Landmarks in China — Spectacular Architectures of History and Culture

These landmarks in China are all UNESCO World Cultural Heritages, which are remarkable feats that hold great architectural, cultural, and historical values. 

 

They recorded prosperous epochs and splendid skills, encountered ups and downs throughout history, accumulated tons of stories about living, struggling, and thriving, and now have been extraordinary representatives of Chinese culture. 

Great Wall of China, Photo from Official

The Great Wall of China

 

 

The Great Wall of China, or Wan Li Chang Cheng, was an extraordinary military defensive system firstly constructed Since the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 771 BC), a carrier and the witness of history, and a significant cultural icon.

 

The Great Wall of China was built by many kingdoms throughout history, the most important ones including the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC), Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC), Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD), and Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644). 

 

The Great Wall that people mostly visit today was built during the Ming Dynasty.

Total Length: The recorded and discovered Great Wall from the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC — 403 BC) to the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) is 21196.18 kilometers long. 

 

Location: Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Shandong, Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang.

Related History and People:

 

  • After Qin Shi Huang united the Middle Kingdom and established the unified Qin Dynasty (221 BC — 207 BC), he sent tens of thousands of laborers to construct the first version of the Great Wall, which connected and largely extended defensive walls built in the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC), to defend against nomadic Xiongnu on the north.

  • The Han Empire's Great Wall, the longest Great Wall in history (over 10,000 kilometers), was constructed during Emperor Wu of Han's reign (141 BC — 87 BC) when Wei Qing and Huo Qubing have achieved great successes defeating Xiongnu, and Zhang Qian opened up the Silk Road.  

 

  • After Zhu Yuanzhang established the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644), the empire continuously constructed and strengthened the Ming Great Wall.

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Ruins of gates, walls, and cities of the Qin and Han Great Walls.

 

  • Important passes of the Ming Great Wall, such as Shanhai Pass in Qinhuangdao, Yanmen Pass in Xinzhou, Juyong Pass in Beijing, Jiayu Pass in Jiayuguan, etc. 

 

  • Segments of Great Walls that have been developed as tourist destinations, including Badaling, Jinshanling, Dajingmen, Mutianyu, Gubeikou, Hushan, and so on.

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Terracotta Army by Zhao Zhen.jpg

Terracotta Army

 

 

Terracotta Army is the guarding troop of the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang (259 BC — 210 BC), the founding emperor of the first unified feudal empire, the Qin Dynasty, in the history of China.

 

The Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum has hundreds of funerary pits, including terra cotta or bronze made officials, warriors, performers, weapons, armors, horses, valuable animals, chariots, and so on. 

In three of these funerary pits are over 8000 life-sized terracotta soldiers, horses, and chariots, which were produced since  247 BC, sealed and buried in 208 BC, and discovered in 1974.

Alias: Qin Yong, Qin Bingmayong.  

 

Location: Shaanxi Province, Middle-north of China.

Area: Pit One about 14260 square meters, Pit Two about 6000 square meters, Pit Three around 520 square meters. 

Number: There are over 8000 terracotta soldiers, horses, and chariots, according to detection, and around one-third of them have unearthed and in the exhibition.  

Appearance: Terracotta Warriors weigh between 100 kg to 250 kg, with an average weight of 180 kg and an average height of 185 cm; their different hairstyles and ornaments show their ranks, duties, and customs of the Qin Dynasty.  

Read More about the hairstyles and ranks, discovery story, unsolved puzzles of Terracotta Warriors

Ruins of Yangguan Along Silk Road by Sun

Silk Road

 

 

Silk Road was an ancient trade route network that connected the east and the west since the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD). 

 

Originally as a passageway that was opened up by the great explorer and diplomat Zhang Qian started from the year 139 BC, later the Silk Road developed into a network consisted of several land and maritime trade routes. 

 

Today, Silk Road usually refers to the Land Silk Road or the historic Trade Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor.

Location: Land Silk Road sections in China located in Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Xinjiang Provinces.

