|China Travel Information|
Eagerly assuming its place among the world’s top travel destinations, even more so since Beijing took centre stage at the 2008 Olympics, China is an epic adventure. From the wide open and empty panoramas of Tibet to the push and shove of Shànghǎi, from the volcanic dishes of Sìchuān to beer by the bag in seaside Qīngdǎo, a journey through this colossus of a country is a mesmerising encounter with the most populous and perhaps most culturally idiosyncratic nation on earth.
The sheer diversity of China’s terrain takes you from noisy cities fizzing with energy to isolated mountain-top Ming-Dynasty villages where you can hear a pin drop. Pǔdōng’s ambitious skyline is a triumphant statement, but it couldn’t be further from the worldly renunciation acted out in Tibet’s distant monasteries.
China is the cultural treasure-house of East Asia: its social riches and 5,000 years of tumultuous history place it among the world's greatest travel destinations. The Great Wall, X'ian's Terracotta Army, the Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen Square: the very names reverberate with history and legend.
China's paradoxes are many: Shanghai's skyscrapers contrast with Beijing's historical treasures, while in rural provinces, mechanisation is slow. Its history is one of turmoil in between periods of stability.
The civil war in 1945 defined the China of today. Defeated Nationalists fled to Taiwan, while victorious Communists founded the People's Republic of China. Prior to that, China endured eight years of brutal occupation by the Japanese imperial army from 1937, souring relations between the two countries to this day.
The convulsions of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s preceded major economic reforms but little political liberalisation prompted widespread protest. In 1989, thousands occupied Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the army clearing the square with great loss of life and the government reasserting political control.
History and politics aside, China is a land of superlatives, encompassing the Yangtze River, the Silk Road, the bamboo forests of the giant panda and misty peaks immortalised in traditional ink paintings. China has 33 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Chinese food ranks among the world's great cuisines. From acrobatics to martial arts, calligraphy to Chinese opera, the vibrant, distinctive culture of this great land is everywhere to be seen.
Spectacular Tibet (Xihang) has been open to tourists since 1980. Occupied by China since 1950, the Cultural Revolution seriously damaged its cultural identity, yet Tibet's way of life and historically important Buddhism traditions have endured. Now linked by train to the rest of China, Tibet's unique culture faces renewed threats, from hordes of immigrant Han Chinese settlers and tourists.
China is set to become the world's major economic power within 20 years. Growth has come at great environmental cost. However, it has also spurred on China's rapidly improving tourism infrastructure. Beijing is currently undergoing a huge investment programme for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Flexibility and patience are still required to travel around China but, in return, China rewards visitors with memories to treasure for a lifetime.
China has a land border of about 22,800 kilometers in length, and the continental coastline of 18,000 kilometers. She has over 5000 islands on her vast territorial waters, among which Taiwan Island with an area of 36,000 square kilometers is the largest one, and the Hainan Island encompassing 34,000 square kilometers second only to it. They both are provinces of China.
China has a good number of rivers with a total length of some 220 thousand kilometers. The Yangtze River, 6300 kilometers long, is China's largest river and one of the world's longest rivers as well. Next to it is the Yellow River with a length of 5,463 kilometers. Originating on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, most of the major rivers have great drops in elevation. Therefore, China is abundant in water resources, and ranks first in the world, with a reserve of 680 million kilowatts of electricity power.
China has a vast area of shallow seas as well as a lot of rivers and lakes with abundant aquatic resources, and is one of the countries with the largest output of fish. There are over 1500 species of sea fish and 500 species of freshwater fish in China.
China has a forest coverage of 12%. Half of her forests are located on the Greater Xingan Mountains in North-East China and on natural forest areas in southwest China. In China there are as many as 7000 types of xylophyta and nearly 3000 species of arbor. Yunnan is the province of China with the richest resource of plants, while Taiwan with the greatest variety of trees. China also comes out first with the types of wild animals in the world. Among them, over 100 are rare and precious animals including Grand Panda, golden monkey, North-East China tiger etc.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) maintains the most power and elects all those with the principal executive functions – the President and Vice-President of the People’s Republic, the Premier and Vice-Premier of the State Council (after selection by the president), additional members of the State Council and the heads of individual ministries.
The State Council reports to the NPC or, when the Congress is not in session, to its Standing Committee. The NPC takes place every 5 years and attended by over 3,000 delegates drawn from the provincial administrations, the military and other state organs.
The NPC membership and all major appointments fall under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, whose 22-member Politburo is effectively the country’s governing body.
China has varied topography with mountains, highlands and hills accounting for about 65% of the country's total land area. Her land sloping gradually from west to east can be roughly divided into four areas with gradual decreases in elevation.
With a broad area, China has a very complex topography. The outline descends step by step from the west to the east. Mountains and hilly land take up 65 percent of the total area. There are five main mountain ranges. Seven mountain peaks are higher than 8,000 meters above sea level. The Bohai Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea and South China Sea embrace the east and southeast coast.
Area 1: The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in South-West China is known as the "Roof of the World" at over 4000 meters above sea level. Mount Qomolangma, the highest peak in the world, is at 8846.27 meters above sea level. The Plateau covered with a great number of high mountain iceberg, is a fabulous scenic spot for mountain explorers and tourists.
Area 2: 1000-2000 meters above sea level on an average, and mainly encompassing the undulating Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the Loess Plateau crisscross with gullies and ravines, the rippling Inner Mongolian High-Land and the Sichuan Basin with lush mountains and exquisite waters, the Tarim Basin where the vast desert is found, the Zungar Basin with vast grasslands etc. The snow-capped mountains, the basins, the grasslands and the desert of this area are good locations of nature for human beings to return to.
Area 3: This area comprises of hilly lands and plains at less than 1000 meters above sea level. It includes the North-East China Highland, North China Plain, and the plains on middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. These plains adjoining hilly lands, flat and vast are China's principal farming zones. The Area has proper temperature, fertile soil, dense population, convenient communication, numerous historical sites and scenic spots and well-developed tourist industry as well.
Area 4: An extension of the Continent into the sea: The shallow seas of continental shelf and islands. The numerous beautiful sea-beaches are an ideal place to go to for vacations.
From archaeological findings we know that about 500,000-1,000,000 years ago, there were primitive human beings such as Yuanmous Man, Lantian Man and Peking Man in the wide expanse know today as China. After the long perod of primitive existence, the Xia Dynasty, the first in Chinese history, was established in the 21st century B.C., heralding the beginning of a slave society in China. The following shang and Western Zhou dynasties saw further development of the slave society. They came the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (i.e., the Eastern Zhou Dynasty), periods of transition from slave to feudal society.
In 221 B.C., Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, ended the rivalry among the independent principalities in the Warring States Period and established the first centralized, unified, multi-national state in Chinese history - the Qin Dynasty. Subsequently, one dynasty replaced another. They included the Han, Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Sui, Tang, Five Dynasties, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing. China remained a feudal society until the Opium War in 1840.
Ancient China was fairly well developed in both economy and culture. During the apex of the Chinese feudal society - the Han and Tang dynasties - agriculture, handicrafts, weaving and shipbuilding were advanced. Transportation both by land and water was convenient; extensive economic and cultural relations were established with Japan, Korea, India, Persia and Arabia. Papermaking, printing, gunpowder and the compass, four major creations of ancient Chinese science and technology, are embodiments of the wisdom and power of the Chinese peole which have exerted an enormously profound influence on the history of mankind.
