Ancient China and India
Collected by Maggie Fuller, AFAR Staff
Ancient Asian civilizations were, to put it mildly, prolific. Ancient China was marked by a series of dynasties dating back to 2100 BC and made great advancements in science, philosophy, and military strategy. Ancient India was a civilization rather than an empire, organized into small kingdoms and known for a strong literary tradition and developing the precursors to Hinduism. The influence of the art of both still remains, in the ruins of earlier days and in surviving structures.
The Great Wall of China runs more than 21,000 kilometers (over 13,000 miles), not as one continuous wall but rather as fortified wall sections. Some of the sections date back more than 2,500 years, though only 8.2 percent of the existing wall is...
Lintong, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
Visiting the famous Terracotta Army was on my bucket list, and I was lucky enough to see it recently. As I entered the first pit, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Right in front of me was the section holding the life-size terracotta warriors all...
35 Beijing Middle Rd, Chengguan Qu, Lasa Shi, Xizang Zizhiqu, China, 850000
We always imagine Tibet as a spiritual place. It certainly is, and to top it off the locals are among the most beautiful and stylish I've ever seen. They perform prostrations around monasteries, amid the architecture of the palaces, fields of yaks...
Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Gansu, China
Close to Dunhuang city in Gansu, you will find one of the most important sites for Chinese Buddhism and for Buddhist art in general. For about a millennium, this place was a crossroads for Buddhists of many traditions, and probably the most...
243 Provincial Rd, Yichuan Xian, Luoyang Shi, Henan Sheng, China
From one-inch statutes to the 57-foot Vairocana Buddha in the Fengxian Temple (pictured above), Longmen’s 100,000 Buddhist statues provide an awe-inspiring window into Buddhist art and its development through Chinese history. Beginning in 493 AD...
Zhuo Zheng Yuan （ Nan Men ）, Gusu Qu, Suzhou Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, China, 215000
Just over an hour outside of Shanghai is the beautiful city of Suzhou. Within its oldest part is the Humble Administrator's Garden. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, it is one of the more beautiful sites to visit in all of China. It has...
The Rainbow Mountains (Danxia) near Zhangye are one of the great natural wonders of China, and unique. If you're traveling the Silk Road in Gansu, you must make a stop. If not, they're worth a visit on their own merit. The vividness of the colors...
Shizhong, Leshan, Sichuan, China
I didn't know what to expect from the largest stone Buddha in the world. But here is some good perspective. Those people at the front are maybe HALF of one of his toes. The place was incredibly spiritual, even with the thousands of tourists in the...
Nanjiao, Datong, Shanxi, China
The city of Datong may not be the most exciting, but it is filled with amazing UNESCO-worthy sites like this: the Yungang grottoes, one of the Top 3 religious sculpture sites in China. Definitely worth a weekend trip if you're in the northern part...
Opposite Gokuldham Society, Gondal Road, Rajkot, Gujarat 360004, Chobari, Gujarat 363520, India
Fondly called the Kabootar Khana or, literally, the hall of pigeons, this was the summer pavilion of kings of Champaner, in Gujarat. Cool breezes blow through the pillars on summer mid-morns. The path that once bridged the nearby lake with the...
NH-86, Near Sanchi Stupa, District Raisen, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh 464661, India
Buddha lived many lives, sometimes as humans as well as animals. Each panel on the gates around the stupa is laden with tales from Jatakas. Vines, lotuses, lions, and elephants, symbols of triumph and fertility—rich, vivid, ornamental gateways....
Maharashtra 431117, India
The 30 Caves at Ajanta ("the finest surviving examples of Indian painting") are masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, with figures of the Buddha and depictions of the Jataka tales. The Caves of Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut...
Elephanta Island, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra
When visiting Mumbai, a must-see is Elephanta Island. For just a few dollars, take a ferry from the Gateway of India to the island. The ferry ride takes about an hour and is an experience as well. Mumbai from the water is impressive. Once you land...
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Translated as Lion Rock, Sigiriya stands proudly, 200 metres tall, with slashes of orange stone that cut across the normally blue Sri Lankan sky. Although a bit of a tourist hot spot if visited just before sundown, Sigiriya and the Dambulla...
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