Most interesting landmarks of China

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of China.

Natural landmarks of China

Numerous kinds of natural landmarks are well represented in China – here are located very impressive and amazing cliff formations, geysers, natural arches, sinkholes and giant caves. China has some of the most impressive spring formations, numerous beautiful (albeit comparatively small) waterfalls, amazing ecosystems and unique species of plants and animals.

Rock formations

Some of the most amazing and beautiful sights in the world are giant "forests" of limestone and sandstone pinnacles in several regions of China.

Karst landscape at Li River, China
Karst landscape at Li River / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Guilin – Lijiang Karst – Guangxi. Beautiful karst landscape along the Li River, consists of numerous steep, conical limestone pinnacles. Sights of this landscape represent one of the most famous sights of China.
  • Shilin stone forest – Yunnan. Spectacular karst formation, which resembles a giant forest of stone pinnacles. One of the most impressive karst landscapes in the world.
  • Wulingyuan sandstone pinnacles – Hunan. Unusual geological monument – group of some 3,100 sandstone pillars up to 800 m tall. Well known scenic place.
Caves and sinkholes

In China are located largest sinkholes in the world and some of the largest caves in the world.

Zhoukoudian Cave, China
Zhoukoudian Cave / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Dashiwei tiankeng – Guangxi. One of the largest sinkholes of the world – up to 613 metres deep, 600×420 m across.
  • Gebihe Cave – Guizhou. Up to 445 m deep cave with Miaos Room – the second largest cave room in the world after Sarawak Chamber (Malaysia). It is 700 m long, 215 m wide, 70 – 100 m tall.
  • Shuanghe Dongqun Cave – Guizhou. Longest known cave in China. Total length of explored passages is 151.8 km, maximum depth – 593 m.
  • Teng Long Dong – Hubei. One of the most magnificent, most enormous caves in the world. Total length is estimated to be 52.8 m. Cave starts with extremely impressive entrance, 74 m high and 64 m wide. Into the cave flows a river with nearly 10 m tall waterfall at the entrance. Cave continues as a giant passage.
  • Tianxing Dongxuexitong – Chongqing Municipality. Deepest known cave in China, 1026 m deep. Very impressive feature is the 506 m deep, vertical, enormous Miao Keng shaft – one of the highest shafts in the world. Length of passages – 35,479 m.
  • Zhijin Cave – Guizhou. Colossal cave, length of explored passages – 12.1 km, ceiling up to 150 m high. Here is located approximately 70 m tall stalagmite, which may be the tallest in world.
  • Zhoukoudian – Beijing Municipality. Famous due to archaeological findings such as one of the first known specimens of another human species – Homo erectus, called also Peking Man, who lived here approximately 680,000 – 780,000 years ago. Cave inhabited also by modern humans in Upper Paleolithic. Remains of numerous extinct animals such as gigantic hyena Pachycrocuta brevirostris.
  • Xiaozhai tiankeng – Chongqing Municipality. Largest sinkhole (tiankeng) in the world, up to 662 meters deep, 625×535 meters across.
Natural arches
  • Three Natural Bridges of Wulong – Chongqing Municipality. Giant, very impressive natural bridges – Tianlong Bridge, Qinglong Bridge (with waterfall over it) and Heilong Bridge. Their average height is 200 meters.
  • Tushuk Tash (Shipton’s Arch) – Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Possibly the highest natural arch of the world and one of the most impressive ones. Height – some 360 – 370 m, width – some 65 meters.
  • Xian Ren Qiao – Fairy Bridge – China, Guangxi. Beautiful natural bridge of limestone with an approximate span of 121.9 m. Possibly the widest natural arch in the world.
Springs and geysers
  • Baishuitai – Yunnan. Some of the largest and most beautiful travertine terraces in world, these are closely tied in to the unique Dongba cultural tradition.
  • Chaluo geysers – Sichuan. Group of fumaroles, boiling springs and 4 geysers.
  • Huanglong Valley – Sichuan. Possibly the largest travertine terraces in world, they extend for 3.6 kilometers and are deposited by mildly thermal springs.
Other natural landmarks of China
Bản Giốc Falls, Vietnam side
Bản Giốc Falls, Vietnam side / M.Williams, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA-2.5
  • Baishanzu Baishan firs – Zhejiang. Extremely rare species of fir (Abies beshanzuensis Wu 1976) consisting of only 3 trees.
  • Chinese Ginkgo King (Tiantan ginkgo) – Guizhou. Enormous Ginkgo biloba L., girth 16.8 m, height 50 m, age considered to be 4,000 years.
  • Detian Falls and Bản Giốc Falls – Guangxi, China and Cao Bang province in Vietnam. One of the most picturesque waterfalls, it is around 60 meters high and 200 meters wide.
  • Huangguoshu Falls – Guizhou. Largest falls in China, 74 meters tall and 81 meters wide.
  • Jiuzhai Valley – Sichuan. Valley with impressive travertine formations – terraces, waterfalls and deep blue – green lakes. Includes the beautiful, 20 m tall and 320 m wide Nuorilang Falls.
  • Mount Huang – Anhui. Group of very scenic granite peaks, very often depicted in famous Chinese paintings and contemporary photographs. Location where the famous Buddha’s light is often observed – rainbow around the shadow.
  • Tarim Poplar forests – Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Largest stands of Populus euphratica in the world. According to fossils, this forest here might be existing for millions of years.
  • Tiger Leaping Gorge – Yunnan. Canyon of Yangtze River, according to certain criteria – deepest canyon of the world. River here is 1600 – 1800 m above the sea level, flanked by 5,596 and 5,396 m tall mountains.

