China is a land of superlatives

China is a Land of Superlatives

China is the cultural treasure house of East Asia. Its social riches and 5,000 years of tumultuous history place it among the worlds greatest travel destinations. The Great Wall, Terracotta Army, the Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square the very names reverberate with history and legend.

Chinas paradoxes are many, Shanghais skyscrapers contrast with Beijings historical treasures, while in rural provinces, mechanisation is slow. Its history is one of turmoil in between periods of stability.

The civil war in 1945 defined the China of today. Defeated Nationalists fled to Taiwan, while victorious Communists founded the People’s Republic of China. Prior to that, China endured eight years of brutal occupation by the Japanese imperial army from 1937, souring relations between the two countries to this day.

The convulsions of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s preceded major economic reforms but little political liberalisation prompted widespread protest. In 1989, thousands occupied Beijings Tiananmen Square, the army clearing the square with great loss of life and the government reasserting political control.

History and politics aside, China is a land of superlatives, encompassing the Yangtze River, the Silk Road, the bamboo forests of the giant panda and misty peaks immortalised in traditional ink paintings. China has 33 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Chinese food ranks among the world’s great cuisines. From acrobatics to martial arts, calligraphy to Chinese opera, the vibrant, distinctive culture of this great land is everywhere to be seen.

Spectacular Tibet has been open to tourists since 1980. Occupied by China since 1950, the Cultural Revolution seriously damaged its cultural identity, yet Tibets way of life and historically important Buddhism traditions have endured. Now linked by train to the rest of China, Tibets unique culture faces renewed threats, from hordes of immigrant Han Chinese settlers and tourists.

China is set to become the worlds major economic power within 20 years. Growth has come at great environmental cost. However, it has also spurred on Chinas rapidly improving tourism infrastructure. Beijing is currently undergoing a huge investment programme for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Flexibility and patience are still required to travel around China but, in return, China rewards visitors with memories to treasure for a lifetime.

China has a great diversity of climates. The northeast experiences hot and dry summers and bitterly cold winters. The north and central region has almost continual rainfall, hot summers and cold winters. The southeast region has substantial rainfall, with semi tropical summers and cool winters. Central, southern and western China are also susceptible to flooding, China is also periodically subject to seismic activity

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