Everything about China and it's culture

Everything about China and it's culture

  • Category Archives Travel in China
  • Escape to Inner Mongolia and Enjoy the vast open spaces of its grasslands

    In the northern most part of China, lies a piece of land, which breeds some of the most passionate people of this nation. These special people are fond of dancing, singing, drinking, wrestling and horse riding. And it was a land that nurtured the supreme rulers of China 700 years ago.

    Covering an area of 1.18 million sq km, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region is the third largest subdivision of China, with diversified landscapes and large storage of mineral resources. Forests, grasslands, lakes and farmlands provide enormous travel attractions to tourists who are looking for a taste of the wilderness.

    Among all the landscapes, the grasslands are the most famous feature of Inner Mongolia. Imagine the thrill of galloping a horse on the boundless grassland, and later for dinner, taking a big bite of delicious roasted lamb.

    When night falls, local people set up bonfires in front of their yurts, which are portable, wood lattice-framed dwellings. The locals will sing and dance to music played by traditional Mongolian instrument, the matouqin, a two-stringed instrument with its head carved into the shape of a horse head.

    Inner Mongolia is a multi-ethnic group region with the Mongolian ethic group and the Han people accounting for the majority of this region’s population. However, there are another 48 ethnic groups that also live in this vast region of northern China.

    Visitors will discover that the names of places in Inner Mongolia are spelled differently from those of other places in China. Most of the names there come from the Mongolian language.

    The following are the five must-dos in Inner Mongolia.

    1. Xilin Gol Grassland

    In Mongolian, “Xilin Gol” means river between the hills. The grassland is located in central Inner Mongolia’s Xilin Gol League. Listed as “International Biosphere Reserve” by the UNESCO in 1987, it is one of the best examples of grasslands in China, and perhaps even in the world.

    The grassland enjoys 180,000 sq km of usable land and is capable of raising 10 million livestock. The non-polluted meat of Xilin Gol lamb and cattle are warmly welcomed in domestic and overseas markets.

    While visiting the grassland, visitors can have a taste of the freshest meat of the famous Xilin Gol lamb.

    The grassland is also a hotbed of diversified plant species. When the summer comes, the grassland flourishes to look like a green ocean with more than 1,200 kinds of plants growing together.

    Horse riding in Xilin Gol is a must.

    2. Dazhao Temple

    The temple is located in the south of Hohhot, the capital city of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. It is the oldest building and the largest Lamaist temple of this region. The construction of the temple was completed in 1580 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

    Dazhao Temple gained its fame from a visit by the third Tibetan Dalai Lama in 1586, when he came to dedicate prayers to Buddha. After the ceremony, Hohhot became a religious center for people in Inner Mongolia who came to worship at this temple.

    The temple is now a popular tourist attraction because of the impressive buildings, splendid statues, delicate frescos, musical instruments and fine collection of Buddhist scriptures.

    3. Genghis Khan’s Mausoleum

    Among all the significant rulers in Chinese history, Genghis Khan was one of the greatest. He was the founder of Mongol Empire and the sequential Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and by the end of his life, the Mongol Empire occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia and China.

    The present Genghis Khan’s Mausoleum was built in 1954 in Erdos city, about 185 km from Baotou, the largest city of Inner Mongolia.

    Most people believe that this mausoleum is not where he was actually buried but is rather a gathering place for Mongolian people to worship the spirit of the mighty Genghis Khan. The great ruler’s real burial place still remains a mystery. The mausoleum consists of three grand halls, which are shaped like Mongolian yurts.

    Today, visitors can try delicious Mongolian barbecue, and enjoy a Mongolian-style dance and horse performance in the mausoleum.

    4. Hobq Desert

    The desert is the sixth largest in China, and is the closest one to Beijing. With the Yellow River as its boundary in three directions, the desert offers one of the most beautiful landscapes in China.

    Moving dunes account for 61 percent of this desert, and the entire area is 400 km long and 50 km wide. Close to the Yellow River, the north and west part of this desert enjoys good quality of groundwater, which enables plants to grow.

    Interestingly, the desert sand makes unique sounds whenever contact is made. When people walk into the desert, the sounds of the sands are just like someone singing and locals call the desert “the singing sands”.

    5. Naadam Festival

    The festival is a representative of Mongolian culture. “Naadam” means game and fun in Mongolian language. The five-day festival is an event for Mongolian people to gather and play traditional Mongolian sports and games and is held on the fourth day of the sixth month in China’s lunar calendar, which usually falls in August.

