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Food and Drink
Chinese cuisine varies greatly from region to region. Rice is a popular food source, and the steamed variety is most common in the rice farming areas of southern China. In the wheat farming areas of northern China, noodles, breads and dumplings are plentiful. Fresh vegetables, chicken, seafood and pork are other staples of authentic Chinese cuisine. Soups made with chicken, meat or vegetable stock with various textures and flavors are popular accompaniments to many Chinese meals.
Certain regions of China are famous for specific dishes or cuisines. Roasted Peking duck is a signature dish in Beijing and steamed buns stuffed with meat are commonly found at street stalls in Shanghai. Steamed, boiled and stir-fried foods are frequently found on Cantonese menus, while spicier dishes prepared with chili pepper oil are prevalent in Sichuan.
Drinking tea is an integral part of the Chinese dining experience. It is believed to be beneficial to the body, mind and spirit and comes in many varieties, including green, black, white and scented tea. Rice wine, derived from rice, wheat and corn, is a favorite alcoholic beverage in China.
Though many Chinese people eat their meals using chopsticks, some restaurants will have forks available upon request, and all will have spoons.
The China Fine Arts Gallery is located in Beijing. The massive three-level art museum has 13 exhibition halls and houses works by modern Chinese painters. Beijing is also home to the Dashanzi Art District, a flourishing artistic community that has drawn comparisons to SoHo and Greenwich Village in New York. The Art Scene Warehouse in Shanghai is also a great place to view modern Chinese art. Most galleries do not charge visitors.
Calligraphy is an important and appreciated aspect of Chinese culture. Using the "Four Treasures of the Study" (ink brushes, Chinese ink, paper and inkstone), fancy lettering is created, varying with stroke, speed, amount and density of the ink and other factors. Traditional Chinese theatre known as Beijing opera is also regarded as one of the country’s cultural treasures. It combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics in symbolic movements.
Chinese martial arts, or wushu, are fighting styles that developed centuries ago in China. The various techniques and training methods are inspired by Chinese philosophies, religions and legends.
Chinese creativity is also seen in the country's architecture, from ancient pagodas to new structures that resemble elements of nature or modern life, such as the "Bird's Nest" built in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Offering everything from green tea to Chinese silk, China has something to satisfy every shopper's appetite. The rich culture and incomparable products make the items in China incredibly appealing to travelers.
While prices in most places such as department stores, supermarkets and exclusive shops are non-negotiable, travelers will enjoy the bargaining experience in small shops, flea markets and street stalls.
The key to bargaining is never appear too eager, because then there's a chance the shopkeeper will not lower the price if he or she knows the customer is very interested in the item. You might try bargaining in Chinese, using common phrases such as "Tai gui le" (too expensive), "Pian yi dian" (could you reduce the price?) and "Bu yao" (I don't want it) to get a good deal.
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