Man-made landmarks of China

China is cradle of one of the the most ancient and advanced civilizations of the world. Here have developed and coexisted numerous diverse cultures and empires, each leaving unique landmarks.

Urban planning
Tianluokeng Tulou cluster, China
Tianluokeng Tulou cluster / Gisling, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Fenghuang Ancient City – Hunan. Established in the 7th century AD, this extremely scenic city contains numerous historical buildings and other monuments of history.
  • HongCun village and Xidi Village – Anhui. Beautiful ancient villages from the 11th – 19th centuries with numerous historical buildings. Villages have maintained their original spirit and form beautiful architectural ensemble reflected in water.
  • Old Town of Lijiang – Yunnan. Unique, beautiful historical city of Nakhi people, developed at the junction of ancient tea roads. Developed since the 12th century, has characteristic, beautiful roofscape.
  • Tianluokeng Tulou cluster and other tulous – Fujian. Group of round, stadium like structures – villages of unique planning, up to 5 floors high, built since 1796 AD. In one such village can live up to 80 families. Outer walls serve for fortification with single gate. Inside there is plaza, subsidiary buildings. Built since the 12th century AD and in use and developing even today. In Fujian have been preserved hundreds of such villages – single structures, there are even more buildings in this region with square planning.
Ancient cities
  • Khara-Khoto – Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Ghostly medieval Tangut city. Founded in 1032 and abandoned after 1272 AD. There have been preserved ruins of the city, including city wall. Here was found ancient library of Tangut writings.
  • Yinxu – Henan. Ruins of the ancient capital of Shang Dynasty. Although much older, served as capital in the early 14th – 16th century BC. Famous due to numerous finds of oracle bones with the most ancient Chinese writings (and one of the oldest writings in the world) on them.
Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China / Jakub Hałun, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Great Wall of China – Beijing Municipality, Gansu, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Lianoning, Shandong and other. Parts of wall also in Mongolia. Largest series of fortification in world with a total length 8,852 km, including 6,259.6 km of actual wall. Built in the 5th century BC – 16th century AD by Chinese to protect northern borders of the Chinese Empire against intrusions by northern nomads. The oldest fraction is Great Wall of Qi (in Shandong) – approximately 600 km long section of wall built 685 BC.
  • Pingyao city walls and ancient city – Shanxi. Well preserved and impressive ancient walled city with more than 4,000 valuable buildings. City walls built around 1370 AD, 12 m high and 6 km long.
  • City walls of Xi’an – Shaanxi. Massive city walls, some of the best preserved in China. Construction of the current walls started in 1370 AD, length is 13.7 km, height – 12 m.
Castles and palaces
  • Forbidden City – Beijing Municipality. World’s largest palace complex – Chinese imperial palace, which takes whole part of city. This complex of buildings for some 500 years was the center of the Empire of China. Built in 1406 – 1420, includes 980 buildings. Contains art collections of very high importance.
  • Mukden Palace – Shenyang. Grandiose palace complex of early Qing dynasty, built in 1625 – 1631. Contains some 90 buildings.
  • Summer Palace – Beijing Municipality. Masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design – hilly forest park at the lake. Developed since 1750 AD, includes numerous buildings – temples, palaces and garden architecture.
Religious architecture

China is home to several religions and similar systems of beliefs – Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and others who have inspired creation of several tens of thousands of temples and monasteries.

