China's summers are notoriously hot and humid, but the relentless heat finally begins to ease up in September, which brings cooler, dryer autumnal weather, especially in the country's northern regions. In southern China, where temperatures can be warm year-round, the weather sees a slight cooling trend, but tends to be very wet.
Overall, September can be a great time to visit this Asian country, especially if you're planning to take in some of China's biggest tourist destinations like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Imperial Palace in Beijing, or the Li River in Guilin. Because many children go back to school this month, big attractions won't be quite as crowded as they would be during the peak summer season. You can generally find great deals on airfare and accommodation as well as special prices for resorts and attractions this time of year, too.
China Weather in September
While all of China begins to cool off in September, temperatures and precipitation largely depend on which part of the country you visit. If you're heading to Beijing in the north, for instance, you can expect a dryer month (about five days of rain) with colder highs and lows; Guangzhou, on the southern coast, or Shanghai on China's far western shore, on the other hand, are both wet (about 13 days of rain, rounding out the typhoon season) and warm in September.
- Beijing: 79 F (26 C) / 59 F (15 C)
- Shanghai: 81 F (27 C) / 70 F (21 C)
- Guangzhou: 91 F (33 C) / 77 F (25 C)
- Guilin: 86 F (30 C) / 72 F (22 C)
Most consider the beginning and end of summer—May and September, respectively—the best times to visit China for the weather alone. Humidity drops across much of the region, meaning you won't feel nearly as warm as you would mid-summer, especially in smoggy cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
What to Pack
Even though temperatures cool and humidity loosens its grip, the climate remains quite warm in early fall, so it's best to prepare for both hot and chilly weather when packing for your September vacation in China. Bring lightweight clothing and layers for evening outings and quick-drying, long-sleeved shirts for outdoor excursions.
If you're traveling to southern or western China, you'll also want to bring waterproof clothes and an umbrella as almost half the days in September experience rain. Check the weather before you travel to see whether sun is in the forecast. If it is, you may even want to bring a swimsuit.
September Events in China
September in China is brimming with age-old festivals and modern events, all celebrated with traditional foods and cultural displays.
- Mid-Autumn Festival: Also called Moon Festival, this is one of the most important traditions in China. It's essentially a harvest festival, celebrated in September or October, on month eight, day 15 of the Chinese lunar calendar. It's celebrated with traditional mooncakes (made from lotus seeds or beans), pomelos (a fleshy fruit), lanterns, and fire dragon dancing. The Mid-Autumn Festival will take place on October 1, 2020.
- Shanghai International Music and Fireworks Festival: This extravagant fireworks festival is typically held around National Day (October 1). A handful of companies compete for the best light show choreographed to lively music, best viewed from Shanghai Century Park.
- Qufu International Confucius Culture Festival: Held every year between September 26 and October 10, this glorified birthday party for Confucius takes place in Qufu City, the iconic philosopher's hometown. It consists of a worship ceremony and performances (often in the form of traditional music and dance) at the Temple of Confucius and his namesake cemetery.
September Travel Tips
- School is back in session in most places, so you'll have fewer summer travelers, but there's still the holdover summer feeling of warm evenings and street action all month long.
- Air quality is at its best in September and May, when China's heat and humidity are both at moderate levels, but cities like Beijing are still among the worst in the world for pollution. Remember to bring a breathing mask if you plan to stay in an urban area for an extended time.
- September is when most giant pandas give birth to their cubs, and Chengdu is the best place to see them. Make sure only to seek them out under ethical circumstances (avoid gimmicks that allow you to hold or touch the animals; the Panda Breeding and Research Centre in Chengdu is a vetted choice.
- National Day (October 1) marks a week-long public holiday in China, which means the hotels become booked up as many of the locals go on vacation at the end of September.