East China is a key area of China historically, politically, and economically.
Over a thousand years ago, this area was the main terminus of the Maritime Silk Road, and traded extensively with Japan and Southeast Asia. Today the region is an economic powerhouse beyond even the Pearl River Delta in South China. The area has many millions of migrant workers from less developed areas of China.
A province with a long history, featuring important cities like Nanjing and Suzhou as well as natural beauty.
China's biggest and most developed city, huge and cosmopolitan. Museums, temples, fashion, finance, history, architecture—Shanghai has it all.
Extensive natural beauty, including Hangzhou's West Lake and the "thousand-island lake" Qiandaohu, as well as traditional agricultural products like tea and silk.
|Fujian (East Fujian, South Fujian, Inland Fujian)|
The province's mountainous terrain has engendered cultural and linguistic diversity, and its location on the sea in southeast China has ensured a long history of maritime trade, notably including Amoy (now Xiamen) serving as a hub for the ancient silk trade.
In some ways, Taiwan could also be considered part of this region — it has had much immigration from Fujian, with which it continues to share a high degree of cultural similarity. Fujian dialects are commonly spoken, and it was once administered as part of that province. However, it is economically and politically distinct with its own visas and currency, so it is not included here.
The main cities of the region include:
- 1 Fuzhou, capital of Fujian
- 2 Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province), capital of China under the Southern Song, 1127-1279; Marco Polo wrote the city is beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world.
- 3 Nanjing (Jiangsu Province), capital of China under several dynasties, of the Tai Ping Kingdom in the 19th century, and of the Republic of China (1912-1949). Its history goes back to several hundred BCE and for most of that time it has been one of the most important cities in China.
- 4 Ningbo (Zhejiang Province), a major trading port in the tea clipper era, still an important port and industrial city
- 5 Shanghai , unlike other cities in the area, did not become very important until the 19th century, though some neighborhoods date back much further. Relics of the city's "Golden Age" — 1840s to 1930s — abound, a fascinating mixture of East and West. Today, Shanghai is the hub of the region and the financial and fashion center of China.
- 6 Suzhou (Jiangsu Province), old city of canals and gardens, capital of one of the three states in the Three Kingdoms Period, 220-280 CE. Today a major center of hi-tech industry.
- 7 Wenzhou (Zhejiang Province), a busy seaport and industrial city
- 8 Xiamen, Special Economic Zone, Fujian
- 9 Xuzhou (Jiangsu Province), largest city in the province.
There is a Chinese saying: Heaven has paradise, but Earth has Hangzhou and Suzhou. Both cities are among the most-visited destinations for Chinese tourists, and also major destinations for international tourism. Their main attractions — the classical gardens of Suzhou and West Lake in the center of Hangzhou — are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
All these cities are now quite modern, heavily industrialised, very busy, and still expanding.
Some scenic areas in the region provide a somewhat rural escape for city dwellers:
- 1 Anji county (Huzhou prefecture, Zhejiang province on the south side of Lake Tai) has over 60,000 hectares (about 235 square miles) of bamboo groves and 40 different species of bamboo.
- 2 Fujian Tulou earth roundhouses in Western Fujian.
- 3 Lake Tai is a large lake right on the Jiangsu-Zhejiang border.
- 4 Mount Putuo is an island near Ningbo, a national park with an important Buddhist temple.
- 5 Mount Wuyi is a scenic and historic area in Fujian.
Much of the region is flat Yangtze Delta terrain and has water towns, the traditional market towns for agricultural areas and now tourist attractions. All have picturesque canals with old houses along them and many bridges, and many are set up to accommodate tourists.
- 6 Shaoxing 绍兴, is the largest of these, a city of about half a million. It attracts many Chinese tourists to whom it is famous as the "town of fish and rice", an expression indicating prosperity.
- There are three within Shanghai Municipality. Two, Qibao and Zhujiajiao, are close to downtown and can be reached by metro. Fengjing is further out and, as of early 2018, still needs a bus or taxi ride. The "Fengjing peasant" style of painting is well-known within China and has been exhibited internationally.
- 7 Wuzhen 乌镇 is close to Hangzhou and makes a good stop en route between Shanghai and Hangzhou. There are buses from Shanghai Stadium.
- 8 Xitang , an historic town south-west of Shanghai. The final scene from Mission Impossible 3 was filmed here.
- 9 Zhouzhuang , located between Shanghai and Suzhou.
Until the 19th century, Hangzhou and Nanjing were the great cities of this region; both have been the capital of China, Nanjing under several different regimes. Suzhou was another important city, famous for its gardens, canals and silk. Quanzhou was one of the greatest ports of the Maritime Silk Road.
