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In ancient China,Guo referred to city or state.Zhonguo (now it means China) meant the central city or the central state. According to historical books, Zhongguo had five connotations: fist, the capital city; second, the state ruled by the emperor; third, the Central Plains; fourth, the upland region and last, the region dwelled by Han and Xia nationalities.

Since the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), people often referred the state established by the Han nationality as Zhongguo; however, other nationalities also call their own states as Zhongguo. Neither of them would acknowledge other Zhongguo.

Strictly speaking, Zhongguo in ancient times was an adjective rather than a proper noun. None reigning dynasties tookZhongguoas their name, and they all had their own titles.

After the 1911 Revolution (the Chinese bourgeois democratic revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen which overthrew the Qing Dynasty), Zhongguo was taken as the shortened form of Republic of China. And in 1949, Zhongguo became the shortened form of the People’s Republic of China.

Now, the only one Zhongguo in the world is thePeople’s Republic of China with its capital in Beijing.

The China National Silk Museum, opened to the public in February 1992, is located in Hangzhou City of East China’s Zhejiang Province. It is a special museum dedicated to the exhibition of China’s more than 5,000 years of silk culture and history.

The museum completed renovation in September 2003 and has been open to the public for free since January2004.

 The “Display of Chinese Silk Culture” is the museum’s main display, divided into the Prelude Hall, the Display of Silk Stories, the Display of Silk Craft, and the temporary exhibition hall.

 The “Display of Chinese Silk Culture” won the Prize of Elaborate Works in the Sixth National Top Ten Museums (2003-2004) competition.

In the early 1900s, the Shikumen lanes were considered among the younger generation as the ultimate examples of dilapidated, crowded and wretched urban living. Luckily for the generations to follow, a few literary masterpieces were written by writers infatuated with the lane’s architecture which introduced people to the hidden beauty of Shikumen.

The Stone-hooped doors and Shikumen

In the Shanghai dialect, wrapping or bundling is called ‘hooping’, giving rise to phrases like ‘hooping a bucket’, so doors ‘hooped’ by stone bars were called Stoned-hooped doors, and later the name changed to Shikumen. Generally, the Shikumen-style buildings have long bars of stones as doorframes and burly wooden planks as doors, each fixed with a huge bronze ring.

The origin of Shikumen buildings can be traced back to the 1860s. In 1860, the Taiping Revolution led by Li Xiucheng advanced east, conquering a string of important towns in easternChina, causing an influx of refugees from southernJiangsuand northernZhejianginto the foreign settlements inShanghai. To accommodate this inflax of refugees, local merchants were encouraged to invest in housing for these people. To use the limited land more efficiently, the houses built were in most cases rows of Shikumen-style buildings

These buildings reflect a mix of Chinese and foreign styles of architecture. Shikumen-style buildings have certain elements of the west, but most of the design and layout is in line with that of the “Jiangnan” area of easternChina. Behind the Shikumen door is a courtyard, and further inside is a living room, locally known as a parlour, and then there is the back courtyard, kitchen and back door. To the sides of the courtyard and the parlo
ur are the right and left wing rooms. The layout of the second storey is similar to the one below, but above the kitchen is the garret, above which is a flat roof. The typical buildings of the Shikumen style can be seen within Xingrenli – an area of 1.33 square kilometers defined by the east side of Henanzhong Road, Ningbo Road and Beijing Road; and also within Dunrenli, Mianyangli and Jixiangli, all near the Xinmatou Street close to Zhongshannan Road.

After the early 1900s,Shanghai’s households became smaller in size and the residents’ living patterns underwent major changes. The structure and layout of the Shikumen-style houses also changed as a result. Smaller units, without wing rooms and suitable for small households, appeared, together with somewhat larger units with one parlour and one wing room. These new two-or-three-storey Shikumen houses were separated by lanes four meters wide. Humble “Tingzijian” rooms were found at the turn of the staircases while verandahs were added to the facades. After the 1920s, sewerage systems were installed. Typical examples of such Shikumen buildings are the Jingan Villa onNanjingxi Road, and the Daluxin Villa onShanyin Road.

After the 1930s,Shanghaifaced a housing shortage, so the owners of Shikumen-style buildings rented out some of the rooms. Since then most Shikumen-style buildings have had their original layouts altered and became mansions housing more than one family.

