5 Architectural Wonders to See in China
China is a land rich in history and mystery. It is full of both ancient wonders and modern technology, making it a fascinating place to visit. It is also home to some incredible buildings, some of which have been standing for centuries, in spite of the fact that they do not appear to have been built to last (see number 2 on this list for an example). If you are planning to take a tour of some of the most fascinating constructions in China, here are five architectural wonders you just can't miss.
Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport
The recently expanded Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport in Shenzhen is a futuristic marvel the likes of which most people have never seen. Designed by Studio Fuksas, a Rome-based architectural firm, Terminal 3 of this building/sculpture has been made to resemble a manta ray. It was designed to look as if it was formed and shaped by the wind itself, with both internal and external "skin" that looks like a white honeycomb. This honeycomb texture allows the light from outside to filter in, giving the 1-mile-long and 260-foot-high terminal quite a dazzling look.
Don't let the name fool you: this "city" isn't actually a city at all. In fact, it is one enormous ancient palace. Covering more than 7 million square feet, the Forbidden City has more than 10,000 rooms. It has been home to more than 24 emperors and their families, and was forbidden to the public for several hundred years after construction began in the 1400s. The punishment for trespassing into this palace (which was made to represent God's own Heavenly palace) was beheading, but luckily for us, the 20th century saw the Forbidden City open up to everyone—and all visitors get to keep their heads (phew).
Located along the southern bank of the Yangtze River, the Shibaozhai Temple is truly an architectural wonder. Attached to a large rock in the shape of an imperial seal, this temple is twelve stories high and is held in place without the use of any nails. Also known as the Precious Stone Fortress, legend has it that construction of this temple began when a goddess named Nuwa repaired the broken sky and left behind a colored rock, which was then used to build a fortress during the Ming Dynasty. To make this building even more amazing, it is said that the reason it is still standing after all of these years is that its windows absorb the wind, protecting the temple from inclement weather.
The Hanging Monastery may as well be called the "Hanging Mystery." People have been wondering for close to 1,500 years how this 15-story shrine is still standing when it is supported only by a few rickety-looking wooden beams. Located on Mount Hengshan, this monastery is perched (seemingly precariously) 246 feet above the ground, yet has somehow managed to weather multiple dangerous storms, winds, and even earthquakes. It was designed during the Wei Dynasty by a monk named Liao Ran, who actually didn't even intend for those rickety wooden pillars to be a part of the finished product at all. They were only added later because visitors did not trust the monastery not to fall off of the mountain when they tried to climb up to visit it. You can rest assured, though, that Liao Ran's monastery is sound: the rock wall it is built into adds an extra layer of stability.
Great Wall of China
No list of architectural wonders in China (or the world as a whole) would be complete without the breathtaking Great Wall of China. This wall in northern China is more than 13,000 miles long and took several thousand years to build. Its original purpose was to prevent invasions by barbarians, with construction beginning in the third century B.C. after it was inspired by an idea by Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Unfortunately, the wall never really kept anyone from invading China as the Emperor had hoped. But, it still stands proudly today as a symbol of China's strength and fortitude.