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By Zhang Xueying, China Today staff reporter

Traditional Resorts

Of the 10 cities, Sanya, Haikou and Qinhuangdao are traditional destinations for millions of urbanites seeking to escape the summer heat of inland cities.

Sanya and Haikou on China's southernmost island province of Hainan are often compared to Hawaii, given a tropical climate and landscape that make them unlike any other Chinese seaside locale. Apart from marine sightseeing and recreational activities, golfing has boomed in recent years at both summer resorts. Sanya's Yalong Bay Golf Club, in particular, has distinguished itself by hosting a number of international professional tournaments, leading to its selection by the American golf magazine, Golf Digest, as one of the top 10 greens in China.

However, it is their exotic tropical scenery that lures millions of inlanders, with Sanya's Jianfeng Ridge rainforest and Yalong Bay, and Haikou's Dongzhaigang mangrove forest standing out as their emblematic natural tourism destinations.

Jianfeng Ridge, [55.8 miles] north of Sanya city proper, has the largest tropical primeval rainforest in China, home to 75 percent of the plant species and 85 percent of wildlife species found on Hainan Island. Experts claim that the biotic integrity and diversity of the vegetation coverage is comparable to that of the Amazon River. Towering ancient trees, sprawling climbers and gurgling streams can be seen everywhere, as well as the ethereal mists that drift over the forest park. Now the park offers several ecological and adventure sightseeing routes.

[Fifteen and a half miles] southeast of the city lies Yalong Bay, where a rolling green terrain hugs a body of calm and azure-blue sea. A visibility of more than [6.2 miles] in depth allows visitors to see well-preserved corals and colorful tropical fish. The silver sands of the bay are fine, making a soft beach for the sunbather, and the local climate is also congenial.

The [9,880-acre] Dongzhaigang Mangrove Forest sits [18.6 miles] from downtown Haikou. During high tides, the dense woods are submerged in water, exposing only their crowns. Tourists can take a boat cruise through the forest of crowns.

Qinhuangdao is located [173.6 miles] from Beijing in the northeastern tip of Hebei Province; it is embraced by a [76.9-mile-long] coastline of the Bohai Sea. Qinhuangdao beaches are known for their fine sand, ample sunshine and gentle waves, and most of them are clustered in Beidaihe and Nandaihe.

In the late 19th century, people of the upper classes and Westerners began to build villas at Beidaihe, and by 1949, 719 of them had been erected, including 483 built by foreigners in various alien architectural styles. In addition, Beidaihe also has a well-preserved 19th-century railway station constructed by the British. Old photos testify to the popularity of the summer resort for foreigners residing in China, and it is said that even rickshaw boys were able to speak a few words of English.

Today, Beidaihe remains a popular seaside resort in northern China, and receives more than 6 million holidaymakers every year.

Apart from its beaches, a [173.6-mile-long] section of the Great Wall within Qinhuangdao is also a major tourist draw. This section also includes a length built much earlier. A preliminary study dates it to the 6th century, though disagreement exists.

The Shanhai (Mountain and Sea) Pass is the eastern end of the Great Wall built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is actually a walled town fortified by 10 passes, seven enceintes, 37 forts, and 14 beacon towers. The town has established three pedestrian routes for tourists to trace this section of the Great Wall and its fortifications – from Old Dragon Head to First Pass under Heaven (Shanhai Pass) and to Mount Jiao; from Mount Jiao to Sandao Pass; and from Jiumenkou to Huangtuying.

The Old Dragon Head is [3.1 miles] from the town and is a [66-foot] head of the Great Wall that intrudes into the Bohai Sea. Mount Jiao is [1.9 miles] from town and is the first mountain that the Great Wall climbs over after it crawls out of the sea and extends northwards. The Sandao Pass guards the valley between two vertically sloped mountains, and the flanking walls almost hang perpendicularly on the mountainsides.

Urban Culture

Qingdao, Xiamen, Dalian and Ningbo are famed for their sophisticated urban culture.

Dalian in Liaoning Province is a famed seaside city of northern China. It was a small fishing village 100 years ago when a group of Gallomania architects from Russia arrived with their blueprint for an "Oriental Paris." In the following centuries, Dalian developed into a square-centered city, with its streets and neighborhoods radiating from its many squares. Today, the city has more than 80 squares with distinct square features – lawns, pigeons, sculptures, fountains, as well as the country's only mounted policewomen patrol.