Life in the Lanes

Shikumen-style houses formed the basis of the “Li Long” (lane) community where private spheres and public spaces overlapped. In this community, everyone knew everyone else’s business. As the density of the community rose, some family activities were often moved to public spaces.

A valuable Architectural Legacy

At their peak, the Shikumen-style neighbourhoods numbered more than9000 inShanghaiand took up 60 per cent of the total housing space of the city. The Shikumen style, which has survived for more than a century, is however no longer suitable for modern urban living. Since the 1990s,Shanghaibegan a new wave of renovation and development, demolishing many Shikumen-style buildings. It was only when more and more of these houses were replaced by skyscrapers that people began to realize such monuments of Shanghai’s past deserve to be preserved.

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As the biggest developing country of the world and the popular travel destination for numerous foreigners,China has a long history of more than 5000 years, which brings up the resplendently rich modern civilization. So,Chinais a great county with its own culture and civilization.

 What should you have to experience for your China tour, and what are the ones that can be mostly symbolize China, helping you know much more about China and its culture. 

Here, we list the top 10 Chinese symbols for your convenience, including, China Great Wall, China Giant Panda, Lantern, Beijing Opera, Jiaozi, Red Flag, Qipao, Knotting, Kungfu, Sedan Chair.

 1. The Great Wall

There is an old saying: “You are a real man until you climb up the Great Wall”, which reflects the Chinese People’s spirit of courage and persistance. TheGreat Wall of China, one of the greatest wonders of the world, was listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. Just like a gigantic dragon, the Great Wall winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus. It is a remarkable piece of engineering and is the most famous symbol ofChina.

 2. China Giant Panda

The giant panda, regarded as one ofChina’s National Treasures, is on the verge of extinction. Today there are fewer than 1,000 giant pandas living in the world. The giant panda is the symbol of eco-environmental conservation. Visitors toChinacan see this reclusive animal inSichuanProvince’s Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. We hope, with their cute faces, unusual beauty and grace, giant pandas can bring visitors toChinapleasure and enjoyment.

 3. Chinese Lantern

Lanterns play an important and irreplaceable role in Chinese long history and symbolize the brilliant culture ofChina. The art of lanterns, as the precious traditional culture of Chinese, is also inherited and continues among folks.

 The craftwork of lantern is still widely used in current society which can be seen in some happy days such as the Lantern Festival, wedding and celebration ceremonies. Besides, lanterns have some other functions in daily life. For example, at ancient time, when there was no electricity, lanterns were used as a tool of illumination, which brought great convenience to everyday life.

 4. Beijing Opera (Bianlian)

Beijing Opera is the quintessence ofChina. As the largest Chinese opera form, it is extolled as ‘Oriental Opera’. Having a history of 160 years, it has created many ‘firsts’ in Chinese dramas: the abundance of repertoires, the number of artists, opera troupes and spectators.

 The costumes in Beijing Opera are graceful, magnificent, elegant and brilliant, and mostly are made in handicraft embroidery. As the traditional Chinese pattern are adopted, the costumes are of a high aesthetic value.
The types of facial make-ups in Beijing Opera are rich and various, depicting different characters and remarkable images, therefore they are highly appreciated. Moreover there are numerous fixed editions of facial make-up.

 5. Chinese Jiaozi

Jiaozi (Chinese Dumpling) is a traditional Chinese food, and is greatly loved by most foreigners.

 Dumplings are one of the major foods eaten during the Chinese New Year, and year round in thenorthern provinces. Traditionally, families get together to make jiaozi for the Chinese New Year. In rural areas, the choicest livestock is slaughtered, the meat ground and wrapped into dumplings, and frozen outside with the help of the freezing weather. Then they are boiled and served for the Chinese New Year feast. Dumplings with sweet, rather than savoury fillings are also popular as a Chinese New Year treat.

 

6. Chinese Red Flag

The flag of the People’s Republic ofChinais a red field charged in the canton with five golden stars. The design features one large star, with four smaller stars in a semicirc
le set off towards the fly. The red represents revolution; the five stars and their relationship represents the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of Communist Party of China (CPC). Sometimes, the flag is referred to as the “Five Star Red Flag”.

 7. Chinese Qipao

The cheongsam is a female dress with distinctive Chinese features and enjoys a growing popularity in the international world of high fashion. The name “cheongsam,” meaning simply “long dress,” entered the English vocabulary from the dialect ofChina’sGuangdongProvince(Cantonese). In other parts of the country includingBeijing, however, it is known as “qipao”, which has a history behind it.

