China - Tourism, travel, and recreation

Chinese restrictions on tourism were eased to allow access by foreigners on group tours in 1976 and further relaxed in 1983, when the ban on individual travel was lifted. By 1985, 244 Chinese cities and scenic spots were open to foreign tourists and a number of resorts specifically designed for foreigners were in operation. China was opened to tourists from Taiwan in 1987. All visitors to China must have visas. In 2000, 10,160,432 tourists arrived in China. Total receipts from tourism in that year were estimated at $16.2 billion. There were 948,185 hotel rooms with 1,855,965 beds and a 56% occupancy rate. In 2000, the US Department of State estimated that the daily expenses for a stay in Beijing were about $227.

Tourist Attractions

The most famous tourist attraction in China is the Great Wall, the construction of which began in the 3rd century BC as a barrier against northern invaders. Other leading tourist attractions include the Forbidden City, or Imperial Palace, in Beijing; the nearby tombs of the Ming emperors; historic Hangzhou, with its famous West Lake and gardens; busy Shanghai, with its well-stocked stores and superb cuisine; Xi'an, the site of monumental Qin dynasty excavations; and Guangzhou, the center of Cantonese cooking, with an extensive Cultural Park.


Sports activities in China are coordinated by the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission and the All-China Sports Federation. Active sports, represented by national associations, include gymnastics, diving, basketball, soccer, tennis, cycling, swimming, tennis, volleyball, weight lifting, and mountain climbing.

Distinctively Chinese pastimes include wushu, a set of ancient exercises known abroad as gonfu (kung fu), or the "martial arts"; taijiquan, or shadow boxing, developed in the 17th century; and liangong shibafa, modern therapeutic exercises for easing neck, shoulder, back, and leg ailments. Qigong (literally "breathing exercises") is also widely practiced both as a sport and as physical therapy. A popular traditional spectator sport is Chinese wrestling. Traditional pastimes for the national minorities are horse racing, show jumping, and archery among the Mongolians; the sheep chase (in which the winner successfully locates and defends possession of a slaughtered sheep) among Uygurs and Kazaks; and yak and horse racing among Tibetans.

The costs of traveling in China vary from city to city. In 1999 the UN estimated the daily cost of staying in Shanghai at $125, Beijing at $108, and Zhengzhor at $85.

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