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Attractions lure in business travelers

The 3,000-year-old city of Xi'an (starting point for Silk Road travel), which was the country's capital for 13 dynasties, is pinning its hopes on growing foreign investment to attract more inbound tourists.


Its rich historical sites have brought Xi'an international fame, and Western travelers are already attracted to the ancient city.


Most tourists to Xi'an come from the United States and Europe, according to the local tourism authority.


"I'd really like to go to Xi'an someday, especially to see the terracotta warriors," said Kyle Sutherlin, a university researcher from the US, who has visited China but not Xi'an.


"I'm sure that there is tons of neat stuff to see there and the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda looks pretty cool," he added.


However, the current number of foreign tourists to the city does not reflect the potential pull of Xi'an's rich China tourism resources.


Statistics from the National Tourism Administration reveal that more than 1 million international travelers visited Xi'an in 2011, and that number was exceeded in the first 11 months of 2012.


But in 2011, the city ranked 18th on a list of Chinese cities that welcomed inbound tourists.


"I hope the situation will change in the future, when more business travelers arrive in Xi'an," said Kang Lifeng, deputy director of Xi'an tourism administration.


The low number of business travelers is the main reason for the city's lack of inbound tourists, he added.


Kang can expect more foreign business travelers in 2013, because the whole province is working on absorbing foreign investment and enterprises.


The province anticipates it will attract 2.88 billion yuan ($462 million) in foreign investment in 2012, a 22-percent increase compared with 2011, said Jia Mingde, deputy director of the commerce department of Shaanxi province.


More than 80 percent of foreign investment and trade in Shaanxi province is located in its capital, Xi'an, he added, because other regions in the province are not suitable for industrial investment.


More foreign companies have started to eye Xi'an because the central government has continually promoted the "go-west" campaign.


Samsung Group, headquartered in South Korea, located its new factory in Xi'an (Xian trip is a must when you visit China) in July 2012. The first stage of the project involved $7 billion - the largest single investment from a foreign company in China.


"I believe the project will help the number of South Korean visitors to Xi'andouble after the factory begins operating in the middle of 2013," Kang Lifeng said.


There is room for massive growth in South Korean and Japanese visitor numbers, he said, because only 60,000 travelers from the two countries visited Xi'an in 2011, despite both countries being the biggest source of tourists to China.


To attract more business travelers, MICE tourism - meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions - will be the focus of the city's tourist industry.


The city is building up more supporting facilities for MICE tourism.


The Xi'an Qujiang International Conference and Exhibition Group Co Ltd, which holds the most conferences and exhibitions in the city, opened its 76,000-square-meter conference center in December 2011, its exhibition center opened for business in 2007.


The conference and exhibition group saw a significant increase in business in 2012, said Ma Jianming, general manager of the group.


The growing MICE business and the tourism industry complement each other, Ma said.


Only when the city is attractive will exhibitors come, he said, and the Xian tourist attractions lure the non-local exhibitors.


"The historical and cultural background will be a unique feature for the MICE industry in Xi'an," he said.


Traffic is another issue limiting the city's tourism industry, as the city only has 10 non-stop international routes and all the destinations are in Asia.


Xi'an is not an air traffic hub and foreign travelers have to transfer from other cities.


The travel issue is being resolved, with Finnair Oyj launching the first non-stop route between Xi'an and Europe this summer.


The local government has also invested 150 million yuan to encourage airlines to open international routes in the city.


09:27 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)


World Cultural Heritage: Historic Dengfeng Monuments at “the Center of Heaven and Earth”

The historic Dengfeng monuments at “The Center of Heaven and Earth” were listed in the World Heritage List in 2010 under the standards C (III) (VI) for selecting cultural heritage to make contribution to China tourism.

Assessment of the World Heritage Committee: The historic Dengfeng monuments at “The Center of Heaven and Earth” are concentrations of China’s ancient civilization. They have extremely high historic, artistic and scientific value, and completely deserve to be listed as a world cultural heritage.

On August 1, 2010, Beijing Time, the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee made a resolution to add Henan Province’s historic Dengfeng monuments at “The Center of Heaven and Earth” in the world cultural heritage list. This indicates that the 39th ancient rarity of China has entered the world heritage catalogue and is under key protection.