Meanwhile, famous thinkers in ancient China such as Lao Zi and Confucius were influencing the traditional Chinese culture and even the world civilizations. Sun Zi's Art of War remains an invaluable reference for people of the military and economic circles; Cao Xueqin's Dream of Red Mansions is considered the representative work of Chinese classical literature and continues to inspire research and study both at home and abroad. Great achievements were also made in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, geography and medicines. The Gan Shi Xing Jing (Gan Shi Catalogues of Stars) of the Warring States Period is the earliest catalogue of fixed stars in the world. Zhang Heng of the Han Dynasty invented the armillary sphere and seismograph. During the Southern and Northern Dynasties Zu Chongzhi calculated the Northern Dynsties Zu Chongzhi calculated the value of to be between 3.1415926 and 3.1415927. He was the first person in the world to have accurately calculated the value of to seven decimal places. The Ben Cao Guang Mu ( Compendium of Materia Medica) by Li Shizhen fo the 16the century, records more than 1,800 kinds of herbal medicines and over 10,000 prescriptions.
China boasts one of the world’s oldest continuous civilisations. Shang Dynasty ‘oracle bone’ inscriptions, dating back to the 12th century BC, are easily recognized as early examples of the ideograms, some of which are still in use today in Chinese calligraphy. During much of China’s history, the fall of a dynasty or the accession of a weak ruler would result in the country’s break up into smaller kingdoms, until reunited under a new more powerful dynasty. In the time of disunion after the Han Dynasty, Buddhism arrived in China along the Silk Road from Central Asia. During the Tang Dynasty (AD618–907), the Chinese civilisation spread to Japan, Korea, and South East Asia.
During the 13th century, the Mongols under Genghis Khan overtook Asia and Genghis’ grandson, Kublai Khan, founded the Yuan Dynasty in 1271. It was during this time that Marco Polo visited China. In 1368, the Ming Dynasty re-established Chinese rule, which erected the Great Wall to prevent any further invasions from the north. Despite this, the Manchus invaded China and in 1644 founded their own Qing (Ch’ing) Dynasty.
In 1840 modern Chinese history begins with the Opium Wars, when Britain and other Europe imposed their will upon the weakened Qing Dynasty, forcing Chinese ports to receive opium consignments manufactured in India by the British East India Company. Hong Kong was ceded to Britain until 1997 for this reason. In 1856, Canton, one of the ports forced to receive the opium during the First Opium War, put up considerable resistance. The Chinese experienced another defeat, this time by an Anglo-French alliance and additional trading concessions were removed from them at the 1858 treaty of Tientsin.
After the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Sun Yat-sen founded the Republic of China however the country was embattled by civil war and warlords. The Japanese invaded China in 1937, during its campaign to establish an empire throughout eastern Asia, the Chinese armed forces were not organized enough to put up much resistance. Eight years of ruthless occupation followed, which to this day has soured relations between the two countries. Following the 1945 defeat of the Japanese, civil war broke out between the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists under Mao Zedong.
What remained of the defeated Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1945, while the victorious communists founded the People’s Republic of China. During the early days of the People’s Republic, a tight alliance was forged with the Soviet Union, however policy disagreements and personal antipathies resulted in a break down in relations in 1960. Internally, the China of the 1960s was controlled by the convulsions of the Cultural Revolution – an attempt by the national leadership to re-energize the party and the country by campaigning to reassert its principles.
In 1976, the two powering figures of post-revolutionary China, Premier Zhou Enlai and Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, both died within a few months of each other. Hua Guofeng first took over from Zhou as Premier, then consequently went on to replace Mao as Party Chairman, and Zhao Ziyang became Premier. Hua departed the Politburo after further changes in the leadership in September 1982. The two prominent men in the government were now Zhao and the Chairman of the Communist Party Central Military Commission Deng Xiaoping. Under these two, China began its major reformations. They differed from those that have now been adopted by other socialist economies, especially in Eastern Europe, in allowing less political ‘liberalisation’ in concert with the economic measures. This was typical of the east Asian style of development since the 1970s, where economic progress has been afforded priority while political pluralism – particularly, significant organized opposition to the ruling party – has been for the most part suppressed.
By the end of the 1980s, widespread agitation prevailed – particularly among students but with wide support from the community as a whole – for political reform and action against the corruption that had become rampant since economic reform had begun. This situation came to a head in May 1989, when a group of thousands of students and workers took over Tiananmen Square in central Beijing during the visit to the capital by the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. Initially the Communist Party was split on how to act but, after the departure of Gorbachev, they sent in the army and the square cleared with great loss of life. Following that, the government took decisive actions to reassert political control. The moderate Zhao Ziyang was replaced as Premier by hard-liner Li Peng who worked with Deng Xiaoping on the government’s internal disorder resolution.
Throughout the 1990s, the octo- and nonagenarians on top of Chinese politics were gradually replaced. Jiang Zemin, who was appointed president in 1993, was typical of the new generation of leaders. Vice-President Hu Jintao was chosen to take over from Jiang, and did so in 2003, at the time announcements were made at the Communist Party Congress the previous October. The nature of Chinese politics dictates that Jiang will probably retain significant influence over policy-making through his chairmanship of the powerful Central Military Commission. Also appointed were a new vice-president, Zeng Qinghong and a new premier, Wen Jiabao. The new government suddenly faced a major crisis in the form of an epidemic of SARS, a pneumonia-type virus with an extremely high fatality rate. The initial reaction – denial followed by a refusal to admit the seriousness of the problem – was typical of the old regime however, pressured by the international community, the authorities have now come clean.
Hu Jintao was initially a protégé of Deng Xiaoping and came to prominence as the leader of the Chinese administration in Tibet in the 1980s, where he successfully knocked down a political uprising of Tibetans by declaring martial law. This far-western province was put under control by the Chinese military, as the Mao government tried to remove what they believed as a reactionary, quasi-feudal regime dominated by a priestly class. During their heavy-handed occupation, they have driven the highly respected leaders of Tibetan Bhuddism, including the Dalai Lama, into exile and subsequently destroyed most of the Tibetan cultural and social infrastructure.
Chinese policy in Tibet and particularly Tiananmen Square caused problems for China’s relations with the West, both in general and for its major foreign policy objectives. These are three-fold – better relations with the United States of America, membership in the World Trade Organisation, and reunification of the national territory, meaning – since the recovery of Hong Kong and Macau – Taiwan.
Following the ground-breaking 1971–72 Nixon-Kissinger visit, relations with the USA developed at a glacial pace. The US's support for Taiwan is a constant irritant, as well as incidents such as the 2001 US spy plane row (in which an American electronic eavesdropping aircraft was forced to land by Chinese fighter planes). inside East Asia, the situation is complicated further by China’s involvement in one of the region’s more intractable territorial battles, concerning the status of the Spratly Islands, a tiny uninhabited archipelago located in the South China Sea, which is claimed by no less than six nations and is believed to sit on top of substantial oil fields. The Chinese have on occasion occupied some of the islands for a short time; their future is the subject of complicated multilateral negotiation.
Elsewhere in the region, Beijing is still concerned with the ongoing tension between Pakistan and India (see India and Pakistan). China has consistently supported Pakistan militarily and considers India a rival and political foe. One reason is a major irritant to Beijing, the Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama, operates from exile inside northeast India. Additional foreign policy preoccupations are Russia and Vietnam. Despite historic enmities, relations with both have improved on a considerable scale since the early 1990s. As for Japan, the main issues are economic, however the historical legacy of Japan’s horrific occupation of China during the 1930s and 1940s continues to cast a shadow.
Modern Period (1840-1919)
The Revolution of 1911, a bourgeois democratic revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, ended the rule of the Qing Dynasty. Thus, the monarchy that had existed in China for 2,000years came to an end, and the provisional government fo the Republic of China was founded.
