Boasting a fascinating ancient history and unique culture, China is a wonderfully mystical country that appears high on the list of places to visit for many avid travellers or even those just looking for holidays in China. With a culture and language so different to that of the western world, it’s easy to understand how some of us may feel intimidated by the thought of traveling in China, but with a little education we can feel empowered to embark on our very own tours of China.
There is so much to learn about Chinese history, traditions and culture that we could spend years reading and researching to gain an in depth knowledge base before we plan our Chinese tour, but the best way to learn is to do! So we recommend you read our basics below on Chinese traditions, inventions and popular sights and then go and get some practical experience in China itself.
China and Ancient China
China, officially known as the People’s Republic of China since the 1st of October 1949, has a population of more than 1.35 billion people, 20.6 million of these living in the capitol city Beijing, making it the worlds’ most populated country ahead of India’s 1.21 billion.
Ancient civilisations such as the semi-mythological Xia (shyah)Dynastythrived in the fertile basin of the Yellow River, known as the ‘cradle of Chinese civilisation’. Going back even further, the earliest use of fire in China dated back 1.27 million years ago and has been recorded at the archaeological site of Xihouduin Shanxi Province.
Ancient Chinese Traditions
Food: Rice was the first grain farmed in China and continues to be part of the Chinese staple diet. Rice is normally eaten steamed and can also be used to make wines and vinegars. Tofu, made from soy milk and high in protein, iron and calcium is another food of Chinese origin.
Pork and poultry are also popular and it is said that Beijing roast duck is one of the most popular dishes countrywide and has a high reputation across the rest of the world too.
Religion: With no official religion, due to China being a communist state, more than half the population identify themselves as atheists while a quarter of the population practice traditional religions such as Confucianism (obedience, respect to elders and responsibility to community) and Taoism (living in harmony with the ‘way’ or the ‘given path’).
Celebrations: If you’ve never witnessed a Chinese celebration then you are in for a treat. The largest and longest Chinese celebration is The Spring Festival or the Chinese New Year and is celebrated around the world with demonstrations and performances filled with colour, acrobatics and fancy dress.The 2014 Chinese New Year falls on January the 31 and marks ‘The Year of the Horse.’
Plan your trip to China to coincide with this celebration and you will never look at New Year celebrations in the same way again.
Ancient Chinese Inventions
When it comes to being inventive the Chinese got an early start, with their four great inventions, namely Papermaking, The Compass, Gunpowder and Printing all having a significant impact on the world.
Ancient Chinese Sights to See
With such a diverse culture and so much to experience it’s going to be hard to fit it all in with just one visit. The best way to make the most of your holiday is to plan and prioritise what you want to see. Below are a number of ancient Chinese sites you will definitely want to visit.
Home of the Peking Man –Fossil specimens discovered at Zhoukoudian,near Beijing,have been dated around 680,000 to 780,000 years old and provide evidence of an ancient civilisation.
Terracotta Army – Described by many as one of the most significant archaeological finds in the world this is an experience you cannot miss when visiting China. The Emperor Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum is a must see!
The Great Wall of China – A list of Chinese sights would not be complete without the including the Great Wall of China. Chinas great wall stretches approximately 8,852 kilometres starting in the east and runs through both grasslands and deserts.There are many sections of the wall worth visiting and 7 of these around Beijing are open to the public. Visit on weekdays for a less crowded experience.
If China was never on your radar it should have made its way on to your list of places to visit by now. With so many tourists and travellers visiting China every year there is no reason to feel intimidated by the differences in culture. If you are short on time or simply despise planning then consider a Chinese tour package where everything is taken care of for you, making the experience stress free, leaving more time to enjoy everything China has to offer.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Xuan Che