China Culture Discovery - 12 Days / 11 Nights
TOUR CODE TC 2014
Beijing, Datong, Pingyao, Taiyuan, Xian, Luoyang, Shaolin/Zhengzhou, Shanghai
Day 1 Beijing
Arrive in Beijing after your flight, where we will greet and escort you to your hotel.
Day 2 Beijing (AB, L, SD)
Visit the famous sites of the 2008 Olympic Games, such as the Bird's Nest and Water Cube. The intricately constructed Bird's Nest
cost approximately $480 million to build and seats roughly 91,000 spectators. The stadium was built with massive steel structures overlapping and intertwining in order to create an image of a gigantic bird's nest which embraces and nurses human beings. The Water Cube
, originally home to the Olympics swimming competitions, is a truly fascinating sight. Its translucent color-shifting building merges modern technology with Chinese traditional values. Now, one part of the cube has been turned into an indoor water park where swimmers shoot down colorful tubes into pools of water. Popular Science magazine chose the Water Cube as the "Best of What's New" in 2006.
In the evening, you will be treated to a famous Peking Duck Welcome Banquet.
, located in the city center, is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved ancient imperial gardens in China. This ancient garden, with over 1,000 years worth of history, is not only a classic combination of the grandiosity of the northern gardens and the refinement of the southern gardens in China, but also a perfect integration of magnificent imperial palaces and solemn religious constructions. The Yonghegong Lama Temple
, also known as the "Palace of Peace and Harmony" Lama Temple, is a temple and monastery of the Geluk (Yellow Hat) School of Tibetan Buddhism located in the northeastern central part of Beijing, next to the subway station of the same name. Yonghegong is one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world. The building and the artworks of Yonghegong combine Han Chinese and Tibetan styles (as well as some Mongolian motifs).
In the evening, enjoy a Peking Duck Banquet
Day 3 Beijing - Datong (AB, L, D)
Board a morning flight to Datong. After arriving, you will visit the Yungang Grottoes
. There, you will admire the carved out sandstone cliffs on Wuzhou Mountain
. The Yungang Grottoes were dug over a period of forty years, during the Northern Wei Dynasty. Some stretch 1,000 meters continuously from east to west and are one of the four famous grotto complexes throughout China. Of the 53 original grottoes of the Yungang Grotto complex, only 45 remain intact. These remaining 45 grottoes contain some 250 niches and 51,000 statues, the latter ranging from a few centimeters in height to 17 meters high. Grottoes No. 5 and No. 6 are particularly impressive as they are very colorful and intricately detailed, compared to other grottoes here which contain few, but large, figures. At the other extreme, the 14-meter-high seated Buddha of Sakyamuni outside Grotto No. 20 commands respect not only for its size, but also for the face of the figure, which is characterized by soft lines and a pair of eyes that radiate intellectual and spiritual vigor.
At last, we will visit Huayan Monastery
, located on Daxi Street on the south western side of Datong City. There are two separate sections to the monastery: the upper section, referred to as the Grand Hall, housing five large Ming Dynasty Buddhas; and the lower section, referred to as the Sutra Temple containing a library of some 18,000 volumes of Buddhist writings. Built during the Liao Dynasty, it is the largest and best preserved monastery of the Liao Dynasty still in existence in China. It was built according to the Huayan Sutra Sect of the Huayan School and is unique in that it faces east instead of south. Now, the upper and lower monasteries are connected together, but each has a main hall. The main hall of the upper monastery is the Hall of Sakyamuni. In the middle of the hall, there are five sculptures standing in a row at the bottom of a lotus flower. Another twenty sculptures of god, standing in a bowed position to show their respect, accompany the five main gods. Paintings on the wall depict sutra stories. The total area of the well-preserved color frescos is 890 square meters, which is rare in China. On top of the hall are color paintings from the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasties portraying dragons, cranes and flowers, all of which are images often found in Chinese legends of Buddhism. The Lower Monastery is simple and unsophisticated. Its main hall is the Bhaga Repository Hall in which Buddhist sutra is kept. The wooden library containing the Buddhist scriptures is exquisitely and elaborately designed. There are thirty-one sculptures in the hall and among the most famous is the Bodhisattva in a pious prayer pose. It is believed to possess a lifelike human likeness rather than that of a god.
Day 4 Datong - Pingyao (AB, L, D)
Travel to Pingyao and on the way; visit the Hanging Monastery
standing at the foot of Mt. Hengshan. It was built in 491, and has survived more than 1400 years. The extant monastery, largely rebuilt and maintained in the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, is an absolute architectural wonder. Seen from below, it appears to be a tumble-down castle in the air. Inside the monastery, the sculptures of Sakyamuni, Confucius and Laotzu appear together, which is unusual. The halls contain about 80 sculptures: some cast with bronze, some with iron, some with clay and some are carved out of stone. There are even some made of copper and terracotta.