New Democratic Revolution ( 1919-1949)
The People's Republic of China (1949- )
After a period economic recovery in the first three years (1950-1952) following the founding of the People's Republic, and then the basic realization of agriculture, the handicrafts industry, and capitalist industry and commerce between 1953 and 1956, the leading role of public ownership of the means of production had been defined, and the transition from new democracy to socialism realized. During the then years from 1957 to 1966 China began large-scale socialist construction. Overall, great achievements were made in the national economy during this decade in spite of some serious mistakes in the economic construction. The nation's total industrial fixed assets quadrupled between 1956 and 1966, and the national income increased by 58 percent in constant prices. The output of essential industrial products, such as steel, coal, crude oil, generated electricity and metal cutting machine tolls increased by several or, in some cases, even a dozen times, and some new and developing industries such as electronics and petrochemicals were established; work in science and technology, particularly in atomic energy, jet technology, computers, semiconductors and automatic control, progressed rapidly. The "cultural revolution, "which lasted for then year from May 1966 to Oct. 1976, brought great calamity to the country and the people, causing the most serious setbacks and most damaging losses to both since the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Drawing on the support of the broad masses of the Chinese people, the communist party of China smashed the Jiang Qiang counter-revolutionary clique in Oct. 1976 The end of the disastrous "cultural revolution" marked the beginning of a new era in Chinese history. Since the Third Plenary Session of the CPC Eleventh Central Committee at the end of 1978, China has instituted a policy of reform and opening to the outside world. The errors of the " Cultural revolution" and the earlier" Leftist" deviations were rectified. The focus was shifted to modernization centered around the economy; a socialist modernization road with Chinese characteristics was defined.
The first civilizations in China arose in the Yangtze and Yellow River valleys at about the same time as Mesopotamia, Egypt and India developed their first civilizations. For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences. Paper, gunpowder, the compass and printing (both block and movable type) for example, are Chinese inventions. Chinese developments in astronomy, medicine, and other fields were extensive. A Chinese tomb contains a heliocentric model of the solar system, about 1,700 years before Copernicus. In mathematics, "Pythagoras' theorem" and "Pascal's triangle" were known in China centuries before their Western discoverers even lived.
China was also the first civilization to implement meritocracy of any form. This meant that unlike in other ancient cultures, official posts were not hereditary but instead had to be earned through a series of examinations, which were first conducted during the Han Dynasty, and further refined into the Imperial Examination System and opened to all regardless of family background during the Tang Dynasty. The vast historical influence of China is also evident in the traditional cultures of some of its neighbors, most notably Vietnam, Korea and Japan, with them even adopting the Chinese writing system at some point, some of which is still in use in the latter two today.
China also explored the world and traded extensively with other nations. By the 5th-6th centuries AD, voyages to India and the Arab countries were routine. In the 15th century the Ming Dynasty fleets under Admiral Zheng He reached as far as East Africa. The ships were technically very advanced, much larger than European ships of the day and with a system of watertight compartments that Europe was not to match for several centuries.
However, China has always been inward-looking. China is "zhong guo", literally "center land" often translated "middle kingdom;" all others are "wai guo ren", literally "outside land people", often translated "barbarians." The Emperor did not receive ambassadors, but only tribute bearers. Around 1425, China turned inward with a vengeance. Records of the great trading voyages were destroyed and the ships allowed to rot.
7,336,000 (1998). The largest city in China, Shanghai's population is over 14 million and, as of 1997, 12 other cities had more than 2 million people and 22 cities had a population of 1-2 million.
China is the most populous country in the world. According to statistic her population reached 1.22 billion by the end of 1996 (excluding those of Taiwan Province, Hong Kong and Macao), and accounts for 22% of the world's total. Her urban population makes up 26% of the country's total while rural population 74%.
China is a multi-culture country, with 56 ethnic groups. Among them, the Han accounts for 92% of the total population, and the rest 55 ethnic groups, 8%, known as ethnic minorities. The Han has their own spoken and written dialect, which is the common language of today's China. The Han dialect is also used by Manchu and Hui minorities, while the other 53 minorities use their own dialects, 23 of them have their own written languages.
China is a very diverse place with large variations in culture, language, customs and economic levels. The economic landscape is particularly diverse. The major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai are rich and modern. However, more than half the population, some 800 million rural residents, still live as peasants, farming with manual labor or draft animals. Many of these men and women live in severe poverty. A Chinese government estimate as of 2005 had 90 million living on under ¥924 (US$112) a year; 26 million were under the official poverty line, ¥668 (US$81) a year.
The cultural landscape is unsurprisingly very diverse given the sheer size of the country. There are a total of 56 different ethnic groups recognized by the PRC government, and perhaps many more unrecognized ones. Of these, the Han Chinese are by far the largest group, comprising about 91.5% of the population, though within this single Han Chinese race, there is linguistic variation comparable to the Romance languages of Europe and a wide range of different local cultures and practices. After the Han Chinese, the Zhuang, Manchu, Hui and Miao round out the top 5. Other notable ethnic minorities include: Koreans, Tibetans, Mongols and Uyghurs. In fact, China is home to the largest Korean population outside Korea and there are actually twice as many ethnic Mongols in China as in Mongolia.
Some foreigners who are not familiar with Chinese customs and habits may find certain Chinese manners to be unrefined, coarse or inappropriate. However, these behaviors are usually benign in nature. The lesson is this: keep an open mind; if you do this, you'll find that people tend to be warm and friendly.
1.2591 billion (1999), about 22% of total population in the world.
In 1998, there were 19.91 million new births and 8.07 million deaths, with a net growth of 11.84 million (compared with 12.37 million in 1997). More than 10% of the total population is over 60 years old (1999 data).
The Chinese population is unevenly distributed, with the eastern part heavily populated (more than 300 persons per square kilometer) and the west scarcely populated (about 40 persons per square kilometer). The national average density of population is 119 per square kilometer (1990 census). The average size of household is 3.7 persons. The proportion of population aged at 0-14 was 26.4 percent, 67.3% between the ages 15-64, and 6.4% for the age group of over 65. The average life span of the Chinese population is 70.8 years, with the male at 68.71, and female at 73.04. (Some of the above data are based on the report from China National Statistics Bureau, FOR YOUR REFERENCE ONLY).
Family Names: Chinese family names came into being some 5,000 years ago. There are more than 5,000 family names, of which 200 to 300 are popular. In Chinese names, family names comes first and given name second. For example, in the case of Deng Xiaoping, Deng is the family name, Xiaoping the given name. The most popular Chinese family names are ZHANG, WANG, LI, ZHAO, LIU, CHEN...
Nationalities: China is made up of 56 ethnic groups. The Han people make up 91.02 percent of the total population, and the other 55 national minorities 8.98 percent. They are Mongolian, Hui, Tibetan, Uygur, Miao, Yi, Zhuang, Bouyi, Korean, Manchu, Dong, Yao, Bai, Tujia, Hani, Kazak, Dai, Li, Lisu, Wa, She, Gaoshan, Lahu, Shui, Dongxiang, Naxi, Jingpo, Kirgiz, Tu, Daur, Mulam, Qiang, Blang, Salar, Maonan, Gelo, Xibe, Achang, Pumi, Tajik, Nu, Ozbek, Russian, Ewenki, Benglong, Bonan, Yugur, Jing, Tatar, Drung, Oroqen, Hezhen, Moinba, Lhoba and Gelo. All nationalities enjoy equal status according to the Constitution. The State protects their lawful rights and interests and promotes equality, unity and mutual help among all nationalities.
As the most widely spoken language on earth, Chinese is, strictly speaking, a series of dialects spoken by the dominant ethnic group within China, the Han. Indeed, the term most commonly used by the Chinese themselves to refer to the language is Hanyu, meaning "Han-language", though zhongyu, zhongwen, and zhongguohua are frequently used as well. However, non-Han peoples such as Uigurs and Tibetans speak languages which have little or nothing to do with Chinese.
The national language is Putonghua (the common speech) or Mandarin, which is one of the five working languages at the United Nations. Most of the 55 minority nationalities have their own languages. Cantonese is one of the local dialects of southern China. As a written language, Chinese has been used for 6,000 years.