    With its origins in the 13th century, the festival has been the largest event for Mongolian people for more than 700 years. Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery are the three main games in this festival. Today, the festival serves more as a platform for the Mongolians to showcase their horse-riding culture, brevity and passion to the rest of the world.

  • Shangri-La


    Originally called Zhongdian, Shangri-La was renamed in 2001 in a effort to boost tourism. A gateway for travelers into Tibet, the cobblestone-lined old town offers a charming look into local life, which is as close as you can get to experiencing Tibet without actually being there.

    A mere four-hour drive from Lijiang and six from Dali, Shangri-La is an excellent hub, conveniently located near attractions like the Songzanlin Monastery, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Pudacuo National Park, Napa Lake, Xiagei Hot Springs and Haba Village

    Despite the rustic, mountain-town atmosphere, Shangri-La has a number of cafes, bars and hotels that cater to foreign visitors, offering mixtures of local and Western food and simple or extravagant amenities.


    Archaeological evidence dates human existence in this area back to the Western Zhou Dynasty (1050 – 771 BC). For hundreds of years the area was home to several tribes. During the Han Dynasty (206BC – 220AD) Shangri-La finally made contact with Central China. Today, the town is more Tibetan than Han Chinese with Tibetan architecture, customs and most of the 130,000 population who celebrate New Year according to the Tibetan calendar. As tourism continues to increase, Shangri-La will continue to develop at a rapid rate.


    Shangri-La is about 3,300 meters above the sea level. The weather has a tendency to be humid with temperatures varying both at night and during the four seasons. Winters are cold with lots of snow and summers are the rainy season. The best seasons to go are spring and autumn, specifically May to July and September to October. Although visits during Spring Festival are not recommend as temperatures are generally quite low and indoor heating is still somewhat hard to find in Shangri-La.

  • East and West charm mix in leisurely city

    Qingdao has long been famed as a city of leisure and ease. Even its most famous product, Tsingtao beer, fits into this image and has boosted the coastal city’s fame around the world. But what makes Qingdao a historical and cultural city is its architecture.

    Qingdao, in Shandong Province, retains many buildings with a combination of German and Chinese elements in the city center.

    Combine this with some German demographic roots and a large Korean population, and you have an atmosphere special to Qingdao.

    The old city was essentially built by Germans during the colonial era.

    This area of the city retains many buildings that were designed by Germans.

    Every year many Germans still go to Qingdao to see the well-preserved German influence in the city.

    Architecture can be considered a part of culture as buildings are living reminders of historical events.

    Thus the German buildings in Qingdao are a gift, in a way, to world history and culture.

    Zhanqiao Pier is an obvious destination for travelers as it is the symbol of the city. It will also help people understand the changes in Qingdao’s fortunes during the past 100 years.

    The 440-meter-long Zhanqiao Pier is in Qingdao Bay and connects with Zhongshan Road. The views from here contrast sharply with the towering modern buildings looking down upon the former German Concession with its church peaks and parks, the red clay tiles interrupted only by dark green pines.

    During the full-tide season, tourists and locals gather together collecting seashells and enjoying the charming beach view. With the ebbing of the tide people can appreciate the brown reefs and yellowish sand.


  • China: Nine nations in one?

    Anyone who’s been trawling through the China-related web this week will surely have stumbled across the ‘Nine Nations of China’ map that surfaced on Atlantic Monthly. Patrick Chovanec, from Tsinghua University, posted his map amidst the inescapable excitement of Obama’s visit to China, reminding the US President that China is "a mosaic of several distinct regions, each with its own resources, dynamics, and historical character."

    The regions Chovanec feels China could be divided into:

    • The Frontier, made up of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Tibet represented the mysterious desert-filled and mountainous bulk China’s land, inhabited by only 6% of its population.
    • South of that lies the Shangri-La region of Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, a so-called paradise on earth consisting of kaleidoscopic forests, diverse ethnicities and, sadly, a front-door for illicit drugs, as it borders Burma’s Golden Triangle.
    • China’s Back Door, meanwhile, holds on to Hong Kong, Macau, Guangdong, and Hainan for its lush jungles and economic successes
    • … whilst the neatly tucked-away Refuge on Sichuan, Chongqing remains an area with little investment but substantial brain drain.
    • The Crossroads, covering Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan, remain China’s transport and communications hub, neighbored by
    • The Straits of Fujian and Taiwan.
    • Up along the eastern coast is the likely Metropolis of Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, followed by…
    • The Yellow Land, or China’s political heart (Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Hebei, Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi),
    • And finally, the elusive northeastern wilderness of Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang. A.k.a. The Rust Belt.


