Iconic Must-see Chinese World Heritage Sites For Any Travelers
Regarded as one of the most glorious civilizations in the world, China proudly encapsulates within itself the richness of cultural highlights. China, as one of the world’s largest countries that covers a very massive region of the Asian continent, is also endowed with various terrains and many spectacular landscapes. Hence, the country appeals to global travellers to come and admire a lot of fascinating cultural and natural tourist attractions, many of which are notable UNESCO Heritage Sites. If you're the first-timer travelling to China, experiencing heritage excursions is definitely a must in your bucket list. Your trip would be incomplete without visiting famous Chinese World Heritage Sites below:
1. The Great Wall of China (Cultural)
Dubbed as the longest wall on earth, the Great Wall stretches over 21,196 kilometres from east to west of China and winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus like a gigantic dragon. First built in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BC), the wall was continuously constructed and restored by later dynasties, mainly during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Chinese Empires made lots of effort to build the wall to prevent invasions from the North and protect the Silk Road trade route as well. The Great Wall was not just a wall; it was an integrated military defensive system with a complete construction including watchtowers for surveillance, fortresses for command posts and logistics, beacon towers for communications, etc. Existing more than 2,500 years, several sections of the wall are now in ruins or have disappeared. Fortunately, several famous sections near Beijing of the wall such as Mutianyu and Badaling are well-preserved so that it's accessible for visitors. As a prominent symbol that proves the accomplishment of Chinese civilization, the Great Wall of China is one of the world-famous wonders that you should not miss when in the great country due to its architectural grandeur and historical significance.
2. Forbidden City (Cultural)
Through Chinese feudal eras from the Ming to the Qing Dynasty, one of the most outstanding monuments is the Forbidden City. This is a palace complex right in the heart of Beijing, which served as the former imperial palace & state residence of Chinese Emperors, and was the ceremonial and political centre of China in these two last feudal dynasties for almost 500 years from 1420 to 1924. The whole construction took 14 years to complete and there were over one million workers joined to build this massive structure. According to calculations, the Forbidden City consists of 980 buildings in over 70 palace compounds, has approximately 9000 rooms and covers an extensive area of 72 hectares. The complex is the finest exemplification of traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has a notable influence on architectural art of other countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia. Recognized as the World Heritage Site in 1987, the Forbidden City was also declared as one of the world's largest existing ancient wooden structures. Attracting millions of visitor annually, this magnificent palace museum is one of the sought-after tourist hotspots in Beijing where comprehensively depicts the thriving history and culture of Chinese feudalism to everyone all over the world.
3. The Temple of Heaven (Cultural)
The Temple of Heaven is a ritual temple complex located in the southeastern of Beijing. Covering an area of 273 hectares which is even larger than the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven is known to be the largest and most representative structure among existing China's ancient sacrificial buildings. As an important worship centre of royalty, the Temple of Heaven is the place where emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties celebrated the national rites and sacrifices to pay homage to Heaven and plead to give good harvests. The memorial ceremony held in the Temple of Heaven is regarded as one of the major rites in a year. Ancient Chinese notion claimed that emperors are the "Son of Heaven", so the temple complex's design reflects the emperors' unique role in the relationship between heaven and the earth, and this relationship also occupied a central position in the ancient Chinese cosmology. Encompassing the essences of ancient philosophy, history, mathematics, mechanics, aesthetics, and ecology, the Temple of Heaven deserve to be an outstanding cultural masterpiece of Chinese civilization.
4. Summer Palace (Cultural)
In the western outskirts of Beijing, about 15 km from the city centre houses a beautiful setting of the Summer Palace, an almost 300-year-old Imperial Garden dated back from the Qing Dynasty. As a summer retreat for royal families, Summer Palace was designed to create an airy abode full of natural vibe as well as to soothe, and to please the eye. Regarded as "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design” by UNESCO, Summer Palace covers a massive area (about 290 hectares) and contains a lot of stunning views from the natural landscape of hills, open water, lush gardens to man-made ancient structures including pavilions, halls, towers, palaces, temples, corridors, and bridges, which form a harmonious ensemble of prominent aesthetic value standing for the excellent Chinese traditional horticulture and architecture. Summer and Autumn months from April to October are the best time to visit Summer Palace due to the clean, sunny, and pleasant weather as well as a great offer for photographic opportunities.
5. The Terracotta of Horses & Warriors (Cultural)
The Terracotta Warriors and Horses is a large-scale underground military museum with a huge collection of life-sized terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of the first unified dynasty of Imperial China. This special buried site featuring the form of funerary art with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife. Distinctly representing the Qin Dynasty military power, the figures in the site include thousands of warriors, hundreds of horses and chariots with the history over 2,200 years in battle array, which are very impressive by the size, number and detailed looking. Unknown to the world until 1974, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses were discovered by local farmers and became one of the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century.
