Five Amazing Sights for Your China Bucket List
1. Xian: The Terra Cotta Warriors
One of China’s most remarkable treasures dates back to the Qin Dynasty, when the very first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, commissioned the creation of a massive life-size army of terra cotta warriors to protect him in the afterlife. Discovered only 40 years ago by a farmer, these warriors continue to be unearthed today from a complex of pits, which you can explore from viewing platforms and which surround the emperor’s own enormous burial mound.
2. Leshan: Giant Buddha and Lingyun Temple
Do make the pilgrimage to Leshan to see its 233-foot-tall Giant Buddha — the tallest Buddha in the world — carved from the cliff face and seated at the confluence of the Min, Qingyi and Dadu rivers. But also hike to the top to see the nearly hidden Lingyun Temple, shrouded in incense and home to stunningly ornate statues.
3. Beijing: The Great Wall of China
To see the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall, travel to northern, mountainous Mutianyu for jaw-dropping views upward and eventually over the snaking wall, where you can see its resemblance to a dragon’s back. Ride a cable car to the top for dramatic views across a fantastically curvy wall that winds through gates and watchtowers, all worth exploring.
4. Yangtze River: The Shennong Stream
While the Yangtze’s cavernous gorges have been widened by the Three Gorges Dam, a cruise on China’s longest river remains dramatic and timeless. Disembark for an excursion on the shamrock-green Shennong Stream, sailing low in a sampan long boat poled by modern Tujia boatmen, descendants of the region’s legendary “trackers.” Look up in the forested peaks that surround the stream to see hanging coffins, remnants of the tribe’s former burial practice.
5. The Shanghai Skyline
The best way to cap off a day of exploring cosmopolitan Shanghai is high on a rooftop, where you can raise a cocktail to sweeping views of an eye-popping illuminated city. Grab a seat at Flair Restaurant & Bar on the 58th floor of The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, the space-needle-like Oriental Pearl TV Tower so close you’ll think you can touch it and the classic Puxi side of Shanghai just across the Huangpu River.