Travel and Tourism History of China
China’s history stretches back to antiquity and is full earth shaking events and fascinating incidents. The time line below is a record of such events and incidents that relate to tourist attractions or have impacted on travel in China. This timeline is incomplete and is a work in progress, so please be forgiving and any suggestions will be appreciated. Last updated 26 August 2012.
1800BC Jiaohe Ruins – An ancient town on the Silk Road famous for it’s old earthen construction. It changed hands many times and was finally abandoned after being destroyed by Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes in the 13th century. A Turpin tourist attraction.
11th Century BC Beijing Established –The first walled city in present day Beijing was built and called Ji, the capital of the State of Ji.
7th Century BC Great Wall of China – The first sections of the wall that were to be come the Great Wall of China were built as early as the 7th century BC
771-403BC Zhouzhuang Water Town – Zhouzhuang was established during China’s Spring and Autumn period in the Wu kingdom and called Yaocheng.
496BC Tiger Hill – The history of Tiger Hill began with the burial of King He Lu on the hill. The pagoda was built in 961 and many more structures have been added over the centuries. A Suzhou tourist attraction.
329BC Silk Road – Established after Alexander conquered all of the known world and promoted trade to the east.
1St Century BC West Lake – West Lake in Hangzhou is thousands of years old and the earliest reference to West Lake was made in the Book of Han which covers the history of China from 206BC to 25AD. Now a top tourist attraction in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Provice.
210BC Terracotta Army – over 8,000 terracotta warriors were buried in the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. They are one of the top attractions near Xi’an in Shaanxi Province
190BC Xi'an City Wall - The first wall was completed after four years of construction.
326 Lingyin Temple – A Zen temple built by an Indian Buddhist monk Hui Li. Hangzhou tourist attraction.
652 Big Wild Goose Pagoda – The original Bhuddhist pagoda was built in Xi'an during the reign of emperor Gozong of the Tang Dynasty. Xi’an tourist attraction.
742 Great Mosque – The founding and establishment of one of China’s oldest and most well known mosques. A Xi’an tourist attraction.
8th Century Humble Administrator’s Garden – Built in the late 8th century as a residence for the scholar Lu Guimeng. The garden was split up and sold in the 9th century and united in 1949. Suzhou tourist attraction.
938 Beihai Park – Built by Emperor Huitong of the Liao Dynasty, Beihai Park has gone through many transformations and was once the center of the new Yuan Dynasty back in 1274. Now a Beijing tourist attraction.
960-1279 Lijiang Old Town – The original city of Lijiang, now known as the Old Town, was built during the Song Dynasty and further established during the Yuan Dynasty. Lijiang tourist attraction.
970 Pagoda of Six Harmonies – The King of Wuyue built the pagoda to control tides form the Qiantang River and prevent flooding. Hangzhou tourist attraction.
975 Leifeng Pagoda – The original Leifeng Pagoda was built by the King of Wyue in 975. The pagoda was damaged several times over the next few centuries and collapsed in 1924 then rebuilt in 2002. Hangzhou tourist attraction.
998-1004 Ciqikou (Porcelain Village) – Was founded during the reign of Emperor Zhenzong and was famed for it’s porcelain production during the Qing and Ming Dynasties. A Chongqing Municipality tourist attraction.
1131-1162 Hongcun Village – This ancient village was established by the powerful Wang clan during the Southern Song Dynasty period. Huangshan tourist attraction.
1149 Summer Palace – Emperor Hailingwang of the Jin Dynasty first built the Summer Palace when he decreed Beijing as the capital. The Summer Palace has since undergone numerous renovations and attractions and is now a major tourist attraction in Beijing.
1174 Master of Nets Garden – Built by a government official Shi Zhengzhi for his retirement. Donated to the government in 1950 and opened to the public in 1958. Suzhou tourist attraction.
1215 Beijing Burnt to the Ground – At the time Beijing was named Zhongdu and it was burnt to the ground by Mongol forces in the Battle of Zhongdu.
1221 – Temple of General Yue Fei – General Yue Fei was a hero branded as a traitor and later exonerated in 1163. The temple was built in his memory. Huangzhou tourist attraction.
1264 Beijing Rebuilt – Kublai Khan builds a new capital adjacent to the Jin capital (burnt down in 1215) on the site of present day Beijing and called it Dadu.
1272 Beijing Drum Tower and Bell Towers – Were built in Kublai Khan’s reign when Beijing was called Dadu and have been marking time for the last 7 centuries. They are now a Beijing tourist attraction.
1302-1306 Confucius Temple – The Confucius Temple in Beijing was built between 1302 and 1306 in the name of China’s greatest philosopher and teacher Kong Fuzi. Now a Beijing tourist attraction.
