China World Heritage and Cultural Attractions

China’s 5000-year-old history has fostered a brilliant civilization and left numerous cultural relics and historical sites on her vast land.

Since 1985 China began to apply for the acknowledgement of world heritage sites. China has had many sites included in the List of World Cultural and Natural Heritages defined by UNESCO. Some examples are, the Great Wall, the Palace Museum, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace in Beijing, the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, the Tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang in Xi’an, the Peking Man at Zhoukoudian, the Temple, Cemetery and Family Mansion of Confucius in Qufu, Taishan, Huangshan and Emei-Leshan mountains, Lhasa’s Potala Palace, Lushan National Park, the Mountain Resort of Chengde, Suzhou Gardens, the Ancient City of Pingyao, Huanglong and Wulingyuan scenic areas, the Old Town of Lijiang, Ancient Building Complex at the Wudang Mountain and Jiuzhaigou, whose charming scenery is famed throughout the world.

Short details about some of China’s World Heritage Attractions

The Great Wall

One of the most renowned projects of the world. Construction of the wall began around the 7th-4th century BC during the Spring and Autumn Period. At that time, feudal states built walls for self-defense against nomadic tribes. In 211 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, after unifying China, had the walls linked up, reinforced and extended. Renovations were carried out with local geographic conditions during the succeeding dynasties, creating many enchanting sights. The total length of the Great Wall is 6,700 km, traversing 8 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. Its historic and strategic importance is matched only by its architectural value.

The Palace Museum

As known as the former Forbidden City, built between 1406 and 1420 in the center of Beijing city proper. It had been the imperial residence of 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing (1368-1911 AD) dynasties. One of the largest and best-preserved palace complexes in the world, it has become the Palace Museum since the 1950s. Here are collected around a million rare and valuable objects. Covering an area of 720,000square meters, the Palace has a total floor space of some 150,000 square meters with 9,999 room units. The Throne Hall – Hall of Supreme Harmony – is China’s tallest ancient palace building of timber, where during the reign of the Ming and Qing emperors all the important national ceremonies took place. With yellow tiles over red walls, gilded doors behind vermilion colonnades, and carved white marble balustrades around, the palace halls in symmetrical array represent the acme of China’s ancient architectural art.  About one million pieces of rare cultural relics and art works are housed in the museum.

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

In 1929, a well-preserved skull of a primitive man was excavated on Dragon Bone Hill near the town of Zhoukoudian in the suburbs of Beijing. Scientific identification showed that the discovery belonged to a new type of ape man who lived about five hundred thousand years ago. This type of man was later named by anthropologists Homo erectus Pekinensis or Peking Man. The discovery represents a milestone in the study of paleoanthropology. Up to the present, fossil remains of Peking Man unearthed at Zhoukoudian belonged to upwards of 40 persons. They provide important material for anthropological and paleonological studies.

The Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven in the southern part of Beijing occupies an area of 270 hectares. Started to be built in 1420, it was the place where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped heaven and prayed for abundant harvests. The Temple consists of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, the Circular Mound Altar, the Echo Wall and the Thrice-Reechoing Stone. Of exquisite architectural workmanship, the Temple of Heaven is the largest existing ancient architectdural group for worshipping in China.

The Summer Palace

15 kilometers northwest of Beijing city center, the Summer Palace is one of China’s largest and best-preserved imperial gardens. It occupies an area of 290 hectares, four-fifths of which are water surface. It is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design, integrating the natural landscape of hills and open water with manmade features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges into a harmonious and aesthetically exceptional whole.

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

The Mausoleum of the first Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) is located 36 kilometers east of Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province, and 5 kilometers east of Lintong County. The entire mausoleum occupies an area of eight square kilometers and the mound stands 55 meters high. It is the first and largest imperial mausoleum in China.

Since 1974, three vaults containing terra-cotta figures have been found 1.5 kilometers east of the mausoleum. Eight thousand terra-cotta warriors, hundreds of chariots and ten thousand pieces of actual weaponry have been unearthed from the three vaults. The terra cortta figures of warriors and horses are simple in style, but highly realistic and animated. And each warrior has different features and facial expression. In 1980, two sets of large bronze chariots and horses were excavated west of the mausoleum. Discovery of the buried legion has aroused great interest all over the world, making it “the eighth wonder of the world”.

Temple, Cemetery and Family Mansion of Confucius in Qufu

The Temple, Cemetery and Family Mansion of Confucius, a great Chinese philosopher, political thinker and educator of the 6th-5th century BC, is located in Qufu, Shandong Province. The Temple was first built in his commemoration in 478 BC, a year after Confucius death. It was constantly rebuilt and expanded in succeeding dynasties. Today, it comprises more than 100 buildings. The Cemetery contains Confucius’ tomb, and the remains of more than 100,000 of his descendants. The Family Mansion was the place where Confucius direct descendants lived. It consists of halls, office buildings, studies, residential buildings and corridors with 463 halls and rooms all told. This complex of monuments at Qufu has maintained its outstanding artistic and historic character due to the devotion of successive Chinese emperors over more than 2,000 years.

