Three Cities You Should Also Visit When Traveling to China

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Currently, China receives millions of visitors per year. Most travelers would visit Beijing, Shanghai and their surroundings when traveling to China. These two cities are indeed outstanding. However, China has other cities that are valuable for every tourist to explore.

1. Nanjing

Throughout 4,000-year of Chinese history, Nanjing had been the capital of many dynasties. The city was the capital of the nationalist government before the PRC took over. Thus, Nanjing surely had many interesting destinations to see, especially if you are traveling to China to learn some history.

Currently, Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu province in eastern China. You can catch a bullet train to Nanjing from Shanghai. This would take around an hour or so. The experience there would be very worthwhile.

Sun-Yat-Sen Mausoleum by Jiong Sheng

One of the top destinations in Nanjing is Sun Yat-sen or Sun Zhongshan Mausoleum (中山陵.) “The Founding Father of China” was buried here. Sun Yat-sen was one of the leading revolutionaries that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. He later became a provisional president of the Republic of China (ROC). Above all, Sun was a selfless person who truly devoted to the prosperity of his country. Thus, he became the only person who has been revered by people in the mainland and Taiwan. This fact makes this place special for many Chinese.

Next to Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum, there is a burial site of Hongwu emperor, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. This tomb, Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, was completed in 1405. The tomb had many marvelous architectures to see, especially “The Sacred Way” that has large traditional statues of elephants and mythical creatures.

In the city, there are other distinct places to visit. This included the museum of Nanjing massacre, an old city wall of Nanjing built when it was the capital, Southern dynasties mausoleums that possessed stone sculptures dated back to the fifth century. There were very old temples such as the Jiming temple and the Qixia temple near the city. These two temples are more than 1500 years old.

The Spirit Way at Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum , Cr: Kimon Berlin

2. Luoyang

A capital of Cao Wei in the novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, Luoyang was one of the oldest cities in China. It served as capitals of many dynasties such as the Eastern Zhou dynasty (770-256 BCE), and Eastern Han Dynasty (23-190.) The city is now part of Henan province in the northern part of China.

The most outstanding tourist attractions in Luoyang are Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟). This entire mountain was carved to create artificial grottoes. The numbers of grottoes are 2,345. In each grotto, there are thousands of statues of all sizes. Some are as small as 25 mm, while some are more than 17 m in height. As a result, there are more than 100,000 statues of monks at the entire site. Tourists could hence spend several hours at the grottoes.

Longmen Grottos Cr: Anagoria/wikimedia commons

The grottoes were products of multiple dynasties. The construction started in the Northern Wei dynasty, but most of the site was completed in the Tang Dynasty. Empress Wu Zetian was the main sponsor of the activity, as she was a devout Buddhist. Currently, the site’s age exceeded 1,500 years old. It is one of China’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A great video by the Smithsonian Channel shows the perfect view of Longmen Grottoes.

Besides the Grottoes, tourists should visit the White Horse Temple, the first Buddhist temple in China. The construction started as early as 68 AD in the time of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Luoyang also has many museums or sites that showed artifacts of early Chinese civilization. For novel fans, you should visit theGuanlin temple which was built for GuanYu, one of the heroes in the Romance of The Three Kingdoms.

3. Xi’an

Certainly, traveling to China could not complete without Xi’an.

Xi’an, or Chang’an was the capital of Shaanxi Province. The city and Luoyang are often called the “two capitals.” This was because from the time of the Zhou Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty, the capitals of most dynasties were at either Xi’an or Luoyang. However, after the Tang Dynasty’s collapse, these two ex-capitals lost their status. Later dynasties built capitals at cities like Kaifeng, Nanjing, and Beijing.

As the capital of the Qin Dynasty, Xi’an was a resting place of the First Emperor of China, Qin Shihuangdi. Emperor Qin Shihuangdi’s mausoleum was huge. It featured the famous terracotta army, a must-see in Xi’an. Chinese excavators have not opened the emperor’s tomb, as the authorities do not allow them to do so. There is a thousand-year rumor that there was a mercury lake in his tomb.

The terracotta army is one of the most fascinating attractions for tourists traveling to China. Cr:Jmhullot

Furthermore, Xi’an also has many temples and historical sites worth visiting. These are the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, a large pagoda dated back to the Tang Dynasty. Another interesting attraction is the City Wall of Xi’an, which is the best preserved Chinese wall. The wall is huge enough for you to ride a bike freely on top of it.

The next worthwhile destination would be Huaqing pool that Yang Guifei, one of the most beautiful women, in Chinese history used to bathe. A naked statue near the pool is Yang Guifei’s. In addition, make sure you visit the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower of Xi’an. They are also the most famous historical buildings in Xi’an.

Recently, the Chinese government attempts to reconstruct classical sites in Xi’an. This includes “Great Tang Paradise”, a classical Chinese theme park, and the Daming Palace Park, an extremely large imperial palace that was Tang emperors’ residence for more than 200 years. The latter is built on top of the old relics of the destroyed palace. These two parks may be beautiful, but they have no historical significance at all.

Xi’an and Luoyang are close to each other enough for tourists to visit in a single trip.

Final Thoughts

If you think of traveling to China, I suggest you consider these cities. These cities certainly open your new perspectives about China and its culture. I personally visited all three and found the experience to be a valuable one.

Want a Tour to Xi’an?

Photo and Video Sources:

Smithsonian Channel