13th Century Mu Palace – The home of the Mu clan in Lijiang for over 700 years. Lijiang tourist attraction
1342 Lion Grove Garden – Financed and built by a group of Buddhist monks as a residence for their abbot. Expanded and renovated over the centuries and opened to the public in 1954. Suzhou tourist attraction.
1370 Pingyao Ancient City – Built in the center of Xi'an City by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang of the MIng Dynasty.
1384 Xi'an Bell Tower – Pingyao is one of China’s best preserved walled cities and the cities walled were built in 1370. The actual history of Pingyao goes back 2,700 years. Shanxi tourist attraction.
1403 Beijing Named – Emperor Yongle changed the name of Beijing from Beiping to Beijing and declared Beijing to the co-capital together with Nanjing.
1406-1420 Forbidden City – Emperor Yongle Moved the capital back to Beijing and ordered construction of the Forbidden City to begin in 1406. The Forbidden City was finished 14 years later in 1420 and is a top tourist attraction in Beijing
1406-1420 Temple of Heaven – Built by Emperor Yongle at the same time as the Forbidden City and also a top attraction now in Beijing
1419 Beijing City Wall – The 40 kilometer long wall around the inner Ming Dynasty Beijing was built.
1420 Ming Dynasty Tombs – Emperor Yongle chooses the site of the Ming Dynasty tombs and has his mausoleum built there. Near Beijing tourist attraction.
1421 Beijing is the Capital of China – Beijing was made the official capital of the Ming Dynasty.
1557 Macau Colony Established – The Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macau at the cost of 500 taels of silver a year.
1577 Yuyuan Garden – Wealthy tycoon finished the construction of his family garden after 20 years of deliberation. Shanghai tourist attraction.
1593 Lingering Garden – Built by a retired government official Xu Tai and opened to the public in 1823. Suzhou tourist attraction.
1651 Tiananmen Square – The square was designed and built in 1651 and has since been enlarged to four times it’s original size. Tiananmen Square is the symbolic center of Beijing and a tourist attraction in it’s own right.
1679 Songzanlin Monastery – Built by the fifth Dalai Lama under the patronage of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty. Shangrila tourist attraction.
1694 Lama Temple – The temple was originally built in 1694 as the residence of the Qing Dynasty crown Prince Yong. Beijing tourist attraction.
1755 Puning Temple – The Puning Temple was built to celebrate the suppression of the Junggar tribe by Emperor Qianlong. It houses the world’s largest wooden Buddhist stature. A Chengde tourist attraction.
1842 Hong Kong Ceded to the British – The Qing Dynasty formally ceded Hong Kong Island to the British under the Treaty of Nankingas part of a cease fire agreement after the First Opium war.
1860 Kowloon Peninsula Ceded to the British – After the Second Opium war, Kowloon Peninsula and Stone Cutter Island were ceded to the British under the Convention of Peking.
1860 Sacking of the Old Summer Palace – A combined British and French expeditionary force destroyed the Old Summer Palace on the 6th of October after a spectacular failure of negotiations during the Second Opium War. The remains of the Old Summer Palace are a Beijing tourist attraction.
1887 Macau Occupied by Portugal – After the 1839-1842 Opium War, the Qing Dynasty signed the Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Amity and Commerce which gave Macau to the Portuguese indefinitely.
1888 Star Ferry Founded – Hong Kong’s classic ferries started operating the two routes from Tsim Sha Tsui to Wanchai and Central.
1908-1912 China’s Last Emperor – Puyi was the twelfth emperor of the Qing Dynasty and China’s last emperor.
1898 New Territories Leased to the British – In another land grab by the British, Lantau Island and the New Territories are leased to them for 99 years.
1976 China Opens Doors to Foreign Tourist – China has been closed to foreign tourist from 1949 until 1976 when Deng Xiaoping opened China to foreign tourist to earn desparately needed foreign exchange.
1977 Mausoleum of Mao Zedong – Construction of the mausoleum to house Chairman Mao’s body began in 1976 and was completed in 1977. The Mausoleum is on of Beijing’s less exciting tourist attractons.
1994-2012 Three Gorges Dam – The Three Gorges dam is a hydroelectric dam spanning the Yangtze River and became fully operational in 2012.
1997 Hong Kong returned to China – The British and the Chinese agreed to transfer Hong Kong back to Chinese control in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The transfer was completed smoothly in 1997.
1999 Macau Back to China – Between 1976 and 1999 Macau was returned to China in a series of transitions that started with Macau defined by the Portuguese as a Chinese territory under Portuguese control and finished with formal sovereignty by the Chinese in 1999.