Although consumers in China have started to travel again, the country still closes its borders to overseas tourists because of the pandemic.
You may have made plans to travel to China in 2020 or 2021, yet it is just highly impossible to do so.
One way to ease your mood is to visit many scenic spots in China online. China launched an online tourism festival in the first half of 2020. Contrary to stereotypes, China has deployed digital programs for many scenic spots over the past few years, some of which include online tours.
But since these services were previously designed only for Chinese tourists, you may rarely find entrances to these sites in the English-speaking world.
This article will introduce you to several websites and how to use them:
It is a VR travel service company established in 2009, and its main business is to help attract domestic or oversea tourists by providing ultra-high-definition panoramic images and guided tours.
As an addition, it allows visitors to visit any tourist attractions that have been photographed through its website and App. So far, it has collected more than 100,000 panoramic photos of more than 2000 scenic spots in more than 400 cities in China.
I’m not surprised that the company is completely unpopular overseas, as neither its app nor its website offers any English or other languages. But there are still ways you can use it. The easiest one to do this is to open the site in Chrome or Edge and use the browser’s own “Translate to English” (or your language) function. This will basically solve most of your confusion.
On top of that, if you want to search within the site, you can translate the names of places you’re looking for in Google Translate for Chinese and then just copy it into the search box of the site.
To make it easier for you to experience this amazing site, I’ve listed here some of the attractions that you might be interested in.
- The Great Wall: https://www.quanjingke.com/dest/scenic_badaling
- Imperial Palace: https://www.quanjingke.com/dest/scenic_gugong
- Shanghai Bund: http://www.quanjingke.com/dest/scenic_waitan
- Guilin Landscape: http://www.quanjingke.com/dest/scenic_guilinshanshui
- Potala Palace: http://www.quanjingke.com/dest/scenic_budalagong
- Meili Snow Mountain: http://tour.quanjingke.com/ramble/ramble/meilixueshan/tour.html
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Although the research base sounds like an academic research institution, it is actually a zoo. This is a zoo with the largest number of panda in China and in the world.
The Youtube channel iPanda is run by the research institute, but it also provides a complete English website containing almost all the exhibition content offline.
More importantly, it provides round-the-clock live broadcast of pandas on the site. You can see the every move of each panda here. Its connection is: http://www.panda.org.cn/24hour/china/gaoqing.html
According to the hint, the best time to watch the live broadcast is from 7: 00 a.m. to 7: 00 p.m. GMT+8.
Digital Palace Museum
The Palace Museum is the most worthwhile museum in China, which houses the most important cultural relics in China.
In fact, as a national museum, it provides a very useful official website in English. But in addition to collecting all the collection photos like the British Museum, it also provides a panoramic version of the Imperial Palace. You can visit almost all the open areas of the Imperial Palace with a simple click.
Moreover, there is a feature called Digital Wunderkammer, which is limited to Chinese users. It provides a high-definition 3D modeling display of some cultural relics. You can see every side of the cultural relic by swiping the mouse. This is an experience that is impossible even for offline travel.
Dunhuang in Clouds
Dunhuang is a city in northwestern China, and when we talk about it, it mostly refers to “Dunhuang Grottoes”.
The Dunhuang Grottoes generally refer to a series of Buddhist landscapes built in the area between the 4th and 14th centuries AD, where monks dug caves into the stone walls to build Buddha statues, paint murals, make colorful ceramic objects, and perform Buddhist practices in the caves.
In order to protect these artifacts of great visual and archaeological value, Dunhuang is not always open, even during non-epidemic periods. Fortunately, the digitization of the Dunhuang Caves has been at the forefront of this project in China, second only to the Palace Museum.
There are two digitized versions of Dunhuang, one of which is the Dunhuang in Clouds MiniProgram. It is essentially an online version of the Dunhuang Museum, which tells all the stories related to Dunhuang in beautiful graphics and elegant voice. But unfortunately, it was developed by Dunhuang Scenic in conjunction with Tencent, that means you need to download Wechat to use it, and it’s not available in English or with automatic translation.
