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The Luoyang Peony is China’s traditional and well-known flower. It always represents elegance and poise. With various varieties and marvelous colors, the Luoyang Peony enjoys the honor of “King of the Flower Kingdom” and “Luoyang Peony Ranking the First under Heaven”.

Throughout the city, you can see all kinds of peonies with colors ranging from red, pink and white to the rarest dark. When spring arrives, the whole city is soaked in the sweet smell of peony. In 1982, it was defined as the city flower of Luoyang and at the same time, a decision was made to hold an annual peony fair festival in Luoyang from April 15 to 25, concurrently with lantern shows and other forms of entertainment. During the festival, people from all corners meet inLuoyangto see the peonies and so the city livens up with a spectacle of seas of flowers and tides of people.

In April, you can enjoy yourself in the streets, onPeony Square, inPeonyParkandXiyuanPark. But the most famous place to view and admire the Luoyang Peony isWangchengPark.

Located on both banks ofJianRiveron the north side of the western reach ofZhongzhou Road,WangchengParkgains its name only because it is now on the relics of theImperialCityin the Western Zhou Dynasty. Covering an area of 67 hectares, it is the largest comprehensive park inLuoyang.

There is a zoo, peony yards, swimming pools and an under-ground exhibition room of the Han Tomb. In the peony yards on both sides of Jian River, there are thousands of rare and precious peonies named “”Yellow yao “and “Purple wei”. These two peony yards become the main spot of the annual peony fair.

The ancient architectural complex in the western part of the park fully displays the lingering charm of the Zhou’s architectural style. The tablet named Hetu and Luoshu is another attractive spot there. Hetu and Luoshu is a famous legend of ancient Chinese civilization. Some 6,000 to 7,000 years ago, a horse with a picture-scroll named Hetu on its back sprang out of the Yellow River, and an immortal turtle with a book named Luoshu on its back swam in theLuoRiver. Later, Fuxi, known as the ancestor of human beings, deducted the Eight Diagrams of Yin and yang (the positive and negative) and thus the universe was divided into two, the Heaven and the Earth. However, according to the doctrine of Luoshu, Dayu, the first king of the Chinese Nation, drew up a constitution named “Hong Fan Jiu Chou” to rule the country and from then on began the Chinese civilization. So during every Pure Brightness Festival-held in the 5th of the 24 solar terms, personages of various circles gather here to worship their common ancestors.

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MountLushan, located by thePoyangLake, 36 kilometers south ofJiujiang City,Jiangxi.

Province, covers an area of 350 square kilometers. The HanyangPeak, the highest, rises 1,474 meters above sea level. At Lushan, towering peaks and dangerously steep cliffs on all sides surround a relatively gentle center. The landscape here is spectacular with some 100 peaks being veiled in mist for some 191 days annually on average. It is particular cool in summer and is therefore a world-renowned summer resort.
  
Mount Lushan has plenty of scenic attractions, including the Wulaofeng (Five Elderly Men Peaks), Xianrendong (Immortal‘s Cavern) and the White Deer Cave Academy, which, situated on the Houping Hill south of the Five Elderly Men Peaks, was one of the earliest institutes of higher learning in China. It was first built by Li Bo, an official of Tang Dynasty (618-907) at the beginning of the seventh century and was extended during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was one of the four largest academies in China, and teachers such as Zhu Xi and Lu Xiangshan, philosophers of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), had many students here.
  
In 1996, Mount Lushan was placed on the world cultural heritage list.

Zhangjiajie is a rising tourist city famous for its unique natural scenery and abundant tourism resources. A  Hollywood photographer came to Zhangjiajie in 2008 and took pictures that inspired artists who designed the settings of Avatar. It is located in the northwest ofHunanprovince, about 400 kilometers away fromChangsha, capital ofHunan, covering a total area of 9,563 square kilometers, of which 76% are mountainous area. Out of its total population of 1.62 million, almost 72% belong to ethnic minority groups, including Tujia, Bai and Miao nationalities.

Zhangjiajie is a prefecture-level city consisting of Yongding and Wulingyuan Districts, Cili and Sangzhi Counties. Wulingyuan District, also called Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, is endowed with striking natural beauty. This site is dominated by more than 3,000 narrow sandstone pillars and peaks, many over200mhigh. Between the peaks lie ravines and gorges with streams, pools and waterfalls, 40 caves, and two large natural bridges. It is also home to a number of endangered plant and animal species. Therefore, it was listed into the World Natural Heritage Catalogue by the UNESCO in 1992. What’s more, Zhangjiajie was awarded the title of “WorldGeologicalPark” in 2004.

 Quartz Sandstone Peak Forest and Karst Caves constitute the outstanding landscape features of Zhangjiajie, which are rare in the world. Here you’ll find yourself with hundreds of grotesque peaks, beautiful waters, towering trees, deep valleys, marvelous caves and exuberant forest that have formed a complete primitive ecological environment. In fact, Zhangjiajie, honored as “the most fantastic mountain under heaven” and ” a living Chinese landscape painting”, is a perfect combination of the beauty of Guilin, the grotesqueness ofMount Huang, the peril of Mount Hua and the magnificence of Mount Tai. It is also widely acclaimed as “an enlarged potted landscaping”, “a miniature fairyland” and “a maze of nature”, attracting a growing number of tourists from home and abroad.

