Bezeklik Cave Complex
Ringed by a 52m-wide moat at the very heart of Běijīng, the Forbidden City is China’s largest and best-preserved collectionm of ancient buildings, and the largest palace complex in the world.
The largely rebuilt Shàolín Temple is a victim of its own success. A frequent target of war, the temple was last torched in 1928, and the surviving halls – many of recent construction – are today besieged by marauding tour groups. Accounts vary but the temple seems to have been founded in approximately AD 500.
With its endless squeaking prayer wheels (3km in total length), hawks circling overhead and the deep throb of Tibetan trumpets resonating from the surrounding hills, Labrang is a monastery in the entire sense of the word In addition to the chapels, residences, golden-roofed temple halls and living quarters for the monks, Labrang is also home to six tratsang (monastic college.
A tranquil oasis of peace and methodical Confucian design in one of China’s busiest urban landscapes, the 267-hectare Temple of Heaven Park is encompassed by a long wall with a gate at each compass point.
Virtually as mandatory a Běijīng sight as the Great Wall or the Forbidden City, this former playground for emperors fleeing the suffocating summer torpor of the old imperial city easily merits an entire day’s exploration, although a (high-paced) morning or afternoon may suffice The grounds, temples, gardens, pavilions, lakes, bridges, gate-towers and corridors are a ma.
The Terracotta Army isn’t just Xī’ān’s premier site, but one of the most famous archaeological finds in the world. This subterranean life-size army of thousands has silently stood guard over the soul of China’s first unifier for more than two millennia.
The saccharine tourist brochure hyperbole extolling West Lake is almost justified in its cloying accolades. The very definition of classical beauty in China, West Lake continues to mesmerise and methodical prettification has worked a cunning magic. Pagoda-topped hills rise over willow-lined waters as boats drift slowly through a vignette of leisurely charm.
Ringed by a red wall on the southeastern corner of Suzhou Jie (off the Third Ring Rd), the Ming-dynasty Wànshòu Temple, or Longevity Temple, was originally consecrated for the storage of Buddhist texts.
With over 30 Confucius Institutes worldwide, the Shāndōng sage is currently enjoying yet another upswing after bouts of anti-Confucian violence (the last one erupted in August 1966) singled him out for Chinese spleen.
With its squeaking prayer wheels and devotional intonations of its monks, Chéngdé’s only active temple was built in 1755 in anticipation of Qianlong’s victory over the western Mongol tribes in Xīnjiāng.
Of Zhèngdìng’s temple tribe, the most notable is this impressive site, more popularly known as Dàfó Temple (大佛寺; Dàfó Sì) or ‘Big Buddha Temple’, in the east of town The time-worn bridge out front constitutes a handsome historical prelude. Dating way back to AD 586, the temple has been much restored and stands divided from its spirit wall by Zhongshan Donglu.
There are two principal access points to Wǔlíngyuán. Zhāngjiājiè village (张家界村; Zhāngjiājiè cūn ), the site of the south entrance, is the more appealing option, situated nearly 600m above sea level in the Wǔlíng foothills, surrounded by sheer cliffs and vertical rock outcrops.
The imperial summer resort is composed of a main palace complex and vast parklike gardens, all enclosed by a good-looking 10km-long wall. The peak season entrance price is steep, but the gardens provide splendid walks away from the crowds A huge spirit wall shields the resort entrance from the bad spirits and traffic fumes of Lizhengmen Dajie.
The mountain attracts a diverse array of climbers: Taoist nuns with knapsacks, workers shouldering paving slabs and sacks of rice, businessmen with laptops and bright-eyed octogenarians hopping along. Take bus 1 (¥1) or walk from Taihe Lu to the Main Gate (山门口; Shān Ménkǒu) and ticket office.
China’s largest imperial building complex after the Forbidden City began as Confucius’ three-room house. After his death in 478 BC, the Duke of the Lu state consecrated his simple house as a temple. Everything in it, including his clothing, books, musical instruments and a carriage, was perfectly preserved.