A Tourist Visa (L Visa) is issued to a foreigner who comes to China for sightseeing or visiting family members or friends or for other personal affairs. But, unless you're eligible for a transit visa you'll have to send your passport in to your local China Visa Application Service Center.
Where to apply for?
In several countries the Chinese embassy or consulate does not directly handle applications. While they do have the final say on who gets a visa, they often use outside offices to handle all the paperwork. In many countries the embassy uses a company called "China Visa Application Service Center" to handle applications.
Most of these service centers will accept postal applications, alternatively you can make an appointment for you to come in and apply for your visa in person. If you're applying for a Mainland China tourist visa through Hong Kong you'll have to head to a branch of the China Travel Services to put in your application.
Documents you should submit
What you need to provide for your tourist visa application will differ depending on the country you’re from, but there is general guidance that seems fairly uniform across the board.