 There are over 300 marvelous scenic spots in Zhangjiajie, such asTianzi Mountain, Yangjiajie andBaofeng Lake. As the core of  Zhangjiajie attractions, Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area is composed of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, two major Nature Reserves -TianziMountainandSuoxiValleyand the new Yangjiajie Scenic Area, stretching over a total area of 397 square kilometers. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, set up in 1982, is the first authorized national forest park inChina, featured by its unique hills, queer ridges and peaks, tranquil valleys, clear streams, abundant fauna and flora and hospitable climate. There are six main scenic spots and over 90 smaller ones in the park,which will bring you a lot of excitement and fun.

 Near the downtown area of Zhangjiajie stands grand Tianmen Mountain called “the Soul of Wuling”, and there is a beautiful Maoyan River that enjoys the reputation of “one-hundred-li long gallery” , a Jiutian Cave named “the number-one cave in Asia” and other charming scenic spots in Wulingyuan. All these natural wonders are worth exploring. In addition, you can take great delight in touring thePuguangBuddhistTemple, Hongjiaguan- Former Residence of Marshal Helong,TujiaFolkCustomPark, the Old House and other historical and cultural sites in Zhangjiajie.

After more than twenty years of development, tourism industry has become the leading industry in Zhangjiajie, which has stimulated the development of other industries related to tourism. In the meantime, ecotourism has been developed greatly here. When you come to Zhangjiajie, you can fully appreciate its magnificent natural scenery and experience appealing folk custom as well as other thrilling tourist activities, and you will be deeply impressed by the hospitality of local people. We are sure that your visit to Zhangjiajie is really exciting, joyful and unforgettable.

 The geological formation of Zhangjiajie belongs to the New Cathaysian tectonic system. About three billion and eight thousand years ago, this place was a large patch of ocean. After a series of geological changes including Wuling-xuefeng, Indo-china, Yanshan, Himalayan and Neotectonic movements, the bottom of ocean rose out of the surface, and the quartzite sandstone pillars and peaks took shape after the gradual cutting, eroding and crumbling of Nature for millions of years.

 The entire area is covered with towering cliffs of sandstone of quartz and dense unspoiled forests that conceal fantastic caves full of stalactites and stalagmites. The quartzite sandstone hills in Wulingyuan are unique in their large number and fairly pure composition (being 75-95% of quartz). With the changes of seasons and the weather, they constantly present different views to spectators. The highest peak in this area is Tuerwangyue Feng or Rabbit Watching theMoonPeakandMt.Tianziis particularly recommended for its good view.

 Zhangjiajie belongs to the sub-tropical humid monsoon climate. Splendid mountains and thick trees help form a favorable climate: warm in winter and cool in summer. The annual average temperature is16℃and the annual average sunshine hours and the amount of rainfall are 1440 hours and1400 mmrespectively. The average frost-free period over the past years is about 216 to 269 days a year. The charm of the scenery varies with the alternation of seasons, so it attracts visitors all year round.

Besides its pleasant climate, the primitive ecological environment also offers visitors a rare chance to breathe healthy air which is believed to be rich in negative oxygen. It is also believed that hypertension patient may have their blood pressure lowered if they stay in theforest parkfor a period of time. This is due to the fact that dust particles in the park are 88% lower and the air 10% mistier than outside.

 In ancient times, Zhangjiajie was regarded as remote and inaccessible. The earliest human activities can be traced to 100, 000 years ago and the legendary god of Agriculture was said to live a reclusive life here. Local story also indicates that Zhang liang, a lord in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), lived here in seclusion and was buried below Qingyan (now Zhangjiajie) Mountain.

Zhangjiajie was formerly named Dayong city, founded in 1988. As Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is increasingly becoming known to world, Dayong city was renamed as Zhangjiajie city under the permission of the State Council in 1994. Now, Zhangjiajie has basically developed a large-scale, high-rank tourist resort where strange mountains, green lakes, deep caves, serene valleys and historical culture and special folk customs are well blended into a beautiful painting.

Zhangjiajie is home to major three ethnic groups—Tujia, Bai and Miao people, which together make up approximately 70% of the local population. Up to now, these people still remain much of their traditional culture, including the language, festivals, clothing, and architectural styles as well. The long history of many minorities and their folk customs such as marriage custom, singing and dancing together with modern culture all contribute to the charm of Zhangjiajie. One thing is certain: All of these will give you a lasting memory.

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Hangzhou, capital ofZhejiangProvince, is one ofChina’s most famous and most prosperous cities. It is a place that has cleverly combined its natural advantages with modern industry, in order to establish itself at the forefront of the leisure economy; it’s also a place where the people appreciate peace and happiness and have managed to incorporate them into their everyday lives.

Stop1 Wetland wonders: sightseeing around Xixi

TheXixiNationalWetlandPark, the first national wetland park inChina, is located in the western outskirts ofHangzhou. It provides fine examples of urban wetland, as well as agricultural and cultural wetland environments.

