China is big and few people have the opportunity to return time after time, so your aim will probably be to see as many of the main attractions as possible on your visit. This will also be the aim, unfortunately, of just about all your fellow tourists, and that includes a fair percentage of the country’s own population as well.
A terracotta warrior from Xi’an
This means that the most popular places, such as the site of the terracotta warriors at Xi’an, may seem like madhouses. There is not much to be done about this, apart from avoiding such locations altogether, which would seem to defeat the purpose of going to China in the first place.
Beijing, with its Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace, is in the north, and the Great Wall of China is not far away. Further north are the vast spaces of Inner Mongolia, while in the far northeast is Harbin, famed for its winter ice sculptures. Shanghai, China’s most vibrant and exciting city, as well as its most modern, is situated on the east coast. Relatively close to Shanghai (as far as Chinese distances go) are the beautiful and historic cities of Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wuxi, and Nanjing.
Xi’an, famous for its terracotta warriors, occupies a fairly isolated position in mountainous country in the northern central part of China, with Chengdu a lengthy hop over the mountains to the southwest. The two great rivers, the Yangtze (Chiang Jiang) and the Yellow (Huang He), draw muddy swathes across middle China, the former following a southerly track, and the latter a more northerly one. Guangzhou (Canton) faces Hong Kong and Macao on the southeastern coast, with Guilin’s famous limestone hills to its northwest, and Kunming, gateway to the south, to its west.
Xinjiang Autonomous Region, an enormous mass of land which is, however, sparsely populated, fills in the western zone, and reaches toward the Himalaya and beyond.