  • Qingdao Beer Festival

    In celebration of the last weekend of the annual Qingdao International Beer Festival, Shanghaiist presents a list of beer and non-beer related facts about Qingdao:

    • After Jiaozhou Bay was ceded to the Germans in May 1897, the small fishing village of Qingdao turned into the military hub of the German Navy. The city became the naval nerve center of all German operations in the Pacific ocean. It was the Germans, homesick and in great need of beer, who constructed and opened the hallmark Tsingtao Brewery in 1903.
    • In the antebellum period of World War I, the Germans were forced to Flee after the British and Japanese combined forces and laid siege to the outpost. The Japanese maintained control over the city (and the brewery) until 1922, when it was returned to China. But in 1937, the Japanese reoccupied the city as part of their expansion into mainland China.
    • After World War II, the city served as a U.S. naval port for a brief period before the founding of the PRC.
    • Tsingtao beer is now sold in 62 countries and regions around the world. It’s been in the U.S. since 1972, which is incidentally the year that Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit China.
    • The Tsingtao Brewery was privatized in the early 1990’s, and immediately began holding the Qingdao International Beer Festival in 1991. Part tourist attraction, part brand promotion, the festival has become a mainstay of the city and is one of its most popular attractions

    And, of course, all this talk of Qingdao and beer has naturally got us curious about Tsingtao beer. Besides the factoid our friend told us about how the 3 kuai liter bottles use formaldehyde as a preservative (and we kind of believe him, judging from the hangovers), we realized that we know almost nothing about China’s most famous beer.

    From Wikipedia:

    Tsingtao Beer, a well-hopped standard pilsner of 3.1% alcohol, is the flagship brew, accounting for most of the brewery’s production. An unpasteurised version is sold as Tsingtao Draft Beer. Tsingtao Beer was long advertised as being "brewed with mineral water from the Laoshan Spring", which contributed to its characteristic flavour; however, this now applies only to beer produced in Qingdao, not to that produced in the company’s other breweries. Originally, Tsingtao Beer was brewed in accordance with the German Reinheitsgebot (‘Purity Law’) of 1516, therefore the only ingredients that were used were water, barley, and hops. After privatization however, the recipe was changed, so that today Tsingtao beer, like many other beers made in China, contains a proportion of the less-expensive rice as an adjunct in the mash.

    The brewery also produces a number of other beers, mostly for the local market. Those sometimes encountered outside China include Tsingtao Dark Beer (5.2% alcohol), and more rarely Tsingtao Spirulina Green Beer, also sold as Tsingtao Green Beer, a 4.5% alcohol green-coloured pilsner containing spirulina as an additive, and claimed to promote good health. (Note: alcohol content of export versions may vary slightly.)

    Of course, one of the beer fest’s biggest attractions is that we finally have the chance to drink beers other than Tsingtao. But we’re always up for trying a new variety of Qingdao, especially healthy, spirulina filled beer (although it bears an eerie resemblance to the water that comes out of our bath). And we’d rather ganbei with the world for a weekend than ganbei with our friends at our local xiaomaibu like we usually do.

    We’re a bit stout-headed when it comes to planning things in advance, but for the weaker of stomach, there’s a pretty good guide to getting your kuai’s worth of a beer festival. China has named Qingdao the ninth most livable city in China, but Shanghaiist’s Chinglish loving side thinks a more appropriate accolade is "China No. 1 Fragrant Beer King City"

  • Huanglong Area of Scenic and Historic Interest (Sichuan Province)

    This mountainous landscape is famed for its colorful pools, snow-capped mountains, deep forests, waterfalls and diversified cultures.

    Covering about 700 sq. km in the northwest part of Sichuan province, the Huanglong valley is lined with snow-capped peaks which signify the easternmost of all China’s glaciers. In addition to its mountain landscape, diverse forest ecosystems can be found, as well as spectacular limestone formations, waterfalls and hot springs. The area is also home to many endangered animals, including the giant panda and the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey.

    Physical Features

    Located in Songpan County, Sichuan Province, the Huanglong Area is a rare site of limestone landscapes.

    The 7.5-km Huanglong Valley is located at the foot of snow-capped mountains, near the source of the Fujiang River. At the end of the valley, near the foot of Green Jade Peak, water from melting snow mixes with limestone water from underground, flowing down the mountain terraces, depositing calcium carbonate from the limestone water on the rocks, stones and fallen branches in its path. The calcium carbonate, in turn, reacts chemically with organic and inorganic substances, resulting in various kinds of calcareous deposits that shine golden in the sunlight, just like a huge yellow dragon flying down from the snow-capped mountain, hence the name of the place.