The attraction of Xixi lies in its aquatic environment. Water is in the very soul of Xixi. About 70 percent of the park is covered by ponds, lakes, rivers, and swamps. The park is crisscrossed with six central watercourses, among which are scattered several ponds, lakes and  swamps. The branching streams and the series of ponds form a unique landscape amid the wetland.          

The local government in Xixi attaches considerable importance to sustainable ecological development, and has now established three ecological protection and restoration areas. There is also an exhibition hall showcasing scientific knowledge about the wetlands and a dedicated viewing platform. The area’s pleasant climate not only attracts a large number of visitors, but also a variety of birds, seeing it billed as something of a paradise for our feathered friend.

Xixi also has a rich human legacy. Many classical scholars saw it as a veritableEdenand praised it in their writings. Its Dragon Boat contest dotes back thousands of years and still takes place here annually. During this festival, you can take the chance to enjoy the scenery of hazy willows, as well as the mist and smoke from kitchen chimneys in the nearbyHazyFisherVillage. You can also take the opportunity to learn more about how the local residents make silk and earn a living as fisherfolk.

In Xixi, you can enjoy different landscapes during different seasons. You can have an outing in spring and enjoy the fresh air or harvest water chestnuts on the boats in summer, view the reeds during a radiant autumn sunset or admire the plum blossoms amid the chilly winds of winter.

If you are fond of birds, you should make sure you visit Xixi. The network of swamps and streams is the ideal dwelling place for a number of species, especially ducks. Standing and watching the relaxed and natural rhythms of their lifestyle, is enough to ease the stress of even the most hardworking executive. There is a also a three-storey pavilion that makes the ideal haven for relaxed observation.

West Lake Longjing Tea ranks among the top ten national blends, but Xixi Tea has also enjoyed a high reputation since the ancient times. Feng Mengzhen, a high-ranking official of the late Ming Dynasty, wrote a poem proclaiming his preference for the tea of Xixi over and above that of the rival Longjing tea.

XixiNationalWetlandPark
Address: No. 148 Tianmushan Road (tiān mù shān lù 天目山路), Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province
Admission fee: RMB 80
Opening hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 pm.
Transportation:
Bus: No. 310, K506, K193, Y13

Syop2 The West Lake - a divinely picturesque spot

When thinking of tourism inHangzhou, what is the first thing that springs to mind?WestLake? Almost certainly, yes. As the old Chinese saying states: “There is heaven in the sky,SuzhouandHangzhouon the earth”.Hangzhou’s reputation as a heaven on earth is largely down to theWestLake. Its picturesque landscape and rich cultural heritage, spanning countless centuries, make it an unmissable spot for visitors.

Legend of theWestLake

There are many myths and legends surrounding theWestLake. According to one story, many years ago a jade dragon and a golden phoenix plucked a piece of white jade from the night sky and worked on polishing it together for many years. The jade became gloriously radiant and trees turned evergreen and flowers bloomed wherever its rays were cast.

Soon, the story of the wonderful jewel reached the West Goddess, who governed the West Heaven and she dispatched her army to steal the precious stone away.

The Jade Dragon and the Golden Phoenix struggled to take it back, only to be denied by the goddess. Ultimate, they fought fiercely for the jewel and the West Goddess was vanquished, leaving the jewel to tumble back to the earth.

The jade was transformed into a pearl-like lake, known today as theWestLake. Its fall was followed by that of the Jade Dragon and the Golden Phoenix, who became theJadeDragonMountainand thePhoenixMountain. The two are now said to guard the shores of theWestLakeforever.

In the eyes of poets

During the time of the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD), Su Dongpo, a renowned poet and one of the governors ofHangzhou, penned a poem in praise of theWestLake, celebrating its abiding charm that survives the change of the seasons in a year and the different hours of the day. He compared it to Xizi, a Chinese legendary beauty named Xishi and subsequently bestowed upon it a new name – theXiziLake.

As one of China’s most renowned beauty spots, the West Lake is much loved by many Chinese and foreign celebrities. Chairman Mao is said to have come to visit theWestLakemore than 40 times. Once he spent seven months inHangzhou, which he considered his second home.

Not only did Chairman Mao praise theWestLake, but also Richard Nixon, the former president of theUS, found much to love about it. He came toHangzhoutwice and highly said that althoughBeijingis the capital ofChina,Hangzhouis its heart.

TheWest Laketoday

The many stunning attractions along the banks of the West Lake, as well as the museums in the nearby city are now free of charge, giving everyone unfettered access to the lake and its environs.

In 2007,Hangzhoucity launched the third session of its Ten Sites of theWestLakeinitiative. The prospective sites included 145 scenic areas that had been restored as part of a comprehensive protection project in 2002. Ultimately, the ten chosen sites included a Lingyin and a Buddhist monastery and their surrounding hills and gardens, the Yue Wang temple, a tomb and a memorial hall for Yue Fei, as well as another eight scenic spots.

The final choice proved that theWest Lakeis not only famous for its picturesque landscape but also for its long association with classical poets over thousands of years.

Stop3 Qiantangjiang River: Zhejiang’s tidal triumph

As one of the most important tourism destinations inZhejiangprovince, theQiantangjiangRiverattracts a huge number of visitors from both at home and abroad every year.

