By Jessica Addington
There is no doubt about it, China is a country filled with big cities. That was one of the first things I realized when I received an email from my agency at the beginning of my China adventure. They told me, “Your city has 16 million people.” For a person coming from a decent sized town in Colorado, this seemed massive. How could they fit that many people into a city and have it function normally? China has no obvious answers, these things just happen.
Because of the sheer size of the major cities and their plethora of modern conveniences, it can be difficult to find the historical or cultural areas. In the modern cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen, there are certainly plenty of places of cultural interest but if you are looking for an immersive dose of ancient Chinese culture, you’d better head to an ancient Chinese city; cities like Xi’an, Suzhou, Nanjing, and Hangzhou. These cities offer real cultural experiences as well as ancient relics and buildings to visit and are well worth visiting – or considering as a location for teaching!
Take Xi’an for example; with around eight million people, the city feels more relaxed than other big Chinese cities and is full of historical landmarks. As the starting point of the ancient Silk Road trading route, this city gives insight into many parts of China’s history. One of the most famous attractions in Xi’an is the Terracotta Army, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These relics date back over two thousand years and amaze onlookers simply by their numbers, as well as by their detail and preservation. Once you have visited the Warriors, there is the City Wall or the Bell Tower for further interesting historical artifacts. This ancient city is a good place to start your historical China tour.
Suzhou is another historical city to put on your list. In contrast to its metropolitan neighbor, Shanghai, Suzhou has a certain peace about it; an ancient city at its finest. The city itself is crisscrossed by lakes and streams, earning itself the nickname, ‘Venice of the Orient’. The city was built thousands of years ago and maintains its unique atmosphere due to its numerous gardens and vast greenery. Suzhou is an ancient historical city but you don’t have to visit museums and temples to understand this. The history can be felt wandering along the rivers and gardens and spending your days outside.
Nanjing (one of the Four Historical Capitals of China along with Beijing, Xi’an and Luoyang) is an ancient city with a charm all its own. The cultural heritage of this city can be attributed to it once being the ancient capital of many cities around it. The history of this city is full of war and conflict, but also strength and perseverance. This contributes to the conflicting views in the city; there are both glorious gardens and imposing temples. You can visit the Confucius Temple and the Mausoleum, or you can relax by the Qinhaui River, Zhanyuan Garden, or Xuanwu Lake. Whatever you are looking for in Nanjing, you will find it. Such an amazing, ancient city.
If it is picturesque river scenery you are looking for, combined with ancient Chinese architecture, there is no better place than Hangzhou. Hangzhou is located on the Yangtze River Delta and is close to Shanghai. The famous attraction here is the West Lake, which is quite scenic. West Lake has a romantic legend attached to it, and when you visit it, you can see why. Wineries, bridges, and pagodas all surround the lake. In the summer, the lotus flowers are in bloom. Hangzhou is a lovely place to experience ancient Chinese culture.
Don’t get me wrong; it is very nice living in a metropolitan city such as Shenzhen, with all of its amenities and hustle and bustle. But there is something unique about ancient Chinese culture; the history, the temples, even the reverence for nature. It makes you want to get out of the massive cities and experience something real, something from long ago. Cities like Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Xi’an have this and more waiting for you – so go see them, you won’t regret it!
Teachers For Asia have teaching positions in a wide variety of locations across China, including in these historic cities. For details of our adult and teen teaching positions in cities such as Xi’an, Suzhou, Nanjing, Beijing and other historic and coastal locations, check out our featured job at: https://www.teachersforasia.com/general-business-english/. We also have public school positions in Suzhou for August/September start dates. Check out our full job listing at www.teachersforasia.com/jobs and click on the “Apply Now” button to submit an enquiry or application.