Things to Do in Eastern China
Located in Anhui, Mt. Huangshan (aka Yellow Mountain) is considered one of China’s most beautiful mountains and is renowned for its four wonders: a sea of clouds, jagged granite peaks, odd-shaped pine trees, and hot springs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mountain is also one of the most visited scenic areas in the country.
West Lake (Xi Hu) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a top attraction in the heart of old Hangzhou. With mountains on three sides and plenty of charming gardens, bridges, pagodas, temples, and islands, it’s easy to see why this scenic man-made lake has inspired so many poets and painters through the ages.
Also known as the “Venice of Shanghai,” Zhujiajiao is the best preserved of the four ancient water towns in the Shanghai area. With a history dating back over 1,700 years, Zhujiajiao is full of lovely canals and waterways, small alleys, picturesque bridges, and ancient buildings, many from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Lingyin Temple is one of the oldest and most famous Buddhist temples in China and a top attraction in Hangzhou. Situated at the foot of Lingyin Mountain and surrounded by forest, Lingyin Temple is known for its tranquil setting, spiritual atmosphere, and numerous pagodas, grottoes, and Buddhist relics.
Dating from the Ming Dynasty, Yuyuan Garden—or simply, Yu Garden—in the middle of the Old Town (Nanshi) Shanghai, is one of China’s best-preserved classical gardens. Covering an area of 5 acres (2 hectares), Yuyuan Garden is known for its beautiful scenery, elegant layout, and delightful pavilions, pagodas, pools, bridges, and rockeries.
The Tsingtao Beer Museum was built in 2003 and commemorates some 100 years of German brewing history and heritage in China. Visitors to this top attraction can wander the halls of the two-story structure and learn about the traditions developed and perfected here, thanks to photo galleries and exhibits where brewing tools from the trade are on display. And while an up close look at the nation’s deep roots in hop history makes this place worth a stop, it’s cold and crisp samples straight from the production line that make a tour of the oldest working brewery worth a visit.
One of the tallest buildings in the world, the Shanghai Tower (Shanghai Zhongxin Dasha) has a twisting silhouette that dominates the skyline. Standing 137 stories and 2,073 feet (632 meters) high, the building features some of the world’s fastest elevators, which race to a viewing platform 1,841 feet (561 meters) above the city. On a clear day, the views are spectacular.
The Bund (Waitan) refers to Shanghai’s iconic waterfront strip, which runs for 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) along the west shore of the Huangpu River. Renowned for its extensive collection of colonial-era buildings, there’s also pedestrian-friendly promenade perfect for strolling, which offers stunning views of both the Bund and Pudong.
Mt. Tai (also written Tai Shan, Taishan, and Mt. Taishan) is a majestic mountain located in Shandong Province. It spans two cities – Tai’an and Jinan – and is the principal mountain among the five most significant in China. In 1987, Mt. Tai was listed as a Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site and later in 2006, a World Geopark.
Mt. Tai has been climbed by the emperors of China’s dynasties for ceremonious events and in particular to signify they were the sole ruler of the country at the time. These days it’s the most climbed mountain in China because of its history, majesty, and the spectacular views it presents.
There are a number of ways to climb Mt. Tai but the most popular – and the one favoured by the ancient emperors – is via the Red Gate/Imperial route, which involves ascending more than 6,000 steps.
On top of Snake Hill, along the banks of the Yangtze River, the iconic Yellow Crane Tower offers panoramic city and river views, and features artwork on different levels. Considered one of the Four Great Towers of China, it’s one of the most popular attractions in Wuhan, and a symbol of the city.
More Things to Do in Eastern China
The Grand Canal is the longest and oldest man-made waterway in the world, once covering 1,115 miles (1,794 kilometers) from Beijing to Hangzhou. Dating from the fifth century BC, this engineering marvel is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some sections are still in use today.
One of the four most famous classical gardens of Suzhou, the Lingering Garden (Liu Yuan) has World Heritage status and also showcases two UNESCO Intangible World Heritage Arts: Pingtan and Guqin music. The garden makes fantastic use of space, with a harmonious layout of temples, statues, rockeries, halls, bridges, and ponds.
Covering almost six acres, the garden is divided into four areas: the east, west, central, and north sections, all of which are connected via a half-mile (700-meter) corridor featuring calligraphy carved into its stone walls. The central area features many buildings surrounding a pond and grotto, while the east garden includes a miniature mountain modeled after Tiantai Mountain, as well as the Celestial Hall of Five Peaks, the largest hall in the garden. The west section is mostly natural, with a large rockery built during the Ming Dynasty, while the north garden, once used to grow vegetables, now showcases a range of potted plants.
Popular among families, the Lingering Garden is often visited on day trips from Shanghai that also include other famous classical gardens in Suzhou. It's common to combine a trip here with visits to the famous water towns of Zhouzhuang and Tongli, but other options include visits to Shantang Old Street and Tiger Hill. For a unique day out, book a Suzhou culture and art tour, which includes a Suzhou opera performance at the Master of Nets Garden.
Of all the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, the Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan) is the largest, most famous, and best preserved. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this uniquely-designed garden takes visitors through scenic pathways, quiet pavilions, ancient bridges, calm ponds, and small, forested areas dating back to the Ming dynasty. The Hall of Drifting Fragrance, a traditional Chinese residence at the garden's center, offers views of vast lawns, flowing water, and crape myrtle trees, while the nearby Small Flying Rainbow Bridge is the only bridge in the garden you can walk across.
