China is a country of exotic mystique: It is the home of kungfu, feng shui, and dimsum. It is also the birthplace of inventions that have hugely influenced the future of the modern world: paper and the printing press, the compass and the gunpowder.

With all these things in mind, one would reasonably expect any trip to China to be quite fulfilling for both the mind and soul. As one of the ancient civilizations in the world, this country holds wondrous tales of cruel emperors and fearsome empresses, dynasties, wars, eunuchs, gods, and amazing ancient technological advances to fascinate even the most jaded eyes.

But not everything in China is about wonder and fascination. There are also plenty of things to keep you well grounded in the everyday world.

For one, while you are touring, you will most likely be followed around by some street vendors who can be very aggressive in selling to foreign tourists. Don’t let yourself be bullied by their persistence. This early, practice saying bu yao, the Mandarin term for telling people that you don’t want what they are offering.

Incidentally, while Mandarin is the national language of China, there are many other dialects you will hear as you travel across the country. Hokkien is widely spoken in Taiwan, and the Fujian province. Cantonese, on the other hand, is the lingua franca of Guangdong province and its neighboring areas, as well as HongKong and Macau, beyond the mainland.

Despite the Chinese government’s efforts to teach English to their citizens, many Chinese are still not quite skilled in comprehending spoken English. To make communication easier, make sure you bring a pen and paper with you wherever you go in China because the Chinese can understand written English better than spoken one.

There are several major religions currently being practiced in China: Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, and Islam. Majority of the Chinese are Buddhists – a fact made quite obvious by the 13,000-plus Buddhist temples scattered all over the country. Taoism, a religion or philosophy that – unlike Buddhism – actually originated in China, ranks second; there are only 1,500 Taoist temples in existence today. Islam and Catholicism are not as widespread as these first two, but they are still major religions in the country.

China is a communist party–led state, which means that – in principle, at least – all citizens are deemed equal, and that China is a classless society.

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