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Uncovering Ancient China
Uncovering Ancient China

With a history stretching back to the founding of the Xia dynasty in 2070 BCE, and a human history dating back to 125,000 BCE, China has been home to a huge number of civilisations, states and dynasties throughout its esteemed past.

Every visitor to China should take advantage of the opportunity to explore the country’s notable history, touring the many sites that can be found across the country. Here are some of the best lesser-known places to visit, where one can gain an understanding of the ancient civilisations and mysterious inhabitants that lived in China long ago.

Yangling Mausoleum

The Han dynasty was one of the most powerful and influential in China’s history, consolidating the territorial gains of the Qin dynasty, introducing advanced governance and developing technologies including seismometers, rudders and papermaking.

Built in 153 CE, the Yangling Mausoleum is one of the biggest and best tombs of this era, commemorating Emperor Liu Qi and Empress Wang. It features thousands of human and animal figures, laid out to represent the rigid social hierarchy of the time – the armless figures were once clothed and had wooden arms that have since decayed.


On the banks of the Li River in the beautiful province of Guilin is Daxu, a more rural treasure. Wonderfully atmospheric, the village is a totally untouched example of ancient China, with winding streets dating back to 200 CE. Home to thriving county fairs and traditional stores including Chinese medicine clinics, bamboo weaving workshops and straw sandal-makers, it is a perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir.

It is worth noting that Daxu is located in one of China’s most scenic areas, where gigantic karst hills rise vertically between lush fields and lazy rivers, and is a great place to stop during an extended trip through China’s rural regions.


Located in the west of Henan province, Luoyang is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of Chinese civilisation, and was the capital during 13 ancient dynasties between the 21st and 16th centuries BCE.

Today, the city is a contemporary Chinese metropolis, however it is also home to the famous Longmen Grottoes, a series of hundreds of thousands of caverns, monuments and statues; the beautiful Xiangshan Temple; and the huge Wanfo Cave. The grottoes and their surrounding memorials are some of the best examples of Chinese Buddhist art in the world.

Yongle Palace

Completed in 1358, Yongle Palace has some of the most intact ancient murals in China, and is a leading example of Yuan dynasty architecture, with its flared gables and intricate detailing. A huge temple, the complex covers an area of 86,000 sq m, and has 960 sq m of amazingly bright and beautiful Taoist murals that depict life in ancient China.

Songyue Temple Pagoda

China is home to a large number of pagodas, but if you are looking for the most ancient, head to Songyue Temple Pagoda in Dengfeng. Constructed nearly 1,500 years ago in 520 CE, the pagoda is built from brick to a height of 39.8 m and features 12 perfectly proportioned sides. Framed by mountains, it is a wonderful place to visit, with a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.


Located in central Shanxi province, Pingyao is a beautifully preserved Chinese city that was built in the 14th century. Surrounded by imposing walls, the city is remarkably untouched, featuring thousands of ancient buildings, pieces of sculpture and amazing decoration throughout, and is particularly noted for its ancient city layout. If you are staying at the elegant Kempinski Hotel Taiyuan, Pingyao is around 1 hour 30 minutes away by car.

These are just some of the fantastic ancient places China has on offer to visitors. For more information on locations close to your chosen Kempinski hotel, please contact our team.

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