Explore China

What to see in China

China‘s attractions are endless. Especially near the coast, if you run out of things to see in one city, the next is usually a short train ride away. History buffs, nature lovers and beach-goers are all catered to in China, where attractions range from the majestic Forbidden City in Beijing to the breathtaking scenery of Jiuzhaigou. Because of its sheer size and long history, China has the third-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after Italy and Spain.

Karst Scenery

The Gumdrop Mountains and steeply sloping forested hills with bizarre rock formations favored by traditional Chinese artists are not creative fantasy. In fact, much of southern and southwestern China is covered in strangely eroded rock formations known as Karst. Karst is a type of limestone formation named after an area in Slovenia. As limestone layers erode, the denser rock or pockets of different stone resist erosion forming peaks. Caves hollow out beneath the mountains which can collapse forming sinkholes and channels leading to underground rivers. At its most unusual Karst erodes to form mazes of pinnacles, arches and passageways. The most famous example can be found in the Stone Forest near Kunming in Yunnan. Some of the most famous tourist areas in China feature spectacular karst landscapes — Guilin and Yangshuo in Guangxi, and much of central and western Guizhou province.

Sacred sites

  • Yungang Grottoes in Shanxi Province – more than 51,000 Buddhist carvings, dating back 1,500 years, in the recesses and caves of the Yangang Valley mountainsides
  • Mogao Caves in Gansu province – art and manuscripts dating back to the 4th century
  • Dazu Rock Carvings near Chongqing – dating from the 7-13th century
  • Longmen Grottoes – 5-10th century


China is home to many sacred mountains.

The Five Great Mountains associated with Taoism:

  • Mount Tai, Shandong Province (1,545 meters)
  • Mount Hua, Shaanxi Province (2,054 meters)
  • Mount Heng (Hunan), Hunan Province (1,290 meters)
  • Mount Heng (Shanxi), Shanxi Province (2,017 meters)
  • Mount Song, Henan Province, where the famous Shaolin Temple is located (1,494 meters)

The Four Sacred Mountains associated with Buddhism:

  • Mount Emei, Sichuan Province (3,099 meters)
  • Mount Jiuhua, Anhui Province (1,342 meters)
  • Mount Putuo, Zhejiang Province (297 meters, an island)
  • Mount Wutai, Shanxi Province (3,058 meters)

The three main sacred mountains of Tibetan Buddhism:

  • Mount Kailash, Tibet (5,656 meters), also known as Gang Rinpoche in Tibetan, also one of Hinduism’s holiest mountains visited by many Hindu pilgrims
  • Kawa Karpo
  • Amnye Machen

There are also other well-known mountains. In China, many mountains have temples, even if they are not especially sacred sites:

  • Mount Qingcheng, Sichuan Province
  • Mount Longhu, Jiangxi Province
  • Mount Lao, Shandong Province
  • Mount Wuy, Fujian Province, a major tourist/scenic site with many tea plantations
  • Mount Everest, straddling the border between Nepal and Tibet, world’s highest mountain
  • Mount Huang (Yellow Mountain), in Anhui province, with scenery and temples
  • Mount Wudang, near Danjiangkou in Hubei, Taoist mecca, birthplace of taichi and Wudang kung fu
  • Changbaishan/Paektusan, the most sacred mountain in the world to both ethnic Manchus and Koreans, located on the border with North Korea

Revolutionary Pilgrimage Sites

  • Shaoshan – First CCP Chairman and Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s hometown
  • Mount Jinggang – The first CCP rural base area after the 1927 crackdown by the KMT
  • Ruijin – Seat of the China Soviet Republic from 1929 to 1934
  • Zunyi – Site of the Zunyi Conference where Mao Zedong joined the Politburo Standing Committee
  • Luding – Site of a famous forced crossing of a high mountain river
  • Yan’an – Primary base area for the Communist Party from 1935 to 1945
  • Wuhan – Site of the 1911 Wuchang Uprising that led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China
  • Guangzhou – Site of the Whampoa Military Academy where both KMT and Communist leaders (Chiang Kai Shek, Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong) trained and led troops and political study groups before the Northern Expedition of 1926-27.