We will also visit the Wooden Pagoda
, China's tallest and oldest Buddhist pagoda constructed entirely of wood. Built during the Liao Dynasty, this wooden pagoda has about 900 years of history. The Pagoda appears as a five-story structure, but in fact it has a total of nine stories with four hidden inside. The large Buddha statues hosted in the Wooden Pagoda show different countenances and postures, and display a very high level of craftsmanship. The statue of Sakyamuni on the 1st floor, standing at a height of 11 meters, is particularly impressive. The exquisite and vivid mural around it depicts the guardians, disciples and donors in a lifelike and meticulous manner and in the typical Liao painting style. The Wooden Pagoda is a perfect combination of science, art and religion. It also remains an architectural wonder.
Day 5 Pingyao - Taiyuan (AB, L, D)
Enjoy a city tour of Pingyao
, the financial center in Qing Dynasty. Later, y ou will visit Risheng Chang Old Bank
, which is now open as the Museum of Chinese Ancient Bank. It has more than 20 exhibition halls, and the most important two parts include the "History Material" exhibition and the "Original Condition" exhibition. Seeing the exhibitions, we can work out the focus of the development of Chinese ancient banks. It collects many precious materials of many different ancient banks, which shows a concise and vivid response of the history of Chinese ancient banks. The Ri Shengchang ancient bank is the representative of Chinese ancient banks. It suits the market, operates flexibly, pays attention to reputation, and brings forth new ideas. Its business policy and principles can be used as an important source of reference when the present companies reform and develop the policy.
We will also visit Qiao Family's courtyard house, which was built in 1756 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty. It occupied 8,724 square meters of land, consisting of 6 large yards and 20 small yards with 313 houses in total. Entering into the courtyard gate, you will first see an 80-meter-long straight stone pavement that divides 6 courtyards into a northern and southern row. There are slope protections between the pavements and nearby walls. The Qiao family's ancestral temple is at the end of the western side, which directly faces the gate. There are 4 main buildings and 6 other structures, such as a gate pavilion and the Geng and Tiao pavilions. The sidewalks on the roof of every yard are connected to allow for patrol. Viewed from the outside, the residency is serious and grand with long yards; viewed from the inside, it is splendid and orderly. The courtyard's three sides face the street, while the courtyard itself is completely surrounded by a 10-meter-high sealed water-milled brick wall. Yards and houses are linked with other yards and houses while the sidewalks above row upon row of roofs - such as the Xuanshan, Xieshan, Yingshan, Juanpeng, and Horizon roofs -- link up the battlements. Yards contain smaller yards as well as gardens. The doors, windows, eaves, stone stairs, quadrangular railings, and the Chuanxin, Pianxin, and Jiaodao yard are all beautifully shaped. You can see brick carvings everywhere in the yards: backbone carving, wall carving and railing carving - all of which are based on figures and allusions to flowers, plants, birds, beast, chess, and painting and calligraphy. The designs of the carvings are exquisite and their workmanship so fine, fully displaying the special style of residential buildings in the Qing Dynasty.
Ending today's tour will be driving to Taiyuan.
Day 6 Taiyuan - Xian (AB, L, D)
In the early morning, take a Taiyuan city tour before flying to Xian. After arriving at Xian airport, you will be transferred to your hotel where you may enjoy a free evening of exploring. Often mistaken for being a city to sightsee during the day, Xian has a surprisingly vibrant and illuminated night culture you won't want to miss seeing. Get a head start on your tour by visiting the brightly lit Bell Tower
, which resembles a Tang Dynasty beauty after dark. The City Wall and its South Gate
is also a popular area ornate with neon lights.
If interested in some evening entertainment, the North Square of the Big Goose Pagoda
has the world's largest music fountain in the world which starts at 8:00 PM every day. After the show, you can venture to the South Square of the Big Goose Pagoda where you will find a large, extravagantly illuminated sculpture park. If you'd also like to indulge in a late nightcap, Defu Xiang (Defu Lane) is home to many pubs, cafes and coffee shops.
Day 7 Xian (AB, L, D)
Spend an exciting day visiting the Terracotta Warriors
excavation site, one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in the world. The site measures 16,300 square meters and contains 7,300 warriors, horses, and chariots arranged in battle formations within 3 different pits. Each warrior is uniquely created with intricate craftsmanship. It may be hard to believe these Terracotta Warriors were built over 2000 years ago to guard the First Emperor in the afterlife.
In the evening, enjoy a Special Chinese Dumpling Banquet
followed by a Tang Dynasty Show. Xian is well-known for dumplings.
