Eastern Central China

Eastern central China, between the Yellow River (Huang He) and the

Yangzi River (Chang Jiang), is an area covering the provinces of Hénan, Shandong, Jiângsû, and Anhuî. It is the area in which Chinese culture developed and flourished with little dilution or outside influence. Luoyang was the capital of nine dynasties, Kâifëng capital of six, and Nanjîng capital of eight. The hometown of China's most important philosopher, Confucius, is here, along with several of China's holiest mountains, notably Tài Shan and Huang Shan, as well as that watery equivalent of the Great Wall, the Grand Canal.

Shànghâi is the city China boosters love to cite as representing the country as a whole, but it in fact represents nothing except itself—the country's wealthiest city, and with (if the government's figures are to be believed) the highest per-capita income. Look closer and you'll see that many of its shiny new towers are incomplete or unoccupied. But the sweep of 19th-and early-20th-century architecture along The Bund, which looks as if the town halls of two dozen provincial British cities have been transported to a more exotic setting, and the maze of Art Deco masterpieces in the French Concession behind the Bund, make Shànghâi the mainland's top East-meets-West destination, with the restaurants and a more relaxed and open-minded atmosphere to match. Nearby Hangzhôu and Suzhôu offer some of China's most famous scenery.

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