The source of theQiantangjiangRiverlies in theLotusPeakin Kaihua, a county in westernZhejiangprovince. Along its course, the river passes through 14 counties and cities before finally flowing into theHangzhouBay.

The river and the bay are known as the home of one of the world’s largest tidal bores, which is said to be up to9 m(30 ft) high and be capable of traveling at up to40 kmper hour. The tide rushing into the river from the bay causes a typical bore of between 5 to15 ft(1.5-4.6 m) high.

The tributaries of theQiantangjiangRiverhave a long development history, as well as many famous mountains, beautiful lakes, beguiling rivers, wonderful caves and ancient relics, all of which contribute to making it a golden tourist

Stop4 The Grand Canal, ancient aquatic highway

Over recent years theHangzhoumunicipal government has sought to promote its comprehensive protection plan for theBeijing-HangzhouCanal, while applying for world cultural heritage status for theGrand Canal.

Currently, the classical waterway retains its crucial inland shipping role, whilst also playing host to a number of significant cultural sites along its banks.

Whenever you come to theGrand Canal, it is said, it is always the perfect time for sightseeing. On summer nights, you can enjoy the breeze on the river and whilst autumn evenings provide the perfect opportunity to fully appreciate the moonlight and the shadowy temples by night.

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With impressive landscapes, pristine waters and colour-changing lakes,JiuzhaigouNational ParkinSichuanProvinceis one ofChina’s most popular natural destinations. But there’s a lesser known alternative, just off the beaten track.

In a neighbouring valley, adventurous travellers can get a close glimpse of some spectacular natural scenes, combined with enigmatic Tibetan culture. Let’s head down to the northern edge ofChina’sSichuanProvinceto take a closer look.

Jiuzhaigou, or “NineVillageValley”, isChina’s pioneering and most visited National Park.

Nestled between snow-capped mountains on the eastern slopes of the Tibetan Plateau, its far-flung location is proving no deterrent.

The highlight is the color-changing lakes of emeralds, turquoise and vivid blues, caused by the special geological conditions.

It’s these picturesque natural landscapes that are tempting tourists to the region.

Max Chiu & Elaine Hon, HK tourists, said, “We’ve been to lots of places. This is very colourful, and the lakes are beautiful. So that’s one reason why we decided to choose Jiuzhaigou for taking our wedding pictures.”

With tickets at nearly 50 US dollars, including the fee to be able to board the park buses, visiting is far from cheap.

Despite the cost, around two million tourists visit the park every year. Domestic tourists usually arrive in tour groups with tight schedules.

But in order to get closer to nature and enjoy a slice of real local Tibetan culture, one must go further into the mountains.

The hidden and unspoiled Zharu valley opens its doors for those willing to pay a small premium. Tours range from a one day walk and a visit to a small local museum, to a two or three day trek around the sacred Zhayizhaga mountain — a four and a half thousand meter colossus, and a destination for Buddhist pilgrims.

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TheSouthCaveis a natural landscape area that is magnificent, splendid, strange and beautiful. It is embraced on three sides by green hills and one side by the dam. The hills here are all high and steep. The height of the highest peak is 1,300 meters above sea level. The altitude difference is 230 meters between the top of the peak and the dam, and is 94.5 meters between the top of the peak and water level of the lake. A meter-gage railway (Yunnan-Vietnam Railway) that leads to the southern gate goes through the area directly. Three underground rivers with a steady daily flow come out from the mountains and join together to form theSouthCaveRiver. The reaches of the three underground rivers cover an area of over 3,000 square kilometers. The area has strange and beautiful karst caves that are typical examples of karst landforms.

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A lake dotted with islands and fringed by a laid-back city is a perfect setting, Matt Hodges reports.

Crocodiles, jellyfish and other perils of the deep are not part of the Qiandaohu experience, meaning you can add swimming in the Great Outdoors, in azure waters veiling buried archeological treasures, to your stress-free trip into China’s less-industrial past.

Qiandaohu, or Thousand Island Lake, revolves around a township of 45,000 people. It lies about a five-hour drive from Shanghai on the other side of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, but presents itself as a world apart from both.

The air is fresh and the water is clean, despite a recent mine explosion that threatened to flood the lake with lead. The only congestion to be found is on Xiu Shui Jie, or “Silk Street”, where locals douse strangers with buckets of fresh water as part of an ongoing festival.

Called po shui jie in Chinese, the water festival occupies the evenings like a less-riotous version of Thailand’s Songkran celebrations. Borrowed from the Dai minority, the festival has become this season’s main selling point and will end along with China’s san fu (hot) season on September 6.

The water-sprinkling festival vies with rafting, island-hopping, scenic walks through China’s biggest state park and “dancing fish”, which leap out of the water when hauled up by fishermen’s nets, for visitors’ attention.

At night, Mu opera shows, “jumping bamboo horse” performances and other forms of local entertainment haul in the crowds. Many of these performaces originate from Muzhou culture.

Big city nightlife, or any reference to it, is noticeably absent. You need to dig hard to turn up a karaoke bar and most visitors seem content to retire to their hotels when the sun goes down. Others feast on freshwater fish and ostrich egg omelets at lakeside restaurants. The lake holds over 85 species of fish, making it one of the province’s top suppliers.