 8. Chinese Knotting

Chinese knotting is a decorative handicraft arts that began as a form of Chinese folk art in the Tang and Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) inChina. It was later popularized in the Ming and Qing Dynasty (1368-1911 AD). The art is also referred to as Chinese traditional decorative knots. In other cultures, it is known as “Decorative knots”.

 In February 2008, Corra Liew from Malaysia seek possibilities out from the traditional Wire Jewelry Making technique, Chinese knotting is then merged and presented in wire form. Corra addressed the technique as Wired Chinese Knot.

 9. Chinese Kungfu

Kung fu and wushu are popular terms that have become synonymous with Chinese martial arts. However, the Chinese terms kung fu and wushu have very different meanings. The Chinese literal equivalent of “Chinese martial art” would be zhongguo wushu.

 In Chinese, kung fu can be used in contexts completely unrelated to martial arts, and refers colloquially to any individual accomplishment or skill cultivated through long and hard work. In contrast, wushu is a more precise term for general martial activities.

 10. Chinese Sedan Chair

A sedan chair is a human or animal-powered transport vehicle for carrying a person, once popular acrossChina. It has different names like “shoulder carriage”, “sleeping sedan” and “warm sedan” etc due to the time, location and structural differences. The sedans familiar to modern people are warm sedans that have been in use since the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The sedan body is fixed in the wooden rectangular frames on the two thin log poles. The top and four sides of the seat are enclosed with curtains, with a chair blind that could be rolled open in the front and a small window on each side. A chair is placed inside the enclosed space.

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HeilongjiangProvinceis a popular destination, if you’re after tourism combined with a little bit of history. As the birthplace of many ethnic cultures,Heilongjiang is taking advantage of its rich cultural legacy to attract curious visitors. Let’s head to a museum inChina’s northernmost province, to check it out.

TheJinShangjingHistory Museum in Harbin is the only museum inChinahousing cultural relics from the Jin dynasty.

Among the over 2,000 exhibits, 19 are category one National historical Relics.

For many young visitors or students on vacation, the exhibition offers something they can’t find in textbooks.

Wang Yue, visitor, said, “There are many excavated relics, showing what the capital city of the Jin Dynasty was like and the people’s customs. It’s very interesting.”

In around 1000 AD, nomads in northernChinastarted gathering in small tribes, eventually growing together to build the Jin Dynasty.

The Jin people are said to be the ancestors of the Manchu, who hundreds of years later founded the Qing Dynasty and ruled the whole ofChina.

Wang Yongnian, director ofHarbinIntangibleCulturalHeritageCenter, said, “The main feature of Jin culture is persistance and progress, bravery and modesty. Many aspects of our modern life actually date back to Jin nomadic culture.”

Cao Xiao, college student, said, “I know Jin culture is very good, so I come here to learn something about it.”

During last year’s Qingming Festival, the museum received 15 hundred visitors. Now, with a free ticket policy in museums all over the country,JinShangjing History Museum is expecting to see those numbers rise by around 20 percent.

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Guanyindong is the other name of YuanshidongCave. It is a Miao Nationality town, lying on the way to Wenshan, and is 39 kilometers from Mengzi. The name of the cave came from a legend that a couple of lovers were in danger in the cave and at the peak time, a lion appeared and saved them. Chen yuying, the governor of Yunnan and Guizhou in Qing dynasty once said the cave was the “first cave of south Yunnan”, not for its scenery exceeded the Swallow Cave and Alu Cave, but that its building and religious status.

YuanshidongCave was built in the early years of the emperor Qianlong, Qing dynasty. From the lowest to the highest of the architecture, Buddha, god, fairy, people, hero, ancestor etc. approached to one hundred statuaries of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism were enshrined separately in dozens of its palaces, houses, halls, temples, cabinets of different size, so it’s convenient for people to worship,and the convenient of worship to different God is the preponderance for the Cave.

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The National Museum of China, a four-storeyed main building with two symmetrical wings, runs more than 300 meters north and south along the eastern side of Tian’anmen Square. The predecessors of the National Museum are two museums: the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of Chinese Revolution, which shared the same building complex. The building was one of ten famous architectures built in 1959 to mark the 10thanniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. The Museum of Chinese History was in the South Wing while the North Wing housed the Museum of the Chinese Revolution. They were both opened to the public in 1961.

