China is the third largest country in the world in terms of area and the first in terms of population density, inhabited by 56 ethnic groups. It is also home to many sages and scientists, because it was here that the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing were invented. And, of course, a country of contrasts and cultural richness. The Great Wall of China is, certainly, number 1 on the sightseeing list. However, not necessarily just one place that will delight visitors…
FLIGHT TO BEIJING
Departure to Beijing, the capital of China. The city of over twenty million is known for its modern architecture, high skyscrapers and numerous monuments. Currently, it is the largest political, educational and cultural center of the country.
After breakfast, we will visit the Temple of Heaven, a complex of sacred Taoist buildings. This extraordinary place was visited by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties during annual ceremonies during which they prayed to heaven for an abundant agricultural harvest. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1998. In the evening, we will walk around three beautifully situated lakes in the city center. This place is called the “lake of temples” as ten Buddhist and Taoist temples and various imperial estates and gardens can be found around the lake complex. Here you will also find plenty of traditional restaurants with local food. We will stop at one of them for dinner. Return to the hotel for an overnight stay.
GREAT WALL OF CHINA
After breakfast, we will visit the Great Wall, one of the world’s greatest attractions. It is the collective name of defense systems built from the 7th century BC, consisting of natural dams, a network of forts and watchtowers protecting northern China from the invasions of peoples from the Great Steppe. The original wall stretched for 2,400 km. In 1987, the Great Wall was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and in 2007 it was declared one of the seven new wonders of the world. We will have the opportunity to walk around less crowded parts of the wall. Then we will visit the famous tombs of the Ming dynasty. The emperors of this dynasty ruled China from the 14th to the 17th centuries, and some historians believe that this was the period of the most disciplined rule and social stability in our history. The necropolis complex covers an area of about 40 square kilometers and is the final resting place of 13 of the 16 Ming emperors. The place was chosen strictly according to the principles of Feng Shui. From the north, it is protected from evil spirits by a chain of Tianshoushan hills. On the sides, the valley is closed by the Dragon Mountains and the Tiger Mountains. From the south, the gap between the hills is closed by a brick wall that mortals are not allowed to cross. After a short walk around the area, return to the city center. In the evening we will go to the Quanjude restaurant to try a delicious roast duck, one of the local specialties. The famous restaurant has been in existence since 1864 and is visited by five million customers every year. Overnight stay at the hotel.
FORBIDDEN CITY - TIANANMEN SQUARE
In the morning we will visit the Forbidden City in Beijing. It is a remarkable work of architecture, begun by the Yongl Emperor when he moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing in 1406. Work on the future home of the 24 emperors lasted 14 years and a million workers worked on this extremely ambitious project. The Forbidden City ceased to be the political center of China in 1912 with the abdication of Puyi, the last emperor of China. In 1987, it was entered on the UNESCO list as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. In the days of the emperors, the punishment for entering the Forbidden City was severe. Today, tourists enter its territory through the South Gate, which was once reserved only for the emperor.
Later, we will walk around Tiananmen Square, also known as Heavenly Peace Square. It is the largest public square in the world. It was built in 1417, later rebuilt and religious ceremonies, military parades and imperial decrees were held here. In the years 1954-56 it was enlarged, becoming the largest square in the world. In the afternoon, we will take the high-speed train, which travels at a speed of 200-350 km per hour, to Datong village. During the two-hour journey, we will be able to admire beautiful views. The city of Datong was founded in the 2nd century BC and was the capital of the Wei dynasty. The guide will show us the defensive walls of the old town. Hotel accommodation and an overnight stay.
YUNGANG GROTTOES- XIANTONG PAGODA
After breakfast, we will go to visit the amazing Yungang Grottoes, located near the city of Datong. It is a complex of rock Buddhist temples, which in 2001 was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Most of the 252 caves were built in the 5th-6th century during the Wei dynasty. To this day, over 50,000 sculptures carved in the rock depicting the Buddha have been preserved here. The largest of them is 17 meters high. After lunch, we will go to see the architectural gem – the Xiantong wooden pagoda, it is the oldest and tallest wooden structure in China. Built in the 11th century, it has nine floors and was built without the use of nails or rivets. Then we will go for a walk around the area to admire the picturesque views. Dinner and an overnight stay at the hotel.