Pronunciation and Pinyin
Back in the 1950s it was hoped eventually to replace Chinese characters altogether with a regular alphabet of Roman letters,and to this end the pinyin system was devised. Basically,pinyin is a way of using the Roman alphabet(except the letter"v") to write out the sounds of Mandarin Chinese,with Mandarin's four tones represented by accents above each syllable. Other dialects of Chiese, such as Cantonese - having nine tones-cannot be written in pinyin.
The aim of replacing Chiese characters with pinyin was abandoned long ago, but in the meantime pinyin has one very important function,that of helping foreigners to pronounce Chiese words.However,in pinyin the letters do not all have the sounds you would expect, and you'll need to spend an hour or two learning these. You'll often see pinyin in China, on street signs and shop displays,but only well-educated locals know the system well.Occasionally,you will come across other systems of rendering Mandatin into Roman letters, such as Wade-Giles,which writs Mao Tse-teng,and Deng Xiaoping as Teng Hsiao-p'ing.These forms ate no longer used in mainland China,but you may see them in Western books about China,or in Taiwanese publications.
The Chinese terms in this book have been given both in characters and in pinyin; the pronunciation guide below is your first step to making yourself comprehensible. Don't get overly paramoid about your tones;with the help of context,intelligent listeners should be able to work out what you are trying to say.If you're just uttering a single word,however,for example a place name-without a context-you need to hit exactly the right tone,otherwise don't be surprised if nobody understands you.
There are four tones in Mandarin Chinese,and every syllable of every word is characterized by one of them,except for a few syllables which are considered toneless.This emphasis on tones does not make Chinese a particularly musical languge-English,for example,uses tone for effect-exclaiming, questioning listing, rebuking and so on. In English, to change the tone is to change the mood or the emphasis,in Chinese.to change the tone is to change the word itself.
The chinese language in this book is rendered in characters as well as in a romanized system called pinyin. The characters themselves give little or no phonetic information,and their pronunciation must normally be learned by rote.You won't be expected to learn characters to use this book effectively; we include them primarilt to facilitate your communication with Chinese people when phonics fail.Most Chinese can't read pinyin very well,even though many used it when learning Chinese in primary school.
Syllables are the building blocks of Chinese words and phrases.In the written language,each syllable can be rendered as a distinct character.The syllable consists of three components:the initial,the final,and the tone.For example,in the word , which means 'sugar,' the initial is the t sound at the beginning of the syllable;the final is the ang sound at the end;and the tone,represented by the ( ' ) mark,is the rising tone of voice in which the word os pronounced.All three components must generally be present for the word to be completely understandable in Chinses,though some syllables don' t require initial.
Initials are always consonants,and in pinyin most of the pronunciations are fairly intuitive to native speakers of English.Below is a table of initials with an explanation if how to pronounce them.
Finals always begin with vowels. They may end in vowels also or else in consonants or diphthongs.Study the list of finals below. In many cases they can be pronounced accurately by using your intuiton as a native English speaker-but there are a few surprises
There are many different dialects of Chinese.Although the written language is the same throughout China,the pronunciation of the characters varies tremen-dously in different regions.Speaking their native dialect,people from the north of China can communicate.verbally with southerners about as easily as Frenchmen can speak with Italians.
Mandarin isn' t the only dialect you'll come across on a tour of China.Among the dozens of other widely spoken dialects are: Cantonese the ( heard in and around Guangzhou,or Canton, the capital of Guangdong province,as well as in Hong Kong); Shanghainese ( spoken in the greater Shanghai area); Hunan dialect; and Sichuan (Szechuan) dialect.For taking a tour of China, though, Mandarin is by far the best dialect to learn. You'll find plenty of Mandarin speakers no matter where you go in the PRC.
The Chinese are delighted when foreigners try to speak their language. They will forgive you a multitude of sins, try their best to understand you even if your pronuciation is close it unintelligible, and probably even compliment you on your excellent command of Chinese, to boot. You needn't take such flattering compliments too seriously; they are simply the Chinese way of expressing appreciation for your efforts.
|Climate and Clothing|
As for the clothing, the light sweater, jacket, or water-proof coat is highly recommended when you cruise the Yangtze River in spring and fall. In the summer time, the sunglasses, suntan oil and sandals are necessary. Besides, a pair of comfortable walking shoes is a must all the time.
China has a varied climate and a marked monsoon climate. The South-East China adjacent to the sea is endowed with a humid climate with plenty of rainfall and small variation in temperature. The North-West China far away from the sea, has very dry weather with little rainfall and big temperature variations. China is the country in the world with the widest coverage of areas by the monsoon climate, in addition to the marked difference in climate from area to area. From north to south, China is divided into 6 temperature zones:- equatorial tropical, subtropical, warm temperate, temperate and cold temperate. Her varied topography with big difference in elevation between East China and West China has great bearing upon climate. Generally speaking, an increase of 1000 meters in altitude means a drop of 6 degree Celsius in temperature.
The climate is extremely diverse, from tropical regions in the south to subarctic in the north. Hainan Island is roughly at the same latitude as Jamaica, while Harbin, one of the largest cites in the north, is at roughly the latitude of Montreal.
There is also a wide range of terrain to be found in China with many inland mountain ranges, high plateaus, and deserts in center and far west; while plains, deltas, and hills are to be found in the east. On the border between the province of Tibet and the nation of Nepal lies Mount Everest, at 8,850 m, the highest point on earth. The Turpan depression, in northwest China's Xinjiang is the lowest point in the country, at 154 m below sea level. This is also the second lowest point on land in the world after the Dead Sea.
China lies mainly in the northern temperate zone under the influence of monsoon. From September and October to March and April next year monsoon blows from Siberia and the Mongolian Plateau into China and decreases in force as it goes southward, causing dry and cold winter in the country and a temperature difference of 40 degrees centigrade between the north and the south. The temperature in China in the winter is 5 to 18 degrees centigrade lower than that in other countries on the same latitude in winter. Monsoon blows into China from the ocean in summer, bringing with them warm and wet currents, thus rain. Great differences in climate are found from region to region owing to China's extensive territory and complex topography. The northern part of Heilongjiang Province in the northeast has no summer, while Hainan Island in the south has a long summer but no winter. The Huaihe River valley features four distinct seasons, and the western part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is covered by snow all year round. The southern part of the Yunan-Guizhou Plateau is spring-like in all seasons; and the northwestern inland regions could see great variations of temperature within the day. Annual precipitation also varies greatly from region to region, which is as high as 1,500 millimeters along the southeastern coast, and as low as 50 millimeters in the northwest.
China can be visited through out the year because of the stretch of its territories and sites and activities it can offer. Deciding when to visit China depends on which places you wish to visit, what type of weather you enjoy, and how much a bargain you want. China is a huge country with many different climates and types of landscape. Think of it in terms of the United States, which China resembles in size and shape. Traveling along the Golden Route (Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Guilin) is like visiting New York, Chicago, Santa Fe, and Jacksonville, Florida all in one trip.
April, May, September and October are the peak tourist months at China’s most popular destinations when the weather is the most comfortable. Prices drop a bit in the shoulder season, which runs from November through March and from June through August. However, the winter months are peak season for trips to China’s Hainan Island and to the Northeast Harbin for its world-famous ice-lantern festival. This months are also packed with New Year holidays, Chinese Spring Festival and other national or local happy fairs. Summer months are great time to explore China’s Far East-Manchuria.
China has a continental and seasonal climate. Most parts are in the temperate zone but southern areas are in the tropical or subtropical zone while northern areas are in the frigid zone. Climates in different areas are complicated. For instance, northern Heilongjiang Province has a winter climate the year round without summer, while Hainan Island has a summer climate the year round without winter. The following is a reference table for tourists to prepare clothing on their trips.
Spring: 10-22°C, Western suits, jackets, sports coats, woolen jackets, long sleeve shirts and travel shoes.
