China (中国)

World / Asia


My China Travel Guide
China Travel Guide
Author: Arne Hückelheim (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

The People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国,) is the third largest country in the world covering 9,640,821 sq km (3,704,427 sq mi). China shares a border with 14 countries, namely Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Mongolia and North Korea.

With a population of 1.4 billion people, it is the most populous country in the world. Over 90% of its population are ethnic Han Chinese, although the country also have some 55 recognized minorities.

CCTV Headquarters, Beijing
CCTV Headquarters, Beijing
Author: Dmitry Fironov (public domain)

The whole of China is within a single time zone, known as the China Standard Time, which is eight hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+8). The official currency of the country is called the Chinese yuan or renminbi. It is used throughout the People's Republic of China, while the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau continue to use their respective currencies, namely the Hong Kong dollar (HKD) and the Macanese pataca (MOP).

Traffic in China is on the right side except for Hong Kong and Macau, which are still on the left. The phone IDD code for China is +86. The electricity is 220V/50 Hz using the US/European plug. The official language of China is Mandarin, also called Putonghua. In addition, there are numerous regional languages including Shanghaiese, Cantonese, Fuzhou, Minnan (Hokkien), Hakka, and many minority languages.

Tibet landscape
Tibet landscape
Author: Antoine Taveneaux (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

China comprises 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions (Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Ningxia Hui and Guangxi Zhuang), four directly administered metropolis (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing), and two special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau).

The biggest city in China is Shanghai, a city with a population of 9.4 million people, and a municipality population of 19.2 million. Close behind is Beijing, the capital, with a population of 7 million, but a municipality population of 22 million. Other major cities include Hong Kong, Chongqing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Xinbei and Nanjing, all with over two million people or more each.

Long Lake in Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan Province
Long Lake in Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan Province (17 October 2005)
© Timothy Tye using this photo

Since China embraced market-based economic reforms in 1978, it has charged ahead as one of the world's fastest growing major economy. At the same time, it has become the world's largest exporter and second largest importer of goods. China is also the world's second largest economy by nominal GDP and purchasing power parity. In 2010, it had an estimated nominal GDP of $5.878 trillion, and a per capita nominal GDP of $4,382. Its per capita GDP at purchasing power parity is $7,518.

China has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and is a member of major organizations including WTO, APEC and G-20. The country has the world's largest standing army and the second-largest defense budget behind the United States.

The China of today is a land of great diversity in terms of geography, climate, culture, language and customs. Southern China is an area of low mountain ranges that experiences tropical climate. Further north are the deltas of the Yellow River and Yangtze River. To the southwest is the Himalayan range, with the northern slope of Mount Everest within the Chinese border. To the west are the high plateaus of Tibet and the arid areas of the Taklamakan and Gobi Desert.

China is also a country with enormous disparity in economic levels. The major cities along the coast are now well developed and comparatively wealthy, but the rest of China is still rural. Half the population live in the rural parts of China, eking out a living as farmers.

Taklamakan desert, Xinjiang
Taklamakan desert, Xinjiang
Author: Colegota (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 Spain)

Planning your trip to China

China receives 50.9 million inbound international visitors in 2009. This makes it the fourth most visited country in the world. As an international traveler, you will most likely be arriving by plane, landing at the international airport at one of the major cities in China, most likely Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and possibly Macau. From these airport, you can connect to smaller cities in China using domestic airlines such as China Southern, China Eastern, Air China and Hainan Airlines.

If you arrive in Hong Kong or Macau, you might consider crossing the border to Shenzhen or Guangzhou to fly to another Chinese city. This is because flights from Hong Kong and Macau are considered international flights, and are priced much higher than those from airports within China.

A smaller number of international travelers arrive in China by rail. The Trans-Siberian Railway connects Moscow with Beijing. There are also train services from Vietnam to Nanning in Guangxi province in China, and from Pyongyang in North Korea to Beijing.

Upper reaches of the Yangtze River in Yunnan
Upper reaches of the Yangtze River in Yunnan
Author: Peter Morgan (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

China is in the midst of upgrading its rail network, introducing high-speed trains similar to the French TGV or Japanese Shinkansen bullet train, but using the newest technology and faster. In fact, with 13,000 km of high speed railway planned for completion by 2012, it will soon have the highest number of kilometers of high speed railway in the world.