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Invaluable relics that had been related to the development of the Silk Road, such as the ruins of Weiyang Palace (Han's imperial palace) and Daming Palace (Tang's imperial palace), and Dayan Pagoda in Xi'an.

 

  • Ruins of passes and Great Wall sections of Han Dynasty, such as Yumen Guan and Yangguan, in Gansu. 

 

  • Exceptional Buddhist caves, including Mogao Caves in Dunhuang and Maiji Mountain Grottoes in Tianshui. 

 

  • Ruins of important historical trade-center cities along the Silk Road in Xinjiang.

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Forbidden City by Official Site of Palac

Forbidden City

 

 

Forbidden City was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 — 1912), in which 24 emperors had born, lived, enthroned, reigned, fought, and died there. 

 

Of over 9000 rooms in the Forbidden City, the largest existing imperial palace in the world, each one has its interesting story.

Alias: Zi Jin Cheng, Gugong, Palace Museum.  

 

Location: Beijing, Capital of China.

Area: 720,000 square meters large, and is surrounded by 10 meters high and over 3400 meters long city wall. 

Cultural Relics: Over 1.8 million.   

Read More about the history, astrological and hierarchical designs, and Fengshui of Forbidden City

Temple of Heaven by Official Site of Tia

Temple of Heaven

 

 

Temple of Heaven, constructed in 1420 under the command of the Yongle Emperor, was the sacred place for the emperors of the Ming (1368 — 1644) and Qing (1636 — 1912) Dynasties to hold sacrificial ceremonies to heaven, and a masterpiece with exceptional cultural and architectural values. 

 

Today, it is a representative of the imperial heaven-worship altar in ancient China and the existing largest building complex for offering sacrifices to heaven. 

Location: Beijing, Capital of China.

Area: 2,730,000 square meters. 

Read More about the history, symbolism, cosmology, architectural designs, and main buildings of the Temple of Heaven

Chengde Mountain Resort by Official Site

Chengde Mountain Resort

 

 

Chengde Mountain Resort, constructed from 1703 to 1792, is the largest existing imperial summer palace that holds great cultural, political, historical values, as well as a perfect combination of northern and southern classical garden styles, and royal and intellectuals' aesthetics

 

Exceptional natural views and important geographical and military importance of the Chengde Mountain Resort attracted emperors to spend long times there, which made it the second political center and witness of histories of half of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912).

Alias: Bishu Shanzhuang, Rehe Xinggong, Li Gong.

Location: Hebei Province, Middle-north of China. 

Area: About 5,640,000 square meters.

Tourist Attractions

 

  • Building complexes of Chengde Mountain Resort and surrounding temples.

 

  • Beautiful natural views, including lakes, mountains, grassland, and forest.

 

  • Outer walls of Chengde Mountain Resort that is around 3 meters high and 10,000 meters long.

  • Over 20,000 pieces of invaluable relics preserved. 

  • Imperial Mulan hunting ground.

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Summer Palace by Official Site of Yiheyu

Summer Palace

 

 

The Summer Palace, constructed in 1750 under the command of the Qianlong Emperor, was an imperial garden in the middle to late Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912).

 

Today, it is a well-preserved masterpiece of the Chinese imperial garden, which combined beautiful natural landscapes, extraordinary architectures, and relics with great cultural values.

Location: Beijing, Capital of China.

Area: 2.9 square kilometers. 

Read More about the history, design ideas, main buildings, and scenic views of Summer Palace

Potala Palace by Official Site of Budala

Potala Palace

 

 

Potala Palace, a grand fortress locate in Lhasa, was first constructed by Songtsen Gampo (617 — 650) for Wencheng, an honorable princess of the Tang Dynasty and the Empress of Tibet.

After it was rebuilt and renovated by the fifth Dalai Lama in 1645, supported by their suzerain, the emperors of the Qing Dynasty, it had been expanded by each Dalai Lama several times, as their residences and ruling center.

