For a complete list of provinces and an explanation of China’s political geography, see: List of Chinese provinces and regions.
|Northeast China (Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang)|
dongbei, “rust belt” cities, vast forests, Russian, Korean, and Japanese influence, and long, snowy winters
|North China (Shandong, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Henan, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin)|
The Yellow River Basin area, cradle of China’s civilization and historic heartland
|Northwest China (Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang)|
Site of China’s capital for 1000 years, grasslands, deserts, mountains, nomadic people, and Islam
|Southwest China (Tibet, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou)|
The exotic part, minority peoples, spectacular scenery, and backpacker havens
|South-central China (Anhui, Sichuan, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi)|
Farming areas, mountains, river gorges, temperate and sub-tropical forests
|Southeast China (Guangdong, Hainan, Fujian)|
Traditional trading center, manufacturing powerhouse, and ancestral homeland of most overseas Chinese
|East China (Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang)|
The “land of fish and rice” (China’s equivalent of the “land of milk and honey”), traditional water towns, and China’s new cosmopolitan economic center
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China has many large and famous cities. Below is a top ten list of some of those most important to travellers in mainland China. Other cities are listed under their specific regional section. See the Dynasties and capitals section for a detailed list of China’s many previous capitals.
- Beijing — the capital and cultural centre
- Guangzhou — one of the most prosperous and liberal cities in the south, near Hong Kong
- Guilin — popular destination for both Chinese and foreign tourists with sensational mountain and river scenery
- Hangzhou — famously beautiful city and major centre for the silk industry
- Kunming — capital of Yunnan and gateway to a rainbow of ethnic minority areas
- Nanjing — a renowned historical and cultural city with many historic sites
- Shanghai — famous for its riverside cityscape, China’s largest city is a major commercial center with many shopping opportunities
- Suzhou — “Venice of the East,” an ancient city famous for canals and gardens just west of Shanghai
- Xi’an — the oldest city and ancient capital of China, home to ten dynasties including the Han and the Tang, terminus of the ancient Silk Road, and home of the terracotta warriors
- Yangzhou — “Epitome of China” with a history of over 2,500 years, Marco Polo served as the city’s governor for three years in the late 13th century.
You can travel to many of these cities using the new fast trains. In particular, the Hangzhou – Shanghai – Suzhou – Nanjing line is a convenient way to see these historic areas.
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- Great Wall of China — longer than 8,000 km, this ancient wall is the most iconic landmark of China
- Hainan — a tropical paradise island undergoing heavy tourist-oriented development
- Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve — known as the habitat of giant pandas and for its many multi-level waterfalls and colourful lakes
- Leshan — most famous for its huge riverside cliff-carving of Buddha and nearby Mount Emei
- Mount Everest — straddling the border between Nepal and Tibet, this is the world’s highest mountain
- Mount Tai ( Tài Shan) — one of the five Daoist sacred mountains in China, and because of its history the most climbed mountain in China
- Tibet — with a majority of Tibetan Buddhists and traditional Tibetan culture, it feels like an entirely different world
- Turpan — in the Islamic area of Xinjiang, this area is known for its grapes, harsh climate and Uighur culture
- Yungang Grottoes — these mountain-side caves and recesses number more than 50 in all and are filled with 51,000 Buddhist statues.
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