10 must-see castles in China (part 1)

photo by dringer on Flickr

The charms of China are many and varied, but a large number of them come down to architecture and sheer artistic genius: temples, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City. China’s history is littered with battles, emperors and intrigue, and much of these exciting events have centered around castles. Like in many other cultures, castles have been the seat of leaders, nobles, artists and scientists, and even if today they are nothing more than sights for tourists, they still preserve much of their grandeur. Prepare to be stunned yet again by the Chinese architectonics by visiting some of the 10 must-see castles in China.

Bishu Shanzhuang, Chengde

To be exact, Bishu Shanzhuang is not a castle but rather an imperial summer villa complex, but for the eyes of a simple tourist who hasn’t lived in castles and palaces their whole life, it might as well be. Bishu Shanzhuang was used by the Qing emperors as a summer retreat when the Fobidden City grew too stuffy in summer. The palace might seem unassuming on the outside, but its interiors are resplendent. The other buildings in the castle complex reflect the northern origin of the Qing dynasty, with many Manchurian styles buildings. The Imperial Garden, and Unesco World Heritage Site, is not to be missed!

Hailongtun Castle, Guizhou Province

Hailongtun Castle, in the long tradition of castles everywhere, was built for military purposes but without sacrificing any of its aesthetic value. This castle dates back to the 13th century, and it was built by the Song Dynasty as a very well positioned fort with only a narrow access path, the rest being surrounded by the Longyan Mountains. Since it was opened for visitors not long time ago and it is still a fresh attraction, Hailongtun is one of the 10 must-see castles in China.

Qiang Castle, Sichuan Province

Fortaleza do Monte, photo by Adrian F on Flickr

Qiang Castle is a quaint place, and one of the few remaining inhabited castles of China. Qiang Castlewas built by the Qiang people, one of the oldest ethnic groups in the country, and its beginnings can be traced back to the fist century BCE. Today, 98 Qiang families still live in the castle and the structure is one of the best preserved ancient castles in China. The architecture of the castle is unique, but it is also an unforgettable cultural experience and a piece of living history.

Huang Si Qiao Castle, Hunan Province

Huang Si Qiao Castle is the best preserved stone castle in China, and one of the masterpieces of the Tang Dynasty. This 7th century castle was encircled with thick walls built of huge blocks of bluestone,  as a defense against the Miao people. The castle has a stunning Qing-style tower, as well as several beautifully crafted city gates.

Fortaleza do Monte, Macau

Fortaleza do Monte is not your typical Chinese castle, in fact it was built in the 17th century by the Portuguese colonists who controlled Macao. The castle is part of a Unesco World Heritage, and it is very well preserved with rather beautiful buildings and a nice park. Today the fortress functions as a museum that offers a lot of interesting information for those who want to know more about the history of Macao.

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