Almost all of us are familiar with China's great man-made attractions: The Forbidden City in Beijing. The Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an. Shanghai's skyscraper forest in Pudong.
For a country of its massive size and varied geography, however, it's surprising how relatively few people outside China appreciate the extent of the country's other attractions, many of them natural wonders to rival any in the world.
The 900-year-old village of Hongcun has long drawn in-the-know Chinese visitors, who love its tranquil vibe and distinctive architecture.
Walking the narrow lanes paved with quartzite and seeing farmers working in rice fields, with the reflection of ancient houses in the lake, should provide enough material to get you started on your own visual masterpiece.
Bamboo raft drifting in the Nine Bend River (lower gorge) is a popular activity among visitors.
The two-hour, eight-kilometer trips provide grand views of Mount Wuyi. It's the best way to take in the serene beauty of the smooth peaks and clear water.
Echoing Sand Mountain is a series of dunes surrounding Crescent Lake. Named for its distinctive shape and aural characteristics, its echoes can be heard as the wind blows over the dunes.
Erected mostly in the early 20th century, the fortress towers at Kaiping were built by famously outbound Kaipingers, who brought home the many architectural styles they saw abroad, including Islamic, Roman and even ancient Greek.
Downtown is touristy. Visitors can rent bikes and head to the countryside to find a more calming scene: bamboo boats chugging along the river, fishermen setting out with cormorants, farmers toiling in fields with lush peaks soaring high above.
The highest waterfall in Asia, majestic Huangguoshu "Yellow Fruit Tree" Waterfall plunges a dramatic 77.8 meters across a 101-meter-wide span.
It's one of a handful of mammoth waterfalls in the world that's accessible for viewing from almost any angle -- from above, below, front, back, left or right. The best visiting season is June to August.
Look beyond the beaches of Sanya to find the world's largest Guanyin statue, erected near Nanshan.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this mountain resort was once a summer palace used by Qing Dynasty emperors on holiday.
Delicate gardens and a 70-meter pagoda remain. Lush grasslands, marvelous mountains and tranquil valleys still make it a cool place to avoid the heat.
The largest Orthodox church in East and Southeast Asia stands in China's most Russian-accented city, Harbin.
This 12-kilometer, U-shaped valley marked by a stripe of purplish red quartz sandstone has earned the name, "The No.1 Valley of Narrow Gorges in China."
Its steep cliffs, lush vegetation and jagged valley attract sightseers from all over China.
This incense stick-shaped structure is 150 meters tall, but only four meters wide, making it incredible that it stands at all, let alone that it's survived several major earthquakes.
Local legend holds that the pillar is a piece of incense given by a deity to the ingenious Tujia people. The residents could light it in times of disaster and the deity would descend to help.
Every year, armies of young backpackers flock to the ancient town of Fenghuang for its rich Miao and Tujia ethnic culture.
Many also come to pay homage to celebrated Chinese writer Shen Congwen (沈从文), whose novel "Frontier City" put the 1,300-year-old town in limelight.
Singing Sand Bay is a 110-meter-high dune, 50 kilometers from Baotou, a major city of Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Sliding off a 45-degree angle, the wind here is said to sing in soft whispers.
Feng shui and Buddhism have deep influences on China. Both can be found at Brahma Palace.
Beneath the foot of Little Lingshan Mountain, and near Taihu Lake and the 88-meter-tall Lingshan Giant Budda, the palace epitomizes Chinese feng shui -- it's surrounded by mountains and water, portending both good fortune and health.
Upward of 1,500 famed painters and poets from various periods of ancient and modern China -- Li Bai of the Tang Dynasty and Xu Zhimo in 1920s, to name two -- have traveled here to be inspired by Lu. Masterpiece poems are engraved in calligraphy on the mountain cliffs.
The vodka-clear Heaven Lake is said to resemble a piece of jade surrounded by 16 peaks of the Changbai Mountain National Reserve. With an average depth of 204 meters, it's the deepest lake in China.
Exploding with color, the Benxi Water Cave was formed more than five million years ago. Today its main sections are a "drought cave" and a "water cave."
A dramatic array of stalagmites and stalactites are covered in vibrant greens, yellows and reds.
Desert, water and reed mashes blend in this 80-square-kilometer area, which forms a unique geographic phenomenon called sand lake.
More than 1 million migrating birds of various species stop over at this wetland in Ningxia twice a year (April-May, September-October).
China's largest inland saltwater lake. This view is one of the great draws of Qinghai Province in China's far northwest every June and July.
Few tourists make it to this part of China to enjoy this oil painting of a scene, not counting packs of mad cyclists who come for Tour de Qinghai Lake International Cycling Race every summer.
In addition to the world-renowned Great Wall, the city wall belonging to Xi'an, first constructed more than 2,000 years ago, also represents the power and wisdom of the Middle Kingdom in its ancient heyday.
What exists of the wall today are remains from 1370, when during the Ming Dynasty the fortification was 13.7 kilometers long, 12 meters high and between 15 to 18 meters wide. It now surrounds downtown Xi'an.
Spend three or four hours biking along the wall and you'll get great views of China's old capital city.
As old as the city of Qingdao, the Trestle Bridge has sat astride the Yellow Sea since 1892 and has since become a symbol of the city.
Walking the 440-meter-long bridge is a great way to enjoy breezes coming off the sea.
As the largest waterfall on the Yellow River, and second largest in China, Hukou Waterfall is known around the country for once gracing the RMB 50 note.
At 20 meters high and 30 meters wide, the fall is located on the border of Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces. The May to October flood season is the best time to visit, when water flow and velocity increase, sometime swelling the fall into a 50-meter-wide spectacular scene.
This massive lake is the crown jewel of Jiuzhaigou, a region full of stunning alpine lakes and waterfalls.
The lake is filled with incredible water that changes color throughout the day and year. The color comes from the reflection of the surrounding landscape, as well as algae and calcified rocks at the bottom of the shallow lake. Autumn is the best time to visit, when the lake surface appears as a multihued painter's palette.
This nine-story attraction stands 3,700 meters above sea level, making it the highest palace on the planet.
Standing 3,600 meters above sea level on the Pamir Plateau, the glacier lake's water reflects the surrounding mountains like a huge mirror. Best time to go is May to October.
Pudacuo is the first national park in China to meet the criteria set by The World Conservation Union.
More than 20% of the country's plant species and around one-third of its mammal and bird species call this wetland plateau home.
Photographers especially love the area's many types of orchids and China's highly endangered black-necked cranes.
Literally meaning "peaceful clouds," Yunhe and its surrounding rice terraces have been home to farmers for at least 1,000 years.
Winding in a maze up mountainsides from 200 to 1,400 meters, individual terraces can be constructed of as many as 700 layers.
Rainy days are the best time to visit, when steam from evaporating river water floats through the terraces, creating a kind of agricultural dreamscape.