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July 26th, 2011

Discover Danba – Tibetan gem in western Sichuan

By: WildChina | Categories: Educational Travel in China, On the Road, Sustainable Travel, WildChina Travel Tips

Traveling is easy these days. Planes, trains and ferries criss-cross the globe, Google maps and GPS can pinpoint your location in minute detail, and thousands of guidebooks, websites and blogs provide real-time information on almost every place imaginable. While this is certainly more convenient, it’s hard to imagine that same sense of exhilaration felt by great explorers doing something for the first time: Columbus setting foot on America; Hillary summitting Everest, for example. Earlier this month, however, I discovered that real off-the-beaten-path adventuresare still possible, if you know how to find them…

 

Tibetan home in Zhonglu Village

 

After a painfully early start and an hour’s delay in Beijing, I arrived at Chengdu airport around noon, where I was met by Frederique Darragon. Born in Paris, Frederique inherited a small fortune from her father, an inventor who died when she was 4 years old. Instead of buying things, Frederique chose to spend her money on exploring the world. Despite my tiredness, the 9-hour bucking-bronco journey from Chengdu to Danba, a quaint little Tibetan town in western Sichuan, passed quickly as Frederique wowed me with stories of her travels – hitchhiking across the United States on a shoestring budget, working on a kibbutz in Israel, sailing the Atlantic in the first race from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, living amongst the golden eagle hunters in Mongolia, and being rescued by Tibetan shepherds after suffering a stroke while searching for snow leopards on the Tibetan Plateau. She has been a model in Paris, a record-breaking polo player and 8-time thoroughbred racing champion in Argentina, a lauded samba dancer in Rio…
Twelve years ago near Danba, Frederique came across a tall tower made of cut stone, bricks and timber. Thinking nothing of it at the time, she came across a similar one a year later in Tibet, 800 kilometres from the first. The locals she asked had no idea who built them, how old they were, or what they were used for, and further inquiry revealed that despite their abundance in this area (known as the Tribal Corridor), almost no scientific research has been done on them. They are one of China’s enduring architectural mysteries. Frederique was intrigued, and intent on uncovering their story.

 

Tower of Danba Valley

 

Over the next decade, Frederique sifted through journals, articles and ancient texts looking for references to the towers. She wandered the area interviewing local people, gathering data from 250 standing towers and over 750 ruins, taking photographs and collecting wood samples for carbon dating, in search of clues. Using the money that her then boyfriend, media mogul Ted Turner, had given her to buy dresses, she set up the Unicorn Foundation – dedicated to preserving the towers and improving the livelihoods of the people in the area. She also published a book, filmed a documentary that aired on the Discovery Channel and put together a photo exhibition to raise awareness of the towers both in China and the West.

The next morning, inspired by Frederique’s go-getter travel philosophy, I decided to make my own way to Zhonglu, a small village 20 minutes northeast of Danba. The landscape was breathtaking. Dozens of square towers and fortress-like Tibetan houses are visible from the hilltop viewing platform, scattered across both sides of the Danba Valley. Villagers in traditional garb were bent over in fields of crops or drove animals along the narrow pathways through the village, and yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the experience was not completely authentic. From my perch I could also make out a shiny cavalcade of SUVs parked outside the only guesthouse in Zhonglu, and an old lady in a toll booth had charged me 20 RMB to enter the village.

When I mentioned this to Frederique later, she explained that the landscape’s steep contours means that land for cultivation and building property is extremely limited.

Old buildings, including the ancient towers, are typically knocked down to make space for new ones, and the stones are reused as building materials. Her take on the toll fee is positive: if the locals recognize the value of the towers as tourist attractions, they will be more inclined to protect them. They will also be less reliant on harvesting Chinese herbal medicines and logging timber as ways to supplement their limited income, which reduces the pressure on the local environment. The next step is to convince them to think about long term sustainability and ecotourism, instead of trying to make quick money though mass market tourism. That’s where WildChina hopes to help.

