China, the gateway to East Asia, is a fascinating country. It is an ancient nation that gave the world Peking Man, gunpowder and noodles. Chinese civilization has endured through millennia of tumultuous upheaval and revolutions, golden ages and periods of anarchy alike.
Through the recent economic boom initiated by the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, China is once again one of the leading nations in the world, maintained by its large, industrious population and abundant natural resources. The depth and complexity of the Chinese civilization, with its rich heritage, has fascinated travelers such as Marco Polo in centuries past, and will continue to excite and bewilder the tourist today.
Visitors making their first trip to China usually stick to three cities: Beijing, the capital with the Great Wall and Forbidden City; Shanghai, the largest city with its architecturally innovative skyscrapers, and Xi’an, an ancient capital that is home to the famed Terra Cotta Warriors who guarded the nation’s first emperor, Qin Shuhuang Di, in the afterlife. Sometimes, travelers will take a cruise on the Yangtze River with its Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world.
More adventuresome or experienced visitors to the Middle Kingdom will strike out in other directions, where traveling may be a bit more frustrating because of the language barrier, but most definitely doable for independent travelers. They’ll seek out the rice terraces of South China, the silk factories of Suzhou, and the Tibetan villages in Sichuan and Gansu provinces. They’ll enjoy peeking into the past at minority villages where life goes on much as it has for centuries.