Rich in skyscrapers and natural resources, Chongqing is an immense inland city at the convergence of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers. As the city mutates into a mega-city, the mood is one of inevitability. "This is the path every developed country has taken," sociologist Tang Jun remarks. As a result of such colossal urbanization, the environmental impacts are legion. With an economy rooted in river transportation, steel, smelting, and the manufacturing of automotive parts, factory smog builds a haze over the city that virtually never dissipates.


One-time fishing village on the Pearl River Delta, Shenzhen has blasted into a city in less than 20 years, developing a reputation for blood-thirsty capitalism. Replacing farmland with skyscrapers, Shenzhen's 1980 population was less than 100,000. With over 9 million residents, locals now refer to their city as the richest and most dangerous city in China. In a city where McDonald's breached the Chinese fast-food market, it is remarkable to see millionaires who take the time to hang their laundry on the line.


During the Qing Dynasty, Pingyao was the financial center of China. It is an ancient fortress-like city built largely in the 14th and 15th centuries. With moats, 40-foot walls and immense barbican gates, Pingyao is a striking sample of traditional urban design. In the stone streets of Pingyao, China's first banks were opened circa 1400. Recently, Pingyao has failed to modernize largely due to the city's relative poverty. With no great excess, the city and its setting have survived.


Qingdao is a long thin strip of land that stretches into the Yellow Sea across the Shandong Peninsula. A major seaport, naval base and industrial center, Qingdao is famous for producing white goods (like that white T-shirt you're wearing) and Tsingtao Beer. The Tsingtao Brewery was actually founded in 1903 by German settlers, and today's Qingdao is shaped by a combination of German and Chinese architecture. More to the point, the city provides a fine setting for the acclaimed Tsingtao Beer Festival.


Kicking farmers off their land to build a nuclear plant has ignited dissent in this tropical city once known as a haven for pirates and the opium trade. One of China's most suitable cities for living, and a popular tourist destination due to its beach resorts overlooking the Taiwan Strait, Xiamen is a merchant class port city. Fishermen, shipbuilders, food processors, tanners, and textile laborers abound in Xiamen, a city that has seen its GDP rise annually by 20 percent over the past few years.


Set on the Bohai Bay, Tianjin has large offshore oil deposits and is China's major salt-extracting city. While its economic growth is dwarfed by Shanghai and Beijing, Tianjin is more often viewed as the largest city no one has heard of. For the sake of modernization, traditional spots like the Ancient Culture Street have been torn down. Instead, as one local writer describes: "There are now three Wal-Marts, but none of them carry underarm deodorant. And there is a water park with no waterslides ... and a cucumber research institute."


Under Russian rule at the turn of the century, Dalian was designed by Russian architects working from a French template. Today, with the addition of China's booming economy, Dalian has added the necessary skyscrapers, resulting in a unique hybrid of urban design. With buildings squeezed into an infrastructure of manicured gardens, lush lawns, squares, and fountains, Dalian is one of China's most pleasant urban centers. Outside the city center, Dalian feels like a resort town -- a picturesque coastal city full of beaches, fashionable locals and renowned seafood.

Not far from Hong Kong, and also lying on the banks of the Pearl River Delta, Guangzhou is a leading commercial and manufacturing city that is growing at a monstrous pace. But back in the 19th century, Canton (now Guangzhou) was China's major trading port with Western Europe. A beautiful and ancient city, Silk Road was a hub of haggling and bartering, a globally attended merchant trading center. Of course, Guangzhou's port remains a crucial access point for international trade, but just over 100 years ago, it was all spices and luxury items.


While much of China has clogged its cities with smog and poisoned its rivers with chemicals, The Dongtan Project, the world's first eco-city, "is leading the way in urban sustainability." It is also the world's most intentional city -- but what a dreamscape. Innovation in resource efficiency is driving The Dongtan Project. Arup, a London-based global engineering and design consultancy, is building an eco-city out of nothing. It is the Chinese Ground Zero -- Chongming Island, a plot the size of Manhattan, off the coast of Shanghai.


Located in central China at the confluence of the Han and Yangtze Rivers, Wuhan is an enormous city divided into three towns: Hankou, Hanyang and Wuchang. A communications mecca, Wuhan has 189 lakes which account for 25 percent of the mega-city?s area -- a phenomenal urban ratio. Wuhan boasts the broadest investment environment in the nation with 40 countries and 40 of the 500 largest multinationals investing in China.

(source: / presented by

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  1. Wow! Great list! Love the picts and the descriptions.
    - Suz

  2. ohhhh i wannna go to chongqing or to xiamen... i never thought china have great cities too aside from beijing and shanghai.

  3. If you ever come to Qingdao and need any help give a call. There are lots of things to do and see. The Qingdao International Beer Festival is always a big hit. Loads of people from around the world enjoying a festival in honor of the nectar of the gods, beer. How great is that?

    Are you going to the 2008 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Qingdao?



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AN ASIAN TRAVELER, Exploring Around Asia!