The People’s Republic of China is ancient, vast and fascinating. It spans 9.6 million kilometres, with landscapes ranging from desert and rainforest, to towering mountains and plains. The country includes some incredible scenery, with dramatic rock formations and cliffs, some of the world’s longest and most beautiful rivers, over 2,000 lakes and, in the south, even tropical white-sand beaches.
More than a fifth of the world’s total population, or 1.3 billion people, live in China, and Shanghai is the world’s largest city.
Over the past three decades, China has had the world’s fastest growing economy. Especially in urban centres, where the standard of living has risen at an unprecedented rate. At the same time, the country is still a land of farmers. There’s a sharp contrast between the skyscrapers of Shanghai, Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) and Beijing, and the country’s many rural towns and villages, where people still live much as they always have.
China has the world’s oldest continuous civilization, with a documented history that reaches back over 4,000 years. Even in the country’s largest cities, you’ll find a unique mix of the ancient and the new, the traditional and the modern.
Bustling Beijing has served as China’s capital for more than eight centuries. It’s here you’ll find the Forbidden City – the enormous and incredibly well-preserved palace, once home to China’s emperors, and their families, for nearly 500 years. Beijing is also famous for its Summer Palace, a magnificently landscaped imperial garden, and acts as the best base for visiting China’s most famous attraction of all; the Great Wall of China (or Chángchéng).
Another excellent reason to visit Beijing? Peking duck – thin, crispy slices of roast duck, wrapped in steamed pancakes along with spring onion and sweet bean sauce. This imperial dish was invented and perfected in Beijing.
Other popular cities on most visitors lists are Shanghai, with its impressive Pudong skyline, historically interesting Xi’an – which is where the famous Terracotta Army is located, Guilin for access to the Li River and some of China’s most magnificent scenery;, and of course Hong Kong, for its harbour, vibrant culture and world-famous food and shopping.