Hanging Monastery, China
Hanging Monastery, China / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Dazu Rock Carvings – Chongqing Municipality. Multiple – 75 sites – with rock-cut religious sculptures made since the 7th century AD. Contains some 50,000 statues, many of very high artistic and historical value.
  • Hanging Monastery – Shanxi. Wooden monastery buildings, first built in 491, are situated in a unique place – on the cliffside of sacred Mount Heng. The 40 buildings are supported by wooden poles; the last rebuilt in 1900.
  • Huaisheng Mosque – Guangdong. One of oldest mosques in world, built in 650, rebuilt in 1350 and 1695.
  • Iron Pagoda – Henan. A beautiful brick pagoda, built in 1049 AD and one of most beautiful pagodas in China.
  • Kizil Caves – Xinjiang. Group of 236 Buddhist rock-cut caves, built in the 3rd – 8th century AD. Contain more than 1,000 m² murals.
  • Labrang Monastery – Gansu. This important and enormous Tibetan monastery was founded in 1709. It contains numerous valuable Tibetan books (60000 sutras) as well as works of art.
  • Leshan Buddha Statue – Sichuan. Giant, 71 m tall rock-cut statue of seated Buddha, made in 713 – 803 AD. It was made to pacify the roaring river which took lives of many people. After construction of statue river really became more quiet – possibly due to debris loaded in the river.
  • Longmen Grottoes – Henan. One of the most impressive monuments of rock-cut architecture in the world – complex of Buddhist cells and shrines. 2,345 rock cut chambers, more than 100,000 statues made in 316 – 907 AD.
  • Mogao Caves – Gansu. Group of rock-cut chambers, consists of 492 Buddhist cells and temples. Built for approximately 1000 years since 366 AD. Contain many art values but especially valued due to enormous amount of murals, covering 42 thousand m².
  • Nanchan Temple – Shanxi. An ancient temple, rebuilt in 782 AD, the wooden structures from this rebuilding are among the oldest wooden structures in China. It is one of numerous monasteries of sacred Mount Wutai.
  • Nanyan Temple – Hubei. This Taoist temple complex was made in vertical cliff face. Everything – pillars, windows, gates – is made on the site in cliff. Most spectacular of the Mount Wudang temples, also related to birth of such martial arts as kung-fu.
  • Pagoda of Fogong Temple – Shanxi. This wooden pagoda, built in 1056 AD is a remarkable achievement of engineering with its very sophisticated design. The total height of the tower is 67 meters and has survived powerful earthquakes without much damage.
  • Shaolin Monastery – Henan. Located on sacred Mount Song, this monastery was founded in 477 and destroyed and rebuilt many times. It is renowned in Western world as it is associated with Chinese martial arts; however, the temple is also the birthplace of Zen Buddhism. It has the largest collection of stupas in China.
  • Songyue Pagoda – Henan. A very old pagoda, 12-angled building. Constructed from brick in 523 AD, 40 m high.
  • Tài Shān (Mount Tai) – Shandong. This up to 1545 m high mountain is one of five sacred mountains in Tao religion, often regarded as the foremost of them. Pilgrimage site for 3000 years, covered with numerous temples and other monuments. Largest temple – Dai Miao – from the 3rd century BC.
  • Three Pagodas – Yunnan. Here, three enormous ancient pagodas are arranged in an equilateral triangle. This is visually a very unusual monument. The main pagoda was built around 824 – 840 AD and is 69.6 meters high, with 16 floors. Two other pagodas were built in the 10th century and are each 42 meters high. They were built to deter the dragons living in the nearby lake.
  • Temple of Confucius in Qufu – Shandong. Largest and oldest temple of Confucius, established in 478 BC and expanded since then.
  • Temple of Heaven – Beijing Municipality. Beautiful Taoist temple – temple of emperors of China, built in 1406 – 1420. Architecture and planning of the temple and even minor details are full with symbolism.
  • White Horse Temple – Henan. Considered to be the oldest Buddhist temple in China, established in 68 AD. Comparatively small temple but famous, many legends.
  • Yungang Grottoes – Shanxi. Ancient rock-cut Buddhist cells and temples – in total 252 structures. Built mainly in 460 – 525 AD. Contain valuable artwork, including more than 51,000 statues and beautiful murals.
Ancient burials and mausoleums
Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang, Shaanxi
Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang, Shaanxi / , Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Eastern Qing Tombs Valley – Hebei. Group of very impressive mausoleums of 5 emperors and numerous other noble people of China. Developed in 1661 – 1908.
  • Terracotta Army or Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang – Shaanxi. Unique monument of culture: buried terracotta sculptures – army soldiers near the mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, made roughly at 210 BC. In total here in have been buried more than 8,000 sculptures of soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, all made in live size and bigger, all depicting individual people.
  • Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum – Nanjing, Jiangsu. Beautiful mausoleum complex in sophisticated, vast park. Built in 1381 – 1405. Initially the area was surrounded by 22.5 kilometers long wall.
  • Pyramids near Xi’an – Shaanxi. Ancient mausoleums and burial mounds where several Chinese emperors and their imperial relatives have been buried. Near Xi’an are located some 38 pyramids. The largest originally has been 76 meters high, now – 47 meters. Built 2000 years ago and in newer times.
  • Sijiazi Hongshan Pyramid – Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Approximately 5,000 years three-stepped pyramid, 30 m long and 15 m wide, with burials on top. Developed by Hongshan culture.
  • Tangut Pyramids – Xixia Wangling – Ningxia. 9 imperial tombs and more than 200 smaller ones, built since 1038 AD. Eroded and resemble pyramids, although earlier were rather similar to pagodas.
  • Tombs of Koguryo Kingdom – Jilin. Several groups of unique, pyramid-shaped tombs with ornate interiors, wall paintings. Belong to ancient Koguryo state, developed in the 1st – 5th century AD.
Other monuments of culture
Longji rice paddies, Guangxi in China
Longji rice paddies, Guangxi / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Chengde Mountain Resort – Hebei. Largest existing imperial garden in the world, with enormous complex of administrative and ceremonial buildings. Developed in 1703 – 1792. Includes Putuo Zongcheng Temple modeled after the famous Tibetan Potala Palace and Puning Temple – enormous temple complex built in 1755. It also contains the world’s tallest wooden sculpture, 22.28 meters tall.
  • Classical gardens of Suzhou – Jiangsu. Group of beautiful, classical Chinese gardens, developed in the 16th – 18th centuries. 9 of total 200 private gardens have been included in UNESCO World Heritage list.
  • Dazhai – Longji rice terraces – Guangxi. Some of the most impressive rice terraces in the world, located in beautiful karst landscape with mountains of conical form.
  • Dujiangyan Irrigation System – Sichuan. Unique achievement of engineering – irrigation system which prevented spring floods and kept the Min River open for shipping and fish passage. Built in 256 BC, still operating after 2,266 years.
  • Hani rice terraces – Yunnan. Some of the most spectacular terraced fields of rice.
  • Rock paintings of Huashan Mountain – Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Ancient rock paintings from 500 BC – 200 AD, linked to witchcraft of ancient Luoyue people. Painting covers some 8000 m², often painted gigantic figures.
  • Ruishi Diaolou and other diaolou – Guangdong. Ornate, nine floors high fortified concrete tower, built in 1921. In this region there are thousands of such fortified towers of very diverse architecture. Served as forays during the raids of bandits.

