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China

China is the most populated country, and one of the largest countries in the world by total area. Because of this, the geography of the land is rich and diverse. From mountains to deserts, and cliffs to tropical waters, there is a prime geographic location meant for any traveler.

Because of China’s varied topographical landscape, the country experiences both dry seasons and torrential- downpour monsoon seasons. When you go, it is imperative that you look up what the climate will be like, since during the monsoon season, rain storms can come (and go) fast!

China is also one of the world’s most biodiverse contries, making up one of the 17 megadiverse countries. With over 34,000 species of animals and vascular plants, the country is home to an impressive number of both people, plants, and animals, all living together.

Though China faces its fair share of environmental issues because of the sheer number of people that live there, the country is also making strides to be the major manufacturer and investor for renewable energy and its commercialization.

While you’re here, its impossible to see *all* of China and get a feel for the local ways of living. With 22 different provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two special administrative regions, travelers could spend their whole life in China and never fully grasp the depth and complexity of a country that has been inhabited since 21 BCE.

Our suggestion? Pick one place. Stay there. Take it in. Talk to people, talk to travelers, and lay down some roots. Find what makes the city special. Then, when you feel like you have a good sense of the place, go to the next city. If you’re lucky, you could be there for a long, long time.

China

Asia

Standard Chinese

Renminbi (yuan)

Important dates in China

It is important to note that important dates or dates of interest in China are usually scheduled according to the Chinese calendar, which uses astronomical phenomena (such as the sun and moon) in order to determine years, months, and days. It is best to look up the exact dates of these holidays in terms of the Gregorian calendar, or the calendar most typically used in Westernized countries.

**The following dates are in terms of the Chinese Lunar Calendar**

  • Chinese New Year and New Year Eve: The first day of January and last day of lunar year, respectively
  • Lantern Festival: Fifteenth day of January
  • Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival): Fifth day of May
  • Ghost Festival: Fifteenth day of July
  • Mid- Autumn Festival (Moon Festival): Fifteenth day of August
  • Spirit Festival/ Water Lantern Festival: Fifteenth day of October
  • Dongzhi Festival (Winter Solstice Festival): the day of Winter Solstice

Interesting facts

  • China’s Lunar Calendar is based off the movements of the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and was developed during the Qin Dynasty in 221 BCE.
  • China is a major regional power in Asia, and has been recognized as a potential emergent superpower
  • There are around 1.4 billion people currently living in China
  • China was one of the world’s earliest civilizations

Good to know

From the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America website:

 

“Foreign citizens generally need a visa to visit China’s mainland with the exception of visa- free entry according to relevant agreements and regulations…U.S. citizens must obtain a visa before arrival in China. You are not elegible for a landing visa.”

Click here to read more. Of course, it is advisable to check with your local consulate/ embassy for updated information about travel visa and travel requirements.

Culture and Etiquette in China

Proper social etiquette in China revolves around the “face”. This “face” is not the literal face, however, but refers to how we “save face”, meaning our honor, reputation, or respect. There are four types of “face”, all referring to a different way of showing wisom, respect, or maintaining one’s dignity in a situation. Because of the importance of the “face”, many of the societal norms and expected etiquette of a person in China have to do with how one should act in order to maintain their “face” or respect. In addition to this “face”, there is also an importance placed on the collective, rather than the individual. Because of this, non- verbal communication is just as much a part of day- to- day interaction as verbal communication.

In most social situations, greetings are a formal affair, and the oldest person should always be greeted first. With travelers and foreigners, handshakes are common. However, it is good to note that many Chinese will look towards the ground during introductions because it is considered disrespectful to stare into the eyes of another. In general, just be friendly, shake hands, and don’t stare right in their eyes!

When it comes to gifts, it is customary to accept the gift, then open them at a later date when you are not around the gift- giver.

Dining etiquette is a little different than in other countries. Make sure you eat well– it is a sign that you are enjoying the food! Additionally, if you are in the presence of someone treating you to a meal, it is customary to try everything. When using chopsticks, don’t leave your chopsticks in the bowl after eating. Rather, you should return the chopsticks to their chopstick rest, or leave them resting parallel across the top of your bowl or plate. Leaving your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl looks similar to incense sticks sticking out of the ground– a typical practice done at the gravesite of loved ones.

Overall, if you look foreign, you’ll most likely be granted a pass on many of these local customs– especially if you are in an urban area that is familiar with tourists! In general, treat others with a smile, and just do what others around you are doing.