They are one delicacy served as a banquet dish, as they come in beautiful styles with delicious tastes and encourage a cultural experience, not just a meal. Dumplings can be steamed, boiled, fried, roasted and come with various fillings in different kinds of shapes. Enjoy the Tang Dynasty
Show, a spectacular performance with ancient music and dance that originated in the Tang Dynasty more than a thousand years ago.
Day 8 Xian - Luoyang (AB, L, SD)
After breakfast, visit the Ancient City Wall
, which encircles and protects the ancient part of Xian City and is one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. The massive city wall measures 12 meters high, with a width of 12 - 14 meters at the top and 15 - 18 meters at the base. The ancient City Wall features a series of watchtowers, turrets, crenels and gate towers, all surrounded by a moat. Visitors rarely fail to be impressed by the grandness and simplicity of the Ancient Wall.
After lunch, continue our tour to the Big Goose Pagoda
, which was built in 652 AD and originally had five stories before collapsing and being rebuilt in 704 AD, where they added two additional stories. The Big Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous
Buddhist pagodas in China and is filled with ancient artifacts. One of the Pagoda's many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang. The temple complex that is home to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is filled with beautiful gardens and stunning architecture. The temple's grounds, gardens, architecture and the Big Goose Pagoda are absolutely stunning. Xian is one of the few older cities in China where the original city walls are well-preserved and still visible. Then after driving or taking a train to Luoyang
, have a flavorful dinner that evening.
Day 9 Luoyang - Shaolin - Zhengzhou (AB, L, D)
In Luoyang, you will visit the Longmen Grottoes
- an awe-inspiring Buddhist sculpture regarded as one of the three most famous treasure houses of stone inscriptions in China. The grottoes represent the high point of Chinese Stone Carving and date back to as early as circa 493 when Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty moved the capital to Luoyang. They were continuously built upon for the next 400 years until the Northern Song Dynasty came into power. These grotto caves are home to nearly 100,000 statues of the Buddha, 2100 niches, 3600 tablets and nearly 40 pagodas.
Following the grottoes tour, visit Guan Mausoleum, which remarkably covers an area of about 33 acres with more than 150 rooms. The main architectural marvels are distributed along the central axis: the Main Gate, the Corridor, the Worshipping Hall, the Grand Hall, the Second Hall, the Third Hall, the Stone Archway, the Eight-Square Pavilion, and the Tomb of legendary General Guan Yu, respectively. There are over 70 steles, 4 stone archways, 110 stone and iron lions of different sizes, 10 statues and over 800 trees in the Mausoleum.
In the afternoon, we will take a drive to Shaolin Temple, best known for its martial arts. Zongyue Temple at Songshang, Talin, and Shaolin Martial Arts School are other sites in Shaolin. We will later travel to Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province.
Day 11 Zhengzhou-Shanghai (AB, L)
Board a flight to Shanghai and then check into your hotel. First explore Shanghai by visiting the Yu Yuan Garden
, Old Shanghai District and the famous Pearl TV Tower. The Yu Yuan Garden is a famous classical garden, located in the heart of Shanghai's Old District. Considered one of Shanghai's highlights, it was originally built in the 16th century and displays an exquisite layout and beautiful picturesque scenery. Here you will find classical numerous rock and tree garden areas, ponds, bridges and pavilions. In the Old Shanghai District
, a great number of small streets and lanes are present where vendors sell their traditional Chinese products and goods to the tourists and locals alike. Strolling through the Old District, you'll be immersed in Chinese culture. However, Shanghai's most recognized landmark is, without a doubt, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower
. The Pearl TV Tower measures at a height of 4698 meters (almost 3 miles) and is the world's 3rd tallest TV and radio tower. Travel up and down the tower in a double-decker elevator that can hold up to 50 people at the rate of seven meters (almost 23 feet) per second. Enjoy the modern style architecture and spectacular views of Shanghai. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to the Yangtze River.
After lunch, enjoy a walk along Nanjing Road and the Bund. The Bund is a key symbol of Shanghai and the epitome of Shanghai's modern history. Stroll through this colonial riverside of Old Shanghai and view the dozens of historic buildings lining the Huangpu River. 52 high rises of all styles in the West showcase the art of world architecture and history of contemporary Shanghai. Also visit Nanjing Road, China's premier shopping street stretching 3.4 miles long. Enjoy the modern, vibrant and eclectic street filled with shops, eateries, restaurants and more. Nanjing road starts at the Bund in the east and ends in the west, and truly is a must-see metropolitan destination for shoppers from all over the world.
Day 12 Shanghai (AB)
Today is a free day to explore Shanghai.
Day 13 Shanghai - USA (AB)
Enjoy a free morning in Shanghai before we escort you to the airport to catch your flight back home.
||This itinerary is subject to change due to circumstances beyond our control including: weather, airline schedules, cruise itinerary changes, boat changes, etc.