Tag Archives: China

China’s New Silk Road: 12,000 km from the UK to China

News and Travel Editor

Welcome to China Icons’ first ever 4K video, and what a subject to start on!

The UK is the latest country to ‘get connected’ to China’s latest global innovation, the One Belt One Road Initiative. It’s a rejuvenation of the ancient, 2,000 year-old Silk Road, arguably made famous by the traveller and explorer Marco Polo. China and the UK are now connected via one of the most innovative rail links in the world.

Join us as we travel 12,000 km to the other side of the globe from London in the UK to Yiwu on the eastern edge of China.

From electronic equipment to toys and games, the train will be transporting almost anything you could possibly think of.

Find out what it takes to launch one of the most ambitious projects the world has ever seen and re-live the celebrations in London as the train departs to Yiwu.

Don’t forget to check out our other blog on some of the highlights along the 12,000 km route, from the Russian wilderness to the mild climate of China’s eastern coast. This isn’t the only celebration of China’s ‘New Silk Road’, horticultural designers have created a Silk Road garden at the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Check out their incredible efforts here.

China Makes an Appearance at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

News and Travel Editor

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has returned to the UK this week, a show famous for outrageous landscapes and gardens constructed from scratch in a matter of days (not to mention the appearance of every celebrity you can think of).

This year, China are making a special appearance in the form of a beautiful Silk Road garden showcasing Chengdu’s legendary history.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is one of the most famous and most prestigious landscape garden and flower shows in the UK. Since 1912, the competition has showcased gardens from some of the biggest designers, architects and horticulturists around the world. How famous I hear you ask? Well, enough to bring the British Royals back year after year…

This year, architects  Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins have created a garden to end all gardens. It celebrates the ancient and ongoing links between east and west, featuring landscapes and flowers from both the east and west with a ‘Silk Road’ bridge to link the various elements. This is also one of the only gardens at the Show which can be viewed from all angles – nowhere to hide any of those pesky dead plants then…

All of the plants throughout the garden come from Sichuan Province in central China, an area famous for its rich and fertile environment. Many of the plants in the show garden actually first arrived in the UK hundreds of years ago via the ancient Silk Road, which is no surprise considering 20% of the world’s plants originate in China.

At the centre of this stunning miniature landscape is the symbol of the Sun and Immortal Bird Legend of Chengdu and the rising red platforms throughout the garden symbolise the mountainous paths in China and along the Silk Road. Both designers admitted that the road leading to the Show was a bumpy one and that many late nights were endured – They were even forced to line up cars with their headlights glaring on to the garden as the nights crept in!

Like us, you might not have a chance to visit the garden before the end of the week, but luckily, you’re able to fully immerse yourself via this link – https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=gxoTkgW7oMb&utm_source=4 – which is even better if you have a VR headset…

The medals have already been awarded with the Silk Road garden achieving an impressive Silver Gilt (only one short of the tantalising gold). Nevertheless, Collins admitted he was slightly disappointed with the award which is understandable, I mean, the garden is huge!

You can take a look at some of the other highlights from this year’s Show below.

What’s your favourite element of the garden? If you have visited Sichuan Province before, does this garden take you there? Let us know in the comments below!

A Journey Across Continents: The London to Yiwu Train

News and Travel Editor

Today marks the end of a historic 7,500 mile freight train journey from London, UK, to Yiwu, China. Carrying everything from pharmaceuticals to milk powder and soft drinks, it’s the first ever journey on this route and marks a significant moment for trading relations between the UK, Europe and China. But its not been without difficulty – the train has ventured through 9 countries, from freezing Russian wilderness to the mild climate of China’s eastern coast. This blog visits some of the highlights along its route and looks at why this train journey is so important.

This is the first ever direct cargo train carrying British goods from the UK to China. This may seem like a modern innovation, but the train is actually reviving the 2,000 year-old Silk Road, an ancient link between the east and west. As well as contributing to the recent Chinese initiative of the New Silk Road, transporting goods to China from the UK via freight train is twice as fast as transporting them by sea and the costs are tiny compared to transporting by air. This is a time and cost effective solution, not to mention it passes through 7,500 miles of glorious scenery.

Cosmopolitan Western Europe

After leaving London Gateway, the train passes through the bright lights of Western Europe, from Paris and Brussels to Duisberg and Warsaw. This sounds like a great opportunity for a whirlwind tour of Europe, aboard one of the most important freight trains in the world today.

The Freezing Russian Winter

Just as you’ve got used to the mild climate of western Europe, the train was fully immersed in the gloriously tropical  -40°C winters of the Russian wilderness. Beautiful it may be, there’s no doubt the train driver need their winter woolies.

The Plains of Kazakhstan and Xinjiang

Here, the journey becomes even more beautiful. The train has journeyed through thousands of miles of beautiful plains of grassland, mountains and deserts. Where do we sign up to be the driver again?

Yiwu: The Final Destination

After 7,500 miles, the train has travelled through virtually every landscape and climate imaginable, and has finally arrived in Yiwu, one of China’s manufacturing and international trading centres. We can expect the train to make many more trips over the next few years, with other Silk Road trains making the trip up to 500 times each year! Judging from the photos of highlights along the route, one thing is for certain: whoever gets the job of driving the train halfway across the world is the luckiest person in the world.

 

 

The Lifeblood of the Chinese People: The Grand Canal

News and Travel Editor

The Grand Canal is quite possibly one of the most impressive man-made constructions on earth. It’s 1,400 years old and throughout that time, not only has it been one of China’s most popular tourist attractions, but it continues to be the lifeblood for many of the people transporting precious goods from north to south.

grand canal old FREE

As a workplace

The ‘Canal People‘, also known as the ‘Chuanmin’ call the canal their home, staying on their barge for as many as 350 days of the year. One lady is reported to have given birth to two twins on her barge – understandable given she only has 15 days on dry land!  For her, the job is more about making memories than money from working on the canal.

Grand canal FREE

If farmers rely on the weather for a good harvest, then the canal people rely on economics. Although the chuanmin rarely have to worry about a lack of rainfall, they often have to keep track of the price of their goods. They transport anything from oil and coal to rice and other foods.
It’s a challenging and unpredictable way of life, but one that the chuanmin of the Grand Canal seem to cherish and thrive on.

As a tourist attraction

Do you see yourself as something of an athlete or sportsperson? If so, cycling along the Grand Canal might just be for you. Although the journey will most likely take a hefty 20-25 days, some of the sites you will encounter along the way will be second to none. It’s described as one of the best cycle routes in China, and the 1,700km journey should definitely be on your cycling bucket list (if you have one!)

Since 2014, the Grand Canal has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Many canal people including Zhu Bingren, a co-writer of the proposal to UNESCO, wanted to determine the Canal’s place in history and to ensure future generations understood and looked after what has been one of China’s most important waterways. Today, the Grand Canal continues to be vital to the Chinese economy.

Join us at China Icons as we explore China’s waterways, including China’s Grand Canal, from a very special perspective. Our unique drone footage allows you to soar over some of the most impressive natural and man-made features in China. Experience the mighty roar of the Yangtze and the pure tranquillity of the Xun River at the Longsheng Rice Terraces.

 

Have you visited any of the other World Heritage Sites in China? Or do you plan on visiting the Grand Canal anytime soon? Let us know in the comments below!

Join us next week for celebrations as the first ever London-Yiwu train arrives at its destination after 18 day, 7,500 mile journey.

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.

Koalas6

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.