Cultural experts initially selected the 20 cities based on factors such as cultural diversity, cultural heritage preservation, cultural industry development and openness to cultural exchange.
Beijing topped the list among the 20 contending cities, winning by more than 150,000 votes. Chengdu, Xi'an, Nanjing and Lhasa were ranked second to fifth.
Participants were asked to vote both online and through text messages, and strict measures were taken to avoid manipulation of the result.
"The poll was mainly aimed at promoting the cultural resources of these cities to the world," said Xue Geyang of China Radio International, which organized the poll.
Xue played down the significance of the rankings. "We want to give equal credit to the cities named in the top 10 ," she said.
Some experts said the significance of the poll did not lie in the ranking of the cities but in the poll's promotion of Chinese cities and their cultural appeal.
"We should not focus too much on the rankings as we can't tell from the poll whether the people who voted have been to the cities themselves," said Yang Disheng, a cultural expert from Tsinghua University.
"However, to my knowledge, few people in other countries can name more than 10 cities in China, which reflects an urgent need to promote our cities to the world."
The poll attracted a large percentage of foreign voters, with 65.8 percent coming from overseas.
The Chinese City Ranking is the second poll of its kind. The poll in 2010 gathered opinions from more than 5.6 million voters on the top 10 Chinese cities for tourism.
On the poll's website, many voters described their attachments to the cities they voted for.
"Personally, I would give my vote to Quanzhou for its vitality, religious diversity and historic links to so many Chinese people living overseas," said a netizen named Luderming. "I was in this city not long ago and the feeling of visiting my grandparents' home for the first time was simply too overwhelming to put in words."
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