Today, the Potala Palace of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China is the highest ancient palace in the world and a valuable museum of Tibetan history and culture. 

Location: Tibet Autonomous Region of China, West of China.

Area: 360,000 square meters large, and about 117 meters high. 

Altitude: 3700 meters. 

Read More about the history, tradition, special designs, and other fun facts of Potala Palace

Mogao Caves by Official Site of Mogaoku.

Mogao Caves

 

 

Mogao Caves, or Mogao Grottoes, is an exceptional feat constructed since 366 in Dunhuang, an important city along the Silk Road.

 

As the largest scale Buddhist art wonder, Mogao Caves preserved around 45,000 square meters of murals, more than 2000 painted sculptures, over 50,000 ancient scrolls, and other relics with unparalleled historic and cultural values.

 

From those artworks, we can see many aspects of China during the 4th to the 14th century, including history, architecture, ceremony, military activity, transportation, musical instrument, dance, costume, makeup, business, etc.

Alias: Mogao Grottoes, Qianfo Dong, Thousand-Buddha Caves.

Location: Gansu Province, Northwest of China. 

Read More about the history, development, the story of Mogao Library Cave and Dunhuang Manuscripts, and preservation of Mogao Caves

Yungang Grottoes by Official Site of Yun

Yungang Grottoes

 

 

Yungang Grottoes, built from 460 to 524, are exceptional Buddhist caves that present the localization and secularization of Buddhist arts in China.

 

As an exceptional Buddhist wonder constructed under the support of royals of the Northern Wei Dynasty, statues, reliefs, murals, buildings, and other artistic elements of the Yungang Grottoes show many cultural aspects of the empire of the 5th and 6th centuries, including society, music, dance, architecture, food, etc.

Location: Shanxi Province, Middle-North of China.

Data: In 252 caves and niches, there are over 18,000 square meters of carved areas and more than 51,000 Buddhist statues. 

Read More about history, development, and preservation of Yungang Grottoes

Longmen Grottoes by Official Site of Lon

Longmen Grottoes

 

 

Longmen Grottoes or Longmen Caves, an invaluable artistic wonder of Buddhist stone carving, consists of many ancient royal caves constructed mainly during the Northern Wei (386 — 534) and Tang (618 — 907) dynasties.

 

As large-scale imperial caves, Longmen Grottoes hold great artistic, historic, cultural, and religious values.

Location: Henan Province, Middle of China.

Data: In over 2300 caves and niches, there are more than 110,000 Buddhist stone statues and 2,800 carved stele inscriptions. 

Read More about the history, development, cultural importance, and royal connections of the Longmen Grottoes

Humble Administrator’s Garden by Zhang X

Humble Administrator’s Garden

 

 

Humble Administrator's Garden, firstly constructed in the early 16th century, is one of the best representatives of the classical private Jiangnan Style garden. 

 

It is an exceptional example of brilliant combination and harmony of aesthetic buildings, ancient philosophy, natural views, reclusion culture, and poetic designs.

Location: Jiangsu Province, East of China.

Area: About 52,000 square meters. 

Read More about history, aesthetic designs, poetic nomenclatures, literary significance, and refined architectures of the Humble Administrator’s Garden

Lingering Garden by 97lang.jpg

Lingering Garden

 

 

Lingering Garden or Liu Yuan in Suzhou is an exceptional representative of the classical private Southern Style garden of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912), which has been renowned for its brilliant use of beautiful natural Taihu Lake stones, a valuable decorative material in Chinese culture.

 

Besides, it is also famous for remarkably set exquisite sceneries in limited spaces, which realized "a different view for each step", and perfectly shows elegant intellectuals' aesthetic.

Alias: Dong Yuan, Bihan Shanzhuang, Liu's Garden. 

Location: Jiangsu Province, East of China.

Area: 23,300 square meters. 

Read More about history, aesthetic designs, poetic nomenclatures, literary significance, and refined architectures of Lingering Garden