Described landmarks of China

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China has got it all – more than one billion people, large area, great and very long history, very distinct and at the same time – very diverse cultures, great and varied nature.
Thus Wondermondo even has a problem – to limit the list of the most outstanding landmarks and attractions of China to a sensible amount: see the result in this page.
By the way: Republic of China (Taiwan) and Tibet (in the borders of Tibet Autonomous Region) are reviewed as separate countries by Wondermondo. Just because Wondermondo considers this to be right.

Provinces of China

China is divided into 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities and 2 special administrative regions. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Anhui
  • Beijing Municipality
  • Chongqing Municipality
  • Fujian
  • Gansu
  • Guangdong
  • Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
  • Guizhou
  • Hainan
  • Hebei
  • Heilongjiang
  • Henan
  • Hong Kong (Special administrative region)
  • Hubei
  • Hunan
  • Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
  • Jiangsu
  • Jiangxi
  • Jilin
  • Liaoning
  • Macau (Special administrative region)
  • Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
  • Qinghai
  • Shaanxi
  • Shandong
  • Shanghai Municipality
  • Shanxi
  • Sichuan
  • Tianjin Municipality
  • Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
  • Yunnan
  • Zhejiang

Promotional video, China

Visit China, February 2015

Featured: Xiaozhai tiankeng

World's deepest sinkhole - Xiaozhai tiankeng, with tourist route visible
World’s deepest sinkhole – Xiaozhai tiankeng, with tourist route visible / Brookqi, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

The largest sinkhole of the world is Xiaozhai Tiankeng – incredible, up to 662 m deep pit with nearly vertical walls. This is one of the most impressive natural attractions on Earth.

Recommended books

The Seventy Wonders of China

As China emerges as a great world economic power, this book shows what makes it such a special country and civilization, with topics ranging from the natural wonders of mountains and rivers to the Silk Road, from the arts and great monuments of the past to the booming cities of today.

China’s artistic achievements are unparalleled in scope. Calligraphy, jade, silk, ceramics, lacquer work, paintings, bronzes, furniture, and gardens are dealt with in highly expert but succinct entries. Monuments like the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Great Wall are celebrated around the world, but the book also presents lesser-known yet breathtaking buildings, palaces, tombs, and monasteries.

China Survival Guide

An ideal, pocket-sized, 264 page compendium packed from cover to cover with practical advice, insightful commentary, and invaluable tips on places to go, things to see, what to do, and what to avoid. . . . China Survival Guide should be considered an essential ‘take-along’ for anyone visiting China for business or pleasure.

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