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Landmarks in China — Spectacular Architectures of History and Culture

These Chinese landmarks are all UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites, representing remarkable feats with great architectural, cultural, and historical values. 


They have recorded prosperous epochs and splendid skills, weathered ups and downs throughout history, and accumulated numerous stories about life, struggle, and thriving.


Today, they stand as extraordinary representatives of Chinese culture. 

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The Great Wall of China



The Great Wall of China, or Wan Li Chang Cheng, was an extraordinary military defensive system first constructed During the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 771 BC), a carrier and 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 achieved great successes in 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 the Great Walls have been developed as tourist destinations, including Badaling, Jinshanling, Dajingmen, Mutianyu, Gubeikou, Hushan, and so on.

Read the Ultimate Introduction to the Great Wall

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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, armor, 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 in 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 is about 14260 square meters, Pit Two is about 6000 square meters, and Pit Three is around 520 square meters. 

NumberThere are over 8000 terracotta soldiers, horses, and chariots, according to detection, and around one-third of them have been unearthed and are 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 Stories, and Unsolved Puzzles of Terracotta Warriors

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


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

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

Tourist Attractions


  • Invaluable relics related to the Silk Road development, 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 the Han Dynasty, such as Yumen Guan and Yangguan, in Gansu. 


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


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

Read More About Silk Road

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Forbidden City



Forbidden City was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 — 1912), in which 24 emperors were 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 exciting story.

Alias: Zi Jin Cheng, Gugong, Palace Museum.  


Location: Beijing, Capital of China.

Area: 720,000 square meters large, 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

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Temple of Heaven


The Temple of Heaven, constructed in 1420 under the command of the Yongle Emperor, served as the sacred place for the emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and Qing Dynasty (1636 – 1912) to conduct sacrificial ceremonies to heaven.


It stands as a masterpiece with exceptional cultural and architectural values.

Today, it represents the imperial heaven-worship altar in ancient China and the 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

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Chengde Mountain Resort



Chengde Mountain Resort, constructed from 1703 to 1792, is the largest existing imperial summer palace with significant cultural, political, and historical values and a perfect combination of northern and southern classical garden styles and royal and intellectual 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 the 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.


  • The outer walls of Chengde Mountain Resort are around 3 meters high and 10,000 meters long.

  • Over 20,000 pieces of invaluable relics were preserved. 

  • Imperial Mulan hunting ground.

Read More About the Imperial Mountain Resort of Chengde

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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, combining beautiful natural landscapes, extraordinary building complexes, and relics with excellent 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

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Potala Palace



Potala Palace, a grand fortress located 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 residence 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

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Mogao Caves



Mogao Caves, or Mogao Grottoes, is an exceptional feat constructed in 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 historical 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 instruments, dance, costume, makeup, business, etc.

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

Location: Gansu Province, Northwest China. 

Read More about the History, Development, the Story of Mogao Library Cave and Dunhuang Manuscripts, and the Preservation of Mogao Caves

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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 the History, Development, and Preservation of Yungang Grottoes

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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, historical, 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

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Humble Administrator's Garden



Humble Administrator's Garden, first 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 the 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 the History, Aesthetic Designs, Poetic Nomenclatures, Literary Significance, and Refined Architecture of the Humble Administrator's Garden

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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 setting exquisite sceneries in limited spaces, which realized "a different view for each step" and perfectly showed 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 the History, Aesthetic Designs, Poetic Nomenclatures, Literary Significance, and Refined architecture of Lingering Garden

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