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05/11/2013

The general guide of the must-see China's Cities II

Nanjing: A Pressure Cooker

In the nineteenth century, the Taiping Rebellion took control over southern China and established their capital in Nanjing. And China and Japan still spar over acknowledgement of Japan’s massacre of over 300,000 residents of the city during World War II. The wounds still feel fresh at the city’s Memorial of the Nanjing Massacre.

Despite its tragic past, Nanjing today is a beautiful and welcoming city. One of the many pleasures it offers is a chance to see its city walls. While modernization and development have demolished the defensive walls of other cities across China, Nanjing’s tall, thick stone walls and gates are still a living part of the city’s history.

Shanghai Superstar

Shanghai is located on China’s eastern seaboard, where the Yangzi River (on which you can have Yangtze River tour) meets the Pacific. This important juncture has made Shanghai the busiest port on the planet. With the completion of the Three Gorges Dam opening the Yangzi’s 3,700 miles to heavy barges, Shanghai will become the true gateway between central China and the rest of the world. As the city continues to grow, officials aim to make it China’s “green capital” with parks and other quality of life projects.

Shanghai is called the “Head of the Dragon” for good reason. At the forefront of China’s commerce, finance, art, and fashion, it is also home to 10 million people, making it China’s second most populous city.

Fuzhou: City of the Future

Fuzhou was the launching point for the seven voyages of the navy of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE). These were led by one of China’s most famous adventurers, Zheng He. Between the years of 1405 and 1433 CE, Zheng He led several hundred ships to India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Arabia.

Fuzhou has also long been called Rong Cheng, “the city of Banyan,” for the many large trees with an exposed lattice of roots. Just outside of the city is the famous Gu Shan, “Drum Hill.” Rising above the Min River, Gu Shan is topped with a rock that is said to throb like a drum during storms. With hot springs and thousand year old Yongguan Si Buddhist monastery, Fuzhou boasts riches from nature as well as from history.

Hong Kong: Rising from the Water

Only two hundred years ago, no one would have bet that a few steep mountains jutting out of the South China Sea would become a powerhouse economic force. China ceded Hong Kong (learn more via guide of travel to Hong Kong) to Britain in 1843 after the Opium Wars and the British established a port for trade there. With the closure of China during the decades after the establishment of Communist Rule in China in 1949, Hong Kong’s population and business community swelled with people and corporations fleeing China. Over the next decades, Hong Kong grew like gangbusters and was even referred to (along with Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea) as one of the Four Asian Tigers.

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, but still has a certain degree of autonomy in local affairs. Today, its graceful green peaks are still frequently cloaked in fog, but the lowlands are often marred by smog wafting over from the industrial mainland. Hong Kong harbor is constantly morphing as land is filled into the harbor so skyscrapers can rise. The shiny new Hong Kong International Airport has been built on landfill on Lantau Island. Connected to the city by a high-speed train, it has wide runways that can handle sixty airplanes an hour. This smooth efficiency replaces the nerve-wracking landing between peaks on the old Kai Tak Airport’s lone runway. As the city grows into its new role as an extension of south China, Hong Kong will continue to enjoy a smooth ascent as an international center, proving that geography is not always destiny. So don't miss Hong Kong tours.

Hainan: Flight to Paradise

Imagine being punished by paradise. Throughout Chinese history, outspoken politicians and thinkers were exiled to the island of Hainan just off the southern coast of mainland China. The most famous exile was Su Dongpo, the eleventh century poet, painter, and statesman. Of course, despite the natural beauty of the island, exiles had to endure the monsoon season and the lack of creature comforts such as fruit buffets and golf courses.

Today, Hainan has flourished into a destination for tourists, who flock to enjoy the sweet fruits, warm weather, lush forests, clear air, and pristine beaches. A new rail and ferry link to Guangzhou will make it convenient for even more tourists impose upon themselves a voluntary exile, now known as a vacation, in Hainan.

Yumen: On the Frontier

Yumen Guan (or “Jade Gate”) is a narrow, rocky pass that marks the traditional frontier of China. Located in northwest Gansu province (main destination for Silk Road tours), the Hexi Corridor would funnel travelers up 600 miles to pass, which marked the last outpost before leaving traditional China and entering the desert. One such traveler was the Tang dynasty century monk and scholar, Xuanzang, who walked from China’s capital Xi’an, to India. On the return trip he brought many Buddhist scrolls and texts that vitalized Buddhism in China.

Before arriving at the Yumen Guan, travelers would stop at the Mogao Buddhist cave temples near the town of Dunhuang. The first cave temple was carved in 366 CE and over the next four centuries it grew to a complex of hundreds of temples, many with flowing, colorful murals depicting scenes of the life of the Buddha or of paradises. Travelers would make offerings before setting out on the dangerous Silk Roads, and would give thanks at the caves upon their safe return.

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