THE GREAT BUDDHA AT LESHAN
Photo: google images
The carved stone statue of the Great Buddha at Lashān is one of Sìchuān’s top tourist destinations. The thrill of Lashān is in your first sighting of the Great Buddha carved painstakingly into the cliff face above you more than 1200 years ago. Whether that’s from the top looking down, from a boat looking straight up, of from the path of nine switchbacks looking somewhere in between, the moment it dawns on you that the large, gracefully carved, stone wall that you’re looking at is actually the lobe of a colossal ear, and that the ear is only a small slice of a well-proportioned giant – that moment is thrilling.
Location: Sìchuān Province
Where China starts transforming into a lunar deserts cape in the far west, the handsome oasis town of Dūnhuáng is a natural staging post for dusty Silk Road explorers. Mountainous sand dunes swell outside town while Great Wall fragments lie scoured by abrasive desert winds, but it is the magnificent caves at Mògāo that truly dazzle. Mògāo is one of the greatest repositories of Buddhist art in the world and the cream of China’s crop of Buddhist caves – its statues are ineffably sublime and among the nation’s most priceless cultural treasures.
Location: Gānsù Province
THE YANGZI RIVER
Snow melting from the world’s ‘third pole’ – the high-altitude Tibet-Qinghai plateau – is the source of China’s mighty, life-giving Yangzi. The country’s longest and most scenically impressive river, the Yangzi surges west-east across the nation. It reaches a crescendo with the Three Gorges, carved out over millennia by the inexorable persistence of the powerful waters. The gorges are a magnificent spectacle and a Yangzi River cruise is a rare chance to put your travel schedule on ice, hang up your travelling hat, take a seat and admire an astonishing panorama sliding past.
Location: Chóngqìng Province
Capital of the Shănxī province, where it all started for China, Xī’ān was the beginning and end of the Silk Road and a buzzing, cosmopolitan capital long before anyone had heard of Bĕijīng. Today, the archaeological sites scattered around Xī’ān makes it an essential destination for visitors to China. Around Xī’ān there’s an excavated Neolithic village and numerous royal graves; chief among them the tomb of Qin Shi Huang and the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, one of the most extraordinary archaeological discoveries ever made. Xī’ān is also an emergent traveler’s hub, with good nightlife, museums, ancient pagodas and a fascinating Muslim Quarter.
Location: Shanxi Province
DRAGON’S RICE TERRACES
You’ll be dazzled by one of China’s most archetypal and photographed landscapes: the splendidly named Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. The region is a patchwork of minority villages, with layers of waterlogged terraces climbing the hillsides. The rice fields rise up to 1000m high and are an amazing feat of farm engineering on hills. You’ll be enticed into a game of village-hopping. The invigorating walk between Píng’ān and Dàzhài villages offers the most spine-tingling views. Visit after the summer rains when the fields are glistening with reflections.
Location: Guăngxī Province