5 Things You Can Strike Off Your Bucket List By Visiting China
China does everything on an epic scale. While other ancient empires collapsed and disappeared, China boasts over 4,000 years of continuous history and a unified writing system that began to emerge around 1200 BCE. With many of the world’s most iconic structures, unique scenic areas, and rich cultural heritage, you can find many things to strike off your bucket list by visiting China.
#1. Hike along the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is not only the most iconic structure in China, but it is also the inspiration for many famous poems in Chinese literature, from On the Frontier written during the Tang Dynasty by Wang Changling to Mountain Liupan written by Mao Zedong during his struggle against the Guomindang. Mao claimed that “a man cannot be a hero unless he climbs the Great Wall”.
Today, there are many scenic stretches of the Great Wall popular with hikers. The section of the wall from Jinshanling to Simatai offers a 7 mile stretch of unrestored wall with sturdy oval watchtowers and jutting obstacle walls, which were designed to separate larger groups of attacking soldiers. Jinshanling is approximately 70 miles northeast of Beijing.
If you want to enjoy a longer 2-day hiking adventure on the Great Wall, then head over to Hexicun village in Gubeikou township, Miyun County, 83 miles northeast of Beijing. From the village, there are two trails that follow the course of the Great Wall. Headed west, you hike through the beautiful countryside along the route of the wall in Wohu Mountain Scenic Area. Headed east, you can walk atop unrestored stretches of the wall through Panlong Mountain Scenic Area.
#2. Watch a traditional Chinese opera
This might seem like a strange suggestion if you don’t speak fluent Chinese, but it’s comparable to watching La Traviata when you don’t speak Italian or Die Fledermaus when you don’t speak German. Beijing Opera, the most dominant traditional opera form, is an explosive celebration of ancient Chinese culture involving amazing colorful costumes, mime, acrobatics, and singing so shrill that it makes Italian sopranos sound like bass.
Expect to see elaborate swordfights between generals and emperors in outlandish armor, coordinated dance scenes, comic scenes involving clowns, and emotional moments when the concubine takes her own life. If you’re lucky, you may attend a performance where the lyrics are translated into English and projected onto a screen beside the stage. It’s common to see the Chinese characters projected because even locals can’t always follow the fast singing.
If you’re staying in Beijing, you can catch performances at the deceptively modern National Center for the Performing Arts. However, Beijing Opera is performed all over China, so enquire locally wherever you visit.
#3. Go birding in China
China boasts an extensive geographic diversity, so there are many habitats for rare birds around the nation. That’s probably why birds feature prominently in traditional feng shui philosophy, with Mandarin ducks symbolizing love and peacocks meaning good luck. Although mythical phoenixes are the most powerful feng shui bird symbol, cranes are the most important real birds. There are around 1250 known bird species in China, including 60 endemic birds, and, of course, 7 species of crane.
If you wish to go birdwatching in China, head to Sichuan, the most populous province in China’s southwest. If you’re a Mandarin speaker, prepare for strange accents where you can’t tell the difference between 4 and 10. Sichuan is not only home to 4 major rivers, but China’s most impressive mountains and the majority of its endemics, including rare species of parrotbills, pheasants, and rose finches.
#4. Eat Peking Duck in Peking
Peking Duck is one of China’s most iconic culinary dishes, and there are many high-quality restaurants around Beijing that specialize in this food. If you’re not familiar with this dish, it is seasoned roast duck with a thin, crispy skin often eaten alongside spring onions and sweet bean sauce while wrapped in a pancake.
The longest established chain specializing in Peking Duck is Bianyifang, which traces its history back to 1416 during the Ming Dynasty. The Xianyukou Bianyifang branch was opened in 1855 and is centrally located in Qianmen, just south of Tiananmen Square. But if you’re not feeling like Chinese food, KFC is just a few doors down the same street near Qianmen Gate.
#5. Brave the world’s highest glass bridge
It takes a brave soul to conquer Zhangjiajie Glass Footpath in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province. The park not only features beautiful forests and amazing mountains but also the world’s tallest outdoor lift and the world’s highest glass-bottom bridge.
The glass bridge spans the 1,410 feet chasm between two 980-feet high cliffs. Each of the 120 glass panels is tri-layered with 2” thick tempered glass. Suicidal visitors can also arrange to experience a 935-feet bungee-jump from the bridge.
If you prefer to check out the world’s longest glass bridge, that’s in Hongyagu Scenic Area, in Hebei Province to the north, which is 1,600 feet long. However, it only crosses a drop of 715 feet. Both bridges have reduced acrophobic visitors to nervous wrecks.