China

The ancient heritage and the sprawling modernity

China. This ancient nation that embraces modernity so eagerly shows an unprecedented throughout the history advancement rate. With the newest architecture and elaborate system of high-speed public transportation, the huge megapolises are building out into agglomerates of what you could call a truly high-tech society. All that novelty, however, grew out of a civilization that's been around for nearly five thousand years, evolving and building upon itself constantly.

The most glorious times in Chinese history were between 220 BC and 220 AD, during the rule of the Han dynasty, and to this day the classic cultural heritage is present providing one side of the charming contrast between the old and the new. The new side is represented by all things high-tech, like those brand new high-rises. Yet they are guarded by the traditional stone lions, they are right outside on the vigil. Imagine that and it won't be hard to understand how all this tension between the epochs creates the enchanting atmosphere of modern China.

It is likely that you would be amazed by the density of population in the cities. The urban borders blur as the villages, towns and cities blend into each other connected by the network of the loaded freeways, creating one huge cluster of population. The picture is quite a bit different in the far West or South though: the majestic peaks of Tibet, the legendary landscapes of the Silk Road in the Northwest, and of course the Chinese Southwest with its enormous green fields and hazy hills. All these places are populated by some distinct ethnic minorities, like the animist tribes of the hills, or even the urban Muslims, and there's definitely much more space to turn around there.

Some of the difficulties that a Western explorer might encounter in China include, first of all the language barrier, as very few Chinese can speak English and most signs outside the big cities do not provide a translation either. It is not rare that foreigners themselves are seen as very unusual by locals and call for an extraordinary interest. Otherwise, the Chinese are generally friendly and welcoming, and commuting around the land has become smooth and effortless in recent years. Although architecturally much of the historic heritage has given way to the sweeping all-around modernization, there is still a plenty to see, and the main attractions would include the Great Wall of China, the Yangzi gorges, the Terracota Army and the Forbidden City, just to name a few.

Plan your trip to China