 

Water-powered cornmill

 

That afternoon, we drove a little further down the road to another village called Pujiaoding. The road wound up the side of the valley, narrowed then came to dead end. We hopped out of the car and continued on foot along a narrow dirt track, which opened up to a small primary school. This was the kind of authentic, unpolished, and personal experience that would appeal to WildChina’s clients. Schoolchildren were playing basketball on the concrete playground as the school principal showed us the areas in need of repair. Seeing the multitude of little problems that could be solved with a small donation and a bit of elbow grease reminded me how much we take for granted in more developed parts of the country. Frederique’s local friend Abu then invited us into his home where we brainstormed potential projects for WildChina’s education and community service tripsover steaming cups of Tibetan butter tea, homemade cheese and tsampa, a traditional staple food made from roasted barley flour mixed with water.

This pattern of events happened for the rest of the trip. We would stop in relatively touristy spots, particularly at night, but just around the corner there were hidden gems to be discovered: a tiny village that still uses the power of falling water to grind corn into flour; little old ladies that have never seen tourists, let alone foreign ones; unspoilt fields of rainbow coloured wildflowers beyond the pastures. The five days I spent with Frederique highlighted how I will approach all my travels in future, with an open mind, engaging with local people and proactively searching for experiences and adventure.

 

School in Pujiaoding

 

———-
Author of this post Samantha Woods is a manager at WildChina.  To learn more about Danba and journeys to this area, please contact us at info@wildchina.com.


Tags: Danba Valley Frédérique Darragon Pujiaoding sustainable travel Tibetan Sichuan wild China WildChina WildChina travel .







July 25th, 2011

WildChina does not recommend the Beijing to Shanghai rail

By: WildChina | Categories: WildChina Announcements

For transfers between Beijing and Shanghai, WildChina highly suggests that travelers do not take the high-speed railway due to reports of massive delays and the need for improved service standards.

Please note that no WildChina travelers have taken the rail, and we will continue to monitor this transportation project as it develops. Stay tuned to the WildChina blog for continued updates.

 

———

As always, if you have any questions concerning travel between Beijing, Shanghai and any other region of China, please contact us at info@wildchina.com


Tags: Beijing high-speed rail shanghai wild China WildChina WildChina travel .







July 21st, 2011

Tibet Expressway Opens

By: WildChina | Categories: In the News

Travel to Tibet just got more convenient: the government has just finished a 38km highway linking Gonggar airport and Lhasa. At the ribbon-cutting on the 17th, government officials including Xi Jinping officially opened the 4 lane expressway that will allow visitors to Lhasa to cut about 30 minutes of travel time. When Tibet is reopened to visitors next month, WildChina hopes that this will make getting off the beaten path with us just a little easier!

 

Traditional travel in Tibet will not disappear, but the expressway is a modernizing step for Tibet.

 

Sources: Xinhua and the China Daily


Tags: Gongar airport Lhasa new highway Tibet wild China WildChina WildChina travel .







July 20th, 2011

Ecotourism: Greening Your Next Vacation

By: Guest | Categories: In the News, Sustainable Travel

The following is an excerpt taken from the Spring 2011 issue of WEALTH Magazine.

———

Before solidifying your next vacation plans, consider the latest trend in eco-awareness — ecotourism.  We’ve spotlighted three green luxury travel destinations.

Every day, more people introduce another element of eco-awareness into their daily lives — recycling instead of discarding, opting for reusable grocery bags in lieu of paper or plastic ones, and choosing eco-friendly vehicles over gas guzzlers.  As you plan your next getaway, consider the latest trend for reducing your footprint on the planet — ecotourism.

According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), “Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” Put simply, it’s an opportunity to experience areas around the world in their natural form without putting an environmental strain on them.

Converting your vacation into an eco-friendly travel experience will likely inspire more sustainable efforts in your everyday life.  ”Not only do you have a feeling of satisfaction that you haven’t contributed to global warming, but you feel inspired and motivated to bring something back with you besides memories, pictures and videos,” says John Clifford, president of luxury travel consultancy InternationalTravelManagement.com based in San Diego.  ”That’s the magic of travel — it’s very rewarding to people.”

What’s more, with eco-friendly travel, parents can expose their children to far more than they could through typical ski trips, beach excursions or European tours.  It’s a great opportunity to discover and adopt new habits that promote a more eco-friendly lifestyle at home.

“These practices, many of which are fairly simple, can inspire visitors to take them home and apply them to their own lives,” Clifford says.  ”Whether it’s inspiring a family to grow their own vegetables in their yard, sponsor a nearby beach cleanup or park reforestation, or something similar — as long as the family comes back home with the impetus to ‘do something’ — the ecotourism and sustainable travel has made an impact on the family.”

