Qingdao Travel Guide
Last updated by drwi at 2014/5/4
The city of Qingdao (whose most common alternative (historical) spelling is "Tsingtao"), a major seaport located on the southern side of Shandong Peninsula, lies at the junction, roughly, of the 36th parallel north and the 120th meridian east, across the Yellow Sea from South Korea. In terms of Chinese geographical and religious landmarks, Qingdao is situated at the foot of Mount Lao, the highest coastal mountain in China and one of the birthplaces of Taoism, and also the site where the famous 4th century CE Chinese Buddhist pilgrim and author of the famous Buddhistic travel diary, A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, Fa Xian, landed after a harrowing sea journey from Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) that lasted for months, during what must have been the typhoon season.
Qingdao proper is a relatively large, spread-out provincial city with a population of roughly 2 ¼ million inhabitants, of which a large contingent, not surprisingly, are of Korean ethnic origin (as an administritive entity, greater Qingdao comprises much of the upland area, including many small villages and other rural areas, as is typical for China's political-administrative structure).
Qingdao/ Tsingtao became a German Concession (the city was leased to Germany for 99 years, in the same way that Hong Kong was leased to the British, also for 99 years) in 1898, though the trade concessions to Germany (the German Customs Union, which included Prussia) began already with the 1861 Treaty of Tiensin, part of what the Chinese refer to as the Unequal Treaties that was the culmination of the so-called Opium Wars during the middle of the 19th century. The German "colonization" of Tsingtao coincided with the outbreak of the Boxer Rebellion, which some consider a Chinese anti-imperialist response to Western culture and religion, while others consider it an expression of Chinese xenophobia as well as a set of implicit "unequal trade agreements", whereby the Qing government did nothing to enforce, on the ground, the many trade agreements that it had signed with foreign governments (trade could be interrupted locally, or subjected to illegal local tariffs or kick-backs (i.e., unavoidable bribes), while "uncooperative" foreign traders were often murdered).
A couple of good things that have survived the period of the German "colonization" of Tsingtao are the European landscape- and architectural influences on the city, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Qingdao Beer, made by Tsingtao Brewery, but which began as a typical German pilsener (beer). The present-day architecture of the city, except for older buildings, is only partially of German influence, being more generally of European influence (it could as easily be described as Dutch, French or Swiss - in fact, Qingdao is often referred to as an "Oriental Switzerland" and an "Asian Geneva") with villas topped with red tiled roofs and surrounded by colorful gardens with numerous trees, not to mention the cleanliness and orderliness of the city.
The pleasing, laid-back European atmosphere of Qingdao is complemented by the mild weather of this part of China, which is neither cold nor too hot, being protected by the Yellow Sea and the Korean Peninsula. On a sunny day with the sea filled with white triangles in the form of sailboats, a visitor to Qingdao could be forgiven for believing s/he was standing in a European harbor - perhaps in Amsterdam or in La Rochelle. Qingdao played an important role in the 2008 Olympic Games: the OG Sailing Competition took place at here.
Qingdao also holds a number of annual festivals, including an International Sea Festival, a Beach Culture Festival, a Sea Affection Festival, the more general Qingdao Summer Festival and, not least, the annual Qingdao International Beer Festival. Visitors to the city will find a broad selection of restaurants serving Shandong Cuisine (aka Lu Cuisine, one of the eight great cuisine "schools" of China), in particular the Jiaodong style of Lu Cuisine, which specializes in - not surprisingly - seafood (to learn more about Lu Cuisine, click here). Those who prefer wine to beer can also choose from regionally grown wines that stem from the environs of the city of Yantai, situated on the northern shore of the Shandong Peninsula, only about 150 kilometers northeast of Qingdao. The wine of the Yantai Weilong Grape Wine Company has been favorably compared to Bordeaux wines.
If Qingdao's sandy beaches, azure seas, blue skies and crimson reefs, if its European architecture, its sidewalk cafés, its mild sea weather and its picture-postcard sailboat scenery is not enough to draw you to the city, then perhaps the open, unpretentious spirit of the city, said to mirror the spirit of a Shandong girl, will persuade you. If you require more persuasion still, then there's the city's many green parks and museums, it seaworld attractions (a saltwater aquarium and an open-air saltwater pool where dolphins perform) and its Christian churches (a Catholic church and a German Lutheran church), which in fact are not museum-pieces, but active churches with congregations that flock to them on Sundays.
Top Things to Do in Qingdao
Qingdao Travel Guide
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