The basics Population: 1.3 billion Capital: Beijing

How to stay healthy • The high levels of air pollution in major urban and industrialised areas can aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Check pollution index levels at A reading of 300 and above is considered extremely polluted, and several cities including Beijing regularly exceed this number. • Rabies occurs throughout China, so you’re best to avoid contact with animals – even the cute ones! • Buy bottled water, don’t drink it from the tap. While you’re there, please don’t… • Leave your chopsticks sticking upright in your rice bowl. Doing so is likened to a shrine with two sticks of incense stuck upright in it, and is the equivalent of wishing death upon the person at the table. Instead, lay them on your dish. Before you go, read … Country Driving by Peter Hessler – detailing the author’s several long journeys by car through rapidly changing China. Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian – Nobel prize-winner’s fictionalised memoir about a journey along the Yangzi River. Before you go, watch … Raise the Red Lantern – this bold and colourful drama by director Zhang Yimou (the man behind the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics) is set in the 1920s and tells the story of a concubine to a wealthy warlord. Skyfall – for a view of Shanghai and Macau through James Bond’s eyes. They said it “Let her (China) sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” – Napoleon Bonaparte. “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he’ll eat forever.” – Chinese proverb

Religion: Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, usually practiced in combination with one another. Emergency numbers: 110 (police), 119 (fire), 120 (medical). The key dates (All the following are for 2017 but the dates vary from year to year) 28 February. Chinese New Year. From the first to the 15th day of the lunar New Year is a time for visiting friends and relatives. It’s the biggest migration of people in the world, so be prepared for overwhelming crowds, noise and fireworks. 30 May: Dragon Boat Festival. Try a zongzi rice dumpling while watching the dragon boat racing. 4 October: Mid-Autumn Festival. Another family reunion holiday; admire the full moon and sample mooncakes. The hot spots Popular destinations include Beijing, Suzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Macau, Xi’an, Sanya, Lijang and Tibet. There are more than 50 World Heritage Sites, including the Great Wall, the Potala Palace in Lhasa, and the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Some itinerary ideas • The Big Three: Beijing – Shanghai – Xi’an (terracotta warriors) • Natural Beauty: Shanghai – Hangzhou – Huangshan – Guilin • The West: Beijing – Urumqi – Kashgar • Sichuan&Yunnan: Chengdu – Shangri-La – Dali – Lijiang • The South: Guangzhou – Shenzhen – Hong Kong – Macau – Sanya



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