The building has a rectangular exterior and faces the Great Hall of the People. Twenty-four square pillars make up the magnificent west gate portico. With its classical color and imposing structure, the whole building is an important part of the panorama of Tian’anmen Square.

 Part1 About the Museum of Chinese History

The predecessor of the Museum of Chinese History is the Beijing History Museum built in 1912 and was opened to the public in October 1926. In August 1958, the Chinese government decided to establish a new national museum on the eastern side of Tian’anmen Square. The construction was completed in October 1959.

The Museum of Chinese History displays three main periods of Chinese history. The first, the Primitive Society, spans from 500,000BC to 4,000BC. The exhibits in the Slavery Society section cover the time from 2,100BC to 475BC and the Feudal Society exhibits focus on the period from 221BC to 1911.

Many of the items on display are national treasures and precious rarities. Examples include the famous fossil remains of Yuanmo Man and Beijing Man, the remarkable painted pottery and jade wares of the Neolithic Age, the Simuwu RectangleDing(a kind of vessel) of the Shang Dynasty (cast over 3, 000 years ago and weighing 832. 84kg — the heaviest ancient bronze ware in the world), the Shang Dynasty square bronzeZun(wine vessel) decorated with four sheep heads and the large inscribed Western Zhou Dynasty (11thcentury BC – 771BC) bronzePan(water container). Other exhibits include a gold-inlaid bronze tally in the shape of a tiger (this was used by Emperor Qinshihuang for military affairs), a Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) jade burial suit sewn with gold thread, magnificent Tri-colored Glazed Pottery of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), world-renowned Song Dynasty (960-1279) ceramics, and a rare bronze human figure marked with acupuncture points. Such treasures as these depict the rich and disparate evolution of the Chinese civilization.

Since 1992, about 100 short-term exhibitions have been held in the National Museum of Chinese History. Exhibitors have included both international and domestic organizations, as well as private individuals.

Part2 About the Museum of the Chinese Revolution

The Museum of the Chinese Revolution emphasizes the history of the past 150 years, in particular the history of the Communist Party of China. It is divided into three sections.

The exhibits in the Old Democratic Revolution section cover the period from 1840 to 1911. Events between 1911 and 1949 fall into the New Democratic Revolution section. The third section is entitled “The Triumph of the Revolution and the Establishment of Socialism” and covers events after 1949.

Much of China’s modern history is exhibited, including the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (1919-1921), the first two civil wars (1924-1927 and 1927-1937), the resistance war against Japanese aggression (1937-1945) and the liberation war (1945-1949). The museum is frequently updated to reflect the developments of modern political history.

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Shanxi is well known for its abundant coal production. But the province of 34 million people and 156,000 square kilometers in area offers much more than natural resources. A trip to Shanxi can be a walk down history lane. So many filmmakers come here that it is the only province I know that shies away from this kind of free publicity.

Taiyuan, the capital city, is roughly at the center of Shanxi province. It divides the attention of a traveler into two equally enticing choices: The north route is rich in Buddhist culture, highlighted by Mount Wutai and Yungang Grottoes, both UNESCO-endorsed world heritage sites.

But you don’t have to be a Buddhist to be fascinated. This used to be the frontier land, where the Han-dominated “central plains” met the nomadic tribes of the north, violently clashing or joined by a shared faith. The ruins of ancient barracks and fortresses and the remnants of the Great Wall speak of a time when the clouds of war hovered over many heads.

South of Taiyuan is a different story. Here you’ll encounter old towns and spacious courtyards that are testament to the thriving business communities once active here. For a while this was the verifiable center of China’s financial industry, an equivalent of Wall Street, so to speak. The bankers are long gone, but some of the homes and towns they built are still intact or restored to their former splendor.

The western and part of the southern border of the province is encircled by the Yellow River, creating a swath of fertile land where numerous relics from antiquity are preserved. At Hukou, the river falls precipitously, forming the most frequently filmed background of China’s “mother river”.

This special coverage of Shanxi focuses on the northern half of the province. You can arrive either at Taiyuan or Datong at the northern tip by air or train. Taiyuan is only three hours from Beijing by express train. Most county towns are accessible by freeways. The last leg to Mount Wutai is through a narrow mountain road, though.

