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A GLORIOUS PAST, A GLOWING FUTURE
Laid out in grids, the city of Beijing reflects the cosmic order of the world according to Chinese philosophy. The Forbidden City is a city within the metropolis, whose waves of varnished tile roofs long dominated the jumble of low houses built outside its walls. Modern urbanization is rapidly gnawing away at the hutongs, the narrow gray lanes that embody Beijing’s traditional culture. In keeping with the principles of feng shui, the massive wooden doors that seal off the interior courtyards always open southward, like those of the Imperial City. To see its endless succession of rooms housing collections of vases, bronzes, musical instruments and painstakingly lacquered boxes, especially from the Ming and Qing dynasties, visitors enter through the Gate of Heavenly Peace, at the end of the immense square bearing the same name, Tiananmen. China’s North Capital (the literal meaning of “Beijing”) is situated to facilitate the flow of positive “yang” energy, braced against the hills topped by the meandering Great Wall, with its back to the glacial winds of the steppes and the invaders of yore. The world’s most famous fortification protected and unified the Chinese territory, just like the pharaonic Grand Canal, built in the 5th century to link Beijing to Hangzhou, some 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) away.
At its southern tip, Xi Hú (West Lake), surrounded by cloud-capped hills, offers a landscape of the kind so often celebrated in Chinese art, a sight that speaks to the soul. Its pagodas, lodges, dikes, man-made islands and wooded peaks symbolize the union of man and nature, a tableau that draws the inhabitants of the nearby mega-city, Shanghai. The “Pearl of the Orient” is more dynamic than ever. In the 19th century, the concessions granted to Western countries created a cosmopolitan mixture of lifestyles. On the Bund, the “foreigners’ waterfront,” expatriates of all nationalities, tourists and locals admire the architectural blend, from the neo-baroque of the Banque d’Indochine to the utterly British Customs House, whose clock is a replica of Big Ben.
On the borders of Laos and Burma, Yunnan is China’s distant balcony, a mountainous province hollowed out by wide river gorges lined with terraced rice paddies. One of the finest varieties of tea, Pu’er, is grown here, harvested from trees up to 100 years old. This dark brew with red highlights is said to have medicinal benefits. In any case, it is the only tea that gains in quality as it ages, like a good wine — that can be consumed without moderation…
Restaurant in town. Bibo, a French restaurant and lounge bar, is unlike anywhere else on earth. Its building dates back to the 1930s and once housed the Compagnie Générale Française de Tramways – abandoned it then became a place where street artists could find their expression and took the name Bibo. Today, Bibo is an offbeat place which combines the best of two different worlds: contemporary art and cuisine. In an underground setting displaying works by the finest contemporary artists from Keith Haring to Murakami, Executive Chef Mutaro Balde and Chef de Cuisine Conor Beach masterfully serve delicious French gourmet cuisine where everything, from the bread to the ice cream, is home-made. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant on a lake. Pagodas, pavilions and gardens cluster at the foot of the hills surrounding West Lake blend into the countryside itself. This special place has provided a source of inspiration to poets and artists since the Tang dynasty and is now listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. Chaptel Hotel is an oasis just off the West Lake, where you can experience the classic Hangzhou. This authentic Shikumen brick-built mansion has now recovered all its former glory: the decor of the main suites combines traditional Chinese furniture (including traditional wooden shutters) with Art Deco ornaments, such as rugs and lamps, from the period from which the building dates. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in town. Perfectly positioned in Beijing’s financial and trade centre, JE Mansion offers the very best of Chinese hospitality. Chinese culture permeates every detail, starting with the traditional architecture and precious artwork that adorns the building. Guest rooms are decorated in classical style, featuring carvings in wood, brick and stone, elements of calligraphy and a warm colour palette, while all modern comforts have been thought of. The restaurant serves delicacies inspired by China’s four main culinary traditions. An absolute rarity for central Beijing is the hotel’s sprawling 50,000 sq m lawn, ideal for grand events. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in town. Close to West Lake and the city’s main attractions, the hotel and villas are nestled amidst splendid gardens of trees and bamboo in Hangzhou. The atmosphere is peaceful with the elegant lines of the buildings reflecting in the ponds of water and the traditional decor of the spacious and bright rooms serving to please the eye. Your first delights are offered at the highly-rated restaurant Jie Xang Lou, which serves exquisite Chinese cuisine. But the best is yet to come. Building on the principles of Chinese medicine and aromatherapy, the spa offers exceptional treatments using flowers and plants. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in town. Simply cross the threshold of the Yihe Mansions and you will enter the Republic of China again, a time when the country’s leading people built their residences in the shade of the maple trees on Yihe Road in Nanjing, the capital of 10 dynasties. These private yellow-walled villas have been magnificently restored and now offer sophisticated, deeply historical accommodation with a spa, restaurants, clubs and suites. They are extremely spacious with soft light and greenery throughout; the décor is an elegant blend of traditional artefacts and contemporary objects, with fine woods and precious fabrics – a serene environment where you can truly appreciate the beauty of this culture. ... Learn moreless