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As one of the largest countries geographically in the world, China is a country brimming with things to do. Because of China’s long a rich history, many of our top sights for you to see in China have t0 do with their colorful and varied history. With palaces dating back to the 1400’s and sculptures still standing from the 3rd century BC, some of the sights in China are so old, it’s hard to believe they are still standing.

Read on to learn more about our can’t-miss sights in China!

The Forbidden City

With a name like the Forbidden City, how can your interest not be piqued? A palace complex in central Beijing china, the Forbidden City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was opened in the 1400s. The Forbidden City palace complex now houses the Palace Museum, and consists of almost 1000 individual buildings and covers an impressive 72 hectacres of land. As you walk around, don’t forget to look up and down at the ground and the impressive roofs and ceilings of the buildings. The palace was a huge influence of cultural and architectural developments in East Asia, and is an examplary example of traditional Chinese palatial architecture.

Tiananmen Square

A city square named after the “Gate of Heavenly Peace” located in the centre of Beijing, the square is now a famous sight because of its presence in notable historical events, such as the place where Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. One of the largest city squares in the world, at 109 acres, it was the site of one of the most important events in China’s history. A bit bloodier of an event, the square is also famous for the Tiananmen Square Massacre, an armed movement that was meant to suppress the pro- democracy movement in 1989.

Summer Palace

Another famous site located in Beijing, the Summer Palace is an impressive collection of lakes, gardens, and palaces. It was used as an Imperial Garden during the Qing Dynasty and covers an impressive span of 1.1 sq. miles, of which 3/4 is water. According to the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Summer Palace is a “masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of the hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of oustanding aesthetic value”.

Terracotta Army

A mind blowing collection of terracotta statues, the Terracotta Army was made and buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. The statues were made as part of the funeral process, with the army meant to serve as Shi Huang’s protection in the afterlife. Dated to approximately the late 3rd century BC, the statues cover an impressive space and is estimated to contain over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 calvary soldiers.

The Great Wall of China

Of course, no list of “What to See in China” would be complete without mentioning the Great Wall of China. A series of fortifications of stone, brick, earth, and wood, the wall was meant as a protection of the Chinese states and empires against the groups of the Eurasian Steppe. The wall, of course, has been added to, reinforced, joined together with other parts, and enhanced over the various dynasties. Most of the wall that is still standing dates back to the 1300s, during the age of the Ming Dynasty.

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If you’re on the flight to China right now, say goodbye to your Panda Express orange chicken, or your deep fried egg rolls. China has much more than what Western cuisine has showed us as Chinese cuisine. Of course, China is a big country, and because of this, every region has a different profile of flavors and foods that they typically prepare for meals. Either way, get your stomach ready because it is going to be a delicious ride!

Ma Po Tofu

Though it may not be the prettiest dish you could eat in China, it is definitely one of the best. With silky tofu, and a rich spicy sauce, Ma Po Tofu is a dish that makes my mouth water just thinking about it! Usually served with fresh green onions chopped on top, and a bowl of steaming fresh rice, this dish is the perfect balance of spicy, sour, sweet, and salty.

Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao)

Soup dumplings are literally dumplings from the gods. I have no idea how they make them! Think about this… you get a soft white dumpling, perfectly creased on the top, and the perfect size for you soup spoon. As you take a bite, flavorful soup bursts from the inside of the dumpling, piping hot, and wonderfully tasty! The soup fills the spoon as it pours from the inside of the dumpling, and you place the whole thing in your mouth. Soup, a wonderful meat and veggie filling, and a soft dumpling wrap makes your whole body relax with delight! Drooling yet?

Scallion Pancakes

Scallion pancakes are crispy, fried, triangles of goodness. Flakey dough is accented by scallions layered in. You can get these pancakes either on the street from vendors or in restaurants (usually as an appetizer). Try to get these when they are made fresh! They’re not as good the next day, we promise!

Egg Tarts

The egg tarts you can find on mainland China originated from Hong Kong, which was a  British colony in the south east of China with other influences. For the egg tart, Portugese influences shines through in this sweet treat. These little tarts of deliciousness are made of a creamy, sweet egg yolk center, with a flaky puff- pastry like crust. They are like the chocolate chip cookie of China!

White Rabbit Candies

Ok, so maybe this isn’t a “food” per se, but White Rabbit candies are something that you must try! When you buy them, they come individually wrapped in two wrappings. The first, is the printed wrapper which obviously, you shouldn’t eat. The second wrapping, which is right around the candy, is a clear rice paper, and you eat it with the candy! Though it may seem weird at first, the rice paper wrapper is a fun textual experience, and it dissolves almost immediately as soon as it hits your tongue. The candy itself is a creamy, chewy, milky candy that will delight people of all ages!

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