By road, you can go from Sikkim in India to southern Tibet. Only a small number of intrepid travelers use this route, which can close subject to "political weather condition" between India and China.

Maglev train leaving Pudong International Airport, Shanghai
Maglev train leaving Pudong International Airport, Shanghai
Author: Alex Needham (public domain)

Travel by long distance buses is inexpensive but slow. It is ideal if you have lots of time in your hands and wish to see the country and its people upclose. Some of these buses are reasonably comfortable but a good many could be rather unpleasant rides. Such services cater to the locals, so you are unlikely to find the counter staff or drivers able to speak English.

People drive on the right side of the road in China, similar to the United States. However, it is not advisable to drive in China. Accidents are frequent while road rules are almost non existent.

Nanpu Bridge, Shanghai
Nanpu Bridge, Shanghai
Author: Jakob Montrasio (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Major Cities of China

  1. Beijing - capital
  2. Shanghai - biggest city
  3. Cangzhou
  4. Changchun
  5. Changsha
  6. Chengde
  7. Chengdu
  8. Chongqing
  9. Dongguan
  10. Fuzhou
  11. Guangzhou
  12. Guilin
  13. Guiyang
  14. Haikou
  15. Hangzhou
  16. Harbin
  17. Hefei
  18. Jinan
  19. Kunming
  20. Lhasa
  21. Longyan
  22. Mianyang
  23. Nanchang
  24. Nanjing
  25. Qingdao
  26. Shenyang
  27. Shenzhen
  28. Shijiazhuang
  29. Suzhou
  30. Taiyuan
  31. Tianjin
  32. Ürümqi
  33. Wuhan
  34. Xiamen
  35. Xian
  36. Zhangzhou
  37. Zhengzhou

Provinces of China

Northern China
  1. Hebei Province
  2. Henan Province
  3. Shandong Province
  4. Shaanxi Province
  5. Shanxi Province
Northeast China
  1. Heilongjiang Province
  2. Jilin Province
  3. Liaoning Province
Central China
  1. Anhui Province
  2. Hubei Province
  3. Hunan Province
  4. Jiangsu Province
  5. Jiangxi Province
  6. Zhejiang Province
Southern China
  1. Fujian Province
  2. Guangdong Province
  3. Hainan Province
  4. Taiwan Province 1
Southwest China
  1. Guizhou Province
  2. Sichuan Province
  3. Yunnan Province
Western China
  1. Gansu Province
  2. Qinghai Province
1 Taiwan is claimed by the People's Republic of China as one of its provinces even though it is controlled by the Republic of China.

Autonomous Regions of China

  1. Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
  2. Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
  3. Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
  4. Tibet Autonomous Region
  5. Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Special Administrative Regions of China

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Macau

UNESCO World Heritage Sites of China

  • Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang, Forbidden City (1987)
  • Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (1987)
  • Mogao Caves (1987)
  • Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (1987)
  • The Great Wall (1987)
  • Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains (1994)
  • Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa (1994)
  • Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde (1994)
  • Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu (1994)
  • Lushan National Park (1996)
  • Ancient City of Ping Yao (1997)
  • Classical Gardens of Suzhou (1997)
  • Old Town of Lijiang (1997)
  • Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing (1998)
  • Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing (1998)
  • Dazu Rock Carvings (1999)
  • Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui - Xidi and Hongcun (2000)
  • Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (2000)
  • Longmen Grottoes (2000)
  • Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System (2000)
  • Yungang Grottoes (2001)
  • Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (2004)
  • Historic Centre of Macao (2005)
  • Yin Xu (2006)
  • Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (2007)
  • Fujian Tulou (2008)
  • Mount Wutai (2009)
  • Historic Monuments of Dengfeng, in the Centre of Heaven and Earth (2010)

  • Natural
  • Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
  • Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
  • Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
  • Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (2003)
  • Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries - Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains (2006)
  • South China Karst (2007)
  • Mount Sanqingshan National Park (2008)
  • China Danxia (2010)
  • West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou (2011)

  • Mixed
  • Mount Taishan (1987)
  • Mount Huangshan (1990)
  • Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area (1996)
  • Mount Wuyi (1999)

    World Greatest Sites

    1. Oriental Pearl Tower Photo Album

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