Category Archives: Wonders

China’s Top 10 Adrenaline-Fuelled Atrractions

News and Travel Editor

It’s the travellers’ rite of passage – experiencing unforgettable, thrill seeking experiences on your gap year or travels abroad.

If you are after a nail biting, vertigo-inducing, unforgettable experience on your next trip to China, this top 10 list is of jaw dropping, adrenaline-rush activities is handpicked by China Icons for you.

Sheldon blog

In at No 10: Lehe Ledu Wildlife Zoo, Chongqing

This unique zoo has created waves in the animal rights kingdom and has masses of international press coverage. Taking inspiration from cage diving with sharks, they switch the traditional idea of a zoo on its head, with humans being the ones put in cages. Entering the land of the lions and tigers, visitors are able to feed the animals through gaps in the fence. Personally, I would prefer there to be NO GAPS, when it comes between me and a hungry predator.  Not for the faint hearted.

No 9: Cliff swing at Wansheng Ordovician Theme Park, Chongqing

It’s a swing with a difference – a 300m/1000ft cliff top drop under your favourite childhood playground ride.    You’d be forgiven for forgetting to enjoy the stunning backdrop of southern Chongqing during this ride.

No 8: Glass Bridge, Mount Langya, Hebei

China’s latest glass bridge 450 metres high above a rocky gorge provides tourists with an insane 360 degree view of Mount Langya and the surrounding forest conservation area.. A glass path hovering above the rocky valley leads you up on to the circular deck, where you can enjoy the panorama views (if you are brave enough!).

No 7: Mount Hua Shan, Shaanxi

This cliff climbing adventure will have you gripping the mountain face as you tiptoe across wooden planks seemingly held together with giant staples. It’s been called world’s most dangerous hike, but the views and cup of tea at the top of the mountain’s southern peak are worth the ‘hike’.

No 6: Jinmao Tower Skywalk, Shanghai

Ever dreamed about walking in the sky? This Shanghai attraction has got you covered. At the top of this 88-story tower (the third tallest building in China), you can take a casual wander in the open air and enjoy the views of the lively city below. And of course it has a glass-bottom to complete the illusions that you are airborne.

No 5: Dinoconda, Jiangsu

For all you roller coaster veterans, it will come as no surprise to include the world’s fastest 4th dimensional roller coaster at this infamous dinosaur-themed park.  Get ready to ROAR as you travel at a mighty 80mph, thrown and rotated in the air by a dino-monster.

No 4: Bungee Jumping at the AJ Hackett Macau Tower, Macau

This bungee jump is the world’s highest, jumping from 233m high and has revolutionised safety equipment for bungee jumping.  Prepare to feel like a giant bird swooping down to earth as you freefall until just 30 metres from earth.

No 3: Cable Car Tianmen Shan (Heaven’s Gate Mountain), Hunan

Connecting China’s scenic town of Zhangjiajie and Tianmen, the world’s longest cable car takes a total of 28 minutes from start to end. What could be an immensely enjoyable journey, could also be someone’s introduction to acrophobia as it gets as steep as 38 degrees and ascends and descends a total of 1,279 meters.

No 2: Coiling Dragon Cliff Walkway, Hunan 

Complementing the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge at No 1, this 1.6 metre wide glass path coils around the Tianmen Mountain and hangs over a sheer drop . It’s not for the faint hearted, but would you really want to miss out

No 1: Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, Hunan

At 430 metres long and 300 metres above ground, this is the world’s longest and highest glass bridge. Don’t even consider it if you are scared of heights, but if you can hold yourself together till you get to the other side, you are promised some spectacular views

Go on, what have we missed?  China and its attractions are ever changing so help us keep up to date by adding your opinions in the comments.

What’s so ‘Great’ about the Great Wall? A History of the Great Wall of China

News and Travel Editor

What’s so great about the Great Wall of China and why does it deserve its name?

Its size? The average height of the wall is 7.8 metres and the highest point is 14 metres.

Its length?  The total length of all sections of wall built throughout the dynasties reaches 13,170 miles. If stretched out in a straight line, the Great Wall could travel almost half way around the equator.

Its weight? Some people estimate an incredible 58,095,000 tons! That’s 9 times heavier than the collective weight of the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Or was it known by a different name when it was built and simply became the ‘Great Wall’ as time passed? We hope to answer all these questions and more by separating the facts from the legends and myths.

The Great Wall was, and remains, the longest man-made construction in the world. This might explain why today we’ve refer to it  as ‘Great’, but when it was built, it was simply known as the ‘Long Wall’ or ‘Long City’, as it was simply seen as a stretched out, giant, city wall.

