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China officially known as the People's Republic of China is a vast a beautiful country located in eastern Europe. China has much natural beauty and ranges from mostly plateaus and mountains in the west to lower lands in the east. With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations. Prior to the 19th century, it possessed one of the most advanced societies and economies in the world. China is a very diverse place with large variations in culture, language and custom. The major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai are modern and comparatively wealthy. China is a huge country with endless and affordable travel opportunities. Due to overcrowding it is necessary to book travel well in advance.
Location: Patrol Police: 110
Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam.
9,596,961 sq km
Afghanistan 76 km, Bhutan 470 km, Burma 2,185 km, India 3,380 km, Kazakhstan 1,533 km, North Korea 1,416 km, Kyrgyzstan 858 km, Laos 423 km, Mongolia 4,677 km, Nepal 1,236 km, Pakistan 523 km, Russia (northeast) 3,605 km, Russia (northwest) 40 km, Tajikistan 414 km, Vietnam 1,281 km
extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north
lowest point: Turpan Pendi -154 m
highest point: Mount Everest 8,850 m
1,336,718,015 (July 2011 est.)
Han Chinese 91.5%, Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uighur, Tujia, Yi, Mongol, Tibetan, Buyi, Dong, Yao, Korean, and other nationalities 8.5% (2000 census)
Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%-4%, Muslim 1%-2%
Castilian Spanish (official) 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, and Basque 2% (official regionally)
Getting to China
Most travelers will need a visa to visit mainland China. In most cases, this should be obtained from a Chinese embassy or consulate before departure. Visas for Hong Kong and Macau can be obtained through a Chinese embassy or consulate, but must be applied for separately from the mainland Chinese visa. However, citizens from most Western countries do not need visas to visit Hong Kong and Macau. Getting a tourist visa is fairly easy for most passports as you don't need an invitation, which is required for business or working visas.
The usual tourist single-entry visa is valid for a visit of 30 days and must be used within three months of the date of issue. A double-entry tourist visa must be used within six months of the date of issue. It is possible to secure a tourist visa for up to 90 days for citizens of some countries. Some travellers will need a dual entry or multiple entry visa. For example, if you enter China on a single entry visa, then go to Hong Kong or Macau, you need a new visa to re-enter mainland China.
While many major airlines now fly to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, budget seats are often scarce. For good offers, book as early as possible. Chineese airlines include China Southern, China Eastern, Air China, and Hainan Airlines. Fliers may prefer Asian airlines as they generally have more cabin staff and quality service.
China can be reached by train from many of its neighboring countries and even all the way from Europe. The two lines within Europe and Russia - Trans-Siberian Railway (Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian) run between Moscow and Beijing, stopping in various other Russian cities, and for the Trans-Mongolian, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. There is regular services link mainland China with Hong Kong.
Entry : Tourists must fill out a baggage declaration form (in two copies) and hand it in to customs, retaining the carbon to show upon exit. Personal belongings will be admitted duty free, including food, two bottles of liquor and two cartons of cigarettes. Wristwatches, radios, tape recorders, cameras, movie cameras, and similar items may be brought in for personal use but cannot be sold or transferred to others and must be brought out of China. Gifts for relatives or friends in China, or articles carried on behalf of other, must also be declared. Visitors can bring in an unlimited amount of foreign currency and Chinese renminbi traveler's checks, and the unspent portion can be taken out. Bringing in the following articles is prohibited :
1. Arms, ammunition, and explosives of all kinds
2. Radio transmitters-receivers and principal parts
3. Renminbi (Chinese currency) in cash
4. Manuscripts, printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and videotapes, etc. which are detrimental to China's politics, economy, culture, and ethics