In the morning we will depart for Wutai Shan. It is a mountain with a height of 3058 m above sea level, which in the Chinese tradition is included among the four sacred mountains of Buddhism. It was believed to be the abode on earth of Manjushri, the hero of the mind of enlightenment. The first monasteries were built here in the 4th century, in total over a thousand of them were built at that time. To this day, about 50 are active and it is the largest temple complex in China. We will visit the Tayuan Temple, which is the symbol of this place. Then we will see the Xiantong Temple, composed of 400 buildings, making it the largest structure of its kind in the country. We will also visit the Pushading and Shuxiang temples. Dinner at a local restaurant and an overnight stay at the hotel.
After breakfast, we will visit a Buddhist temple, located on the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding area. In the afternoon we will drive to the city of Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province, with a history of 2500 years. It is now considered one of the most important cities in the middle bank of the Fenhe River and the eastern loess plateau. This is where the majestic culture of the Tang dynasty was born, and even today the Chinese diaspora and traditional costumes are identified as Tang people and Tang dress. Dinner. Hotel accommodation and an overnight stay.
After breakfast, we will take a high-speed train to Xian City. It is one of the most significant Chinese cities. It was founded over 3,100 years ago and was the capital of thirteen dynasties. It was here that the Silk Road, the former trade route connecting China with the Middle East and Europe, ended and began. In the afternoon we will visit the city. We will see the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower, considered the symbol of the city, and the walls surrounding the city from the Ming Dynasty. Then we will approach the famous Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which was built in the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty. One of its many functions was the storage of Buddhist books and Buddha figurines brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang. In the evening, we will go for delicious feast, during which we will be able to watch an amazing show of traditional dances of the Tang dynasty.
In the morning we will go to the world-famous mausoleum of the First Emperor with the Terracotta Army. It is a collection of over 8,000 life-size terracotta figures of soldiers, officers and horses that are found in the tomb of the First Qin Emperor. 700,000 craftsmen worked on the statues and they were placed at the resting place of the ruler in 210 BC. They were found by accident in the 1970s. According to beliefs, the terracotta army was supposed to protect the emperor and help him regain power in the afterlife. In the afternoon we will fly to Dunhuang city. In the past, it was a key station on the Silk Road. Already in the 3rd century, there was a powerful colony of Buddhist monks in the city. The city became the gateway through which Buddhism reached China. Hotel accommodation. Dinner and an overnight stay.
After breakfast, we will visit the Mogao Grottoes, also known as the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas. It is a complex of 492 rock temples, which in 1987 was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The caves are rectangular in shape with a domed, richly decorated vault. We will see here numerous statues and paintings with themes of nature and architecture, most of which date back to the Wei dynasty period. This extraordinary complex is located in the Gobi Desert, which is the fifth largest desert on Earth. Formerly it was an important region of the Mongol Empire through which ran the Silk Road. We will go on camels to the oasis located next to the dunes by a tiny lake. This beautiful place was created by nature and is ideal for relaxation. Dinner and an overnight stay.
YANGGUANG – SHANGHAI
Breakfast at the hotel. Later we will drive to the Yangguang Pass, which means the Gate of the Sun. It is a mountain pass that was fortified by Emperor Wu around 120 BC. The gate served as a defensive post and an important landmark on the route of the Silk Road. Emperor Wu encouraged the inhabitants to settle here. We have a flight to Shanghai in the afternoon. It is currently the fastest growing city in eastern China. The Port of Shanghai is the largest in terms of container handling volume. One of the largest stock exchanges also operates here. Dinner. Hotel accommodation and an overnight stay.
After breakfast, we will go sightseeing in Shanghai. It is now the most modern city in China with many glass skyscrapers. In the financial center of the city, we will be able to see buildings measuring over 450 meters high and the 632-meter Shanghai Center, the tallest building in China. We will go to the viewpoint located on top of one of the skyscrapers to see the panorama of the city. Later we will visit the beautiful Yuyuan Gardens. This extraordinary place was established two hundred years ago. We will learn more about traditional gardening techniques here. We will also visit the Temple of the City God in Shanghai. It is a Taoist temple located in the old town, currently one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. It is dedicated to the city’s patron deity, the 14th-century scholar QinYubo, and to general Huo Guang. Then we will walk around the Yuyuan Market Center filled with traditional products. Beautifully carved wooden pavilions offer a beautiful view of the ponds. Farewell dinner and an overnight stay.
FLIGHT FROM BEIJING
A transfer to the airport and a flight back to Chicago.
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