For our party, the highlight of the weekend’s feasting was not what we ate, but where: inside thatched huts perched on poles above swirling black waters. The “restaurant”, which we accessed by pulling a rope-drawn raft, had no name.

One of the plus points of venturing to Qiandaohu is that it lets you choose your own adventure. You can elect to stay in the comfort of the five-star Kaiyuan Hotel, perched atop a hillock overlooking pristine islands. Alternatively, you can decamp to the hinterlands, as we did, for a fraction of the 1,000-yuan-a-night cost.

Our guesthouse provided more than comfortable lodgings, twin beds, a TV and a lakeside view for 80 yuan. It was nestled 10 kilometers out of town next to China’s premier training center for its national water-sports athletes.

This means we got to swim against a rolling backdrop of verdant hills beside the canoes of men and women who may well be on TV come November, standing on the podium at the Guangzhou Asian Games. As we swan between islands, an old woman in a rustic yellow and red tugboat urged the athletes on with jingoistic slogans about patriotic pride.

During our trip, the hordes of tourists we had been expecting, such as the crowds who skirt Hangzhou’s West Lake at the weekend, failed to materialize. The sun-baked streets were bereft of traffic, and time slowed to a snail’s pace. In short, it was the perfect serum for city slickers who feel the urban jungle closing in all sides.

The lake is actually a vast reservoir in Chun’an County formed by the construction of the Xin’an River Hydroelectric Power Station in 1959. The flooding of the Chun’an basin submerged mountains, farming settlements and villages, including one 1,800-year-old historical city, forcing hundreds of thousands of locals to relocate. In its wake, it left 1,087 mountaintops poking above the water.

Most of them are uninhabited, overhung with wild foliage. The water is said to run down into ravines up to 100 meters below sea level, but the average depth is closer to 35 meters.

Shanghai diving operators such as Big Blue (tel: 021- 6291-2110) arrange trips to prowl the lake’s bottom. The next trip is scheduled for August 20-22 at a cost of 4,300 yuan, including equipment hire. Exploring the buried city requires an advanced diving certificate as it sits at a depth of between 27 and 30 meters in near-freezing climes of 10 C. The certificate can be obtained during the trip for an extra 1,000 yuan.

Qiandaohu also includes China’s biggest state park, or “Oxygen Bar”. While the reservoir is billed as one of China’s cleanest water supplies – Nongfu mineral water is sourced here – the 982-square-kilometer park helps provide six times the state average of green cover.

Meanwhile, the basin nurtures more than 1,700 types of plant life and 2,100 species of wildlife.

Tourism development began in the 1980s and took off in 1998. Now the figures are healthy enough that officials have stopped aggressively promoting the area and its myriad islands. These include Monkey Isle, Ostrich Island and Fairy Dragon Isle, some of which are inhabited by their namesakes or crawling with snakes.

While these make for interesting half-day trips, no visit to the area is complete without hiking, or chair lifting, your way up Plum Blossom Peak, some 10 kilometers from the town center. Here, you get sweeping vistas of more than 300 islands.

If you look carefully, you may even spot an Olympic rower or two, a huge cruise liner, or the odd foreigner reveling in the lake’s bounteous waters.

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Catch the watery views at Zhouzhuang, only 50 kilometers from Shanghai.

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Shanghai metropolis to seek out a historic and well-preserved ancient town, then head for Zhouzhuang, a place regarded as China’s most famous “water town”.

Situated in Jiangsu province’s Kunshan city, only about 50 kilometers from Shanghai, Zhouzhuang offers typical southern Chinese riverside scenery, which features numerous small and ornate bridges, murmuring streams and elegant dwellings. It is an ideal holiday destination when a break from the big city is sorely needed.

Zhouzhuang dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), when it was called Zhenfengli. In 1086, during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) it was renamed Zhouzhuang in honor of a benevolent Buddhist named Zhou Digong.

Zhouzhuang has been “rediscovered” in recent decades thanks to the unique beauty of this ancient water town. It has won new popularity and aroused the interest of conservationists. It has also become a popular scenic spot and cultural relic.

In the 1980s, a base for TV and film was established in Zhouzhuang. Since then, more than 100 TV series and films have been shot there, including the award-winning movie Shanghai Triad, which was directed by Zhang Yimou and starred Gong Li.

Taking a gondola, the most convenient form of transport in Zhouzhuang, visitors can enjoy the lovely watery views in a peaceful way, along with typical ancient buildings found along the southern reaches of the Yangtze River, with plenty of local color and customs mixed in.

Zhouzhuang features zigzagging waterways breached by many elegant stone bridges. The small town is surrounded and divided by lakes and rivers, with 14 stone bridges crossing the waterways, each offering distinctive views of the town.

Among them, Twin Bridges (Shuang Qiao) is the most famous because of a painting by the internationally renowned artist, Chen Yifei. The two bridges, the Shide and Yong’an, were built in Wanli era (1573-1619) of the Ming Dynasty. The structures are considered the symbol of Zhouzhuang.

Seeing the ancient residences in Zhouzhuang is also a must. About 60 percent of the town’s structures were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties, from 1368 to 1911. Shen House and Zhang House are the two best-known structures and are well worth a visit.

