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China
 
Old ‘Peking’ … new ‘Beijing’; the Forbidden City … the political focal point of Tianamen Square – the west is rapidly developing a more up-to-date grasp of the real China, helped hugely by the 2008 Olympics. Yet for all the modernity of the ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium, the explosion of industry, the astonishing hydro-electric schemes, there is an underlying timelessness. The 4,000 mile Great Wall was begun in the 5th century BC and the ‘modern’ version completed by the 16th century Ming dynasty. China may have been ‘opened up’ to western eyes only in the 19th century, but the Terracotta Army was first paraded 2,000 years earlier. Somewhat more recently, the new dam is changing theYangtse river forever, but the Three Gorges retain the impressive beauty that Marco Polo saw, and where Kubla Khan ruled. And then at the mouth of the same river lies Shanghai, ancient port and now a ‘world city’, the most populous in China and centre-piece of the fastest growing global economy, with a staggering skyline as architectural evidence.
 
Beijing
 
As the second largest city of the world's most populous country, Beijing is much more than an ex Olympic city. At the epicentre of Chinese history for more than eight centuries, its ancient attractions include such UNESCO endorsed wonders as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. Today's Beijing now bulges with over 14 million people and a forest of high-rise buildings, but there are also some excellent modern attractions to visit such as Beijing Zoo & Aquarium and the impressive Birds Nest stadium.
 

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