China, whose civilization is thousands of years old, is filled with ancient monuments. UNESCO has added 38 sites in China, including sacred mountains, to its World Heritage List. China has old temples such as the 2,000-year-old Tanzhi Temple outside of Beijing, Buddhist cave carvings and cities surrounded by walls to protect residents from invaders.
The Great Wall is a must-see for almost every visitor to China. The wall, which stretches from Jiayuguan in the west to Shanhaiguan in the east, was built over a couple of thousand years. In West China's Gansu Province, where it originated, the wall is made of tamped earth. In the mountainous regions of the east, it's made of stone blocks. The wall was built as a defense mechanism, but since the wall is not continuous, invaders had only to look for a gap and come through. Most people visit the Great Wall in the Beijing area, and Badaling is the most restored and visited site. It also is home to the Great Wall Museum, which traces the wall's history.
Badaling Great Wall
Badaling Special Zone, Yanqing County
Terra Cotta Warriors
The Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi'an is another well-visited historic site in China. The warriors represent the army of Qin Shi Huang, who is considered the first emperor of China. The clay army was part of his tomb, which was discovered in 1974 by a peasant digging a well. Three large pits were excavated with broken pieces of pottery that have been restored as 7,000 soldiers, horses, chariots and weapons. Replicas of the army can be found in the main pit, with exhibits on the balcony containing original parts.
Terra Cotta Warriors
Qinling Town, Lington County
Xi'an, Shaanxi Province
Pingyao is an ancient walled city in Shanxi Province, which is a good stopover for travelers enroute to Xi'an from Beijing. The UNESCO World Heritage List describes it as "an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city, founded in the 14th century." Believed to have been founded as early as 1045 BC, Pingyao is considered one of the best preserved Ming Dynasty cities in China. Walking its narrow streets and alleys is like taking a walk back in time. Walking on the wall surrounding it adds another dimension to the visit. The Chinese movie "Raise the Red Lantern" was filmed in Pingyao.
Shanxi Province, China
Longmen Grottoes is one of the best examples of Buddhist cave art. Located at Luoyang, the name translates as Dragon Gate Grottoes. Carving Buddhist statues into Mt. Longmen along the Yihe River started in the early fourth century. More than 97,000 Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Arhats have been carved into almost 1,400 caves on the hillside. Some of the statues are just inches tall, while others are tens of feet tall. The grottoes are also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Longmen Grottoes Management Office
Luoyang City, Henan
- Photo Credit China image by Vladislav Yatmanov from Fotolia.com