While it’s possible to turn a trip to any destination into an eco-friendly vacation, several locations across the globe have made it a priority to promote ecotourism.  Consider any of these three spots that offer a one-of-a-kind luxurious experience, all while safeguarding the environment.

China’s Yunnan Province

 


Most travelers immediately consider the bustling cities of Beijing or Hong Kong for their China vacation destinations of choice. But for those seeking an eco-focused experience, the Yunnan Province in Southwestern China is a lesser-known alternative.

Ecotourism has taken off in this region of China. Travelers can experience the region’s many natural wonders, says Mei Zhang, founder of WildChina, a sustainable travel company based in Beijing. One such wonder is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site of the Three Parallel Rivers (Yangtze, Mekong and Salween rivers). In addition, over the last 10 years, Zhang says, there has been a surge in tourism facility construction projects – most pledging to have minimal impact on the environment.

ACCOMMODATIONS: For sustainable lodging, Zhang recommends the Linden Centre near Dali City. The estate – built by a local warlord in the years before the Communist Revolution – has been renovated with modern amenities yet maintains much of the original architecture of a traditional courtyard mansion. The hotel is meant to be a model of “architectural renovation, cultural conservation and a primary partner in the sustainable development of the local economy.”

 

Yard at night

While it provides certain contemporary services, such as Wi-Fi, the hotel purposefully doesn’t include televisions in the rooms. Instead, guests are encouraged to interact with one another, hotel staff and villagers in such activities as accompanying one of the hotel chefs on a vegetable market visit.

For those who wish to gain the full experience of a Tibetan monastery, Zhang recommends the Songstam Hotel in Shangri-La. A true treasure of the community, the hotel was built by local craftsmen from local wood and stone, Zhang says. It features Tibetan rugs and antiques, and an almost completely Tibetan staff. The hotel also offers energy-efficient, wood-burning stoves in every room.

ACTIVITIES: Pudacuo National Park in Shangri-La provides the perfect opportunity to hike through a biologically sensitive area with a rich plant kingdom and many endangered species of animals, offering firsthand learning opportunities for younger children.

Shangri-La also is home to Songzanlin Monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan. Monks live a frugal, rural lifestyle, eating meals together and choosing to walk or ride bikes rather than burn automobile gasoline. “You can visit the praying halls or join villagers for their local celebrations,” says Zhang, who says visitors’ behaviors naturally change when they’re in this eco-friendly area. “Visitors here walk into everyday life. When you get to these sacred places and everything’s so natural and beautiful, and you see the monks practicing, people are so inspired by their surroundings that they keep quiet and stay out of the way to respect the cultural heritage.”

Yunnan ,Zhongdian, Songzanlin Monestary, monk, The Beijing Center (Fan Na, Jan 2009)

 

 

———

To read about other green luxury travel destinations Costa Rica and Peru’s Cusco and Machu Picchu in the full article, please click here.

To learn more about WildChina’s journeys to Yunnan, check out South of the Clouds & The Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road: An Expedition with Jeff Fuchs. The latter journey is a immersive, small group journey which departs September 12, 2011. For inquiries, please e-mail us at info@wildchina.com.

 



Tags: ecotourism family travel Linden Centre Shangri-la sustainable travel three parallel rivers UNESCO WEALTH Magazine wild China WildChina WildChina travel Yunnan .







July 19th, 2011

Boutique Hotels in Beijing

By: WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, WildChina Travel Tips

Beijing boasts a variety of boutique hotels, but many of these are tucked away in hutongs (Beijing’s ancient neighborhoods) and remain secret oases from the frenzy of Beijing’s busiest streets where most of the larger hotel chains are situated.

So for those looking for something a bit more unique than a 5-star standard, here are a few boutique hotels that have piqued WildChina’s attention:

 

1. Want to experience a Beijing hutong on a limited budget? Shadow Art

Shadow Art Hotel proudly embraces the traditional shadow art culture by providing free shadow puppet shows every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights on their traditional shadow art performance stage (made by craftsmen who restore the Forbidden City and Summer Palace). The English-speaking staff, lovely interior decorations, and modern facilities add comfort to the culture. Shadow Art is also located within a five-minute walk from the beautiful Houhai Lake.

