By Duncan Gordon
When you think of China, maybe you think lots of people and big cities. There’s probably a city you’ve never heard of which is twice the size of your country’s capital. Row upon row of newly-built apartment blocks stretching to the horizon.
Perhaps China is less renowned for being home to beautiful cities with ancient architecture still in tact.
Here we’ll show you five districts from cities around China that disprove many people’s assumptions about Chinese cities…
5. Gulangyu, Xiamen, Fujian province
Gulangyu is separated from downtown Xiamen by straits less than a kilometre wide. The whole island is completely pedestrianized, making it a labyrinth of meandering paths and alleys. Dilapidated European-style villas mingle with black-tiled mansions and traditional Chinese architecture, while old banyan trees overhang the streets.
4. Suzhou Old City, Jiangsu province
Suzhou is famous for its classical gardens filled with flowing streams, bushy trees and ornate buildings. Once belonging to private homes, they are now open to the public. Suzhou represents the Chinese philosophy of man being at one in nature and visitors come away with a deep sense of tranquillity.
3. Historic center of Macao
The island just off China’s south coast is nowadays best known as a gambling haven. Gambling is illegal in mainland China but not on Macao, which is populated by a throng of mega-casinos. However, Macao was a major landing point of Western culture in China, being colonised by both Portugal and the Netherlands. It’s historical old town is an example of European and Chinese cultures intermingling, and the streets are still decorated with the Portuguese pavement design.
2. Badaguan Scenic Area, Qingdao, Shandong province
Qingdao was semi-colonised by the Germans in the late nineteen century. The buildings they left behind encompass a wide range of architectural styles. The roads on Qingdao’s hills are wide and well kept, with views looking out onto the Pacific. It’s not like anywhere else in Shandong, or in China for that matter.
1. Hutong, Dongcheng, Beijing.
Beijing’s famous hutong (胡同),traditional neighbourhoods of narrow streets or alleys, are spread right across the city but the best kept and extensive hutong are in Dongcheng, around Nanluoguxiang. The residences are made up of four homes around a courtyard, or Siheyuan (四合院). Some hutong seem locked in time, with archaic shops and tiny restaurants in people’s homes, while others are a river of tourists. Each alley has its own charms.