Han's Royal Garden Hotel (Beijing): This series of five courtyards has been painstakingly restored into a luxurious hotel with an emphasis of preserving China's history and culture, in one of Beijing's most charming hutong neighborhoods.
Longmen Guibin Lou (Harbin): Built by the Russian-controlled Chinese Eastern Railroad in 1901, the Longmen has served as a hospital, the Russian embassy, and a cheap hostel for migrant workers. In the 1930s and 1940s, it was part of the illustrious Japanese-owned Yamato Hotel chain. The Chinese Railway Bureau renovated the building in 1996, preserving the original Russian woodwork and restoring much of its turn-of-the-20th-century atmosphere. Rooms are palatial and decorated with period furniture.
Tian Yuan Kui (Pingyao): In a town full of ancient architecture, this is the top courtyard guesthouse. Rooms come in a variety of shapes and sizes but all are furnished with dark wooden Ming-style tables and chairs and most have traditional kang heated brick beds. When the hotel is full in the summer they sometimes offer opera performances on hot summer nights.
Dunhuang Shanzhuang (Dunhuang): The finest hotel on the Silk Routes, with views of the Mingsha Shan Dunes, this imposing fortress features broad range of stylishly renovated rooms, and its rooftop cafe is a great place for a sunset drink whether you're staying here or not.
Seman Binguan (Kashgar): Set on the grounds of the former Russian consulate, this has merely two government-issued stars and poor service, but standard rooms and suites in the original and beautifully decorated consulate buildings, with their high ceilings and dramatic oil paintings, can be bargained down to low prices. This is the nearest you'll get to experiencing some "Great Game" ambience.
Sanbao Ceramic Art Institute (Jingde Zhen): This restored porcelain workshop is complete with ancient kilns and water hammers and now functions as an artists' retreat in a superb rural location. While much of China's historical architecture is being demolished wholesale, here is a place that reveres its past and deserves our support.
The Peninsula (Hong Kong): The grand old dame of Hong Kong, this historic hotel, built in 1928, exudes elegance and colonial splendor, with one of the most famous, ornate lobbies in town, a must for afternoon tea. A tower with a top-floor restaurant designed by Philippe Starck, a state-of-the-art spa, classes ranging from cooking to tai chi, Hong Kong's most venerable restaurants, and outstanding service assure this historic hotel a top rating despite newer and more glamorous competitors.
Yangshuo Shengdi (Mountain Retreat) (Yangshuo): Situated in one of the area's most picturesque settings, this small but luxurious hotel is a world away from the usual trials and tribulations of traveling in China. This is the kind of place where you will want to extend your vacation indefinitely.
Jilongbao Resort (Xingyi): An unexpected sight in Guizhou, to say the least. Apart from the luxury island castle accommodations, Jilongbao boasts Hong Kong-style in fantastic karst surroundings. Expect to be one of the very first foreign visitors and revel in the excellent facilities and stunning local countryside.
The Linden Center (Xizhou, near Dali): Probably the best restoration project undertaken so far anywhere in China. The Lindens, two American oriental art specialists, have fully restored a Bai courtyard house way beyond even its greatest former glories. As well as an impressive restaurant, there is a library, a gallery, a museum, and even a meditation room. Best of all the views across the rice fields from the back terrace are simply jaw dropping. This guest house can give any of China's five stars a run for their money.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.