 

 

2. Looking for a more relaxed living style in Beijing accompanied by a traditional hutong experience? The Orchid Beijing

 

Though less culturally traditional than Shadow Art, at The Orchid Beijing the friendly, English-speaking staff, great service, and incredibly comfortable beds more than make up for the Beijing tradition the hotel may lack. The hotel is well designed, with a unique and inviting flair.

 

The Orchid Hotel

3.  Not on a tight budget and interested in feeling the traditional Zen culture in a hutong? Graceland-yard

 

Modeled after ZhenJue Temple, a Beijing temple with over 500 years of history, the Graceland-yard hotel presents an exquisite courtyard themed after the temple’s zen characteristics. Stroll the courtyard of the Graceland-yard on the way to your romantic room, where warm touches add to the personalized service the hotel offers.

 

The Graceland-yard Hotel

 

4. Need a romantic, environmentally-friendly hideaway in a hutong? Courtyard 7

 

Courtyard 7 has historically been home to imperial families, social celebrities, and high-ranking officials. Reopened in 2008 after intensive restoration and renovation, Courtyard 7 is the first courtyard hotel in Beijing to adopt a geothermal heating pump system, which allows for guests to appreciate the traditional culture while maintaining a comfortable and environmentally conscious atmosphere.

 

The Courtyard 7

 

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To learn more about these properties or to plan a journey to Beijing, please contact us at info@wildchina.com

Photos by The Orchid Hotel, Tripadvisor


Tags: Beijing boutique hotels hotels hutong traditional wild China WildChina WildChina travel zen .







July 15th, 2011

WildChina realigns leadership team to better serve guests

By: WildChina | Categories: WildChina Announcements

We would like to announce that WildChina is realigning its leadership team to better serve guests. All will be effective July 15, 2011.

To begin, founder Zhang Mei will be “coming home”, making a permanent move to Beijing, China after four years in Washington D.C.  She returns to Beijing to focus on building an outbound business servicing Chinese travelers to explore the world.  She will continue her active role in leading WildChina strategies.

Mr. Albert Ng will be stepping down as CEO and making a permanent move to Hong Kong; he will remain connected to WildChina as a non-executive adviser and shareholder.  Mr. Zhao Bei, who joined WildChina in 2004 and who was designated as the General Manager last December, will take over the reigns and manage the day-to-day operations of the company.

Founding member of WildChina Mrs. Barbara Henderson will move Vancouver, Canada, and establish a WildChina Vancouver Office. Having seen WildChina for 11 years, she will bring her vast experience in travel planning to lead our North American offices in business development and customer service.

Our office in Bethesda, Maryland, will relocate to the center of Washington D.C.  This office will continue its primary function in sales and marketing, and servicing the travel agents in America. The new office address is: 1920 N. Street, N.W. Suite 200, Washington D.C. 20036.

Finally, WildChina has consolidated leisure journeys across all geographical regions into one team.  We believe that doing so will allow us to take premium leisure travel to the next level.  Mrs. Veronique d’Antras will take the lead on this initiative after her years of directing our Europe team.

 

From Left: Albert Ng, Zhang Mei, Sunshine Shang, Zhao Bei, Barbara Henderson, David Fundingsland, Veronique d'Antras, Bao Xun

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

For our old friends and clients, your existing contacts at WildChina will continue to serve you.

If you have any questions, comments, or would like to submit client enquiries, please contact the respective members of the WildChina team:

 

In summary, we believe that realigning these roles allows us to streamline our operation, provide wider geographical coverage, and raise standards of excellence.  As always, we remain committed to crafting distinctive journeys that help travelers Experience China Differently.

If you have any further questions or comments, please contact us any time via info@wildchina.com.


Tags: Albert Ng wild China WildChina WildChina leadership WildChina travel Zhang Mei Zhao Bei .







July 14th, 2011

NEW HOTEL: Waldorf Astoria in Shanghai

By: WildChina | Categories: WildChina Travel Tips

On April 18 of this past spring the Waldorf Astoria in Shanghai opened its doors to receive its first clients.