Unsurprisingly, it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, alongside Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Italy and Petra in Jordan. But it was not built over one time period. Instead, the Great Wall has been built, modified or extended for around 2,000 years since the 7th and 8th centuries after regular invasions from the Mongols in the north.

We’ve all heard stories of workers being buried under the wall, but there are many other entertaining legends and myths surrounding the structure. The stories are incredibly wide-ranging and perhaps the most entertaining has been featured in a recent Hollywood-Chinese movie starring Matt Damon. The Great Wall film plays with the myth that the wall was not intended for keeping out the Mongol invaders from the north, but was in fact needed to protect China from supernatural forces.

But our all time favourite story is one that we think might just have a little bit of truth in it;

The Legend of Yi Kaizhan tells the story of the Yi, a mathematician who explained that it would take exactly 99,999 bricks to build the section of wall at Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu Province. His supervisor argued that if he was wrong, the entire workforce would be forced to do 3 years hard labour as punishment. Guess what? It took 99,998. Thankfully, good old Yi had a trick up his sleeve.  Even though the left over brick hadn’t been used in the construction, Yi quickly suggested that a supernatural being had placed it close by and that moving it would force the wall to collapse. Suspicious, the supervisor never moved the brick and, legend has it, the brick can still be found in the same spot today…

Whilst we can’t vouch for this story, one thing we can say is that, unfortunately and contrary to popular belief, the wall cannot be seen from space. This is probably because the original statement was made before anyone actually went into space… Even NASA admit that the Great Wall becomes somewhat less great when photographed from a low earth orbit.

Finally, did you also know that the wall is not really an ‘it’ but more of a ‘them’? The wall was very much built in sections, with many overlapping and some more ancient and wild sections crumbling away. That might also be because many sections of the wall are not built from bricks and mortar, but are sometimes moulded from the earth to create humps in the ground which are often reshaped by the weather.

Have you visited the Great Wall recently? Can you vouch for any of these stories? Please let us know if you go to Jiayuguan and find that famous supernatural brick still sitting there…

Panda Triplets & Koala Twins: The Incredible Breeding Team Behind China’s Miracle Animal Births

Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou has become famous for its incredible breeding successes – most famously the world’s only surviving panda triplets and koala twins. Pandas have notoriously short windows of time in which to breed (around 3 days a year) and it was the job of the breeders at Chimelong to interpret when this window was, get the pandas to breed in this time and also check the pandas were actually pregnant!  So it was nothing short of a miracle when giant panda mum Juxiao gave birth to 3 baby pandas in 2014.  Watch their incredible journey to date:

If you thought that they were cute, check out today’s upload about China’s koala bears. We look at the team behind the successful breeding of koala bears. In fact, the programme has become so successful that Chimelong is now seen as the second home of the koala behind their native habitat in Australia.  Chen Shu Qing is part of the breeding team behind the many successes at Chimelong Safari Park.

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She was the first koala breeder in China and after helping the first koalas settle in in 2006, her care and attentiveness prepare her for helping Giant Panda, Juxiao, raise her 3 panda triplets.

It doesn’t stop there. Chimelong is home to the largest elephant population in Asia, managing to deliver 5 calves in one season and hosts 150 White Tigers with only 200 left in the world.  By breeding more endangered species, the team at Chimelong Safari Park hope that it reduces the chances of them becoming extinct, both in the wild and in captivity.

It’s clear that the breeding team at Chimelong have done so much for the preservation of endangered species so that the rest of us will hopefully be able to enjoy them for many years to come.

Harbin Ice Festival 2017: In Pictures

News and Travel Editor

The world famous Harbin Ice Festival is well underway in China’s northernmost province, Heilongjiang. We have been treated to some spectacular sights in the past and this year is no exception. Check out some of the stunning shots captured at this year’s festival so far.

This is the 33rd Harbin Ice Festival since its inception in 1963. At the start of every festival, an ice sculpture competition is held, showcasing some brilliant creations. Although the Harbin Ice Sculpture Competition is over for this year, the festival itself won’t finish until February 25th, so there’s still plenty of time to take in the sights across the 200 acre park.

Here are our favourite images so far of this year’s festival.

Fireworks erupt at the opening ceremony on January 5th.

Did you know that many of the blocks used for the sculptures were taken from Harbin’s Songhua River?

Did you double take just then? That’s right, some of the sculptures are actually designed into slides for the public. Just make sure you’re wrapped up warm for this one…

Many of the sculptures are inspired by Chinese folk tales and global landmarks. with the Egyptian Sphynx making regular appearances.

The Harbin Snow Festival has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The festival attracted over 1 million visitors last year.