Summer: 22°C and above, T-shirts, short sleeve shirts, skirts, sandals, caps, rain wear.
Autumn: 10-22°C, Western suits, jackets, sports coats, light woolen sweaters, rain wear and travel shoes.
Winter: 10°C or lower, overcoat, cotton clothes, lined coats. In very cold areas a cap, gloves and cotton-padded shoes are required.
|Passport and Visa|
If you want to go to Tibet for a visit you can apply for a visa only with the consent of the Tourism Administration of the Tibet Autonomous Region or any one of its foreign representative offices. A passport is required for visa application, the passport shall be valid for at least 6 months beyond the duration of the tour.
Visa is required for Canadians, Americans and people of most other nationalities who travel to China. You can apply it directly at the Chinese Embassies and Consulate Generals around the world:
For Canadian and US passport holders, visa is not required for Hong Kong if your stay is less than 90 days as a tourist. For other passport holders, please consult with your nearest PRC embassy or consulate.
A Chinese visa is a permit issued by Chinese visa authorities to non-Chinese citizens for entry into, exit from and transit through China. American citizens and citizens of most countries are required to obtain a China visa before entering China. There are eight categories of ordinary Chinese visas, which are respectively marked with the letters C, D, F, G, J-1, J-2, L, X and Z.
Visa Required. Foreign visitors can obtain individual or group visas from Chinese embassies and consulates in their country of departure, or China Travel Service offices in Hong Kong, usually within a day or two. For individual travelers, single-entry visas are valid for entry within three months. To apply for visa, the chinese consular office may require you to provide documents of stay in china - here we can assist you to issue hotel voucher as supporting document.
Special Entry Permit. This is needed if you wish to visit Tibet or it's capital city Lhasa. We can assist you to arrange this entry permit - there are some paperworks involved. Visitors should carry their passports while in China as they are needed to check into hotels, make plane or train reservations, exchange money or establish the holder's identity.
Main Ports Of Entry
|Health and Quarantine|
There are no particular immunizations required for entry into China, unless the traveler is coming from a yellow fever infected area. The Canadian and US disease control and prevention authorities recommend the all travelers have current polio and tetanus immunizations. For traveling into the countryside and remote areas, immune globulin is also recommended to combat hepatitis A, as is typhoid immunization. It is very important that you consult your own doctor or local clinic for more information. We advise you to bring along a supply of antibiotics, an anti-diarrhea agent, and any other prescription drugs required by your current medical conditions.
Those who carry such special articles as microorganisms, human body tissues, biological products, and blood and its products, should declare to a quarantine department, and subject these articles to quarantine inspections. Passengers from yellow fever-infested areas should, when entering China, display to the quarantine department effective certificates showing that they have been inoculated against yellow fever. He who does not have such a valid certificate shall be retained for observation for six days beginning from the day he left the infested area, or he shall be inoculated and retained until the certificate comes into effect. It is the task of the Chinese quarantine authorities to prevent foreigners suffering AIDS, venereal diseases, leprosy, mental diseases and open tuberculosis from entering China.
Health & Hygiene
China is a remarkably healthy country despite its relative poverty and climatic variations. Standards of hygiene varies from place to place so all visitors must be aware of potential hazards and act cautiously. Tap water is not safe; all water consumed must be boiled or filtered unless it is bottled mineral water. Boiled water is available in all Chinese hotels and restaurants. Although food is prepared fresh and cooked or cleaned thoroughly, stomach upsets are possible so it is advisable to take some medicine with you.
Ailments such as sore throats and chest colds are also possible and can occur at any time of year considering China's climatic extremes. The summer months are brutally hot so it is imperative to combat the harmful summer heat with a sufficient supply of liquids to prevent dehydration.
Prior to departing for China, it is recommended that you get accident and medical insurance coverage for any medical expenses that may arise during a trip.
No vaccinations are required for travel to China but it is advisable to check with your doctor for current information. Tetanus and typhoid vaccines are essential for travel anywhere, and rabies and hepatitis vaccinations are recommended. Please note that there is a risk of malaria in remote areas of south China, so take precautionary measures before you go. For Health Regulations please check with your local health unit for required vaccinations and inoculations.
Emergency Medical Service
The clinics in large hotels and restaurants offer medical and first aid services to travelers. If you feel uncomfortable while on a tour, you may call the outpatient department of a local hotel, or ask your guide to take you to see the doctor.
Bringing in the following articles is prohibited:
Exit: On leaving China, tourists must again submit the baggage declaration form for customs inspection (the second copy). Travelers by ship are exempted.Items purchased in China with RMB converted from foreign currencies may be taken out or mailed out of the country after receipts are presented for customs inspection. In cities where a Customs Office does not exit, this can be arranged through the local Friendship Store.
Taking out the following articles is prohibited:
China is a multi-religious country. Buddhism, Taoism and Islam are the three major religions. Catholicism and Protestantism have smaller but substantial followers too. Different ethnic groups usually follow different religions. Islam is followed by the Hui, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, Tatar, Dongxiang, Salar and Bonan peoples; Buddhism and Lamaism are followed by the Tibetan, Mongolian, Dai and Yugur nationalities; Christianity is followed by the Miao, Yao and Yi nationalities; Shamanism is followed by the Oroqen, Ewenki and Daur nationalities; and the majority Han nationality believes in Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity.
China is a country with many religious beliefs. There are hundred million religious followers of Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism in China. Ethnic groups have their own religious preferences. The Hui, Uygur, kazak, Kirgiz, Tatar, Ozbek, Tajik, Dongxiang, Salar, and Bonan followi Islam; Tibetans, Mongolians, Lhobas, Moinbas, Tus and Yugurs are Lamaists. Dai, Blang, and Deang people believe in the Hinayana ( Lesser Vehicle) Buddhism. A considerable number of the Miao, Yao and Yi people believe in Catholicism and Protestantism., Catholicism, or Taoism.
Buddhism found its way into China in the first century B.C. and spread widely after the fourth century a. D., becoming the most infuluential religion in China. A branch of Chinese Buddhism, Lamaism, also called Tibetan Buddhism, is widespread in Tibet and Inner Mongolia. China’s famous Buddhist temples include Baima Temple in Luoyang, Daci’en Temples in Xi’an, Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, and Shaolin Temple in Henan. Famous lamaseries include Jokhang Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery and Sakya Monastery in Tibet, Kunmbum Monastery in Qinghai, Wuta Lamasery in Inner Mongolia, and Yonghe Lamasery in Beijing.
Islam was introduced to China in the middle period of the seventh century. China’s famous mosques include Libai Mosque in yangzhou, Huajue Mosque in Xi’an, Niujie Mosque in Beijing, Dongda Mosque in Yinchuan, and the Aitagar at Kashi in Xinjiang.
The introduction of Catholicism and Protestantism to China followed Buddhism and Islam, with less influence. The followers of Catholicism and Protestantism mainly concentrate in large cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Some farmers also believe in Catholicism or Protestantism.
Taking form in the second century A. D., Taoism is indigenous to china. The most famous Taoist temples and monasteries are beiyun Monasteryb in Beijing, Qingyang Monastery in Chengdu and Taiqing Monastery in Shenyang.
In China, citizens enjoy freedom of religious belief, and all normal religious activities are protected by the Constitution. The Buddhist, Islamic, Catholic, Protestant and Taoist organizations have been established at national and local levels, independently dealing with their own religious affairs. The religious groups and affairs in China are not subject to the direction of foreign powers.
For the convenience of tourists, the Bank of China can cash travelers' checks sold by international commercial banks and travelers' check companies in the United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Britain, France, Switzerland, Germany and other countries and regions. Also the Bank of China sells travelers' checks for such banks as American Express, Citibank, Tongjilong Travelers' Check Co., the Sumitomo Bank of Japan, the Swiss Banking Corporation and others.