The elegant neoclassical architecture, bright white stone and stately columns of Shanghai’s new Waldorf Astoria, provide a traditional departure from some of the city’s trendier hotels. Step into the foyer and feel transported back to Shanghai’s spectacular, glamorous past. The lobby’s soaring white columns and cozy yet elegant chairs embody the feel of the Waldorf; the hotel is a perfect combination of comfort and tradition.

 

The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai: An elegant blend of tradition & modern sophistication

 

The river-view heritage suites overlook the Huangpu river, while rooms on the tenth floor and higher have clear views of the River, Pudong’s skyline as well as peripheral views of scenery along the bund. Rooms are large and luxurious, and equipped with internet, large flat screened TVs with international cable, as well as an espresso machine. The hotel has many dining options, including Pelham’s, a NY style restaurant with an extensive wine list, the Long Bar, a traditional old-fashioned bar with a cozy atmosphere, decorated with deep wood and dark leather, and offers a variety of drinks for you to sip while you listen to live jazz and R&B, and the Grand Brasserie, a chic Sino-French restaurant where a gourmet, semi-buffet breakfast is served. In addition, the Salon offers a traditional afternoon teatime in an intimate setting with views of the Bund and Pudong.

 

Long Bar

 

State-of-the-art facilities include a fully-outfitted gym and heated indoor pool, the luxury Waldorf Spa, a hair salon, business center, library, and even a Waldorf Astoria florist for any last minute needs.

The hotel’s location makes it an ideal accommodation for everyone, no matter your reason for visiting Shanghai: only 14.5 km from the Shanghai Hongqiao Airport,  5 km from the railway station, 2 km from Downtown People’s Square, and 0 km from The Bund. Nanjing Road is a short walk away, and museums and the famous Yu Garden are only a few blocks from The Bund.

The Waldorf Astoria promises timeless luxury service and comfort in this unforgettable, stately Shanghai landmark.

———-

WildChina is happy to arrange rooms for you at this luxurious property during the Shanghai portions of your journey.  Please consult your WildChina travel consultant for bookings or email us at info@wildchina.com.

Photos by Waldorf Astoria Shanghai

 


Tags: luxury accommodations shanghai Waldorf Astoria wild China WildChina WildChina travel .







July 13th, 2011

A Weekend in Shanghai

By: WildChina | Categories: On the Road, WildChina Travel Tips

A few posts ago, we announced the opening of the commercial high-speed rail that connects passengers between Beijing and Shanghai in less than 5 hours: a remarkable feat. Before the high-speed rail opened on July 1, 2011, the fastest journey via train took 9 hours and 49 minutes. Now, due to trains which travel at an average speed close to 200 mph, the time it takes to travel to Shanghai has been cut in half.

 

 

This past weekend I had the pleasure of exploring Shanghai for the first time. Of course, I packed a long to-do list from WildChina’s China Classics Shanghai itineraries, but I had to try to condense everything I wanted to do into a single weekend adventure. I took the high-speed rail from Beijing to Shanghai on a Friday morning, then hopped on the train and rode it back to Beijing on Sunday afternoon. I knew I wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle of flying, which made the rail an attractive alternative.

 

 

My experience was fantastic. The seats are comfortable and there’s much more legroom than a plane offers. The attendants were helpful, and everything was very clean. All in all, this train makes travel to Shanghai a piece of cake.

 

At the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station after disembarking the high-speed train

 

If you’re looking to take a weekend journey to Shanghai, but not sure what to do once you arrive, here are some suggestions.

1) Yu Garden

Visit this site in the morning to avoid crowds. After a little searching for its entrance in the bustling bazaar outside the garden walls, you will find paradise on Earth in this classical Chinese garden. Commissioned in 1559 by Pan Yunduan of the Ming Dynasty (1368AD-1644AD), the gardens were meant to be a gift to his father for him to spend his old age in peace. Yu Gardens showcase the Southern Chinese garden style: carp-filled ponds, dragon statues, lucky stone mosaics, and bridges are tucked away in the luscious greenery of this famous garden.

Afterwards, stop and grab some snacks and milk tea from the vendors in the bazaar and visit the local artisans hard at work in their stalls.

