From the traditional hutongs of Beijing to the futuristic skyscrapers of Shanghai, the best places to teach in China are packed with history, culture and diversity.
But China, the most populous country on Earth, is home to hundreds of cities sprawled across the third-largest nation (by area) in the world.
We won’t be surprised then, if you don’t know which is the best city to teach in.
Whether you’re looking for the best cities in China to teach English, maths, geography or the sciences, we’ve got you covered.
Here is a guide to the best places to teach in China.
Beijing for Hutongs and Street Food
Beijing is China’s historic capital city. Located in the country’s north, this vast city of some 21 million people is home to the Chinese government, the headquarters of most major Chinese companies, and some of the best schools in the country. For an ambitious teacher, there’s no better place to teach in China than the bustling, busy capital.
But Beijing is always ready to surprise. While you’ll commute to work on the world’s largest and busiest metro system, you’ll still find that traditions are at the heart of this megacity. Not every district has been taken over by skyscrapers, and around the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, you can quickly become lost in the network of hutongs. These narrow streets and alleys are flush with locals and tourists, where you’ll be drawn in by the temptations of street food and mesmerised by the traditional Chinese way of city life.
Chengdu for Spicy Sichuan Cuisine
If you love your food, then one of the best places to teach in China is Chengdu. Home to around 16 million people, Chengdu is the provincial capital of Sichuan, a historic region in China’s southwest that’s often named the ‘Country of Heaven’.
Take up a teaching placement here and you’ll find your taste buds are in heaven, because UNESCO has listed Chengdu as a ‘City of Gastronomy’. Sichuan cuisine is notoriously fiery though, so if you can’t handle your spice, perhaps pick a city further north to live and work in.
You’ll enjoy a slower pace of life in Chengdu, compared to many other Chinese cities. On your days off, you can unwind in the teahouses that line the Jin River, take a day trip to see the famous pandas, and explore the thousands of years of history that the region is known for.
Guangzhou for Tropical Weather and Cantonese History
Travel down south to Guangdong Province and you won’t be disappointed by the weather, as you set yourself up for a new teaching career in the mega-city of Guangzhou. Located along the south coast, not too far from Hong Kong and Macau, Guangzhou has a sub-tropical climate that’s hard to beat.
With a population now over 18 million, this is one of China’s largest cities. The vast urban area is home to countless international and bilingual schools, making this a popular destination for teachers looking to throw themselves into southern life in China. You won’t be disappointed either, because Guangzhou is considered to be the heart of the Cantonese world.
Previously known to Europeans as ‘Canton’, Guangzhou has a long history dating back at least 2,000 years. Ideally situated on the beautiful banks of the Pearl River, this is where the Silk Road’s maritime routes began and ended for centuries. Today, you’ll find a cosmopolitan city where the Cantonese language, culture and cuisine thrive, and where the weather’s great all year round. Visit the Canton Tower for supreme views over the city, explore local history at the Guangdong Museum, and take a cruise along the Pearl River.
Hangzhou for Lakeside Views
Hangzhou is a city steeped in legend, myth and tradition. Located in Zhejiang Province on China’s eastern coast, the city has a population of around 10 million but is well connected to the metropolis of Shanghai, which is an hour away by train. Hangzhou is the sort of place that’s great for teachers looking to experience a quieter side to Chinese city life, in a location that’s readily accessible.
You’ll be following in the footsteps of generations of Chinese artists, writers and creatives who traditionally have visited Hangzhou’s beautiful West Lake in search of inspiration. This glorious lake was part of the Grand Canal, and it’s surrounded by historic pagodas and temples offering a sense of timelessness and serenity that’s rare to find in modern China.
Shanghai for Modern Living
Shanghai needs very little introduction. This sprawling megacity sits on China’s east coast, and with a population verging on 25 million people, it’s the most populous city in the country. Shanghai has long been designated as one of China’s Special Economic Zones, and the city has a very different feel from the traditional hutongs of Beijing or the teahouses of Chengdu.
Shanghai is the future, and you’ll see this instantly in the high-rise apartment blocks and contemporary skyline when you stroll along the riverside in Pudong. If you want to be at the forefront of technology and culture, then Shanghai is one of the best places to teach in China.
You’ll have access to the most formidable and prestigious international schools in the country, any western amenities, shops or services you crave are available in the city, and there’s a huge expat population to help you settle in.
Shenzhen for Coastal Contrasts
Overlooking Hong Kong from its serene location in sub-tropical southern China, Shenzhen is a coastal city like no other in the world. This is one of China’s fastest-growing cities, with a population of well over 18 million people and counting. Its fast transport links to Guangzhou and Hong Kong have ensured that Shenzhen has become a hub for tech and manufacturing companies, with the city’s economy now one of the biggest in the country.
Shenzhen is a fascinating place to live. Take up a teaching position here, and you’ll be caught between the China of old and new, as you’re absorbed in a city that’s ever expanding. It’s a city of contrasts but, best of all, you can escape the urban metropolis of Shenzhen and find yourself on the nearby beaches in no time at all.
That’s right, Shenzhen isn’t just a place to work, it’s a place to enjoy a unique urban-coastal lifestyle. Dameisha and Xiaomisha beaches are located to the east of the city centre, and you’ll love how mile after mile of white sand beaches stretches along the coast. The beaches make Shenzhen a popular tourist spot, which means the city is also home to a plethora of unique attractions, including the ‘Window of the World’, the Dafen Oil Painting Village and the Shenzhen Museum.
Suzhou for Canals and Gardens
Suzhou, the homely capital of Jiangsu Province, is often claimed to be the prettiest city in China. We’ll let you decide if that’s true when you visit, but we can guarantee it’s the perfect place for anyone looking for peace, calm and quiet (or as much as you can ever find in urban China!).
Suzhou has a population of around seven million people, and it’s located close to the even larger urban area of Shanghai, meaning it’s a readily accessible city to teach in. The city was traditionally home to Chinese aristocrats and elites, who invested much in the scenic canals, waterways and gardens that Suzhou is so famous for.
There’s a range of expatriate amenities in Suzhou to help you acclimatise, while the teaching opportunities include both international and bilingual schools.
Xi’an for Ancient History
The provincial city of Xi’an is one of the smaller cities on our list of the best places to teach in China, but that’s only because its population of eight million people pales in comparison to destinations like Shanghai. If you’re coming from anywhere else in the world, then Xi’an is going to be quite large enough for you to enjoy.
If you love ancient history, then Xi’an is the place for you. Once you’ve finished teaching for the day, you can delve into the city’s impressive past, as you visit the local museums and archaeological sites.
This was traditionally the eastern end of the fabled Silk Road trading route, which stretched all the way to Europe, and many Chinese dynasties – including the Qin, Han and Tang – made the city their power base. One of these rulers even commissioned the iconic ‘Terracotta Army’, the remains of which you can visit nearby.
Are You Searching For The Best Places To Teach in China?
Then contact INTA Education to start your journey.
INTA Education was founded by Lydia and Will, teachers with a passion for language and education.
With ten years’ experience teaching in Asia, we’re ready to help you find the best places to teach in China.
Get in touch today for more information on teaching careers in China.