You can, however, use an earlier web-based version of Digital Dunhuang, which offers a vast array of panoramic images and English-language descriptions.
Another version of the digital service went live earlier, a website version, and can use the web translation feature. It’s called Digital Dunhuang. It provides a huge amount of panoramic and English photos, and you can use it to browse caves that are closed even in normal times.
Since the nature of a visit to the Dunhuang Caves is to travel from cave to cave, to some extent, the panoramic online experience is better than the offline, hence is highly recommended.
Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
Qin Shihuang Mausoleum is one of the most popular Chinese scenic spots for overseas tourists. It was built from about 246 BC to 208 BC. Its iconic feature is tens of thousands of terracotta warriors lined up in front of the mausoleum.
The attraction also offers an online panoramic tour, but it only exists on the official Chinese website.
By contrast, the Shaanxi Digital Museum has a better experience, providing panoramic pictures of some of Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum and 3D models of terracotta warriors and other cultural relics. In addition, the Shaanxi Digital Museum also provides panoramic pictures of other tourist attractions in Shaanxi Province, such as Xi’an Forest of Steles Museum, Famen Temple Museum and Hanyang Mausoleum Museum.
But none of them are available in English, and you may need a built-in browser translation to get an introduction.
Nanjing is another very popular city for foreign tourists, it is the ancient capital of China’s six dynasties, and the government of the Republic of China once positioned it as the capital. As such, it carries Chinese history and culture second only to Beijing. Therefore, Nanjing has over 145 intangible cultural heritages, making it the city with the most intangible cultural heritages in China.
The Nanjing Tourism Bureau has an English website with a detailed description of the city. Yet only its Chinese version of the website provides panoramic photos of many of Nanjing’s attractions, such as the Chinese Gate, the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, the Fuzi Temple Wait and so on.
Expoon, like Quanjingke, is another Chinese VR travel service company.
But compared with Quanjingke, its official website does not provide structured information to show which attractions it includes. You can click on any item at random on its travel channel (without even needing an interpreter) to experience the interior of strange villages, schools, stadiums, shopping malls or a company.
As we all know, Google does not work properly in Chinese mainland areas. It also means that you can’t use Google StreetView to browse any street in any city in China.
But at the same time, people who know a little about China know that Baidu is the main substitute for Google in China, so does Baidu have a product similar to StreetView? The answer is yes.
Baidu launched Baidu Total View, as early as 2013, which is almost exactly the same product as Google StreetView. Baidu Total View now covers the main streets of more than 600 Chinese cities, accounting for 95 per cent of the total number of Chinese cities. At the same time, it has partnered with 500000 tourist attractions, which means you can see not only the street view, but also the interior of some scenic spots.
Although it is not available in English, its use is very simple. Let’s explain how to use it:
If you want to see a street view that is not a tourist attraction, simply enter the street or building you want to view in the upper left corner, and then switch to the “panoramic” (TotalView) mode marked by the arrow in the lower right corner.
In this mode, click on any place covered by blue and you will enter panoramic mode.
For a panoramic tour of the interior of a tourist attraction, you still need to enter the spot you want to visit first, then click on the correct result (usually the first one), and then you will go to the info page of the scenic spot, and then click on the interior scene (usually the first of a series of pictures) to enter the panoramic tour mode inside the scenic spot.
It is worth noting that Baidu does not support English or Pinyin search, so you need to use Google Translate to translate the scenic spots you want to visit into Chinese and then copy them.
As usual, I put some links here that are worth watching: Tiananmen Square, Jiuzhaigou, Huangshan, wide and narrow lanes, Gulangyu, Xishuangbanna Primitive Forest Park, Mount Qomolangma base camp, Hukou Waterfall
Finally, it is important to note that many of the websites mentioned in this article were created many years ago. So if it doesn’t display properly, it may be because you don’t have the Adobe Flash plug-in installed.