In the 19th century, China lost two "Opium Wars" to foreign powers, and was forced to open certain Treaty Ports to foreign trade in the treaties that ended those wars. Xiamen, Ningbo and Shanghai were opened in the 1840s, after the first war; all developed very rapidly after that. Until then, Shanghai was not a particularly significant town, though it did enjoy a strategic position at the mouth of the great Yangtze River, but by the early 20th century Shanghai became one of the world's richest and wildest cities. After the second opium war in the 1860s, cities further inland up the Yangtze were opened — Zhenjiang, Nanjing and Hankou (now part of Wuhan). They also developed considerably and the region as a whole did quite well from then until the 1930s.
Then everything went wrong; Japan succeeded in conquering most of the region (though not all of the mountainous areas in Fujian), and they suffered horrendously under Japanese occupation, 1937 to 1945 (see World War II in China). Then there were the Chinese Civil War, 1945-1949, the Great Leap Forward in the 50s, and the Cultural Revolution 1966-1976; all caused severe problems in this region. Also, the region lost some of its prosperity in the postwar era because the extensive traditional trade with Japan and Taiwan was mostly cut off.
In the "reform and opening up" since 1978, this area has benefited enormously. Shanghai is again definitely one of the world's greatest cities, and Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Fuzhou and Xiamen are not far behind. All are very modern cities with lots of large new roads and buildings, and all have mass transit systems with some lines in service and more under construction. Between the cities are both more large new roads and an extensive rail network including many fast, efficient bullet train links.
The entire region is a hive of industry, one of the most prosperous in China. It is a magnet for migrants from poorer regions who come here in droves seeking work. More of everything is under construction; cranes are visible everywhere.
As usual in China, Mandarin is the lingua franca; nearly everyone can speak it except some of the elderly. English is not widespread but some people speak it quite well.
The region does have its own language group, called Wu, which is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin or any other varieties of Chinese. This is a populous region and the number of Wu speakers is large (second only to Mandarin). The language is also referred to as Shanghai dialect or Shanghainese, though strictly Shanghainese is a dialect of Wu. There are many local variants of Wu; the prestige dialect is that of Suzhou (an older city, capital of the Kingdom of Wu centuries back, and home to many scholars), not that of Shanghai. Wu is spoken over quite a broad area, including Shanghai, most of Zhejiang, parts of Jiangsu and even a few places in Anhui, but different local variants can be quite different. If you happen to have command of some Shanghainese, for example, you would be understood easily in nearby cities like Suzhou and Jiaxing, but not further afield.
Variants of Mandarin are spoken natively in parts of Jiangsu, such as the area around Nanjing. These differ somewhat from standard Mandarin and can be tricky to understand at times, but if you are fluent in standard Mandarin, asking the other person to speak slowly usually does the trick.
Fujian is dominated by Min dialects, which are extremely diverse and mutually unintelligible. Two of the most important are Minnan, spoken around Xiamen and across the sea in Taiwan (where it is called Taiwanese), and Mindong, spoken around Fuzhou. There are Hakka speakers in Fujian as well.
The area is well connected to the rest of China by road, rail and air. Most international visitors arrive by air.
Perhaps the commonest way to reach the area is to fly to Shanghai. There are two airports in the city with 1 Pudong as a major international airport with connections all over the world and 2 Hongqiao that is closer to the center and handles mainly domestic flights, plus some to nearby countries such as South Korea. Buses and the metro connect the two, taking about an hour. There are also direct buses from either airport to major cities in the region; see the city articles for details.
Shanghai Metro Line high-speed trains to many places in the region and beyond. This is not a convenient way to get between the airports if you have a lot of luggage, because you need to change trains once. On the other hand, if you are travelling light and have a bit of time to spare, you can easily jump off somewhere in the middle for a quick look at Downtown Shanghai.(the main East-West line through downtown) goes to both airports and to the new Hongqiao train station right next to Hongqiao airport, which has
Other cities in the region, such as Hangzhou, Nanjing and Xiamen, also have international airports. Air Asia's flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hangzhou provides a low-cost route to or from Southeast Asia.
The area is well-connected by China's rail and road networks. There are good highways and a high-speed rail network.
- Along the Yangtze River and Along the Grand Canal both cover some routes in this area; both also extend beyond it.
The East China Fair is a trade fair held annually in the spring in Shanghai. Their definition of "East China" is broader than what we use on Wikivoyage; they include the inland province Jiangxi while we treat that elsewhere and cover only coastal provinces in this article.
Noodles are a primary food source in the region.
Fujian cuisine (Min 闽) is known for its seafood. One famous dish is "Buddha jumps over a wall", a complex chowder that supposedly smells good enough to make a vegetarian monk forget his vows and hop a fence.
This region is geographically in the center of the Chinese coast and is well-connected by road, rail or air to anywhere else in China. Going north, major attractions include Qingdao and Beijing. Heading southwest, Guangzhou and other cities of the Pearl River Delta are reasonably close. Going west, Huangshan, Wuhan and Xi'an beckon. Of course there are other interesting places in all directions as well.