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 What to see in China

THE FORBIDDEN CITY


Peking Hotels
THE FORBIDDEN CITY
The Imperial Palaces (Gu Gong), are located at the center of Peking, were famous as the "Forbidden City" in that the subjects were not allowed to enter. This is where over 24 emperors of the Qing and Ming dynasties decided China's destiny until 1911. There are over nine thousand rooms in this city within a city, built between 1406 and 1420 and surrounded by a wall and a moat, with four entrances. Three Palaces (Tai He Dian, Zhong He Dian, Bao He Dian), where the emperors celebrated great ceremonies and held banquets, are located within the Forbidden City. Further within, situated in a courtyard, there are three private residences (Qian Qing Gong, Jiao Tai Dian, Kun Ning Gong), the Imperial Garden and the smaller palaces where the emperor's court lived.

THE GREAT BUDDHA OF LESHAN


Leshan
THE GREAT BUDDHA OF LESHAN
In the city of Leshan (southwestern China), at the confluence of the Min Jiang, Qingyi and Dadu He Rivers, there is a colossal statue of the Buddha, considered the largest in the world. The Buddha is seated and is 71 meters high, with shoulders measuring 28 meters across. It was sculpted on a sandstone hill in order to protect navigators in this part of the river, which is considered dangerous because of the currents. The work was begun by the Buddhist monk Haitong in 713 and took about ninety years to build. On the right shoulder of the statue is the Da Fu Temple.

THE TERRACOTTA ARMY


Xi'an Hotels
THE TERRACOTTA ARMY
The Terracotta Army is without a doubt, among recent archaeological discoveries, the most stupifying. This is in fact a complex of over seven thousand warriors and horses in terracotta, which was discovered accidentally in 1974 thanks to the excavations of some farmers. Located thirty km from Xian, near the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shihuan, the Army is part of his funeral complex. Its construction dates to the second century b.c. and is arranged like armies of that era. Its warriors, each one different from the others, are natural in size and surrounded by weapons and war carriages. The canals that house this military formation are protected by a covering and tourists can watch the progress of the excavations in real time.

THE GREAT WALL


China 6.700 km long
THE GREAT WALL
The Great Wall, called by the Chinese "Wan Li Chang Cheng" (the long wall of ten thousand li), is the most extensive defensive work in the world, thanks to its 6700 km that go from Shanai Guan pass to Jiayu Guan pass. Built beginning in the fifth century b.c., using packed earth, the Wall was later reinforced by the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi, who hired hundreds of thousands of men for the job. The Great Wall that we see today is the one rebuilt by the Ming (1368-1644). They reinforced it with stone and bricks and also built many watchtowers along the wide stretches of stone roads. The best-preserved sections of the fortification are found at Badaling and Mutianyu, respectively 54 km and 81 km from Peking.

STONE FOREST


Kunming Hotels
STONE FOREST
The "Stone Forest" is located in the Yunnan region, 120 km from Kunming. It is a rocky complex extending over 26,000 hectares in the Lunan district. The limestone rocks of these mountains, after undergoing centuries of erosion, have assumed bizarre forms, with outcroppings reaching as high as thirty meters, which make it resemble a pine forest. The Chinese have given fanciful names to these unusual formations, like "Mother and Son," "Sleeping Rhinoceros," "Lotus Hill." The "Forest" also includes lakes and many caves. In June, the Sani people come here to celebrate the "Festival of the Torches." At this time the forest is animated with sports tournaments by day and songs and dances around the fire by night.

SUZHOU GARDENS


Suzhou Hotels
SUZHOU GARDENS
The city of Suzhou, known as the Venice of the East because of the Imperial Grand Canal that runs through it, is famous throughout the country as the main center for the art of creating gardens. Here the gardens are rich in lakes, hills, caves, and exact miniature reproductions of landscapes. Two of the four most beautiful gardens in China are found here at Suzhou: the Garden of the Humble Administrator (Zhuozhenyuan), where the pavillions posted along the edges of the lakes seem to be floating on the water, and the Garden of Mister Liu (Liu Yuan). Other gardens in the city are also worth visiting: The Garden of the Master of the Nets (Wang Shi Yuan), the Garden of Harmony (Yi Yuan), and the Garden of the Pavillion of the Agitated Waves (Canglang ting).

THE STATUES OF DAZU


Dazu
THE STATUES OF DAZU
Near the town of Dazu, located 16 km from Chongqing, one finds over fifty thousand statues spread over forty different villages. Most of these are religious in theme and date to the 9th to 12th centuries. The most beautiful sculptures are those located on Beishan and Baoding Mountain. While in the first case the works have been arranged without a precise order, at the foot of Baoding Mountain the sculptures have been organized in a fan-like pattern. Absolutely not to be missed among the various masterpieces of Buddhist art are a sleeping Buddha 31 meters in length and a statue of Guanyn with more than a thousand arms.

HANGING MONASTERY


Datong Hotels
HANGING MONASTERY
About 80 km from Datong, in northeastern China, one finds Hengshan, the fifth sacred mountain of the country. The Hanging Monastery (Xuankong si), built here, seems to be gripping the mountain walls. Some forty temples and buildings, erected in the sixth century under the shelter of the steep walls, are supported by wooden beams. The complex is connected by bridges and ladders. Within are preserved some eighty antique statues made from various materials.

YUNGANG CAVES


Datong Hotels
YUNGANG CAVES
The Yugang Caves complex extends over a kilometer on the slopes of Wuzhou Mountain, twelve km to the west of the city of Datong. In the 53 caves there are many reliefs and over fifty thousand statues of Buddhist subjects sculpted into the rock walls. Almost all of these were made during the western Wei period (IV-V centuries). There are 21 main caves. Of these, the most important are: Cave n.5, with a 17-meter high statue of the Seated Buddha; Cave n.6, with a two-story pagoda at the center; Cave n.15, that of the ten thousand buddhas; Cave n.20, which contains the symbol of the place, a 10-meter high Buddha with round face, enormous ears and large shoulders.

LONGMEN CAVES


Luoyang Hotels
LONGMEN CAVES
In the Henan province, twelve km from the city of Luoyang, Longmen Mountain conserves within its slopes 1352 caves, hundreds of cavities, dozens of pagodas, almost 4000 stone inscriptions, and over a million statues. The caves were built beginning in the fifth century, when the emperor of the western Wei moved the capital to Luoyang and continued the artistic production of the Yungang Caves. The caves not to be missed are: Guyang Cave, the oldest; Binyang Cave, divided into three communicating parts; the Cave of the Ten Thousand Buddhas, with wall carvings in relief; and the Cave of the FengXian Temple, with its 18-meter high Buddha.

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