China is a country that has a history longer than most other established nations, and the range of historic locations that are to be found around the country date from one or two hundred years old through to some that are several thousand years old. The legacy of the centuries of dynasties that ruled the country can be seen in both the cities and the rural areas,while there are also historic structures that are truly huge in their scope.
If you are interested in historical sites and will be taking an extended trip to China, here are some of the most important sites in the country that you really should visit.
Between 1420 and 1912, the Forbidden City was at the heart of the administration of China, and the huge grand complex really does represent the wealth and the power of the royal dynasties that built and expanded on this amazing palace. There are several important buildings that have been built during the period that the Forbidden City was in full use, along with the protective walls, and the importance of this site has also been marked by UNESCO, who marked the area as a World Heritage Site.
Also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, this is one of the most important sites in Buddhism and has examples of Buddhist art from different eras spanning a period of a thousand years. The caves themselves lie just a short distance from the route of the Silk Road, and one of the most significant caches of documents was discovered in 1900 in the 'Library Cave', which had actually been sealed in the eleventh century, while there are many other caves worth exploring in the complex for their wonderful art.
The Classical Gardens Of Suzhou
Built between the eleventh and nineteenth centuries, this network of gardens is a series of designed gardens that were built by scholars who examined the best of Chinese garden design at several points in a period that spans nearly a thousand years. Using pagodas, water features and beautifully designed architectural features, this area of Suzhou is an amazing place to explore, and has some very distinctive garden styles that can be appreciated.
One of China's most famous historical sites, this amazing range of terracotta figures dates from around the third century and has a huge number of different types of life size figures, including horses, chariots, a cavalry section and hundreds of soldiers. Spread in three pits, these figures were depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, and it is believed that their purpose was to help to protect the emperor once he arrived in the afterlife.
Fuling Tomb, Shenyang
This tomb is an extensive complex that was designed as the mausoleum of the first Emperor of the Qing dynasty, Nurhaci, and his wife Empress Xiaocigao. It is in a prominent position in the hills outside the old city of Shenyang, and features an impressive archway and several entrance gates, along with several pavilions and rooms with specific ritual purposes, and this historic significance is marked by the UNESCO World Heritage Site status accorded to the tomb in 2004.
The heart of Shaolin Buddhism in China, this temple and monastery was first founded in the fifth century, and is now also important in the history of martial arts as well as being a part of the religious legacy of the country. There are several impressive buildings as a part of the complex, while there are also plenty of squares and training halls where the Kung Fu is practiced.
The Potala Palace
The historic and iconic Potala Palace was the traditional home of the Dalai Lama, although hasn't been occupied by him since the mid twentieth century, when the current Dalai Lama fled to India during the arrival of the Chinese forces in Tibet. Standing on an outcropping overlooking the city of Lhasa, the palace is very distinctive with its white and red color scheme, and has thousands of sculptures and artworks, many of which can be seen throughout the area of the palace which is open as a museum.
Great Wall Of China
The Great Wall is one of the most famous parts of Chinese history, and today there are still several areas of the wall which can be visited, and while some parts are in ruins, other parts of the wall are still safe and can be walked upon. Jinshanling is one part of the wall where it can be seen stretching away over the hillsides ahead of you, while the impressive towers on the part of the wall at Mutianyu near Beijing are another regularly visited part of the wall.
Hongcun Ancient Village
There are many of the buildings in the village that have been standing here for centuries, and the main area of the village is located around the water of the Jiyin stream. The village stands in the shadow of Mount Huangshan, and visitors will not only get to explore the historic parts of the village, and the museum inside the Chenzhi Hall, but can also see the lovely natural areas around the village.
Saint Sophia Cathedral, Harbin
Harbin is a city that is one of the main trade gateways to Russia, so it is actually no surprise that one of the most historic buildings in the city is actually one of the cathedrals built by the Russian Orthodox Church in this part of the world. The cathedral was built in 1907, four years after the Trans-Siberian railway passed through the city, and after a significant restoration, the turquoise roof of the cathedral is once again one of the most impressive sights in Harbin.
The Summer Palace
Facing on to Kunming Lake in Beijing, this amazing complex of palace buildings and squares is truly impressive, and the beautiful location was chosen to make the most of the views as well as getting some great architectural results too. One of the most distinctive parts of the complex is the Marble Boat, a stone pier stretching out into the lake that is built and designed to look like a boat moored on the shore of the lake.
The Bund, Shanghai
One of the most iconic parts of Shanghai, the seafront area that is known as The Bund is a strip of historic buildings including international banks, top end luxury hotels and government administrative buildings, many of which date from the colonial heyday of the city. The area is beautifully lit and the broad boulevard in front of these lovely buildings makes it a great part of the city to explore, and a stroll down The Bund on a summer night is certainly one of the best ways to spend time in the city.
Leshan Giant Buddha
This impressive statue of Buddha is believed to have been carved in the eighth century, and is an impressive monument to the religious beliefs of the local people, measuring 71 meters in height. The statue itself was carved from the red stone of the hillside, and an impressive drainage system has helped to ensure the statue remains stable and doesn't suffer from too much weathering, and the statue is also a part of the Mount Emei Scenic Area, which is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Fortress Towers Of Kaiping
Not just one historic site, but a total of around 1,800 military style towers are found throughout the countryside around the city of Kaiping in the Pearl River Delta. While there are many elements of Chinese culture that have been exported, these towers actually show how European architectural influences, including Baroque, Roman and Gothic were all imported and incorporated into these towers.
Fenghuang Ancient Town
The historic waterfront of this city is one of the most impressive examples of how the Chinese made the most of the limited building space to be found along the river. The architecture includes several examples of Ming and Qing era buildings, while the cultural heritage in the city is also a very important part of the legacy in this area.