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China Weather in December

China falls into freezing winter all over the country except the South and some places in the Southwest where conditions might be warm and sunny such as Hong Kong, Macau, Hainan Island, Xishuangbanna and Nanning. These warm places are comfortable winter escapes for people in colder climates.

Snow falls in North China (Harbin, Beijing, Tianjin), and it might feel even colder still in Central China (Wuhan, Changsha) because humidity is high and buildings are not as well heated.

North and Northeast China — frigid, windy, light snow

— Beijing, Datong, Hohhot, Harbin…

Great Wall in winterThe Forbidden City

For Beijing and most other places in this region, it is a low tourism month. Cold wind is biting, and snow often covers the ground. It sometimes snows, and since it is so cold, the snow remains a long time and accumulates. But there is little snow because North China is dry.

Clothing: You'll need an extra thick coat and layers of clothing to stay warm, as well as gloves and a warm hat. Wear water resistant shoes with good traction.

West China — frigid

— Xinjiang, Qinghai, Dunhuang, Xi’an, Tibet…

December is not a good time to travel in Xinjiang because it is simply too cold with temperatures much below freezing with heavy snow and forbidding conditions.

Lhasa is also forbidding to most tourists because the temperatures are low and the oxygen level is low. But when it is sunny, it feels warm because of the high altitude. It hardly snows at all. If you can adjust to the altitude, low season travel is more economical, and you'll experience less bustle.

The main ancient sites and museums in Xi'an can still be visited since they are temperature regulated.

Clothing: Bring your winter coat, gloves, sunglasses, and hat. Dress in layers.

East China — windy, humid, and cold

— Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Huangshan…

Wulingyuan in winterWulingyuan in the snow

Windy, humid, and damp weather drives people inside and most tourists to other places in December. Hotels and businesses have promotions and discounts. Shanghai usually stays above freezing.

Clothing: Coat, rain gear, and water resistant shoes.

Central — chilly

— Changsha, Wuhan, Zhangjiajie

It is freezing and cold. It snows several times in the month, and ice and slush may be on the ground even in areas south of the Yangtze. High humidity makes it feel even colder than Beijing to the north. Buildings might not be heated.

The natural parks such as Wulingyuan in Zhangjiajie and much of the countryside looks beautiful sprinkled with snow.

Clothing: Overcoats, long underwear, and water resistant shoes with good traction.

The South — pleasant cool weather

— Guilin, Hainan, Guangzhou, Hong Kong…

In major contrast to every other big city in China, Hong Kong gets ideal weather: warm, sunny, light breezes, clear skies, and little rain. The weather is pleasant with warm days and cool nights. Sightseeing, shopping, and outdoor activities are all the more enjoyable when it is dry and sunny.

The rest of South China generally has pleasant winter with plentiful sunshine, but Guilin feels cold because of high humidity although it almost never freezes.

Clothing: A thin coat or jacket and perhaps rain gear are enough, but in Guilin, have a thicker jacket and dress in layers for comfort.

The Southwest — cool dry days, cold nights

— Dali, Lijiang, Xishuangbanna, Kunming, Chengdu…

Many areas of Yunnan Province and Sichuan Province have pleasant winter weather with sunshine, but high altitude areas are frigid. December is comfortable and cool or warm during the day around the Yunnan region — Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, and Xishuangbanna. But Lijiang, Kunming, and Dali drop to near freezing at night. Tropical Xishuangbanna is always warm.

Clothing: For most of the popular places, dress in layers with a coat and head covering for the night. You'll need a heavy coat in the mountains.

Average December Weather Data for Major Tourist Cities

Press the links to see the cities' climate and local current forecast.

Cities Average High Average Low Rain/Snow Days Precipitation
Beijing 4°C (39°F) -6°C (21°F) 2 3mm (0")
Xi’an 6°C (43°F) -3°C (27°F) 3 6mm (½")
Shanghai 11°C (52°F) 2°C (36°) 7 34mm (1½")
Hong Kong 21°C (70°F) 15°C (59°F) 2 27mm (1")
Chengdu 11°C (52°F) 5°C (41°F) 5 5mm (½")
Guilin 15°C (59°F) 7°C (45°F) 9 43mm (1½")
Kunming 15°C (59°F) 3°C (37°F) 4 12mm (½")

Why Visit China in December?

  • December is the low travel season (except for Hainan Island), and it is the quietest time of the year. Travel costs are lower, businesses offer bargains, and attractions are less crowded.
  • If you visit the Great Wall in December, you are very likely to view an awesome snowy scene of the wall and the mountains covered with snow. In addition, there are fewer tourists, and you might have the wall to yourself.
  • Ski resorts open in North China.
  • Mild weather in the south: For those taking winter vacations, southern China is a pleasant escape from frosty weather. Outdoor activities and sightseeing are a delight.

Also read: Why Travel in China's Winter Low Season

Disadvantages: Cold and the Spring Festival Holiday Rush

  • It is extremely cold in North China. It is cold and slushy across Central China, and cold in parts of southern China too.
  • From November to April, Tibet is not suitable for traveling because of severe weather conditions.

Top December Destinations

yabuliYabuli
  • Harbin: Nearby is one of China's best ski resorts called Yabuli Ski Resort.
  • Beijing: Visit historical sites. Also, there are more than 10 ski resorts where you could enjoy winter sports at too.
  • Hainan Island seaside escapes: Once little visited by foreign tourists, the sunny weather and beaches attract foreign holiday makers. See Hainan.
  • The Pearl River Delta: Hong Kong, Macau, and Shenzhen have warm/mild winters.
  • Yunnan: Wintering in Yunnan Province in southwestern China is generally pleasant except for the mountain areas. Kunming, the Spring City, and the tropical rainforest of Xishuangbanna are recommended.

Check out The Best 6 Places to Visit in December.

Festivals Add Color to Winter

Hong Kong christmas treeSha Tin, Hong Kong Christmas tree

December has no major national holidays or festivals, but there are regional and ethnic festivals and events in December. WinterFest in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Christmas is popular with tourists.

Most Popular China Tours for December

You can choose between spring-like weather or winter weather in China. You can enjoy outdoor fun such as hiking in the south or skiing in the north. Pack your bag and come with us to explore the beauty of China. Below are our suggested tours for your inspiration. Modify these tours as you wish.

For more suggestions and tips see How to Plan Your First Trip to China.

Weather and Things to Do in China's Cities in December

China Climate Information by Month