Tombs, temples, elegant gardens, and historic water towns are just the beginning of what this extraordinary region has to offer. This is where Confucius was born, where China’s two great rivers and the Great Wall meet the sea, and where some of the country's most celebrated mountain landscapes have inspired pilgrimages for millennia.
Despite phenomenal development across Eastern China over the past decade, it’s still possible to lose yourself in the canal-side walkways and idyllic gardens of Suzhou, the "Venice of the East," or pick a path through the cobbled streets of old Yangzhou. Eight of China's 43 UNESCO World Heritage Sites dot this region, with Anhui's villages of Xidi and Hongcun and Shandong's Qufu, Confucius's ancestral birthplace, managing to retain most of their historic and artistic character. Buy Suzhou's famous silk from the owners of the silk-spinning worms, Tsingtao beer straight from the source in Qingdao, and sample the dim-sum delights of Huaiyang cuisine at its most authentic in Yangzhou.
Everyone from Emperor Qin to Chairman Mao has tackled the trail to the summit of Tai Shan, China’s most sacred Taoist mountain. And they didn’t have a cable car to help them. To the south, Huangshan’s mysterious peaks, fringed with spindly pines and swathed in clouds, have inspired whole schools of Chinese painting.
Travel here has never been easier. Increasingly comfortable and internationally minded lodgings are springing up everywhere. Bullet trains have slashed journey times, whisking you from one destination to the next. Remember that the pedestrian in no way has the right of way in China, and take a business card with your hotel's address in Chinese to show a taxi when returning home after a long day’s sightseeing.