2) Xintiandi

The site of the first Communist Party meeting, Xintiandi’s historical significance blends gracefully with its modern development into upscale shopping and dining. This modernized area is composed of renovated shikumen, or “stone gate” houses located in narrow alleys. The numerous cafés and the wide range of dining options make Xintiandi an ideal spot for lunch, dinner, or drinks. Most restaurants have outdoor and indoor seating which makes people-watching easy while you relax. Stop by the Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party to learn more about the first Communist Party meeting.

 

3) Pudong: Jin Mao Tower or the World Financial Center

Head across the Huangpu River to Pudong, China’s emerging financial center. Though most tourists head to the Oriental Pearl Tower for a view of The Bund and Shanghai, Jin Mao Tower and the World Financial Center offer incredible observation decks and a dramatically thinner crowd. Jaws drop as soon as the elevator doors opened on the observation deck on the 88th floor of Jin Mao Tower (also home of the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, one of the highest hotels in the world which occupies the tower from the 53rd-87th floor).

 

Jin Mao Tower

 

4) Fuxing Park

Hidden among the charming, tree-lined streets in the French Concession district, Fuxing Park exudes a lively aura thanks to the locals who sing, play board games, dance, practice tai-chi, and relax in the park. Immediately upon entering the park, Fuxing’s I passed an older Mao-suited gentleman carrying his lucky cricket in its cage as he ambled on his way through the fragrant rose garden.

5) Urban Planning Exhibition Center

The six-story Shanghai Urban Planning exhibition Centre includes archived photos, information on proposed forms of future transportations, and a computer-generated flyover of the city projected onto a 360-degree movie screen. The most incredible part of the museum, though, is the centerpiece of the entire exhibition center: an expansive scale model of what urban Shanghai is predicted to resemble in 2020.

6) Nanjing Road

If you’re looking for shopping, Nanjing Road, one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, has it all. Renovated in 2000 by the Chinese government in an effort to pedestrianize the street, Nanjing is very easy and accessible to navigate.

7) Din Tai Fung Restaurant

Though this chain is actually of Taiwanese origin, Din Tai Fung in Shanghai promises incredible xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings, a local favorite. Din Tai Fung’s excellent service, fantastic prices, and, of course, delicious cuisine have all contributed to its immense popularity. There are numerous locations throughout the city.

8) Walk Along The Bund at night (before 11pm!)

The Bund, with its European-style Neoclassical and Art Deco buildings, portray the beginning of Shanghai’s financial prowess that began during the British concession in 1842. Commercial houses and banks line the Western edge of the Huangpu River, giving Shanghai the nickname “Paris of the East.” After the sun sets, the lights from the buildings drench the walkway on the bank of the river in a warm glow.

The lights from Pudong across the Huangpu River are dazzling and bright, and represent Shanghai’s constant development and urban renewal. Arrive before 11 pm to make sure you catch a glimpse of the city lights before they’re shut off for the night.

 

Pudong at night from across the Huangpu River

 

To prepare for the ride back to Beijing, Purchase some food from the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station before you head back; you can pay for a meal or snacks on the train, but the cuisine isn’t always very appetizing and prices are high. Relax! After a busy weekend, you can lean back your chair and sleep comfortably in the well-cushioned chairs.

———

To see more activities in Shanghai, check out the itinerary for our four-day journey to the city, here.


Tags: bullet train Classic China trip high-speed rail Oriental Decadence: An Affair with Shanghai's Past shanghai weekend wild China WildChina WildChina travel .







July 12th, 2011

The National Museum, a New Attraction

By: WildChina | Categories: WildChina Travel Tips

Tiananmen Square has been a symbol of Chinese national power since the 15th Century. Generally a tourist will approach from the South, passing Mao’s tomb and the People’s Heroes monument, briefly noticing the imposing buildings to either side of them as they approach and enter the Forbidden City.  One of these is the Chinese legislative building, and the other is the National Museum of China, which has recently been reopened to the public. It is well worth a visit, especially you are in Beijing during the summer season, where a hot day can demoralize a visit to the unforgiving Forbidden City.

The front of the National Museum

The museum, as much as the square itself, is a towering monument to Chinese national power. As a guest approaches it looms over them, and on joining waiting groups, enters the large security apparatus. Perhaps these are due to recent thefts from the Palace Museum or simply the recent opening of the museum but regardless they move quickly (TIP: You need some sort of ID to enter the museum, but almost anything will work.)