In China’s traditional world view, China is the country at the “Center of Heaven and Earth,” and the “Center of Heaven and Earth” is located at the Central Plains, and the core of the Central Plains is Dengfeng City in Henan Province. Therefore, Dengfeng was the capital of many early dynasties in China and also their cultural center. China’s mainstream cultural branches including Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism all established their core bases in Dengfeng to spread their theories, and Dengfeng was also the center of astronomical observation. This historical background left Dengfeng a great amount of well-preserved cultural and memorial architectures, and the essence of them is the historic Dengfeng monuments at “The Center of Heaven and Earth.”

The historic Dengfeng monuments at “The Center of Heaven and Earth” consists of 11 outstanding architectural compounds of eight types, including the Three Palaces of the Han Dynasty, the Songyue Temple Pagoda, Zhongyue Temple, Architectural Complex of the Shaolin Temple (the hometown of Chinese Kongfu to attract tourists for last minute China travel deals) (Changzhu Temple, Chuzu Temple and the Pagoda Forest), Huishan Temple, Songyang Academy, Zhou Gong Measurement Tower and the Dengfeng Star Observation Platform. Currently, the monuments contain 367 buildings which were constructed in the Eastern Han Dynasty, Northern Wei Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Five Dynasties Period, Song Dynasty, Jin Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty, and the Republic of China period. According to building materials, the buildings can be divided into two types of the brick and stone buildings (254 buildings) and wooden-structure buildings (113 buildings). According to their functions, the buildings can be divided into four categories, ritual buildings (41 buildings), religious buildings (291 buildings), educational buildings (26 buildings) and scientific buildings (9 buildings). All of them make the 2,000-year-old architectural history of the Central Plains visual and clear.

This architectural complex refers to many realms including rituals, religion, education and science, and is an outstanding representative of China’s ancient architecture and an excellent model of originality and architectural shape and structure. It can fully reflect the amazing creativity of the human race. The buildings not only deeply affected the formation and development of other architecture of the same kind in China’s central regions, but also affected the rituals and religious architectural systems and even the cultural traditions of China and Asia. Many individual buildings were the outstanding representatives of the buildings of the same kind in their times, and currently are excellent examples and specimens for architectural design and construction technologies. These buildings had recorded the history of ancient Chinese sacrifice and worshipping culture and academy education, and are unique and vivid witnesses to the inheritance and development of these two extinct cultural traditions. So you should not miss it for your top 10 China tours.

After an on-site investigation and evaluation, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) confirmed that Zhengzhou’s historic Dengfeng monuments at “The Center of Heaven and Earth” accord with the standards of authenticity and integrity and possess outstanding universal values. In the “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage,” six standards were defined for selecting world cultural heritage, and as long as a place accords with one of the standards (the standard (VI) cannot be used alone), it would be qualified to be listed in the World Heritage List. Zhengzhou’s historic Dengfeng monuments at “The Center of Heaven and Earth” not only accord to the third standard (III) but also accord to the sixth standard (VI). For more others, you can check out China tour guide.

08:55 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)


Pingyao, China: Holding out in the rush to the future

Of the myriad idiocies committed in the name of China's Cultural Revolution, one of the most egregious was the systematic annihilation of "old culture". Anything nice with a bit of history to it was engulfed in the Red Guards' rage, including books, calligraphy, statues and temples, and the ancient walls surrounding cities.

In the middle of the 20th century there were hundreds of walled cities in China. Now there are just a handful (though, true to the cyclical theory of history, old walls are being reconstructed – in Datong, for instance). The most famous is Xian (starting point for Silk Road tour), "home of the Terracotta Warriors", in Shaanxi Province.

For many visitors to China, walking or cycling along the top of Xian's Ming Dynasty walls is a highlight of their trip. Were they to detour east to the neighbouring (almost identically named) Shanxi Province, they would enjoy arguably the most impressive of China's walled cities – where not just the walls but the buildings and streets they protect have changed little from the time they were built.

This is a rare thing in China and the reason that Pingyao (famous travel destination can be included in affordable China travel packages) – located about 60 miles south of the state capital, Taiyuan – has developed a reputation as a place that must be seen by discerning travellers, both domestic and foreign.

