UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China and How to Visit Them

Despite the Great Wall taking the limelight as one of China’s best known UNESCO World Heritage sites, it is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are currently 50 sites in the Middle Kingdom with World Heritage status and the lesser-known ones make the perfect destination for cultural heritage seekers wanting to take the road less travelled. Here are a few of our favorites and how to visit them in WildChina style.

China’s storied history and culture have left marvelous landmarks throughout the country. Many of them have now been deemed by UNESCO as essential to the preservation of our global cultural heritage. Here’s a look at three of our favorites that are well worth ticking off the list:

The Home: Fujian Tulou
Yuchang lou interior

Yu Chang Fu Lou
Photo by Gisling via WikimediaCommons

The Fujian Tulou are better described as “a little kingdom for the family.” Designed for safety and insulation, these architecturally unique homesteads are built on a square or circular foundation. Each home faces inward with one entrance and outwards facing windows are found only from the 1st floor upwards. The Yu Chang Fu Lou is the oldest known still standing of its kind. Built in 1386 it still houses the modern generations of the Liu clan.

tulou2
Photo by Gisling via WikimediaCommons

Tulou settlements can look simple from the outside but step into one of the many family homes and you’ll enter a guilded world full of ornament and decoration. The centuries-old communal living style has cultivated a close knit and collaborative community environment. A shared entrance to your home and communal living space is here proven to benefit a harmonious society, both in relationships with neighbors and nature.

A few hours drive from the coastal city of Xiamen you will find yourself in Yongding where Chengqi House stands. One of the largest existing Tulous, Chengqi is home to more than 600 people.

When you visit Fujian with WildChina, you can fully immerse yourself in the Hakka lifestyle and will actually stay in a tulou building. You’ll get to cook authentic, local meals and bike around the countryside with your new Hakka friends. Uncover the walled-in world of the Hakka people alongside the charm of Xiamen on the WildChina tour Fujian: Hakka Homes.

More details from UNESCO here

The City – Ancient City of PingYao

Photo by timquijano via Flickr

This ancient imperial city is the only complete and functioning city in China included on UNESCO’s list. Standing the test of time, the 14th century architectural complex, walled in by a turtle shaped city wall, is also one of the most accessible UNESCO World Heritage Sites to weave into your China trip.

The city has preserved the living conditions of the 14th century Han people and also holds a significant place in history as the financial capital of China for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Visiting the Qiao, Wang or Chang family compounds will allow you to experience the living environment of prominent, wealthy and scholarly families from times gone by.

Three wheeler in Pingyao

Photo by Luo Shaoyang via WikimediaCommons

The WildChina journey [NEW PINGYAO TRIP] will guide you through the narrow streets of the old town as well as display an alternative side to Pingyao. We’ll sweep you away from the touristy bits and help you gain unbridled access to the town’s ancient courtyard residencies. We’ll even take you to explore Shuanglin Temple, a sixth century Buddhist temple filled with 700 years of sculpture, and find the perfect little restaurant where you can enjoy local Shanxi cuisine for dinner.

Arriving in the Ancient City of Pingyao is easy with three high-speed trains a day to and from Beijing; from Shanghai it’s even easier with trains and busses aplenty, starting from a 30 minute journey time. This makes it the perfect addition to complement your main tour route.

MORE DETAILS FROM UNESCO HERE
The Landscape: The South China Karst
Karst Mountains Yunnan

Photo by CEPhoto via WikemediaCommons

Spanning Chongqing, Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan and in total covering a whopping 176,228 hectares; these severe limestone formations make up one of the largest and most impressive natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China.

With spectacular variation across climates and landscapes, each location will introduce you to a completely different experience. Take the harsh and dominating ‘Pinnicle Karst’ of the Shilin Stone Forest in Yunnan – pictured above and compare it to the soft curves and greenery of the Fenglin (tower) and Fengkong (cone) Karst formations along the Lijiang River in Guanxi.

LiJiang River Karst

Photo by Bernt Rostad via Flickr

The Guilin portion of the Karst phenomena is familiar to all of China and its guests, whether visited or not, as a particularly scenic area. It’s even printed onto the 20 RMB note. There’s (debatably) no grander gesture of pride a nation can give than stamping your image on their money.

On our WildChina tour of Guilin, you’ll step into the antique paintings of the same panoramas and journey into the land reified in scroll paintings. In signature WildChina fashion, you’ll also have the exclusive opportunity to have a private local cooking class in the culturally rich ethnic minority villages nearby.

More details from UNESCO here

Whether you’re interested in historic homes, ancient city centers, or majestic karst peaks, UNESCO has delineated these significant sites of world heritage for the world to both enjoy and preserve. Let’s plan you trip to Fujian, Pingyao, or Guilin to get a taste of China’s rich legacy.

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