Mount Taishan

Situated in the middle of Shandong Province, the majestic Mount Tai is one of the national parks, and the first of the Five Sacred Mountains in China. It covers an area of 426 square kilometers. The main peak is 1,545 meters above sea level. In ancient China, many new emperors came here to perform grand sacrificial ceremonies in worship of Heaven. There are quite a lot of historical relics, the Wangmu Chi (Heavenly Queen Pool), Hongmen Gong (Red Gate Palace), Nan Tianmen (South Gate to Heaven), Bixia Ci (Azure Cloud Temple) and stone carvings from various dynasties.

The Mountain Resort of Chengde

One of China’s ten leading scenic spots and the world’s extant largest imperial garden where emperors of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) used to come in summer to escape heat and engaged in political activities, the resort is also known as the “Ligong of Chengde” or temporary palace away from the capital. Built in the years between 1703 and 1790 and located in a hill-encircled basin, it covers an area of 5.64 million square meters and boasts 120 groups of building, including terraces, pavilions and towers characteristics of gardening architecture. Seventy-two scenic spots bear inscriptions by Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong. The gardens are full of natural interest, blending the cream of ancient gardening art of both the north and south of China.

The Classical Gardens of Suzhou

Suzhou, situated in eastern Jiangsu Province, enjoys worldwide renown for her classical gardens. It has a history of 2,500 years. Classical Chinese garden design, which seeks to recreate natural landscapes in miniature, is nowhere better illustrated than in the four gardens in Suzhou -- Pavilion of the Surging Waves, Lion Grove, Garden of the Humble Administrator and Garden to Linger In. They are universally acknowledged to be masterpieces of the genre. Dating from the 16th-18th centuries, the gardens reflect the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their meticulous design.

The Ancient City of Pingyao

Pingyao is an exceptionally well preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city, founded in the 14th century. Its urban fabric is an epitome of the evolution of architectural styles and town planning in imperial China over five centuries. Of special interest are the imposing buildings associated with banking, for which Pingyao was the center for the whole of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Mount Huangshan

Situated in southern Anhui Province, Huangshan Mountain is designated as a national park, celebrated for having all the grandeur and beauty of mountain scenery. Its graceful pine trees, grotesque rocks, sea of clouds and hot springs have won the reputation of four unique views. The scenic attractions include two lakes, three waterfalls, 24 streams and 72 peaks. Its main peak is 1,860 meters above sea level.

Wulingyuan Scenic Area

A spectacular area stretching over more than 264 square kilometers in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, the site consists of three parts: the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Shuyi Valley and Tianzi Mountain. It is distinguished by more than 3,000 narrow sandstone pillars and peaks, many over 200 meters high. Between the Peaks lie ravines and gorges with streams, pools and waterfalls, some 40 caves, as well as two large natural bridges. In addition to the striking beauty of its landscape, the region is also noted for the fact that it shelters a number of endangered plant and animal species.


Encompassing an area of about 620 square kilometers, it lies in Nanping County in northern Sichuan Province. It is a deep valley more than 40 kilometers long in which there are nine Tibetan villages; hence the name. Secluded and uninhabited, it has a variety of natural scenery – lakes, waterfalls, snowy mountains and luxuriant green forests. In the valley, there are one hundred lakes of various size and shape. In Wuhua Hai (Five Flower Sea), waters appear in five colors, presenting a marvelous wonder of nature. 100-meter wide Nuorilang Waterall’s 30-meter drop is a spectacular view. The waters here are crystal clear and occasionally one can see fish swim in the lake while birds fly in the blue sky. Primitive, simple and uninhabited, it is a fairyland gifted by nature.

Huanglong Scenic Area

Situated northwest of Sichuan Province, the Huanglong area is made up of snow-capped peaks and the easternmost of all the Chinese glaciers. In addition to its mountain landscape, diverse forest ecosystems can be found, as well as spectacular limestone formations, waterfalls and hot springs. The area also has a population of endangered animals, including the giant panda and the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey.

Mt. Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha

Situated at the confluence of Minjiang River, Qingyi River and Dadu River, on the western slop of Lingyun Mountain east of Leshan city, the sitting giant Buddha, Meitreya is carved into a cliff overlooking the three rivers. As the popular saying goes: “The mountain is a Buddha, the Buddha is a mountain,” it is also the biggest stone Buddha in the world. Carving started in 713 under the Tang Dynasty, and lasted until its completion in 803. It is 71 meters tall. Its shoulders are 24 meters wide, and its head is 11.7 meters high. Its ears are seven meters long and its nose, 5.6 meters long. Its ear hole can accommodate two men standing abreast. Its instep can hold more than 100 seated people.

The Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet

Located on the Moburi Mountain northwest of Lhasa city, the palace is well-known as a palace and fortress. It is the essence of Tibetan architecture. It was built in the seventh century by King Songtsan Gambo for his bride, the Han nationality Princess Wen Cheng who was sent to him by the Tang court. The ancient regal complex is a rare example of architecture in traditional Tibetan style. Covering an area of 41 hectares, its stone-and-wood main building has 13 stories, measuring 110 meters in height. The fine palace roofs are covered with gilded tiles of bronze. The Potala is composed of the Red Palace and the White Palace. The former is mainly for religious affairs, the latter for politics and daily life.