5. Poisonous drugs, habit-forming drugs, opium, morphine, heroin, etc.
6. Animals, plants and products thereof infected with or carrying germs and insect pests
7. Unsanitary foodstuffs and germ-carrying food-stuffs from infected areas
8. Other articles the import of which is prohibited by state regulations
Exit: On leaving China, tourists must again submit the baggage declaration form for customs inspection (the second copy). Travelers by ship are exempted. Items purchased in China with RMB converted from foreign currencies may be taken out or mailed out of the country after receipts are presented for customs inspection. In cities where a Customs Office does not exit, this can be arranged through the local Friendship Store. Taking out the following articles is prohibited :
1. Arms, ammunition, and explosives of all kinds
2. Radio transmitters-receivers and principal parts
3. Renminbi (Chinese currency) in cash and negotiable securities in RMB
4. Unratified foreign currency, foreign notes or drafts
5. Manuscripts, printed matter, films, photographs, gramophone records, cinematographic films, loaded recording tapes and videotapes, etc. which are detrimental to China's national security
6. Rare and precious copies of books about Chinese revolution, history, culture and art that are not for sale
7. Valuable animals, plants, and seeds
8. Precious metals, pearls, and jewels (things declared to the customs are exempted)
9. Other articles the export of which is prohibited by state regulations
Health and safety:
Tourists requiring urgent medical care should go to the nearest hospital emergency room (airports and many train stations also have medical teams and first aid facilities). Those with serious illnesses or allergies should always carry a special note from their physicians certifying in detail the treatments in progress or that may be necessary.
Electricity in China is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to China with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Outlets in China generally accept 2 types of plug: Flat blade plug and V-shaped flat prongs. If your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the future, it may be worthwhile to get a combination voltage converter and plug adapter.
Emergency numbers in China:
The following emergency telephone numbers work in all areas of China; calling them from a cell phone is free.
Fire Department: 119
(Government-owned) Ambulance/EMS: 120
(some areas private-owned) Ambulance: 999
Traffic Police: 122
Directory inquiries: 114
Consumer Protection: 12315
Buying in China
The official currency of the People's Republic of China is the renminbi ("People's Money"), often abbreviated RMB. The base unit of this currency is the yuan, international currency code CNY. All prices in China are given in yuan, usually either as ¥ or 元. The RMB is not legal tender in the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, both of which issue their own currencies.
Although still restricted, yuan is readily convertible in many countries, especially in Asia. The Hong Kong dollar, U.S. dollar, Canadian dollar, Euro, British pound, Australian dollar, Japanese yen and South Korean won can be easily changed in China. Southeast Asian currencies are generally not accepted, the exception being Singapore dollars, which can be changed at all major banks and licensed money changers.
ATMs are all over the country but most ATMs outside the large cities that accept Cirrus, PLUS, VISA and MasterCard network are owned by Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank. In big cities like Shanghai most ATMs will take Visa/Plus/MC/Maestro/Cirrus, and it's only cash advances from Diner's Club, American Express, or JCB cards that are an issue. For visitors from Hong Kong or Macau, the only ATMs that natively take JETCO cards are Bank of East Asia ATMs. Most ATMs will charge a small and flat fee.
For those who want to shop for souvenirs to take home, they can look around, apart from large department stores and shopping malls, in some of the open markets such as the Xiushui Street and Panjiayuan Antique Market in Beijing. Unlike large department stores where the prices are fixed, these places are where you can and you must bargain. Your local tour guides or hosts are the best help when you go to these places. They will prove essential in finding the real stuff and bringing the prices down.
China has five major annual holidays:
National Day - 1 October
Chinese New Year or Spring Festival - late January/mid-February
Labor Day or May Day - 1 May
Dragon Boat Festival - 5th day of the 5th lunar month, usually May-June (16 June in 2010).
Mid-Autumn Day - 15th day of the 8th lunar month, usually October (22 Sep in 2010).
These are not one-day holidays; nearly all workers get at least a week for Chinese New Year, some get two or three, and students get four to six weeks. For Labor Day and National Day, a week is typical.
World Cultural Heritage sites:
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Cultural Heritage List is a short index of some of the world’s most precious sites. It is no small feat to satisfy the stringent criteria of the UNESCO for any site to be included on this list. Monuments, groups of buildings, works of man or combined works of nature and man have to be of “outstanding value from the point of view of history, art or science.” This is a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China. China has 40, ranking third in the world. These sites comprise some of the most essential part of China's valuable and rich tourism resources. Of these 40 there are 28 cultural heritage sites, seven are natural heritage sites, and four are cultural and natural (mixed) sites.
Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Forbidden City and Mukden Palace
- Beijing (the Forbidden City) and Shenyang (Mukden Palace)
Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor - Xi'an, Shaanxi province
Mogao Caves - Dunhuang, Gansu province
Mount Taishan - Shandong province
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian - Beijing municipality
The Great Wall - Northern China
Mount Huangshan - Anhui province
Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area - Sichuan province
Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area - Sichuan province
Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area - Hunan province
Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains
Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, including the Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka - Lhasa, Tibet
Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples in Chengde - Hebei province
Temple and Cemetery of Confucius, and the Kong Family Mansion - Qufu, Shandong province
Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area - Sichuan province
Lushan National Park - Jiangxi province
Ancient City of Ping Yao - Shanxi province
Classical Gardens of Suzhou - Jiangsu province
Old Town of Lijiang - Yunnan province
Summer Palace - Beijing
Temple of Heaven - Beijing
Dazu Rock Carvings - Chongqing municipality
Mount Wuyi - Fujian province
Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui - Xidi and Hongcun - Anhui province
Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties,
including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum - Beijing
Longmen Grottoes - Luoyang, Henan province
Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System - Sichuan province
Yungang Grottoes - Datong, Shanxi province
Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas - Yunnan province
Rock Art of the Mediterranean Basin on the Iberian Peninsula
Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom - Jilin province
Historic Centre of Macau - Macau
Yin Xu - Henan province
Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries - Sichuan province
Kaiping Diaolou and Villages - Guangdong province
South China Karst - Yunnan, Guizhou provinces and Chongqing municipality
Fujian Tulou - Fujian province
Sanqingshan - Jiangxi province
Mount Wutai - Shanxi province
Historic Monuments of Dengfeng in “The Centre of Heaven and Earth” - Henan province
China Danxia - Hunan, Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Guizhou provinces
Festivals & Events
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration. In China it is known as Spring Festival. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity". Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies.
Chinese New Year market
Photo: Calvin Teo
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Zhongqiu Festival, is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people, dating back over 3,000 years to moon worship in China's Shang Dynasty. In Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties.
The Dōngzhì Festival or Winter Solstice Festival is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese and other East Asians during the Dongzhi solar term (winter solstice) on or around December 22 when sunshine is weakest and daylight shortest. The origins of this festival can be traced back to the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony in the cosmos. After this celebration, there will be days with longer daylight hours and therefore an increase in positive energy flowing in. Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. Traditionally, the Dongzhi Festival is also a time for the family to get together. Whilst in southern China people get together for the making and eating of tangyuan or balls of glutinuous rice, which symbolize reunion. Old traditions also require people with the same surname or from the same clan to gather at their ancestral temples to worship on this day.
The Lantern Festival or Yuan Xiao Festival is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year in the Chinese calendar, the last day of the lunisolar Chinese New Year celebration. It is not to be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is sometimes also known as the "Lantern Festival" in locations such as Singapore and Malaysia. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns. In some region and countries, this festival is also regarded as the Chinese version of St. Valentine's Day, a day celebrating love and affection between lovers in Chinese tradition and culture. Those who do not carry lanterns often enjoy watching informal lantern parades. In addition to eating 'yuanxiao (food). Another popular activity at this festival is guessing lantern riddles (which became part of the festival during the Tang Dynasty), which often contain messages of good fortune, family reunion, abundant harvest, prosperity and love.
Shanghai International Film Festival
The Shanghai International Film Festival abbreviated SIFF, is one of the largest film festivals in East Asia. Along with Tokyo International Film Festival, the SIFF is one of the biggest film festivals in Asia. Since its beginning in 1993, Shanghai International Film Festival has grown to become China’s only A-category international film festival. The most prestigious award given out at Shanghai is the Jin Jue ("Golden Goblet") for the best film.
Dragon Boat Racing at
the Qintong Boat Festival
Qintong Boat Festival
Qintong Boat Festival is an annual event in Jiangyan, Jiangsu, China. It has a long history since Ming Dynasty, and it is becoming an important tourist destination in the whole eastern China with the highlight of the Dragon Boat Racing. Qintong Boat Festival is held in Qingming (around April 4–6) every year. During the festival boats from nearby villages and towns converge in Xique lake for a few days of rejoicing. Theatrical performances, dragon and lion dances, and other folk dances are staged right on board the boats. It gathers about 300,000 people every year during the festival.
'Ice and Snow World' in Harbin, China
Photo: Lin Yang
Harbin International Ice and
Snow Sculpture Festival
The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been held since 1963. Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province of People's Republic of China, is one of the sources of ice and snow culture in the world. Geographically, it is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. Officially, the festival starts January 5th and lasts one month. However the exhibits often open earlier and stay longer as long as the weather is permitting. There are ice lantern park touring activities held in many parks in the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, winter-swimming in the Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden.