On February 3 the Chinese lunar calendar will celebrate the New Year, the year of the Iron Rabbit. The Rabbit is the fourth animal in the Chinese 12 year/animal zodiac cycle. Each new year is celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice, creating a different date every year. Chinese New year, or Chun Jie, is the most important holiday of the year in China. Families will travel great distances to get together and feast on fish and dumplings. Young children traditionally receive hong bao, red envelopes filled with money.
People born in the year of the Rabbit are considered lucky, considerate, kind , calm, and gracious but can also be cautious, stubborn and moody. Famous rabbits include Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lewis Carroll and George Orwell.
The Beijing subway system continues to expand and provide state of the art, affordable rapid transit to the city’s people.T he Beijing subway began as a primitive project in 1969 by digging trenches to place track and stations rather than using modern tunneling techniques. The central ring line and Western suburb line was designed primarily as a means to quickly evacuate party officials from city center to the Western Hills in the event of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
War never came and ridership increased steadily. The initial two lines and 39 stations remained unchanged until the new millennium when a massive expansion project to improve transportation infrastructure prior to the 2008 Olympics was implemented.
As of 2010, the system has 10 lines and 147 stations with 228 km (141 miles) of track. In April, 2010 daily ridership surpassed 6.4 million (the New York subway averages 5 million weekday riders). The subsidized ticket price of 2 yuan (30 cents) per ride greatly helps reduce the surface traffic congestion
The system continues to expand, fueled by a $4 trillion yuan ($590 billion US) government stimulus package. The subway system is scheduled to be completed in 2015 with 19 lines and 561 km (348 miles) of track.
Almost all Access china tours include a visit to Beijing where the magnificent subway can be experienced.
Dubai may have the world’s single tallest building, but China has most of the highest skyscrapers on earth. Completion this year of Hong Kong’s (484 m/1588 ft) International Commerce Center and Nanjing’s (450m/1476 ft.) Greenland Financial Center gives the People’s Republic of China 10 of the 16 tallest buildings in the world. The ten towers, located in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are all over 367m/1205 ft. For comparison, the Willis (formerly Sears) tower in Chicago, America’s tallest building is 442m/1451 ft.
China has clearly taken the lead as the nation constructing the most ultra-tall skyscrapers in the world. The Asian continent is now the location of 16 of the world’s 20 tallest buildings (the US has the other 4).
The Ritz Carlton hotel will occupy the top 15 stories of the Hong Kong ICC, making it the world’s highest hotel, taking the current title from the Park Hyatt in the Shanghai World Financial Center (currently the world’s third tallest balding ). China isn’t through with building, it has another 4 skyscrapers currently under construction that will exceed 440 m/1443 ft.
The movie, “Empires of the Deep,”is not another fantasy dreamed up by Hollywood. It is being conceived and shot here on the world’s largest studio set, north of Beijing.
This mash-up of “Avatar,” “Gladiator” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” all thrown together in a Chinese hot pot, is the vision of a film-obsessed real estate magnate, Jon Jiang, who says his life mission now is to make movies, video games and theme parks. It is also the boldest effort yet by businessmen here to establish China as a global moviemaking powerhouse, one that can create big-budget English-language spectacles to rival those of Hollywood.
Read the full June 16, 2010 New York Times article by clicking here
The June 2010 National Geographic magzaine has a great article and photos about the Buddhist caves of Dunhuang on the Silk Road in Gansu province.
The Mogao caves have preserved thousands of sculptures and paintings of Buddha for over 1500 years in the arid climate of the Gobi Desert. Click here to read the story.
Yesterday members of the Denver-Kunming sister city committee departed for a two week trip to China, focusing on Kunming and Yunnan province in Southwestern China. Denver and Kunming, which both rest at an altitude over a mile above sea level, have been sister cites for 25 years and are involved in ongoing cultural and academic exchange programs.
Pictured here are members of the committee with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper standing in front of a bronze peacock statute presented to Denver as gift by Kunming.
Also pictured is John Yee, founder of the sister city relationship who worked as an interpreter for the US Flying Tigers fighter squadron based in Kunming during World War 2.
Besides meeting with the Mayor of Kunming staff, the delegation will visit the late sculptor’s workshop and academic institutions. The trip, arranged by Access China Tours, will visit Shanghai, Kunming, Lijiang, Dali and Beijing. Click here to view the complete trip itinerary.
Chuan Chuan, housed at the Shanghai Zoo, has passed away at the age of 30. Chuan Chuan was a wild born panda who fathered Le Le of the Memphis Zoo and Ling Ling of the Chongqing Zoo among many, many others. He was also the grandfather to Hong Kong Ocean Park resident Le Le.
With only around 290 pandas in the captive breeding program it is an especially hard loss to the species. Our partner Pandas International has started a memorial fund in Chuan Chuan’s honor. You can make a donation at the PI website
Although the unique ecosystem of Jiuzhaigou has been a UNESCO World Heritage site protected landscape since 1992, few people outside of China are familiar with this area of sublime alpine beauty. The name means “nine village valley” and it is in the lush mountains of northern Sichuan province, near the Gansu border inhabited by Tibetan and Qiang peoples.
Many natural enthusiast consider the waterfalls, crystal clear aquamarine alpine lakes and towering snow covered jagged peaks to rival the beauty of Yosemite or Banff National parks.
Despite receiving large numbers of annual visitors Jiuzhaigou keeps the park pristine by barring vehicles except for park buses and utilizing elevated wooden walking paths that do not damage the environment.
Easy access to the region is provided by the modern mountaintop Huanglong Airport, which at 3,450 meters (11,315 feet) altitude is one of the highest in the world. There are numerous 40 minute flights to the provincial capital of Chengdu each day.
Our Heaven Earth Tour vistits Jiuzhaigou and other areas of supreme natural beauty.
May 1, 2010, marked the opening in Shanghai, China for the largest World’s Fair ever to be staged. The World Expo, which has 189 nations and 57 international organization participating, will run from May 1 through October 31, 2010 in the cosmopolitan financial hub of China. The April 30th opening ceremonies were attended by dozens of foreign leaders to view the fireworks, laser shows and dance performances. Entertainers included Jackie Chan, Andrea Bocelli, and the Soweto Gospel Choir.
It is believed that China is spending even more on this year’s World Expo infrastructure (over $60 billion US) than the highly successful 2008 Beijing Olympics, promising a grand experience for the expected 70 million visitors. The futuristic pavilions will feature exhibiting nations’ art, culture, and technology.
Almost all of Access China Tours include a stop in Shanghai where the Expo can be experienced.
To find out more about the Shanghai World Expo 2010, visit this link.
Although many governments around the world have urged China to allow its currency, the yuan, to appreciate to address trade imbalances, they neglect the exceptional value a fixed rate provides tourists traveling in China.
Travel consumers have enjoyed the predictable and favorable exchange rate for many years. Since 2007 China has kept its currency pegged to 6.82 yuan to the US dollar. Thus currencies such as the Euro, Yen and Pound which have appreciated against the dollar, provide an even greater value for European and Japanese tourists traveling in China.
While some governments complain the fixed currency is artificially low to make Chinese export goods cheaper, they neglect the value travelers receive when touring the country.
As long as the currency stays pegged to the dollar, China will remain an exceptional travel value. This will not last indefinitely, however, change is likely in the next 6-12 months. An April 9 New York Times article discussed when China might allow the yuan to appreciate.