Shen House, built in 1742, was the private property of the descendants of Shen Wansan, one of the richest men in south Yangtze River region in the early Qing Dynasty. Occupying an area of more than 2,000 square meters, the Qing-style house is known for its large scale – with more than 100 rooms. These rooms are divided into three sections, with each section connected by arcades. The first section is the water gate and wharf, where Shen’s family moored boats and washed clothes. The middle section includes the gate tower, tearoom, main hall and places for entertaining guests. The last section is the two-story dwelling where the family resided.

You can also visit the Chengxu Taoist Temple, known as Shengtang Hall, which has a history of over 900 years. After several periods of expansion, it is one of the most famous Taoist temples in the south Yangtze River region. Taking in an area of 1,500 square meters, its design is deceptively simple, yet elegant, some even say majestic, with its elaborate workings. It is regarded as a masterpiece of ancient Taoist architecture.

Quanfu Temple and South Lake Garden are two other places worth visiting in Zhouzhuang. You can also visit the town’s museum to see examples of traditional regional crafts and fishing implements.

At night, you can watch a special water performance called Zhouzhuang in All Seasons, featuring local folklore, traditions and legends of this water township.

The large-scale performance recounts what life was like along the southern Yangtze River region centuries ago. The performance is unveiled in a classical environment of small bridges, murmuring rivers and riverside homes. The performance projects Zhouzhuang in four seasons: rain in spring, picking lotus root in summer, harvest in autumn, and the New Year in winter. The performance is well regarded and has earned praise around the world for its display of folk customs and traditions portrayed in an artistic and authentic way.

The performance is staged between 7 pm and 8 pm each evening at a water stage at Jiangnan Renjia. Tickets are 150 yuan. You can book at 0512-5720-5622.

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The city of Beihai is located at the southern end of Guangxi and the northeast bank of Beibu Gulf. It covers a total area of 3,337 sq.kilometers. Its population is 1.36 million, among them, the urban population is 500.000. Backed by the great southwest region of China, it faces the Southeast Asia, with Guangdong province, Hainan island, Hong Kong, Macao and Vietnam close by. Today, Beihai’s geographical advantages are becoming more and more distinct in the economic development of China’s southwest region, and Asia-Pacific region as well. In 1984, Beihai became one of the first 14 coastal port cities further opened to the outside world. Since the policy of reform and opening-up to the outside world was adopted, Beihai has had a great leap forward in its development and a rich, beautiful, civilized garden like modernized port city is now coming into shape.

Beihai has abundant tourism resources of which oceanic tourism resource shows predominant position. A perfect oceanic tourism system is composed of seawater, beach, islands, ocean treasure, mangrove forests, coral, ocean civilization, beach sports and shipping liners. Since 1984, tourism industry of Beihai develops rapidly and it was approved as a key tourism city in 1988. Today, Beihai has become an important seaside tourism city in the south of China .

 

1.Reviving the South Pearl

Beihai pearl, called south pearl is famous all over the world.The beauty of South pearls comes from their thick nacre and higher luster. Layers of nacre that have crystallized and aligned properly create pearls with intense glow.

 

2.Return of the dugongs

A rare species at the edge of extinction, a mysterious group living at the bottom of the sea. Does the legendary mermaid really exist? If it does, does it have any encounter with man? What story does it have and what its destiny lying ahead after accidentally encounter with man? Will it come back again?

 

3.Spy games in an old town

The assassination of a Japanese drug store keeper was much more than meet the eye. It sparked suspicion, rumors and diplomatic strive, and even summoned the Japnaese navy to Chinese shores. What really happened behind the door of the exotic building on old street? And what did wartime testimonies reveal?

 

4.Sea Gate legend

This place was called Haimen, or “Sea Gate” in the Tang Dynasty, referring to the span between Mount Guantou and Daguan Harbour. The mountain, of course, has a precipice, and the harbour also has a thrusting peak, forming something resembling a gateway. There are emplacements on both sides, two on Mount Guantou and one on Daguan Peak.

 

5.Amazing Weizhou Island

Lying south of Beihai City in Guangxi with a total area of 36 square kilometers, Weizhou Island extends for 6.5 kilometers from south to north and has a width of 6 kilometers. The circling-island road, which connects scenic spots, villages, ports, is 15.6 kilometers long. The island has an annual average temperature of 23℃ and a rainfall of 1863mm, with no extreme hot summer days and no harsh winter days.

 

6. A Danjia wedding on the sea

A group of people are sitting in front of a shop of the century-old street of Beihai City, discussing something in their own dialect. It seems that they are having a meeting, but now and then, it looks like that they are arguing. It´s a preparation meeting for a wedding. Among the attendants some have no ties with the bridegroom´s family.

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Here are 10 top destinations to visit in China for 2012. No panda-watching is involved — but there will be tigers, camels and yaks. The list is ordered from north to south to showcase the dramatic landscape changes within China, a country that’s spread over 9,600,000 square kilometers.

NO.10 Harbin, Heilongjiang Province p>

The capital of China’s northeastern province, Harbin, is a frigid city with rich Russian influences that permeate everything from architecture to food. Bone-chilling winters average at minus 16 C. Harbin is home to the International Ice and Snow Festival, one of the world’s largest snow festivals. The massive ice sculptures are carved throughout December and last until mid-February.