Foreign currency cannot be circulated within the People's Republic of China or used to determine the price and settle accounts. At present, China will accept and convert into Chinese Renminbi such foreign currencies as the US dollar, British pound, Euro, Japanese yen, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, HK dollar, Singapore dollar, Malaysian ringgit, Macao dollar, and Taiwan dollar. Exchange rates are issued every day by the State Administration of Exchange Control. Before leaving China, unused Chinese Renminbi can be converted back into foreign currency with a "foreign exchange certificate" which is valid for six months.
Major credit cards such as Master Card , Visa, JCB and American Express can be used to purchase goods in large department stores. Credit cards cannot be used in small restaurants or small convenience stores. They are mostly useful for paying for really ecpensive things. They can be used to pay for hotel rooms and for meals in some of the fancier restaurants. You can also buy plane tickets with them. As mentioned above. AmEx can be used to get a cash advanec in the main offices of the Bank of China. It is also possible to cash a check against the AmEx card ,but again , only in the main offices.
You can wire money , or have it wired to you , using a service called Money Transfer, which is a joint project between the China Courier Service Corporation and Western Union, this service allows instant money wiring to and from 100 countries.
The government is cracking down on it. Still you need to be aware of this. Unless you have been here for this . unless you have been here for a while, it is not easy to spot. The ways to identify phony money are by the color, the watermark, the paper, and the braille dots. The ways to identify phony money are by the color, the watermark, the paper, and the braille dots. The color of RMB notes is hard to imitate, and counterfeit bills are usually too fuzzy, that is, the images and colors are not so sharp. The watermark on counterfeit money is also not clear. On real bills the outline of the model worker or the Great Helmsman (on the 100)is fairly distinct. The way to test the paper is to look at it under a black light. Originally,the way to tell real from fake was to see if the words "YIBAI"or "WUSHI"(depending on the denomination) appeared in fluorescent letters under the light.But the pros have found a way to imitate this. Now the true test is to see the color of the paper itself under te black light. If the paper appears bright, then it is fake. If it appears to absorb the black light. Then it is real. The final test is the dots. On each denomination of the yuan notes (nobody bothers mading fake jiao, not to mention fen), there is a corresponding number in braille in the lower left hand corner of the front side. It is hard to feel, but the dots are slightly raised on the surface of the paper. If they are not, then it is also a fake.
For those who want to shop for souvenirs to take home, they can look around, apart from large department stores and shopping malls, in some of the open markets such as the Xiushui Street and Panjiayuan Antique Market in Beijing. Unlike large department stores where the prices are fixed, these places are where you can and you must bargain. Your local tour guides or hosts are the best help when you go to these places. They will prove essential in finding the real stuff and bringing the prices down!
Porcelain with a long history of porcelain making, China still makes great porcelain today. Most visitors are familiar with blue and white, but the variety of glazes is much greater, including many lovely monochrome glazes which are worth seeking out. Specialist shops near hotels and the top floors of department stores are a good place to start, though not the cheapest. The "antique" markets are also a good place to find reproductions, though it can be hard to escape from attempts to convince you that the items are genuine antiques (with prices to match). Two of the most famous centers for porcelain are Jingdezhen and Quanzhou.
Food in China varies widely from region to region so the term "Chinese food" is pretty much a blanket term, just as "Western food" is. While visiting, relax your inhibitions and try a bit of everything. Keep in mind that undercooked food or poor hygiene can cause bacterial or parasitic infection, particularly during warm or hot weather. Thus it is advisable to take great care about (and perhaps abstain from) eating seafood and meat on the street during the summer. In addition, unless you're in Hong Kong, raw meat and seafood should always be avoided. That said, hygiene is better than in, say, the Indian subcontinent. Chinese gourmands place emphasis on freshness so your meal will most likely be cooked as soon as you order it. Searing hot woks over coal or gas fires make even street food usually safe to eat. Do be on the lookout for ripoffs though; it is not at all uncommon to order a common dish (particularly at lowbrow restaurants) and receive a portion that is obviously much smaller than that ordered by a local sitting next to you, while still being charged the full price. However, if you can avoid such blatant tricks, eating in China can be a highlight (perhaps, the highlight) of your trip. NB: Certain dishes are prepared from endangered species, such as stew made from near-extinct turtles from South East Asia or soup flavored by the threatened facai moss, while other dishes may include ingredients that some people may prefer to avoid, such as dog meat. Therefore, it is advised to check the the contents of dishes before ordering.Famous cuisines
Various types of Chinese food provide quick, cheap, tasty, light meals. Street food and snacks sold from portable vendors can be found throughout Beijing as well as Hong Kong; Wangfujing district's Snack Street in Beijing is a notable area for street food. Street side food vendors are called gai bin dong in Cantonese, such ventures can grow into a substantial business with the stalls only barely 'mobile' in the traditional street food sense:
The Western notion of fast food has also reached China. McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut are ubiquitous, at least in major cities. There are a few Burger Kings. Chinese chains such as Dicos - chicken burgers, fries etc., cheaper than KFC and some say better - or Kung Fu which has a more Chinese menu are also widespread.
The Chinese love a tipple and the all-purpose word jiǔ covers quite a range of alcoholic drinks.
Exercise caution. Fortunately, the glasses are usually small — even beer is often drunk from an oversized shot glass. Also, Chinese beer is generally around 3% alcohol, so it is 'weaker' than Western standards (usually 5%). However the Chinese liquor, baijiu, is definitely potent (up to 65% alcohol). Baijiu is often drunk in small shot glasses for a good reason. US president Nixon practiced drinking before his first trip to China to be ready to drink with Mao Zedong. Unless you are used to imbibing heavily, be very careful when drinking with Chinese.
If you want to take it easier but still be sociable, say "suibian" before you make the toast, then drink only part of the glass. It may also be possible to have three toasts (traditionally signifying friendship) with the entire company, rather than one separate toast for every individual present.
Be sure to reciprocate any toast to you. In 1970 when in China preparing for President Nixon's historic visit, Secretary of State Alexander Haig and his staff neglected to follow this protocol. For failing to do so they were sent out on West Lake in Hangzhou in an unheated boat with no food in the middle of winter and left there. Beijing had to intervene to tell the local officials to be nice to them anyhow and they received a "warmer" send-off when they flew out of Shanghai.
Unfortunately, most places outside of major cities serve beer at room temperature, regardless of season, though places that cater to tourists have it cold.
Red wine is common and much of it is reasonably priced, from ¥15 in a grocery store, about ¥100-150 in a fancy bar. Anyone used to European, Australian, or Californian wines will find the general quality in China appalling. There are perhaps some exceptions. But an experienced drinker of wine is unlikely to be satisfied with Chinese wines as they are made today. Bars commonly serve red wine over ice and sometimes mixed with Sprite, like a 'wine cooler'. There are also a few white and sparkling white wines. Quality on those is reportedly better than the reds.
Xinjiang offers decent wines; Suntime , with a passable Cabernet Sauvignon; Yizhu, located in Yili and specializing in ice wine; and the French-owned Les Champs D'or, for best overall winery in China. Ningxia and Gansu produce some decent wines (hot and dry in summer and cold in winter) while what comes out of Shandong and Hebei are blah (warm and moist in summer and not so cold in winter). Imperial Horse and Xixia labels from Ningxia, Mogao Ice Wine from Gansu and maybe Castle Estates from Shandong are decent brands with a small history of quality about them. Yunnan wines are generally rated highly, but not all of them deserve it; Shangrila wine from around Zhongdian is one that does.
Great Wall and Dynasty are large brands with a number of wines at various prices; their cheaper (under ¥40) offerings are generally not impressive. Chang Yu is another large brand; some of their low end wines are a bit better.
There are also several brands and types of rice wine. These do not generally much resemble Japanese sake, the only rice wine well-known in the West. Travelers' reactions to these vary widely.
