For China’s episode of the famous things across the globe series, we have asked our fellow travel blogger Claire Martin of “Claire’s Footsteps” What is China famous for? This is her wonderful response!
China is quite possibly the world’s most complicated country. It’s the world’s fourth-largest country with the world’s biggest population. It’s constantly in the news for both good and bad reasons. Many products come from China; it was home to some of the world’s greatest inventions and historically has developed much quicker than other nations.
As a tourist, you’ll experience both ancient temples and futuristic skyscrapers on your China itinerary, as well as pristine nature and booming megacities.
China is famous for so many things – here are just 15. Everybody will know about some of these, but there are plenty of interesting facts and backstories behind them.
15 Things China is Famous for
The Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is probably the most popular attraction in the country. It features on nearly all China attractions lists!
The Great Wall was originally a series of walls that were joined together in 220 BC, with the main idea to protect the country from nomadic invaders – specifically the Mongolians, the world’s most famous nomads in the North. It didn’t work, though. In 1644, the Manchu made it through the wall and overthrew the Ming.
The total length of the Great Wall of China is 21,196 kilometers, and although much of it is in disrepair, other parts have been restored and now enjoy life as one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
High Tech Architecture
As well as a very old wall, China has plenty of high-tech architecture for visitors to enjoy. The most popular is probably the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, which can be ascended for spectacular views over the whole of Shanghai.
The tower is the 4th highest in Asia and the 6th highest in the world and was built as both a broadcasting tower and a tourist attraction in China’s most populous city. It houses a shopping mall, a museum, and many restaurants, and of course, can be ascended to the observation deck.
Another famous piece of architecture is the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, located in South China. This tower twists around and is illuminated with rainbow lights at night, and it’s a must-visit when in Guangzhou city. It was built from 2005 to 2010 and sits at 462 meters tall. Again, it’s possible to admire the view from the top.
While many of China’s billion people are not religious (mainly due to the Cultural Revolution, where religion was banned), others still practice Chinese Buddhism and Taoism. Buddhism arrived in China around 2000 years ago from India and was adapted to suit the country’s culture. Taoism, on the other hand, comes from China itself and is around 2500 years old.
Many temples were torn down in the Cultural Revolution but have been restored or replicated to pay homage to the country’s heritage, provide places of worship, and for tourism. These temples are distinctly different from those in South East Asia, so visiting a few whiles in China is well worth it.
My favorite temples are in Beijing: I love the Temple of Heaven and the Lama Temple. However, there are beautiful pagodas in every Chinese city. Even in the small (by Chinese standards, it still has half a million residents!) city that my family is from, there’s an amazing Buddhist and Taoist temple built for the religious residents of the city.
After the Great Wall, the most popular attraction in China is probably the Terracotta Warriors. Built in 210-209 BCE, the terracotta warriors were built to guard Qin Shi Huang, the emperor at the time, in his afterlife.
The three pits of terracotta warriors were discovered by local farmers in 1974 and excavated throughout the next decade. Tourists can now go to see this famous natural wonder, which is located near Xi’an.
A Distinct Language
Mandarin Chinese is spoken throughout nearly all of China, although other languages and dialects are spoken throughout the country. However, it’s very difficult for travelers to the country to pick up!
China has four main tones and one neutral tone, meaning many words sound indistinguishable to the non-native ear – but can mean entirely different things in Mandarin. It’s nice to pick up the basics of languages when you’re in the country, but Chinese is definitely a challenging one!
That being said, people do learn it (generally Westerners who have spent a long time in China), and being able to speak the language will unlock an entirely different level of China’s culture for you.
Spicy Hot Pot
Chinese food is pretty legendary. Chow mein, sweet and sour, and egg fried rice are staple dishes of takeaways all over the Western world.
But…. these aren’t actually very Chinese dishes at all. Chinese food from China is lighter, with many vegetable and meat dishes, and the flavors are generally spicier and richer than Western adaptations.
One of the most famous Chinese dishes found all over China, but especially in the Sichuan province, is the hot pot. This is a huge pot of broth, with a selection of vegetables and meat, dipped into the pot. Sichuan food is spicy, and hot pot is no exception – if you’re not a fan of spice, be sure to make your waiter or waitress aware before ordering!