For anyone unwilling to brave the winter chill, warm summers do exist in the “city of ice.” Top attraction is the Harbin Beer Festival in August. It’s a massive drunken beer party in the city square with great tunes and tons of alcohol.

Foodies can make their way to Harbin’s best barbecue joint, Daquan BBQ. They serve unconventional items like mutton kidneys as well as conservative choices like pork or eggplant skewers.

Siberian Tiger Park, 88 Songbei Jie, Songbei District, Harbin, +86 451 8808 0098, RMB 90 (adults), RMB 45 (children), free for children no taller than 1.2 meters, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Daquan BBQ, 86 Donglai Jie, near Caoshi Jie, +86 451 8834 8888, 10 a.m.-midnight

NO.9 Dunhuang, Gansu Province

Escape to this Gobi desert oasis which provides clean air, historic treasures and the chance to ride a camel. Book your flight early — only a handful of planes fly to Dunhuang each day.

Take advantage of the tourist activities at Mingsha Sand Dunes. You can paraglide over the sand dunes, race dune buggies, and pretend you’re in a massive sandbox while sliding down the dunes and screaming at the top of your lungs.

Ride a camel. They’re adorable creatures, even though getting on them is a bit terrifying at first.

Dunhuang is the home of the Mogao Grottoes, a treasure chest of Buddhist paintings and currently the site of a major international excavation.

The city is also a former trading hub on the Silk Road, so make sure you do some serious modern trading at Shazhou Night Market , which carries a wide selection of local crafts and souvenirs. Next to Shazhou vendors sell heaps of dried fruit and nuts, which make good desert day-trip snacks.

If you want something with more substance, Dunhuang cuisine revolves around wheat noodles and meat. Some staples include saozi noodles, stuffed bread with meat and mutton kebabs. The food pavilion next to the night market is the best place to sample a little bit of everything.

Shazhou Night Market, Shazhou Lu, Dunhuang. The night market runs from around 6 p.m. till midnight every day.

NO.8 Pingyao, Shanxi Province

The economic capital during the Ming and Qing dynasties, Pingyao’s most defining feature is its city wall. The outline of Pingyao’s city wall is said to resemble a tortoise and it encloses one of the most well-preserved historic cities in China. More importantly, you can walk along the top of the 600-year-old wall (accessible from the north and south gates). Mostly off-limits to cars, the 14th-century trading town is lined with cobblestone streets.

True to Pingyao’s economic history, one of the most popular attractions is its historical bank — the Rishengchang Draft Bank. The earliest bank in China, Rishengchang opened in 1824 and symbolizes the beginning of modern China’s financial growth. At one time, Shanxi province’s banks constituted more than half of the banks in the country. Rishengchang closed down in 1914, and its original structure now houses the China Draft Bank Museum.

The town is also known for its beef jerky, which tastes like corned beef. Get the Pingyao beef in soup at Yunjincheng Restaurant. Average price per person is RMB 40-50.

China Draft Bank Museum, 373 Xian Dao, Pingyao, RMB 120 (adults), RMB 60 (kids), +86 354 568 3261, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Yunjincheng Restaurant, 56 Xi Da Jie, Pingyao, +86 354 568 0944, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

NO.7 Huangshan, Anhui Province

One of the best-known mountains in China, Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is the site of breath-taking scenery and, at more than 1,000 meters high, a heck of a view. Huangshan’s peaks are frequently shrouded in mist, which makes it look like they’re floating (very Avatar-esque). A six- to- seven-hour hike leads to the summit; the route is completely paved with stones. It’s great for those looking to tone the thighs but horrible for the more sedentary. Thankfully, there is also a cable car (RMB65-80 one-way, depending on the season).

Opt to stay in a hostel or hotel at the top or camp if the weather allows.

Bring your own snacks for the trek but remember to pack lightly. It’s a long way up, but for those famished after an entire day of climbing, a well-deserved buffet is available at the 1,630-meter high Beihai Hotel, which is located at the top of the mountain.

Beihai Hotel, ‪Beihai Scenic Area, Huangshan

NO.6 Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province

Most people come here to pay homage to the world’s oldest functional irrigation system. It’s massive, ancient, and cost a whooping 100,000 taels of silver to make. The project controlled flooding in the area and has, to the pride of the Chinese, weathered the past 2,000 years. The water system irrigated the landscape so successfully that the Chengdu plain is to this day known throughout China for its agricultural abundance.

The engineering feat dates back to the Qin Dynasty and draws water from the Minjiang River, a major branch of the Yangtze River originating in Sichuan. At the irrigation site, a rope bridge makes for great photo opportunities and a guaranteed adrenaline rush. Of course, you can’t go to a Sichuan town without trying the fragrantly spicy food. Dujiangyan has its fair selection of spicy hot pot that will either make your tongue go numb or eyes water. Or both. Check out Xiao Tian’e Hot Pot Mall, a popular hot pot restaurant with locations throughout Sichuan.

The bus ride from Chengdu takes about 50 minutes.