    When the water flows into two separate streams, it turns into more colorful ponds and waterfalls. At the end of the gold-reflecting river is the Bathing Cave Waterfall, plunging 7 m down a cliff to turn into a water curtain. Nearby, the Brilliant Flying Waterfall, fed by the ponds on the upper reaches, cascades 10 m downward, with a width of 60 m. The jigsaw-like cliffs at the top of the waterfall split the water into small streams or curtains of water, creating a most fantastic sight. Of all the colorful pools, eight are most famous, i.e. the Flower-washing Pool, Bonsai Pool, Mirror Pool, Rhododendron Pool, Jade Plants Pool, Riot of Color Pool in the south, the Stone Pagoda Village Sea Pool and the Turning Flower Pool in the north.


  • Splashing Water to Greet the New

    What’s your destination for the spring outing? If you are stuck for a place Xishuangbanna and Dehong, which are home to the Dai ethnic group in the southwest frontier of China in Yunnan Province, might well be a good choice, as the annual Water Splashing Festival, a jolly jamboree to greet spring with water, will be observed there in the middle of April.

    No other ethnic groups in China are more passionate about water than the Dai people in Yunnan Province. In the eyes of the Dai People, water is not only a symbol of sanctity, beauty and brightness but it can also help everything grow, and is rightly considered the god of life


  • Classical Gardens of Suzhou

    As outstanding examples of southern China’s private gardens, Suzhou’s classical gardens are noted for their exquisite design and layout. Landscape and buildings are perfectly integrated, to create a great harmony between man and nature.

    Thanks to careful protection and good management, several of the gardens have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, including Zhuozhen Garden(Humble Administrator’s Garden), Wangshi Garden(Master-of-Nets Garden), Liuyuan Garden(Lingering Garden), Huanxiu Villa(Villa with Embraced Beauty) , Canglangting Garden(Surging Waves Pavilion), Shizilin Garden(Lion Forest Garden), Ouyuan Garden (Double Courtyard), Yipu Garden (Art Garden) and Tuisi Garden(Retreat and Reflection Garden). These gardens demonstrate the typical features of Suzhou’s classical gardens in layout, structure, design, style, use of color, decoration and furniture.

    Suzhou’s classical gardens occupy a unique and irreplaceable position in the history of world landscape gardening, and have high value for the study of Chinese landscape gardening, architecture, culture, aesthetics, philosophy and folklore.


  • Li River

    A well-known part of the Guilin River, it flows from the Piled Festoon Hill to "Bilian Peak" in Yangshou, covering a distance of 83 kilometres. This green ribbon-like river runs zigzag through a multitude of hills against a backdrop of steep peaks, luxuriant flowers and green hills along the shores are mirrored in the blue water, giving the visitor a poetic inspiration. In drizzly days, the peaks embraced by clouds and mists and river.

    Blanketed over by light fog make people feel like in a fairyland. Sailing from Yangdi downstream to the south, one will soon see a hill with nine peaks and steep precipices by the riverside. This is the "None Horse" Hill. Viewed from afar, it looks like a colourful mural, examined at a close distance; it presents a vivid image of nine horses in different postures: standing, drinking, neighing and galloping….In misty or rainy days, the image of the horses are even more vividly outlined as if they were galloping through a curtain of clouds and mists. As the old saying goes, "Since an ancient time a mountain is as beautiful as painting; at present day, a painting is just as pretty as a mountain". If one really wants to count the number of horses a folk ballad gives a hint:" a man who can find seven horses will come second in the highest imperial examination; a man who can see all nine horses well come first in the highest imperial examination." 


  • Annual Harbin Ice and Sculpture Festival 2009

    If you are stumped for things to do for Chinese New Year and the thought of Siberian-like cold and a hot bowl of borscht seem more appealing then the beaches of Boracay, perhaps Harbin is a city you might consider visiting. Harbin’s annual ice and sculpture festival started this week and runs until the end of February, weather permitting.

    Established in 1985 as a simple festival, the Ice and Snow Festival has now transformed into one of the biggest winter attractions in China and the fourth largest ice and snow festival in the world, along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Ski Festival.

    In the evenings, the sculptures are lit up and ice-lantern park touring activities are held in many parks throughout the city. A number of other winter events take place in the city at the same time as the festival: fireworks display, ice hockey competitions, winter swimming, skiing and speed skating events, football games on expansive snow grounds, poetry jamboree, and ice and snow cinematic festival.


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