Báijiǔ is distilled liquor, generally about 80 to 120 proof made from sorghum and sometimes other grains depending on the region. As the word jiǔ is often loosely translated as "wine" by Chinese beverage firms and English speakers, baijiu is frequently referred to as "white wine" in conversation. If you are looking for Western-style grape wines be sure to ask for grape wine to ensure you are getting what you want.
Maotai , made in Guizhou Province, is China's most famous brand of baijiu and China's national liquor. Made from sorghum, Maotai and it's expensive cousins (such as Kaoliang in Taiwan) are actually sweeter than western clear liquors as the sorghum taste is preserved - in a way. The cheapest baijiu is the Beijing brewed Erguotou which comes in two variants - the clear bottle (56% alcohol) and the green bottle (65% alcohol). Ordering "Xiao Er" (Erguotou's diminutive nickname) will likely raise a few eyebrows and a chuckle from working class Chinese.
Baijiu will typically be served at banquets and festivals in tiny shot glasses. Toasts are ubiquitous at banquets or dinners on special occasions. Most foreigners find most types of baijiu taste like diesel fuel, while a liquor connoisseur may find high quality, expensive baijiu quite good. Baijiu is definitely an acquired taste, but once the taste is acquired, it's quite fun to "ganbei" a glass or two at a banquet.
Chinese brandy is excellent value, about the same price as grape wines and generally far more palatable than the baijiu. A ¥16-20 local brandy is not a ¥200+ imported brand-name cognac, but it is close enough that you should only buy the cognac if money doesn't matter. Expats debate the relative merits of brandies from French-owned Louis Wann , Chinese brand Changyu , and several others. All are drinkable.
The Chinese are also great fans of various supposedly medicinal liquors, which usually contain exotic herbs and/or animal parts. Some of these have prices in the normal range and include ingredients like ginseng. These can be palatable enough, if tending toward sweetness. Others, with unusual ingredients (snakes, turtles, etc.) and steep price tags, are probably best left to those that enjoy them.
Various areas of China have famous teas. Hangzhou, near Shanghai, is famed for its "Dragon Well" tea. Mount Wuyi in Fujian has "Dark Red Robe" tea. Pǔ'ěr in Yunnan has pǔ'ěrchá , named for a city in the central part of the province.
Most tea shops will be more than happy to let you sit down and try different varieties of tea. "Ten Fu Tea" is a national chain, and in Beijing "Wu Yu Tai" is the one some locals say they favour.
Normal Chinese teas are always drunk neat, with the use of sugar or milk unknown. However, in some areas you find Hong Kong style "milk tea" or Tibetan "butter tea". The type of tea that is common in the West, Indian or Sri Lankan, is known in China as "red tea".
Several chains of coffee shops have branches in many cities, including Starbucks , UBC Coffee, Ming Tien Coffee Language and SPR (the best of them). All offer coffee and both Chinese and Western food, generally with good air conditioning, wireless internet, and nice decor. Prices are fairly high, ¥25 or so a cup.
There are also lots of smaller independent coffee shops or local chains. These may also be high priced, but often they are around ¥15 a cup. Quality varies from excellent to abysmal.
For cheap coffee just to stave off withdrawal symptoms, there are several options. Go to a Western restaurant chain (KFC, McD, etc.) for some ¥6 coffee. Additionally, almost any supermarket of convenience store will have both canned cold coffee and packets, single serving cups or jars of instant Nescafé (black or pre-mixed with whitener and sugar), just add hot water.
You can get cold drinks from small grocery stores and restaurants, just look for the cooler (even though it might not actually be cool). You can try bringing a cold beverage into a restaurant. Most small restaurants won't mind--if they even notice--and there is no such thing as a "cork" charge in China. Remember that most people will be drinking tea, which is free anyway, so the restaurant is probably not expecting to profit on your beverage consumption.
Asking for ice is best avoided. Many, perhaps most, places just don't have it. The ice they do have may well be made from tap water, and so be unsafe for travelers.
The main difference on the Chinese dinner table is chopsticks instead of knife and fork, but that’s only superficial. Besides, in decent restaurants, you can always ask for a pair of knife and fork, if you find the chopsticks not helpful enough. The real difference is that in the West, you have your own plate of food, while in China the dishes are placed on the table and everyone shares. If you are being treated to a formal dinner and particularly if the host thinks you’re in the country for the first time, he will do the best to give you a taste of many different types of dishes.
The meal usually begins with a set of at least four cold dishes, to be followed by the main courses of hot meat and vegetable dishes. Soup then will be served (unless in Guangdong style restaurants) to be followed by staple food ranging from rice, noodles to dumplings. If you wish to have your rice to go with other dishes, you should say so in good time, for most of the Chinese choose to have the staple food at last or have none of them at all.
Perhaps one of the things that surprises a Western visitor most is that some of the Chinese hosts like to put food into the plates of their guests. In formal dinners, there are always “public” chopsticks and spoons for this purpose, but some hosts may use their own chopsticks. This is a sign of genuine friendship and politeness. It is always polite to eat the food. If you do not eat it, just leave the food in the plate.
People in China tend to over-order food, for they will find it embarrassing if all the food is consumed. When you have had enough, just say so. Or you will always overeat! (from china.org.cn)Etiquette
China is the birthplace of chopsticks and unsurprisingly, food is most commonly eaten with chopsticks in China. There are some points to be observed when eating with chopsticks. Firstly, do not stick your chopsticks vertically into your bowl of rice as it resembles joss sticks burning at the temple; has the connotations of wishing death for those around you. Instead, place them on the chopstick rest if provided, or across the edge of your bowl if there is no chopstick rest. Chopsticks should also not be used to make noise or played with in any way as it is considered rude, just as it is considered rude to play with your fork and knife in the West. Chopsticks are also not used to spear food or move bowls and plates. When eating your rice, bring the edge of the bowl to your mouth and use your chopsticks to push the rice in.
For watery dishes such as soup or porridge, a spoon will be provided. Unlike in Western culture, the dish should be scooped towards you using the spoon, as the Chinese believe that this will rake the wealth in.
Note that in many households and eateries, no serving spoons or communal chopsticks are provided, so diners would typically use their own chopsticks to transfer food to their own bowl. While many Westerners will find this unhygienic, it is usually quite safe and extremely rare for diseases to be spread this way. Nevertheless, if you feel uncomfortable, it is alright to request for communal utensils to transfer food to your own bowl.
Flowers are not used to decorate the dinner table as the Chinese believe that this will allow pollen to fly into the food, making it unhygienic. Talking at the dinner table is common as it is a place where many Chinese socialise. However, making slurping noises or anything similar, while common, is considered unrefined behaviour and should be avoided.
When addressing somebody, remember that in China, the surname comes before the given name, there are hundreds of surnames, the most common being zhang, Li, Wang, Zhao and Liu, so if a woman's name is Wu Runmei ,you should call her Ms.Wu. names are usually composed of two or three characters and ocasionally four. If a person has four character name, the first two are the surname and the second two are their given name. Women keep their own surname after marriage, so if somebody's husband's surname is Wang,it doesn't mean that she is Mrs.Wang. she is still Mrs. Whatever.
An increasing number of hotels offer fax facilities but are often only for incoming faxes. Rates are usually high. Internet cafes also have Fax capabilities.
ISPs include Eastnet China Ltd. There are Internet cafes located in main towns.
GSM 1800 and 900 networks offer coverage in Beijing, Guangzhou (Canton) and Shanghai; GSM 900 networks also service most other major urban centres in the southeastern and eastern regions including Chengdu and Chongqing. Networks are run by China Mobile and China Unicom.
Delivery to Europe takes anywhere from 2 days to1 week. Tourist hotels usually contain their own post offices. All postal items to China should be addressed ‘People’s Republic of China’.