Xiao Tian’e, No. 215, Building. 23 Yufu Jie, Yutang Town, Dujiangyan, +86 28 8718 2698, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

NO.5 Suzhou, Jiangsu Province

Suzhou lies 30 minutes west of Shanghai by bullet train; the city is a scenic haven with a lot of canals, carefully planned-out ancient gardens and delicious freshwater river fish.

Don’t get stuck on the modern shopping streets. It’s not worth it. Instead, venture to Shantang Jie or Pingjiang Lu. Shantang Jie is an 11-kilometer strip of ancient architecture, lined with shops, restaurants and opera houses. Canal boat rides are also available but this hub is primarily for people looking to shop for souvenirs. Pingjiang Lu is an idyllic cobblestone street that runs alongside a canal. It’s narrow but is a typical old-school Suzhou street with its quaint teahouses overlooking the canal and pedestrian-only roads.

Once the sightseeing is done, try the city’s signature mandarin squirrelfish– a porcupine looking fish dish that is both sweet and sour. It can be found at most high-end Suzhou restaurants, but De Ye Lou is one of the best. The establishment dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The fish is priced at RMB 168.

De Yue Lou, 27 Taijian Long, near Guanqian Jie, Suzhou, , +86 512 6523 8940, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.

NO.4 Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province

The porcelain capital of the Orient, Jingdezhen is the place to get china from China. Even the local traffic lights are adorned in bright blue and white porcelain. Jingdezhen has a 1,700-year history of porcelain production. Budding artisans and tourists alike can try their hand at the antique craft for RMB 50 at the Ceramic History Museum. For a more scenic day trip, visit the Dragon Pearl Pavilion for its historical ties to the ancient ceramic industry.

The landmark used to be the imperial ceramic plant of the Ming and Qing dynasties. But it has been transformed to a museum featuring hundreds of imperial ceramic wares produced at the height of the Ming dynasty.

Local specialties like jiaoziba (sticky rice cake dumpling) and fried wontons can be found in the Dajianong area. Dajianong is home to a ceramic factory but is surrounded with food stands and local snacks.

Ceramic History Museum is inside Jingdezhen’s Ceramic Culture Exhibition Area. Panlong Gang, Mable Hill, Jingdezhen, +86 798 852 1594, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Dragon Pearl Pavilion, Zhonghua Bei Lu, Zhugan District, Jingdezhen

NO.3 Gulangyu, Xiamen, Fujian Province

Motor vehicles are completely banned on this 1.87-square-kilometer island south of Xiamen, which makes for a great stress-free strolling experience (a rarity in China). It’s a major tourist hub complete with an aquarium and nightly piano concerts. The miniature oasis has extremely clean streets and is perfect for those looking to literally sit back and relax.

Spend an entire day strolling through the city alleyways and you’ll find yourself in a maze of restaurants, shops, hotels and a surprisingly large concentration of churches. On Sundays you can hear hymns being sung in churches throughout the island.

Nicknamed “Piano Island,”Gulangyu is known for its music and houses China’s only piano museum. Local households on the island contain more than 200 pianos, including rare collector pieces dating back from the 1800s.

Gulangyu’s cuisine is all about the sea. Shuyou Seafood Restaurant has one of the freshest seafood selections in Xiamen where you can take your pick of scallops, lobsters and crabs.

Gulangyu Piano Museum, inside Shuzhuang Garden, Gulangyu, RMB 30, 8:15 a.m.- 7 p.m. (summer); 8:15 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (winter)

Shu you Seafood Restaurant, 97 Hubin North Road, Siming District, Gulangyu, +86 592 5338899, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

NO.2 Lijiang, Yunan Province

Escape to a timeless land known for its scenery but worth the visit simply because it has yak milk.

The Yunnan town was a major trading hub eight centuries ago due to its extensive waterways and bridges. A trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town is practically mandatory; bonfires are lit at night and people dance in the city square. Also be sure to head over to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, an iconic Lijiang attraction capped with snow all year long.

Lijiang is the home of the Naxi, an ethnic minority group and one of the few remaining people to still write using hieroglyphs in the world. The local Naxi cuisine features dairy and beef products like yogurt, yak cheese, yak steak and yak butter. The local beverage is yak milk tea (who would’ve guessed?). And if you still haven’t had enough, you can take a day trip out to Yak Meadows (60 kilometers from Old Town) and ride on a yak.

NO.1 Hainan Province

During winter, Chinese and Russian tourists alike flock to Hainan to escape the bitter cold. Literally meaning “south of the sea”, around half of the island’s coastline is made up of beaches between 600 meters and 1,000 meters wide. The combination of tropical monsoon climate, beaches and luxury resorts has granted its title as “China’s Hawaii.”

To experience five-star luxury at its height, stay at one of the many international resorts along Yalong Bay in Sanya . Most have private beaches where you can enjoy a variety of water sports, such as surfing, jet-skiing and yachting. Last November, Mission Hills opened the world’s largest spa complex in Haikou — Mission Hills Volcanic Mineral Springs. The whole complex covers nearly 89,000 square meters.

Nanwan Monkey Island, which is about an hour’s drive northeast of Sanya, is also worth visiting for its state-protected macaques and its 2,000-meter transoceanic ropeway. At the centre of Hainan island, Wuzhi Mountain is known for its waterfalls and small villages of the Li and Miao minorities.

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