A great family activity, you can visit the garden on an easy day trip from Shanghai. Combine your ticket with a visit to the famous Zhouzhuang water village nearby or opt for a private tour of Suzhou's classical gardens to visit Tiger Hill and Master of Nets, as well.
This picturesque village southeast of Suzhou is one of several ancient water towns dotting the Yangtze River Delta. More than a dozen rivers and waterways divide this Song Dynasty town into multiple islets, connected by 49 stone bridges. This Venice of the Orient is also known for its gardens, including the UNESCO-listed Tuisi Garden.
One of Shanghai’s most charming areas, the former French Concession is known for its tree-lined streets and interesting mix of Chinese and Western architectural styles. Popular with locals, expats, and visitors, the area is home to a number of top attractions, as well as hip cafés, restaurants, bars, clubs, boutiques, galleries, and museums.
Suzhou is famous for being the silk capital of China – the city was the center of silk production for imperial families throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. Suzhou Silk Museum provides an opportunity to learn about how silk has been produced and used throughout the centuries, dating as far back as 2000 BC. It’s also a chance to admire the crafts, embroidery, and clothing made from silk, and perhaps purchase a souvenir to take home.
Those interested in architecture will note that Suzhou Silk Museum combines a sense of ancient civilization with a modern design, with white walls representing the purity of silk and round edges symbolizing its softness. The museum is divided into several sections, each offering a different angle on the life and times of silk. In the silkworm-rearing room, you can see live worms enjoying mulberry leaves, their favourite food, before being transported through time in the silk-weaving workshop, where ancient looms reveal the past grandeurs of the silk industry.
A visit to Suzhou Silk Museum is a captivating experience, combining history, culture, and art. To provide the most context, it is best visited as part of an extended cultural tour of the area, with stops at the Classical Gardens of Suzhou, Suzhou Museum, plus several other key attractions in the city. It can also be visited as part of various day trips, which might include entry into one or two classical gardens, as well as time to explore the city’s ancient streets.
A vibrant mix of old and new, Xin Tian Di is a fashionable and upscale area full of modern and trendy shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs, many housed within traditional Shikumen buildings that have been restored. It’s a place to see and be seen, and a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Stretching for over 71 miles (113 kilometers) and with an average width of 1,312 feet (400 meters), the Huangpu River flows through the middle of Shanghai and divides the city into two parts. Puxi, to the west, is the city’s historical, cultural, and entertainment center, while Pudong, to the east, is Shanghai’s business and financial center.
Nicknamed the “Bottle Opener” due to its distinctive shape, the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) is the second tallest building in Shanghai, reaching a dizzying 1,614 feet (492 meters). Its three observatories—in particular, the glass-bottomed observatory on the 100th floor—are the main draw of the building, located in the Lujiazui area of Pudong. There’s also a hotel and a mall.
Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si) is a working Buddhist monastery—one of the few in China. The star attractions of the Jade Buddha Temple are two figures brought to Shanghai from Singapore by a monk from Burma in the 19th century: a 6.5-foot (2-meter) seated jade Buddha encrusted with semiprecious stones and a smaller white jade reclining Buddha.
Built in 1891, Zhanqiao Pier has become a symbol of the city of Qingdao and one of its most iconic attractions. The 33-foot-wide (10-m) pier extends 1,444 feet (440 m) into Qingdao Bay, with the octagonal Huilan Pavilion (the structure pictured on the Tsingtao beer label) at its terminus. The traditional Chinese pavilion, which sometimes hosts art exhibitions, juxtaposes the European architecture prevalent in the rest of the city.
While originally a naval pier, the earliest known dock in Qingdao now serves pedestrians coming to enjoy the sea breezes and harbor views of the city.
Since 2001, travelers have been venturing to the West Sea Grand Canyon (Xihai Grand Canyon) for incredible views of the West Sea (Xihai) area, scenic overlooks and truly epic landscapes. Visitors can tour the entire area, which covers some 25-kilometers across an easy-to-follow circular route, and winds past dozens of stunning rock formations.
A network of steep steps leads travelers through ever-changing landscapes, which include pine forests and rocky crags. The memorable Fairy-walking Bridge guides visitors to the White Cloud Area, where a more difficult climb for the truly fit results in some of the area’s best views. Those in the know say that even the stairs can be difficult to navigate, so the West Sea Grand Canyon is best left to visitors in good health—and with good hiking shoes.
Once the tallest building in Shanghai, the Oriental Pearl Tower (Dongfang Mingzhu Ta) remains one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Pudong, part of the skyline visible from The Bund. The sci-fi-esque 1,535-foot (468-meter) tower houses observation platforms, a glass-bottomed walkway, rotating restaurant, as well as the Shanghai History Museum in its basement.
The classical gardens of Suzhou feature some of the most tranquil and pristine landscapes in China. More than 50 gardens dating as far back as the 6th century BC cast a harmonious network of manicured paths, bridges, ponds, and pavilions over much of the historic city of Suzhou. Nine of the gardens are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, their Ming- and Qing-era mastery of Chinese garden architecture and design having attracted world visitors for hundreds of years. The Lingering Garden, famous for its garden hall inlaid with ancient calligraphy, and the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the largest of the nine, are the best preserved, but also worth visiting are the Master of Nets Garden and Tiger Hill.
You can visit the gardens on a day trip from Shanghai. Most tours include entrance to one or more of the classical gardens, and can also be combined with a trip to nearby attractions, like the Zhouzhuang water village, Tong Li Old Town, or the Silk Museum. If you wish to see the most famous of Suzhou’s gardens in one day, book a private day trip of Suzhou Humble Administrator's Garden, Tiger Hill, and Master of Nets Garden.
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