While China's summers are brutally hot and humid, the heat finally begins to let off as September brings cooler, dryer autumnal weather, especially in the country's northern regions. However, in southern China, where temperatures can be warm year-round, the weather sees a slight cooling trend but can 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, and Imperial Palace in Beijing, or the Li River in Guilin. Since many children around the world start back to school around the world this month, big attractions won't be quite as crowded as during the peak summer season.
Since September and October are considered the shoulder season for tourism around the world, including in China, you can generally expect to find great deals on airfare and accommodations this month as well as special prices for resorts and attractions. Although you can book your own travel itinerary, you might be able to get better deals by booking through a travel agent who can compare vacation packages meant to incentivize tourists to travel during this less-busy season.
China Weather in September
While all of China begins to cool off in September, how wet you'll be on your trip and how cool it will get at night depends on which region you're visiting in China. If you're heading Beijing in northern China, for instance, you can expect a dryer month with colder highs and lows; on the other hand, Guangzhou along its southern coast or Shanghai on its far western shore, are both wet and warm most of the month.
- Beijing: 79 F (26 C) high, 59 F (15 C) low, with an average of five days of rainfall
- Shanghai: 81 F (27 C) high, 68 F (20 C) low, with an average of 13 days of rainfall
- Guangzhou: 90 F (32 C) high, 75 F (24 C) low, with an average of 14 days of rainfall
- Guilin: 86 F (30 C) high, 72 F (22 C) low, with an average of 13 days of rainfall
Many travel guides consider the beginning and end of summer in China—May and September respectively—the best times to visit for the weather alone. Humidity also drops across much of the region, meaning you won't feel nearly as warm as you would if you came during the muggy summers, especially in smoggy cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
What to Pack
Even though temperatures are cooling off and the humidity is drying up, it's still quite warm in September, meaning you'll need to prepare for both hot and chilly weather when you're packing for your vacation to China.
You'll want to bring lightweight clothing and some layers in case the night temperatures drop too low for your tastes. Quick-drying long-sleeved shirts are great for being outdoors in China's late summer because they keep the sun off your skin, absorb sweat, keep you relatively cool, and can serve as a barrier to the chilly night air.
If you're traveling to southern or western China, you'll also want to bring an umbrella and a raincoat as almost half of the days of September experience some amount of rainfall. Check the weather before you travel to see if you'll have a few sunny days to enjoy the outdoors and don't forget to bring a bathing suit to enjoy the beaches.
September Events in China
In China there are age-old traditions that are celebrated with special foods and colorful festivals as well as more modern events.
- Mid Autumn or Moon Festival, the second most important festival in China, is a harvest festival, celebrated in September or October, on month 8 day 15 of the Chinese lunar calendar. Mooncakes are a traditional food at this time.
- The Shanghai International Music and Fireworks Festival is held on October 1 (National Day). The music accompanies stunning fireworks and is watched from Shanghai Century Park.
- The Qufu International Confucius Culture Festival is held every year between September 26th and October 10th in Qufu City, the hometown of Confucius, on the occasion of his birthday. There will be a ceremony worshipping Confucius, performances (often accompanied with traditional music and dance) at the Temple of Confucius and the Cemetery of Confucius.
September Travel Tips
The week that includes October 1 is part of a week-long public holiday so travel at the end of September can be quite expensive and difficult to book. Look into your specific travel dates before you leave to ensure you don't get caught in October-travel-mayhem.
Cooling and drying of northern China make September a great time to visit, especially Beijing, but the end of typhoon season means it can still be very wet in central or southern China.
School is back in session in most places so you'll have fewer summer travelers, thus lessening the crowds somewhat, 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 heat and humidity are both at moderate levels, but cities like Beijing as still among the worst in the world for air quality. Remember to bring a breathing mask if you're planning on staying in a city for an extended time.
While there are no official federal holidays in September, there are still plenty of events, festivals, and attractions to see this month.