When visiting such a marvellous place, guests should be aware of the great history that is lying behind all the spots and tourist information signs as the Terracotta Army and Horses is indeed closely connected with the early ancient history of China. The excavation sites along with the emperor's tomb and surrounding areas are now officially named Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum Site Museum, which shows the life stories of the emperor and the powerful Qin Empire in thriving days. Being one of China's greatest attractions as well as an outstanding UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Terracotta Warriors and Horses is no doubt a must-see for every visitor when in Xi'an.
6. Zhangjiajie - A mountainous region (Natural)
Zhangjiajie, which is located in the northwestern part of Hunan Province, is the home to some of the most-visited natural attractions of China. Zhangjiajie covers an extensive mountainous region where hosts a lot of notable tourist sites for nature lovers including Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve, Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve, which made a much larger area of Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, a world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. Zhangjiajie is also famous for Tianmen mountain cableway situated within Tianmen Mountain National Park with dramatic skywalks, spectacular landscapes & stunning viewpoints.
Zhangjiajie, with its out-of-this-world scenery and surreal vistas like nowhere on earth, is well-known to be the inspiration for the blockbuster Avatar. The most notable geographic features of the region are the giant sandstone pinnacles or pillar-like formations towering throughout the area. Thousands of these striking monoliths are violently eroded into the valley floor and the moist weather all year round enhanced the development of plants on the rocks and the dense foliage among narrow summits, which makes Zhangjiajie look like a colossal towering stone forest. Besides boasting many attraction spots that are must-see places for sightseeing and photography, Zhangjiajie is also endowed with diverse fauna and flora, amazing hike routes, and temperate climate. Being a place of awe all year round, Zhangjiajie appeals tourists in any season with its distinct natural magnificence but spring and autumn are the best time to marvel at the unparalleled landscapes here.
7. China’s Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary (Natural)
Giant Panda, an endemic animal species of China, is commonly considered a famous symbol of the country. As the home to over 30 percent of the world’s endangered giant pandas, Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. It covers an extensive area of 9245 km2 including seven nature reserves and nine scenic parks in Sichuan Province, which constitutes the largest remaining natural habitat of the giant panda in the world. The sanctuary is also the abode of many other rare or endangered species in the area, including the red panda, the snow leopard and clouded leopard. The most popular tourist activity within the area is a jungle expedition or safari for seeking pandas and witness their habitats, although they are pretty elusive. For those who have limited time, Chengdu Research Base Of Giant Panda Breeding in the eponymous city is a great alternative. The centre makes a significant contribution to the conservation of giant pandas with important researches, breeding, and pandas healthcare. Opening to the public for visiting and witness adorable animals, it is a renowned family-friendly attraction in Chengdu when travelling to Sichuan.
8. Jiuzhaigou - A world biosphere reserve (Natural)
Situated in the northern parts of Sichuan Province, on the edge of Tibet ranges, Jiuzhaigou or Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area is definitely a must for any buff with landscape and photography interest. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also a world biosphere reserve where is well-known to be a picturesque fairyland, featuring dreamlike natural scenery of colourful alpine lakes, primaeval forests, spectacular waterfalls, tranquil grasslands, and fantastic snowy mountain views. Set amidst the pristine region of hills, valleys and mountains, Jiuzhaigou is not as busy as the major tourist cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an or Hong Kong. Offering peaceful and untouched ambience, the place attracts visitors who love enjoying the scenic beauty, fresh air, and pleasant climate. To many people who ever got an opportunity to travel in Jiuzhaigou, there is no word that can fully describe its wondrous scenery until you experience it by yourself. Anyone here will be surely speechless by the striking visual feasts of the jaw-dropping landscape as it has to offer. Proudly acclaimed as a pure unspoiled land with the unbeatable photogenic setting, Jiuzhaigou is enchanting all year round with the dramatic changes of colours in each season, which is a perfect colour harmony of plants, floras, sky, and water.
The richness of natural and cultural highlights had made China one the countries hosting most heritage sites in the world, which attracts both local and foreign tourists every year. Taking a journey discovering Chinese heritage treasures delivers you a sublime wrap-up of the massive Asian country as well as creates unforgettable travel experiences when in here. Due to the iconic highlights and notable significance, most China tailor-made tour packages will cover these attractions during itineraries for the best impression of China for any travellers. Hope our list of Chinese Heritage Sites would be useful recommendations for you before visiting China. In case you’re considering the best routes or where to go, feel free to contact our Asia Tours for inquiries or the best China tour offers.