OK, your wimpy guide might be overdoing things. It's actually a dry cold across the north that does allow you to get out and do things, as long as you're well insulated. Across central China, the weather is a little more uncomfortable because of the dampness. But in the south, it's actually not too bad. You'll have cooler temps, but it can be quite comfortable for walking and sight-seeing.
- Beijing: the ave daytime temp is 35F (1C) and ave number of rainy days is 2.
- Shanghai: the ave daytime temp is 46F (8C) and ave number of rainy days is 9.
- Guangzhou: the ave daytime temp is 65F (18C) and ave number of rainy days is 8.
- Guilin: the ave daytime temp is 53F (12 C) and ave number of rainy days is 14.
January Packing Suggestions:
Layers are essential for winter. Be sure to read my Complete Packing Guide for China for more.
- North: it will be cold during the day and below freezing at night. You'll probably be thankful if you bring along a long underwear, a fleece and a wind-proof or down jacket.
- Central: it will be quite chilly during the day and cooler at night, but rarely freezing. A heavy base layer (e.g. jeans, boots and sweaters) along with a rain/wind-proof jacket will be enough. If you're easily cold, a down jacket might be better.
- South: it will be cool. Long sleeves and pants, as well as a rain/wind-proof jacket are essential.
Visiting China in January - Pros:
- Dry weather in Beijing and the rest of northern China makes for cold, but almost-guaranteed dry sight-seeing.
- Cold weather in central and south China can still be comfortable for sight-seeing and touring as long as you've brought the right layers.