Thursday, September 8, 2016


A courtyard in Pingyao Ancient City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s probably not common knowledge that China has 48 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ranging from the Great Wall in Beijing – naturally – to the quaint historic town of Pingyao, which has its own well-preserved fortification.

The Terracotta Army, in Xi'an
Visiting these sites will enrich any trip to the country, as they provide not only impressive views but also a journey through hundreds of years of history.  The Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor, with the legendary Terracotta Army, will probably be one of the most memorable artefacts any traveller will ever see.

Located in Xi’an, the Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 by farmers in the region and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. Here visitors can see rows of terracotta sculptures, dating from the third century BC and representing the armies of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The sheer number and intricacy of the sculptures – known as burial or funerary art – make for an awe-inspiring vista.

On the Wall of Xi'an
But this is not the only attraction in Xi’an. The city also has a wall, where one can walk or cycle and view from on high both the old town and the expanding modern landscape. As with most urban areas in China, the ancient sits right alongside the new, and moving from traditional neighbourhoods to gleaming new skyscrapers can seem like a kind of time travel.

Xi’an is known as well for its ethnically diverse neighbourhoods, where tourists throng the streets to sample the special cuisine. Flatbread, stews and grilled meat are just some of the offerings, both from sidewalk stalls and brightly lit restaurants. 

Exploring this city and others was the high point of a two-month trip to China - travelling from Beijing to Shenzhen. It included several World Heritage Sites on the way, along with memorable meals and interactions with friendly people. 

A food stall in Xi'an 
The Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
in Zhangjiajie. The mountains inspired a part of the setting
for the movie Avatar.

In Fenghuang, a town on the water.