The main English-language newspaper is the China Daily and China Travel. Also there is the weekly news magazine Beijing Review, with editions in English, Spanish, French, German and Japanese. National newspapers include The Worker’s Daily and The Guangming Daily, and many provinces have their own local dailies as well.
BBC World Service and Voice of America is received. Occasionally, the frequencies change and the current can be found online.
Country telephone code: 86
IDD is available. Antiquated service with public telephones located in hotels and shops displaying a telephone unit sign. It is usually easier to place international calls from China than it is to make calls internally.
|Traditions and Culture|
If you are planning to spend a longer time in China then you may want to consider learning some of the traditional arts, such as "tai chi" or calligraphy, a term that covers both writing hanzi and painting scrolls (that is, classical landscapes and so on). This is after all a unique chance to learn the basics, or refine already acquired skills, directly from master practitioners in the arts' home country. Many cities have places that accept beginners, and not knowing Chinese is usually not a problem as you can learn by example and imitation. Other possibilities include learning to play traditional Chinese instruments (inquire in shops that sell these, they usually have classes), cooking Chinese cuisine, or even singing Chinese Opera . Fees are usually extremely modest, and materials you need will also not exactly break the bank. The only requirement is being in the same place for a long enough time, and sufficient respect; it is better not to join these classes as a tourist attraction.
China also has a couple of traditional games often played in tea gardens, public parks and even on the street. Two famous strategy board games that originated in China are Go and Chinese chess. Mahjong, a game played with tiles, is very popular and often (well-nigh always) played for money, though the vast regional variations mean that you would have to learn the new rules everywhere you go. Among the most well known variants of this game are the Cantonese, Taiwanese and Japanese versions. Chinese checkers , despite its name, did not originate in China but can be found.
Chinese holidays and festivals are often inseparable – the most famous being the Chinese New Year, held annually, usually in early February. This is the holiday to end all Chinese National holidays, the festivities often lasting an entire week, revolving around the first day of the lunar calendar. If you are lucky enough to be able to visit the country at this time, it will certainly be a memorable experience – a large portion of the country take the entire week off of work, preferring to spend their time taking to the streets with costumes and fireworks, the two necessary ingredients to any successful party.
Chinese holiday festivals are held on a semi-regular basis throughout the entire year. Every page of the calendar seems to bring on another Chinese National Holiday – beginning in January with the traditional new year celebration. It's not celebrated with the same fervor as the Chinese New year, but it's still pretty good – foreshadowing to the main event in February.
The following month finds both International Women's Day, along with Guanyin's Birthday. While the latter is not one of the officially recognized Chinese holidays, it is still a great time to visit one of the country's many Buddhist temples. The holiday is in recognition of the Goddess of Mercy, and many temple halls are dedicated to her, coming especially alive on the celebration in her name. The birthdays of religious figures continues with Mazu's Birthday in the middle of spring, the actual day resting on the 23rd day of the third moon. This Taoist holiday is celebrated all throughout Southeast Asia, stretching well past China's southern borders.
The Chinese Holiday Festival held for the New Year is not the only holiday that lasts a week in China. There is also International Labor Day, whose celebration begins on the first day in May. National Day, falling much later, on October 1st has also developed into a week long holiday. While it is not nearly the party that falls on the Chinese New Year, and travel is still reasonably possible for these weeks, it is still a fascinating time to see the intricacies of the Chinese culture.
One of the few Chinese national holidays actually recognized by the government often commemorate the Communist party. The birth of the Chinese Communist Party is a holiday in name only – much like Columbus Day or some tertiary American holiday, it's really just an excuse for state run offices to shut down for a day. Taking place on the first day of July, you'll be hard pressed to realize it's one of the nine officially recognized Chinese holidays. There's certainly no fireworks on this day, nor on August 1st, the anniversary of the founding of the PLA.
The approach of fall brings out the Chinese Moon festival, and also the birthday of Confucius, observed throughout the country on September 28th. All across the country, the holiday is widely celebrated, though nowhere near as excitedly as in Qufu in Shandong, the sage's birthplace. The Confucius Temple is the best place to see this Chinese holiday festival take place, though you won't be the only one with this idea – expect crowds of all kinds to accompany you.
Around the Chinese New Year, many stores and other businesses will close for several days, a week, or even longer.
China has three major annual holidays:
These aren't one-day holidays. Workers get at least a week or two off for Chinese New Year; students get four-six weeks. Both groups get about a week for National Day and Labor Day.
Also, during early July millions of university students go home and in late August they return to school, jamming transportation options, especially between the east coast and the western provinces of Sichuan, Tibet, and Xinjiang.
Spring Festival is especially busy. Not only is it the longest holiday, it is also a traditional time to visit family, much as Christmas is in the West. More or less all the university students (20-odd million of them!) go home, and more or less all the migrant workers who have left their farms and villages for better pay in the cities go home. This is often the only chance they have. Everyone wants to go home, and China has a lot of "everyone"!
A complete list of Chinese festivals would be very long, since many areas or ethnic groups have their own local ones and even among the Han Chinese, the festivals celebrated vary from region to region. See listings for individual towns for details. Here is a list of some of the nationally important ones not mentioned above:
With an enormous population like the one you find in China, it is to be expected that the country has an extensive and well-run circuit of trains available to the masses. And this is true – China rail travel is usually a breeze, the trains run on time and the coverage network includes just about anywhere you want to go. Whether a short trip between neighboring towns or a long jaunt across the countryside, there are a few things you should keep in mind when attempting train travel in China.
The most important aspect of Chain rail travel, as in many countries, is what class of ticket you are purchasing. Since little to no English (or any other foreign language, for that matter) is spoken, it is wise to pay close attention to what you are buying. China train travel is notorious for having a large variation in cleanliness and comfort between the different classes, and for being impossible to use over festival or holiday periods.
Most visitors go and buy the ticket themselves, which can be a time-consuming event. Special China rail travel passes can also be purchased ahead of time, though your reservations are sometimes only for the train, and you will have to purchase another ticket to reserve an actual seat.
Train Travel in China has four different travel classes. Hard Seat is the most common and cheapest way to travel, though you will find few foreigners here. The greatest numbers of Chinese travellers use this class, and more tickets than seats are sold so only the very quick are assured a seat. But what it lacks in comfort it makes up for in discounted price – just be sure you are ready to make the trade.
Soft Seat is a better way to travel and most of the time you can reserve a seat. They are a far cry from the hard seats – comfortable and you won't have to fight the crowds to get your own. These are the best for city to city or fairly short distance train travel in China.
Hard Sleeper are for long journeys, and not for the novice traveler. The definition of the word “cramped” will never be the same for you after sharing the tiny quarters with five others – six bunks to a room, and they are often noisy and look as if whoever was hired to clean them committed suicide due to the impossibility of the task. But you get a threadbare blanket and pillow for your travels, so that's nice.
Taxis are plentiful in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing etc. In smaller cities, you need to arrange taxis through the hotel as taxi are on-call basis. Fares vary and meters are not always used, however all drivers will give receipts - insist on the receipt.
Taxis operate in large cities but are sometimes difficult to find. It is best to check if the taxi has a meter. If not, then one should agree on a fare before departing, particularly at railway stations where it is best to haggle before getting into the taxi. Visitors should write down their destination before beginning any journey. Taxis can be hired by the day.The majority of people travel by bicycle or public transport. In most cities bicycles or rickshaws are available for short rides.
International and Regional Rail and Road access is available at certain border points. The most convenient is the express train service between Hong Kong and Guangzhou. There are four round-trips a day, and the journey takes about two hours. There is also regular bus service between the two cities, via the new Super Highway. They take three and a half hours. Hong Kong's rail system has commuter service to the border at Lowu, where passengers walk across the bridge to Shenzhen. The train takes 40 minutes but the volume of traffic often mean a long wait at immigration on both sides.
|Map of China|