The inner lobby of the museum is as imposing as the outer colonnade. Barren except for a few snack stalls and signs pointing to the various exhibits, it is hard to determine what exactly the function of the museum is.

A few under-trafficked and unfinished looking sections are probably the most worth seeing. Exhibits by a few 20th Century painters stand out. Particularly, Pan Tianshou’s work looks like an impressionist rendering of traditional Chinese themes, and Li Keran’s work uses western mediums to render Chinese scenes and Chinese mediums to render western scenes. Both interesting takes on the pervasive idea of maintaining Chinese culture in the face of foreign cultural inundation, those with an interest in Chinese art will very much appreciate these.

The history portion of the museum looks sparsely covered with display objects, reminding the reader that a lot of Chinese history has been lost. However sheer area means that many interesting artifacts are already contained within.  A jade burial suit, large Buddhas, and a huge portrait of the Qianlong emperor make up some of the highlights.

Close to the history section, a grab bag of visiting exhibits requires a special ticket for entry.  Not particularly enriching, a few are tantamount to advertising campaigns (e.g. the current  “Around the World with Louis Vuitton” exhibit.)

A small portion of the lobby, viewed from the second floor

 

In the northern wing, an area that used to contain the separate “Museum of the Revolution” before it merged with the National Museum, is more a tour of the Chinese psyche than a coherent display of historical material. However for this reason alone it is interesting, and certainly an informative experience to follow behind a tour group of policemen being instructed on government endorsed history from now until the present.

The museum, especially for tourists, has a lot of growing up to do. Exhibits are often spotty in providing English translations, and many areas are unfinished or still under construction.  However over the next few years as collections fill out and people realize it is now open, it will get traffic. A trip to this landmark in the future would not be amiss.


Tags: Beijing China travel Forbidden City National Museum wild China WildChina WildChina travel .







July 11th, 2011

UNESCO and World Bank Expand Partnership

By: WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, Environment, In the News, Sustainable Travel, WildChina's Newest Journeys

Out of 936 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a whopping 41 are located in China (the third-highest number of UNESCO properties out of all other nations, behind only Spain and Italy).

For this reason, the conservation of these properties is of extreme importance. Thankfully, the newly signed set of concrete joint initiatives from the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the World Bank and UNESCO celebrates China’s inscribed properties.  According to the World Bank, “the overall objective of the MoU is to provide a framework for technical cooperation between UNESCO and the World Bank in the following areas: Historic Cities Preservation and Rehabilitation, The Promotion of Cultural Diversity, The Conservation of Natural Heritage Sites, and The Economics of Culture.”

 

Mogao Caves

China’s 41 Heritage Sites are listed below.

  1. Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains
  2. Ancient City of Pingyao
  3. Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui – Xidi and Hongcun
  4. Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom
  5. China Danxia
  6. Classical Gardens of Suzhou
  7. Dazu Rock Carvings
  8. Fujian Tulou
  9. Historic Centre of Macao
  10. Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa
  11. Historic Monuments of Dengfeng in “The Centre of Heaven and Earth”
  12. Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area
  13. Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang
  14. Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
  15. Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area
  16. Kaiping Diaolou and Villages
  17. Longmen Grottoes
  18. Lushan National Park
  19. Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
  20. Mogao Caves
  21. Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area
  22. Mount Huangshan
  23. Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System
  24. Mount Sanqingshan National Park
  25. Mount Taishan
  26. Mount Wutai
  27. Mount Wuyi
  28. Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde
  29. Old Town of Lijiang
  30. Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian
  31. Sichuan Giant Panda SanctuariesWolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains
  32. South China Karst
  33. Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing
  34. Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu
  35. Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing
  36. The Great Wall
  37. Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas
  38. West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou
  39. Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area
  40. Yin Xu
  41. Yungang Grottoes

Potala Palace

 

Visit UNESCO’s interactive world map by clicking here.

To see a full list of World Heritage sites, please click here.

———–

WildChina proudly visits many of these sites on our journeys. Follow the links above to learn more about how you can visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site on your WildChina journey or email us at info@wildchina.com. Departures in Fall of 2011 include a journey to see Yosemite’s Sister Parks in China in September and a photography expedition along the Silk Road in October.

Photo by WildChina.


Tags: UNESCO World Heritage Sites wild China WildChina WildChina travel World Bank .








 

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