Originally published at xiananigans.com on November 29, 2015.

Credit: Mike Behnken

1. Hong Kong 香港

HK was always on my list of places to visit but reading and reviewing Year of Fire Dragons really heightened that desire. When ZJ and I went to Guangzhou and Shenzhen, we were hungry to squeeze in a day in HK, utimately deciding a day would not do the city justice. (We also would need to get a new visa as the tourist visa he received with his HK travel docs expired long ago.)

2. Hangzhou 杭州

Coined “Heaven on Earth,” Hangzhou is home to the West Lake 西湖, an inspiration of poets and painters since the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907). The freshwater lake houses gardens, temples, a tea farm, a spring, tombs, and a museum, surrounded by cloud-laden hills. Bonus: Visiting Hangzhou might result in an encounter with Jocelyn :)

Credit: Russ Bowling

3. Suzhou 苏州

I’d explore the city’s canals, stone bridges, pagodas, and the nine meticulously designed gardens that date as far back as the 11th century. These explorations would uncover the validity of being dubbed the “Venice of the East.”

Credit: David Almeida

4. Huangshan 安徽黄山

Yellow Mountain, known as “the loveliest mountain in China,” stood as art and literature’s muse during a good part of Chinese history: the 山水 “mountain and water” style of the mid-16th century. Its granite peaks and rocks jutting out of a sea of clouds hold the same fascination for visitors, poets, painters, and photographers who sojourn there today. Reading Jocelyn’s story in How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit also solidified my desire to traipse its peaks.

5. Qingdao 青岛

The closest I may ever get to visiting Germany 😄. A port city of skyscrapers, parks, and beaches bordering the Yellow Sea, it’s also the home of 青岛啤酒, the legacy of German occupation. The Tsingtao Beer Museum celebrates the namesake brewery, an annual “international” beer festival is held in August, and the old city center boasts German-style architecture.

Credit: ccdoh1

6. Datong 大同

The Yungang Grottoes 山西云冈石窟 are dotted with over 250 caves and 50,000 statues, representing the excellent achievement of Buddha cave art from the 5th and 6th centuries in China. Who doesn’t want to see well-preserved representations of Buddhism in all its grandeur? Datong and the Grottoes are located in Shanxi province, the easterly neighbor of Shaanxi.

Credit: Harvey Barrison

7. Yichang 宜昌

The city itself doesn’t have much in the way of dazzling visitors, but within 25 miles is the Three Gorges Dam, this decade’s most controversial project. Visiting Yichang and surrounding areas could provide insight into the ecological changes, the displacement of a million people, and the loss of archeological and cultural sites (at least I hope this would be the case).

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Originally published at xiananigans.com on November 29, 2015.

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