18 couples have so far braved the cold in Harbin to get married, but that’s not the most daring this to happen at the festival this year…

Swimming competitions take place in a pool cut out of the frozen Songhua River. Just looking at this makes me feel cold.

Next week, our very own Coco will be giving you some top tips on stocking up for your Chinese New Year celebrations as you get ready to welcome in the Year of the Rooster. We’ll also take a look at some of the myths and legends surrounding Chinese New Year, including what NOT to do if you’re given a red money envelope…

China’s Oldest Resident: The Ginkgo Tree

News and Travel Editor

Fall is my favourite season of the year, with darker, cosier evenings and the changing colours in the trees. But have you heard of the Ginkgo Biloba Tree? It’s famous in China for being one of the oldest living tree species and shedding its brilliantly golden leaves at the start of Fall (also known as autumn in other parts of the world!).

There are both ‘male’ and ‘female’ trees, with the female producing a strange, whiffy, fruit which is often described as smelling like ‘rancid butter’. Remember to take your nose pegs if you’re planning on visiting your local Ginkgo tree anytime soon…

The fruit can actually pose a massive problem in cities with people regularly slipping on it after it has fallen from the tree, resulting in male only trees being used in urban areas.

Nonetheless, the Gingko Biloba tree is often planted near temples, shrines and castles and can be seen as an object of holy worship as well as being able to ward off evil spirits.

The species is thought to be around 350 million years old, making the tree a symbol of longevity and vitality. Reports of the oldest individual tree are wildly varied, ranging from 1,400 years to 10,000 years!

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Image by CS76.

The leaves of Ginkgo trees are used for herbal medicine and are said to have a range of medicinal qualities including being able to improve blood circulation and relieve Alzheimer’s. It’s also a hugely popular drug in France and Germany, accounting for 1.5% of their total prescription sales!

The Ginkgo tree is known also to be exceptionally hardy and able to withstand disastrous events. Some trees in China show signs of lightning damage but continue to grow and blossom out of disfigured trunks.

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Image by travel oriented. CC Attribution 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode).

So there you have it, the Ginkgo tree is more than just a pretty sight. Choosing to ignore its pungent fruit, the tree is also an allegedly effective healer and keep away unwanted spirits (perfect, just in time for Halloween!).

Fancy a spot of ‘leaf peeping’ yourself? Here are our favourite places to go!

Dajue Temple, Beijing.
The Ginkgo tree here is reportedly 1,000 years old and is easily accessible in the suburbs of Beijing. There are 3 other Ginkgo trees at the temple, the tallest being 30 metres, with a diameter of 7 to 8 metres.

Stone Buddha Temple, Beijing.
This Ginkgo was planted in the Tang Dynasty, 1,200 years ago! This tree is female and produces fruit every autumn. You have been warned…

Gu Guanyin Buddhist Temple, Xi’an, Shanxi Province.
This tree was also planted during the Tang dynasty and is on the national protection list of trees. Monks at the temple often meditate amongst the fallen leaves.

Modern China’s Top 10 Most Breath-Taking Buildings

News and Travel Editor

China is home to some truly innovative feats of engineering. We all now know about China’s glass bridges, but what about other jaw-dropping examples of Chinese architecture? Here’s our highly personal CHINA ICONS Top 10 breath-taking buildings in Modern China.

10 – THE GATE OF THE ORIENT

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Image by Christian Ganshirt.

The Gate of the Orient is located in Suzhou and symbolises a gateway to the city, emphasising the continuing significance of the city in modern China. The Gate is often referred to as China’s answer to the Arc de Triomphe and we love it because it’s known to locals as ‘Trousers Tower’.

9 – BANK OF CHINA TOWER

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Image by hans-johnson. CC Attribution 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode).

The structure of this magnificent looking tower references the Chinese symbols for Earth (square) and Heaven (circular) and combines elements of old and new China. For us, the skyscraper simply had to make the list for the jaw-dropping role it played in Mission Impossible III, when Tom Cruise used the building for a bungee jump!

8 – GUANGZHOU CIRCLE

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Image by Midip.

The Guangzhou Circle adheres to and is inspired by feng shui. The ‘double disc of jade’ is the symbol of the Chinese dynasty that ruled in the area of Guangzhou 2000 years ago. The structure, when reflected in the water, shows a figure of 8, an incredibly lucky number in Chinese culture, and also the symbol for infinity. Did you know the start of the Beijing Olympics was on 8th August (the 8th month), 2008?

7 – CCTV HEADQUARTERS

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Image by Bjarke Liboriussen. CC Atribution 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode).