Dalian is also the city of fashion and soccer, being the venue of the annual International Fashion Festival and home of the Dalian Wanda Soccer Team, which has captured eight championships out of the nine national league tournaments. The enthusiasm of locals for soccer is no less intense than that of Brazilian fanatics.

Qingdao, in the southeastern tip of the Shandong Peninsula, is as well known for its historical sites as for its beautiful seascape.

The Badaguan Scenic Area in the vicinity of No. 1 Bathing Beach has a cluster of European villas built in the early 20th century by aristocratic and royal families of more than 20 European countries at the invitation of German colonists who occupied Qingdao at the time. The villas sit quietly in the shade of green foliage that was introduced together with the foreign styled architecture, and are arranged into eight blocks, explaining its Chinese name.

Qingdao is a brewing hub, and the namesake local brew is known at home and abroad. Every August, domestic and international brands are consumed in the city, by locals and visitors who gather for the drinking festivals. The Qingdao Beer Festival is the largest of its kind in China. Locals love Qingdao beer, and they drink it, incredibly, from plastic bags, the ale fresh out of the brewery and cooler than chilled bottled beer.

Ningbo in Zhejiang Province lies [186 miles] from Shanghai. The city is the birthplace of the 7,000-year-old Hemudu Culture, the starting point of the Marine Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and also one of the three foreign trade ports of that time (the other two being Yangzhou and Guangzhou). Ningbo is famed for its Buddhist heritage; the Asoka Temple houses the pearl-like cremated remains of Sakyamuni; Xuedou Mountain is a Buddhist center in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces; and the Baoguo Temple is the oldest wooden structure south of the Yangtze River.

Ningbo is also the cradle of Chinese merchants. Compared with their Wenzhou counterparts, Ningbo merchants are more inclined toward big endeavors, and one-fourth of Shanghai's shrewd business tycoons are said to be natives of Ningbo. Shipping magnate Bao Yugang (Sir Yue-kong Pao, 1918-1991) was an iconic Ningbo businessman. Ningbo is also an original hometown of many overseas Chinese; more than 300,000 people of Ningbo origin reside in more than 50 countries and regions around the world.

Xiamen in Fujian Province sits on the southeastern coast, and its Gulangyu Islet epitomizes the refined urban culture of the city. The [0.8-square-mile] islet is separated from Xiamen by the [1980-foot-wide] Lujiang River, but can be reached by a five-minute ferry ride.

Gulangyu is nicknamed Piano Islet. There are more than 700 pianos for a local population of 20,000, averaging one for every ten families. Many of the families are dynastic pianists, and have produced some of the best pianists and musicians domestically and internationally, such as pianists Yin Chengzong and Kong Xiangdong, and conductor Chen Zuohuang. The municipal music school, concert hall, symphony orchestra and piano museum are located on this islet. On holidays, family piano concerts are often held, and it is not uncommon for three generations to play together.

New Holiday Resorts

Rizhao, Zhuhai and Beihai are latecomers compared with the aforementioned seaside resorts.

Rizhao is [496 miles] from Beijing in the southern part of the Shandong Peninsula. In terms of commercial prosperity and service facilities, it pales beside its big brother Qingdao on the northern coast of the peninsula. However, it is a convenient getaway from urban bustle and has the same climate and beaches. When the traditional seaside resorts around Beijing become crowded, many Beijing urbanites go to Rizhao.

Rizhao also offers good prices for a seafood feast. Wangjiazao is a popular seafood catering community with many eateries to choose from. Locals too go there for seafood delicacies, as a meal averages a reasonable RMB 30 per person.

Zhuhai, on the southern coast of Guangdong Province, is close to Hong Kong and Macao. It is one of the earliest special economic zones in China, and, as a new seaside resort, is characterized by tranquility, cleanliness and fresh air. The city has an attractive long coastline, with 146 islets.

Marine hot springs are what's unique to Zhuhai. The Ocean Spring Resort, [18.6 miles] from city proper, is currently the most frequented holiday destination of the city. According to the operator, the high-quality, crystal-clear spring originates deep in the sea, and is rich in minerals and trace elements.

Beihai is a small and relatively young city on the southern coast of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Like Rizhao and Zhuhai, it is also a place for repose with fresh air and fine beaches. The best known is Silver Beach, though many outsiders prefer Weizhou Island, the largest island in Guangxi and the youngest volcanic island in China. Weizhou features beautiful tropical vegetation, fantastic lava terrain, and a wonderful land topography as a consequence of sea erosion and sedimentation. The sea is so clear that the sunlight pierces through and reveals the seabed. Weizhou has 16,000 residents, and interestingly, a third of them are Catholics.

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