The best season to visit is May through October. It gets cooler as you travel north or into the mountains.

Photo sets and video clips are available on the China Daily website, on Jinci Temple, Mount Wutai, Yungang Grottoes and local noodle making.

 At a Glance

10 good reasons to visit Yungang Grottoes

1. It’s a walk back in history. The grottoes were mainly constructed during the Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534) between 460-525. They have been weather-beaten and repaired many times, taking on layer-upon-layer of significance.

2. It’s a lesson in engineering. Find out how the statues were carved. Learn how the wooden faade is effective in shielding the statues from rainwater, one of the most corrosive forces in nature. The addition of further facades was avoided in case they fell on the statues. The abundance of small holes signifies the use of scaffolds.

3. It’s a study in war and peace. The grottoes suffered from bouts of attention and neglect that coincided with dynastic changes in the area. Datong, a booming city 16 km away, used to be the capital of the Northern Wei, but it changed hands frequently as tribes from the north and the south waged wars at what both sides considered the frontier. The name Datong speaks of the popular wish for long-lasting peace.

4. It offers a class in accounting, or rather, counting. There is a total of 45 caverns, 252 grottoes and more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes, the tallest 17 meters and the smallest 2 centimeters. One Buddha has a matrix of small Buddhas on his sleeves. There are also some 1,400 Buddha heads stolen and smuggled overseas.

5. It’s a lesson in fine art. UNESCO called Yungang “a masterpiece of early Chinese Buddhist cave art”, but it is not just Chinese. An early phase of the grottoes shows a palpable influence from south and central Asia. Some experts even claim there is a resemblance to Western sculptures and there are a few with strikingly Caucasian facial features. But it is certain that later craftsmen made the move to localization, just as multinational corporations do with their products in the modern age.

6. It’s a fusion of religion and politics. The giant Buddhas may look all the same to casual visitors, but upon closer scrutiny each is unique. The ones on the west side are thought to be modeled on five emperors of the Northern Wei Dynasty.

7. It’s a test of your knowledge of music. There are many musical instruments portrayed in sculptural form. Can you tell their names and origins?

8. It’s an inspiration for choreography. The wealth of human movements, from sitting to flying, is a gold mine for anyone who wants to recreate the grace and fantasy of Buddhist figures.

9. It is an inspiration for costume design. The robes and shawls have endlessly cascading pleats. The ornaments are also a source of fascination.

10. It offers a good chance for exercise. The grottoes stretch for a kilometer and you can amble along at your leisure. It’s good for your body as well as your spirit.

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The Silk Road is a general term that once comprised a series of ancient trade routes connecting China with Asia, Africa and Europe. As an important link between the Eastern and Western worlds, it greatly improves the in-depth exchange of politics, economics and culture among countries along the route. The four great inventions by the Chinese (namely paper, printing, compass and gunpowder), silkworm raising and silk weaving, tea and china have also become accessible to other parts of world. At the same time, Buddhism, Nestorianism, Islam, music, and astronomy were introduced to China.

The Silk Road can be divided into two major routes: by land and by sea. The main inland routes prospered during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD) and then declined during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). The route, which was over 7,000 kilo
meters (4,943.6 miles) long, is widely considered to start from Chang’an (today’s Xian, China) traverse Gansu and Xinjiang, and extend westward to the Mediterranean area. Interestingly, the starting points changed as the political centers of the following dynasties also changed, including Luoyang , Datong, Kaifeng, and Beijing.

The routes by sea arose in the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 207 BC), flourished in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) and the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), and fell into decay during the middle Ming Dynasty. The principle route began in Guangzhou , Yantai, Yangzhou, Ningbo, and Quanzhou along with other coastal cities, via the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and finally reached the Mediterranean.

After several centuries of disregard, the once dormant Silk Road is once again springing to life. Tourists can explore the ancient historical sites, enjoy the gorgeous scenery along the route and appreciate mysterious attractions, such as Mogao Caves in Dunhuang and the Yumenguan Pass which was considered an important pass of the trade route. This centuries-old, international trade route awaits your adventurous undertaking.

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The unique Dazu Rock Carvings on the cliffs in Dazu area were built between the 9th century A.D. and the 13th century A.D., and are famous for their aesthetic quality and their rich secular and religious diversity. The Dazu Rock Carvings vividly reflect the everyday social life in China during that period and provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious combination of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

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