On my first morning in Pingyao I walk along West Street, one of the main thoroughfares, where I encounter a charming old boy kitted out in a silk tunic of the late Qing Dynasty, the 19th century – precisely the era in which Pingyao had its heyday. Fang Shou Zhou, a nonagenarian who was born in the city, says he was once a student of the abacus and that he still works in the financial sector.

With a twinkling smile he resumes his walk to work. It is not until an hour or so later that I realise what he means.

By this time I am looking around Pingyao's most visited museum, the former Ri Sheng Chang Bank. When it opened in 1823, this bank became the first in China and it established Pingyao as the financial capital of the empire. In a corner of the bank courtyard the appropriately costumed Mr Fang had set himself up for photo-opportunities, stubbing out his cigarette before posing for the cameras.

China's financial centre of gravity moved on to Hong Kong and Shanghai, and by the Sixties Pingyao had become an impoverished backwater – a fate that saved it from destruction at the hands and hammers of the Red Guards. In between encounters with Mr Fang I have had the top of the city walls pretty much to myself and as I walk clockwise from the north to the east gates I gaze across an ocean of preserved architecture.

Old Chinese cities and buildings are laid out according to the principles of feng shui, which draw on the arcane philosophies of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. The walls of Pingyao – built in 1370 and reinforced more than a score times since – represent that auspicious creature the turtle, the north gate being the tail.

Within the walls, which are about four miles around, there are four main streets, eight smaller ones and 72 alleyways, all of these being significant numbers in Confucianism.

Some 40,000 people live within the walls, some in old farmhouses with flat roofs for drying maize and millet, many in Qing-era courtyard houses with roofs that are a distinctive wavelike shape, constructed of semi-tubular tiles.

The sea of stone is broken up by islands of greenery: Chinese pagoda trees, date palms, willows, apricot and apple trees, and poplars whose leaves flicker in the pleasant morning breeze.

"Thirty years ago outside the city walls it was all farmers' fields," my guide, Mr Yao, explains, directing my gaze outwards, where the factories and teeming traffic of modern China reach right to the ramparts.

"Just 13 years ago the roads inside the walls were mud and villagers had rarely seen non-Chinese people."

Now much of old Pingyao is smartly paved and English is taught in kindergarten. Indeed, as we descend from the walls at the Qinhan Gate, a trio of little girls cycles past trilling "Hello!" at the foreigner.

As China modernises with such gusto and disregard for the past, Pingyao is poised at a crucial moment in its history.

A man I met in Taiyuan (an optional destination for popular China tour package) told me: "The earlier you visit Pingyao the better, because you will still see real life there. But it is changing."

I now see what he means. The old courtyard houses in and around the meeting point of the four main streets may be hung with lanterns and fronted with wooden latticework, but they are given over to hotels, bars and souvenir shops.

Each day between 10,000 and 20,000 tourists pour in, some 90 per cent of them Chinese, and most stay at least one night. Taking advantage of the ban on motorised traffic, they cruise the main tourist drags, posing for photographs and shopping for lacquer ware and fake antiques.

Give it five or 10 years, my acquaintance in Taiyuan said, and such commercialisation will have bled to the base of the walls themselves, displacing residents and turning Pingyao into a theme park. For now, as soon as you turn your back on the nexus of central streets, the city frays back to real life.

Out on the edges and along the back alleyways, the paving stones have yet to be replaced and are rutted with cart tracks. Sellers of individual wares – bean curd, eggs, cabbages – wobble along on ancient bicycle-carts, advertising their produce through tinny loudspeakers attached to the handlebars. One, in a conical hat, has brought his pet monkey along for the ride.

On street corners men with their vests rolled up to reveal well-sunned bellies play chess and mah jong, and a night soil collector – straight out of Pepys, this – transports sealed wooden containers on the back of his horse-drawn cart.

Out in the shadow of Pingyao's ancient walls the city has changed scarcely a jot since the young Mr Fang was learning his abacus. But, half a century after the Cultural Revolution, the barbarians are at the gates.

More others in China via China travel guide.

09:03 Publié dans Voyage | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)