Pictures of China
  • China in 2015-18
  • An itinerary in China
  • An itinerary in Tibet and Xinjang
  • An itinerary in Southern China
  • China in 2008