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An Introduction to Culinary & Cultural China

Posted: 9th June 2016 08:39

What is China without its food, dragon dancing and pandas?  Sure, you can experience all this in England but for traditional Chinese food and to see the pandas in their natural habitat, you need to be in this astounding, beautiful country. 

The best time to catch a dragon dance is during Chinese New Year at the end of January-early February.  Being in China during their next year is spectacular, anyway.  The dragon dance is the highlight of the celebrations but you catch a performance at any Chinese festival all year round.  If you’re more into sports why not watch a dragon boat race?  Traditionally Chinese, Shanghai holds a ‘Dragon Boat Festival’ every year during the summer where the competitive sport takes centre stage which features a bright colourful atmosphere that is nothing like anything you’ve seen before.    

When you feel like relaxing, you’re in the right country for it.  Turn any corner in the busy high street of Beijing and you’ll see a Chinese traditional medicine therapy shop.  If you’re ill then pick up any of the herbal tonics for instant effects or if you fancy relaxing, Chinese acupuncture or massages come highly recommended.  If you fancy taking part in traditional Tai Chi then head to Bejing’s Beihai Park (pictured) or People’s Square in Shanghai early in the morning where you’ll see the senior teachers practicing the sport.  If you’re interested to learn don’t hesitate to ask the seniors for a lesson where they’ll teach you there and then.

Forget everything you know about Chinese food; chop suey, egg rolls, sweet and sour and fortune cookies, these dishes have all been heavily influenced by the Americans so for a ‘traditional’ Chinese menu, it only makes sense to enjoy the food from where it originated.  When you eat a Chinese meal in Beijing, Hong Kong or Shanghai you won’t find a Chinese buffet.  The food will be served to you how it is in any restaurant; authentic favourite meals include noodle soup, Kung pao chicken, the trademark dish of Beijing; peking duck and for dessert; mooncake.  The Chinese are wonderful cooks so head to the popular Din Tai Fung in Shanghai for these special dishes. 

Nowadays, Giant Pandas are predicted to be extinct in the year 2045.  They might not be around for much longer despite desperate efforts by the WWF so go and see them as soon as you can.  The national bear of China, the Yangtze Basin region holds the panda’s primary habitat but the panda breeding and research centre in Chengdu is where you can visit these fascinating bears on a day trip to the mountain sanctuary.