Also associated with the Sichuan province are pandas. They’re China’s favorite animal, but they’re endangered – although their status was recently changed to ‘vulnerable.’ Only 1,800 pandas are thought to live in the wild, generally in the mountainous regions of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces.
Most people only see pandas at the Conservation and Breeding Centre in Chengdu. This is a bit of a controversial place, as it can be seen more like a zoo than a conservation center, but they have helped with research and ‘re-wild’ some of the panda population.
What is China famous for? Dumplings are one of the first answers from foodies! Dumplings are famous all over the world, and China offers its own steamed variety called Jiaozi.
The dumplings are traditionally made with meat, but some places now offer vegetarian options. They are typically served with soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce.
The Li River
Probably famous for you if you’ve already been in China, but the Li River definitely is worth a mention. The beautiful landscape features on the 20 yuan banknote – the iconic Li River winds through karst cliffs and is a great place to enjoy Southern China’s nature.
When visiting the region, you can go on a boat on the Li River itself and spend some time in the chilled town of Yangshou, where there are also rock climbing opportunities. It’s also feasible on a day trip from Guilin.
China is famous for tea; legend had it that in 2732 BC, Emperor Shen Tung was served a cup of boiling water in which a leaf fell in. He decided that as it smelled nice, it would also taste nice, so tea was born.
Tea is still widely drunk all over China and has been for millenniums. Similarly to a lot of countries in South East Asia, China’s strong tea culture meant that tea was always their preferred method of sanitizing water. Before drinking water was readily available in Europe, people drank beer and wine instead!
This is why there is much less alcohol in China than in Western countries, although there are still various Chinese beers, rice wine, and the occasional grape-made wine (which are a new invention and not very good).
Another of China’s best tourist attractions is the Yangtze River. It’s the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world, and the longest in one country. It spans from the Tibetan Plateau and reaches its mouth in the East China Sea by Shanghai.
The river is home to various rare Chinese animals, including the Chinese River Alligator, porpoises, and the Chinese paddlefish. The most famous section of the Yangtze is the Three Gorges Scenic Area, home to the globe’s biggest hydroelectric power station.
Gunpowder, the world’s first explosive, has roots in China. Discovered in the Tang Dynasty in the 9th century but referenced as far back as the Eastern Han Dynasty in 142 AD, gunpowder was used by alchemists who thought that they could utilize substances to find a path to eternal life.
In 1044, chemical gunpowder was produced, and this was the first time it was used as a weapon. The Mongols then discovered gunpowder when invading China, and it spread along the Mongol Empire, eventually finding its way to Europe.
China is the largest silk producer in the world, and it was China’s silk that gave the ancient trade route ‘The Silk Road’ its name. The export of Chinese silk meant that trade developed between China, Central Asia, and Europe, leading to the exchange of ideas and schools of thought in this area of the world. Essentially, it is due to China’s silk that Central Asia is a Muslim area!
The Silk Road eventually collapsed for several reasons, partially due to marine trading routes but also the fact that Europeans learned to make silk themselves which was cheaper than importing Chinese silk. However, the silk industry continued, and to this day, China still produces 78% of the world’s silk.
A Large Population!
China is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion people at the time of writing (2019). While China is a large country, most of the population is based in the eastern part, with the vast provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet being vastly underpopulated.
The one-child policy was an effort to stop the population boom. Couples were only permitted to have one child. However, exceptions were implemented and applied to almost half of Chinese couples. The policy was abolished in 2015 as it negatively impacted China’s population ratios.
China still has a very large population – Shanghai has 24 million residents, and Beijing has 21 million. Many cities have populations higher than a lot of countries!
Modern China has become synonymous with products, with every household having something that was ‘Made in China.’ China also has developed a culture of fake goods – offering knockoffs of famous fake products for a fraction of the price. 85-95% of counterfeit goods in the world are expected to come from China!
The quality of these goods can sometimes be questionable, and it’s important not to get ripped off – but if you can’t afford the real deal, some very realistic fakes can be found in markets of Chinese cities.
So there you have it – 15 things that China is famous for. There are plenty more, and there will likely be many more as time goes by and this country continues to develop, but these have all put China on the map for centuries!
* Cover photo by rabbit75_dep via Depositphotos
Claire Martin is a British travel blogger and freelance writer. She blogs about eco-travel and overland adventures on her blog Claire’s Footsteps; she has driven around Australia and traveled from Bali to London without flying.
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