The fascinatingly 3-D CCTV Headquarters directly goes against the traditional skyscraper competition for height and is built in the architectural style of ‘Deconstructivism’. The CCTV Headquarters were recognised as the ‘Best Tall Building Worldwide’ and ‘Best Tall Building in Asia and Australasia’ in 2013 by CTBUH Awards Program. Did you know locals refer to this as ‘Big Boxer Shorts’?

6 – THE PIANO HOUSE

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Image by Dly86. Attribution CC 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode).

Built in 2007, the Piano and Violin House in Huainan City, Anhui Province is on a scale of 50:1 and is an extremely popular photo stop for newly wedded couples. I love the way the roof of the building is tilted, just like the lid of a grand piano!

5 – SHERATON HUZHOU HOT SPRING RESORT

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井浩泽 by MAD China

Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort is nicknamed ‘Horseshoe Hotel’ (for obvious reasons) and is intended to emphasise harmony between man and nature and to enhance visitors’ sensual and spiritual experiences.

4 – BIRDS NEST STADIUM

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Image by Peter 23, Beijing National Stadium.

We simply couldn’t ignore the home of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Bird’s Nest Stadium. It was designed by Swiss and Chinese architects and is the most complex steel structure ever made. The stadium can withstand an earthquake of up to magnitude 8 which was made possible by using the purest steel ever produced in China. At the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the stadium could seat 91,000 spectators. (Psst, want to see how this incredible structure gets cleaned?!)

3 – GALAXY SOHO BUILDING

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Image by Rob Deutscher. CC Attribution 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode).

The Galaxy Soho Building was designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, who stated that ‘The design responds to the varied contextual relationships and dynamic conditions of Beijing.’ It’s a completely unique building that we think looks a bit like something out of a sci-fi movie inside!

2- SHANGHAI TOWER

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Image by Yhz1221.

The Shanghai Tower is China’s tallest building, standing at a monumental 632 metres. The tower is also home to the world’s fastest elevator. Travelling at 20.5 metres per second, it only takes 55 seconds to reach the sightseeing deck on the 119th floor. This beats both the Empire State Building and the One World Trade Centre in New York, travelling at 7.1 m/s and 10.2 m/s respectively. This incredible speed becomes even more dizzying when you find out that experts argue that fastest elevator humanly possible won’t be able to travel faster than 24 metres per second.

1 – NATIONAL CENTRE FOR PERFORMING ARTS

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Image by Hui Lan.

Topping the list for us at China Icons is the spectacular National Centre, which seats 5, 452 people in 3 halls and is locally described as ‘The Giant Egg’, floating on the surrounding water. The Opera Hall is used for both international and national operas including and international starts including Yehudi Menuhin, Zubin Mehta and Lang Lang (who opened the Centre on the New Year’s Eve Gala) have performed here. You enter the building through a fascinating underwater viewing gallery, making this a truly unique piece of architecture.

What’s your favourite from this list? Would you organise the top 10 differently? Or are there any building’s we’ve completely missed from the list that you would include?

Why are there so many glass bridges in China?

News and Travel Editor

Every few weeks on my Twitter feed, announcements pop up regarding a glass bridge in China. The widest, the longest, the highest, the scariest, one with a restaurant, one you can hit with a sledgehammer… the openings keep coming! As someone with a slight fear of heights, I’m yet to give any of them a go, but I can’t help but wonder WHY do they keep getting built? Am I missing out on something amazing? Aren’t they all….kind of the same?

I did a little digging to find out more.

Tourism

Time for a spot of science. Architect Keith Brownlie, who was involved in a glass bridge for The London Science Museum, said that the appeal of these walkways is”thrill”. Speaking to the BBC, he said “It is the relationship between emotionally driven fear and the logical understanding of safety,” he said. “These structures tread the boundary between those two contrasting senses and people like to challenge their rational mind in relation to their irrational fear.”

Dr. Margee Kerr, a Pittsburgh (US)-based sociologist expands on this by explaining to The Huffington Post  why triggering a ‘fight or flight’ response can feel good  “Our arousal system is activated and triggers a cascade of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters and hormones like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline that influence our brains and our bodies” She also suggests that pride from overcoming these fears and bonding with friends and family in the process also makes scaring yourself silly so appealing.

Sky-high yoga

Okay, I’m kidding, I just wanted an excuse to include these gloriously unusual photos.

In conclusion, a continually growing tourist market combined with a love of thrill seeking may go part of the way to explain the glass bridge craze that’s sweeping China. One thing is for sure, all of the bridges show off incredible landscapes – something China is definitely not short of.

Are you brave enough to give one of China’s glass bridges a try? Have you been already? If so, I’d love to know what you think makes the experience so exciting!