China | Beyond the Great Wall
China has a remarkable history, spanning back over 10,000 years and remnants of its glorious past can be seen at every turn. We journey from Beijing to Shanghai, through vast and varied landscapes and archaeology.
From Buddhist temples to the gargantuan monuments of imperial ambition, to lesser-known prehistoric settlements, this is the story of China through the ages. The great sites we see are put into their historical context: we see the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors and Ming Tombs not just as grand relics, but as products of the time, people and places that led to their creation.
- See some of China’s most famous sites in the company of an expert
- Come face to face with the famous Terracotta Warriors
- Discover this country’s remarkable prehistoric archaeology
- Explore the incredible city of Shanghai and all it has to offer
- Visit the fascinating Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre
- Great Cities
- Cultural Excursion
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We depart from London this afternoon and set off for an overnight flight to Beijing.
Upon our arrival this morning, we transfer to our hotel where we can unwind. Later, we head out for a visit to the Forbidden City - or Palace Museum - China’s biggest and most beautifully preserved collection of imperial buildings. This site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1987 thanks to its stunning architecture and historic significance. We can view collections that showcase paintings, ceramics and even timepieces here. Beijing is home to six World Heritage Sites and it’s a great starting point for us on this tour.
This morning we touch on recent history at Tiananmen Square. We will then continue with a visit to the National Museum, with collections ranging from the very early traces of humans dating 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty. After lunch, we view the Temple of Heaven, a vast Taoist site constructed by the Yongle Emperor.
Our discovery of Beijing continues this morning as we wander the expansive lakes and gardens of the Summer Palace, the largest royal park in China; a must-see for any visitor to the capital. Later today, we travel to Fahai Temple at the foot of Cuiwei Mountain, famed for its vivid frescoes from the Ming Dynasty, which cover an area of over 230 metres.
Explore the Tombs of the Ming Dynasty this morning, the final resting place of thirteen emperors, including the famous Yongle, whose marble mausoleum lies just beyond the ‘Gate of Paradise’. In the afternoon, we visit a site that not only holds the revered UNESCO World Heritage Site status, but also boasts the impressive title of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World: the iconic Great Wall, a truly unparalleled feat of Chinese engineering.
Before we bid farewell to the grandeur of Beijing, we pay a visit to the Lama Temple. Frescoes, decorative arches and stunning carpentry make this a majestic stop on our tour. It remains an active place of worship although it is mostly frequented by interested visitors. From here, we fly to Luoyang, a city in central China that is located in the confluence area of Yellow River and Luo River. This city is home to some of China’s first Buddhist temples, the Longmen Grottoes, which were founded back in the 1st century.
Our day begins with a visit to the Longmen Grottoes, home to almost 100,000 Buddhist statues that stand in a terrain of artificial caves and limestone cliffs over a 1 kilometre stretch of land. We can also admire around 2,800 inscriptions carved on stelaes here. In the afternoon, we pay a visit to the historical Luoyang Museum and spend time here exploring its vast collections. This site is home to cultural relics and interesting artefacts that reflect the area and its heritage.
We take a scenic train ride out to Xi’an this morning, which is one of the oldest cities in China as well as being the starting point of the historic Silk Road to Europe. This destination is a melting pot of culture and religion, and there is much to discover here. Our afternoon will be spent at leisure and we can experience the city at our own pace. Wander around the Islamic Quarter, with its Great Mosque and Bazaar, or walk the city walls, an imposing structure that was first established back in the Ming Dynasty. Lovers of history will find this a captivating place to visit.
The morning is spent with the jewel in Xi’an’s crown: the 2,200-year-old Terracotta Army. The 8,000 statues displayed here were crafted for Emperor Qin Shi Huang in order to guard his tomb, and they were discovered as part of a vast necropolis by farmers back in 1974. After lunch, we continue to Banpo Neolithic Village and Museum. In 1953, the remains of a 6,500-year-old settlement were unearthed here by local workers and we view the findings from this 20-acre site.
Today we visit the Han Jingdi Tomb, the final resting place of Emperor Jingdi (188-141 BC), which is all too often overlooked and considered to be an underrated highlight of the area. Here, we view some of the 50,000 impressive terracotta figurines that have so far been discovered inside of the tomb’s numerous pits, with likenesses including those of eunuchs, domesticated animals, servants and also women on horseback.
We fly across to Chengdu this morning, which is the capital of the Sichuan Province and a hub for the entire southwestern region. Following lunch, we explore the 3,000-year-old settlement at Jinsha, near the Modi River. Accidentally discovered in 2001 during construction for real estate, excavations here have since uncovered exquisite jade, ivory, bronze and gold artefacts, as well as evidence of a once flourishing civilisation.
Our day begins with a visit to the enigmatic site of Sanxingdui, where two enormous sacrificial pits were discovered less than a century ago. A huge museum showcases the hordes of antiquities so far found here, which include an amazing bronze statue of a tree that measures almost four metres high. We then view the Qingyang Palace (Greek Ram Temple), one of the oldest and largest Taoist temples in the world.
We catch a flight to Shanghai, an important commercial and financial centre. This city has been a significant gathering place for artists and writers across the centuries thanks to its delicate gardens and fusion of both traditional and contemporary architecture. There will be free time available to us in the afternoon, which we can use to just relax or instead explore the city at leisure. Home to the world’s second tallest building, Shanghai boasts fantastic restaurants, a thriving luxury goods market and a lively arts scene.
There are few garden names more evocative than the Garden of the Humble Administrator and we spend ample time here wandering around this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site - a title it received in 1997. Widely considered to be one of southern China’s finest gardens, it showcases a range of lovely pavilions, islets and bamboo groves, and a peaceful expanse of water acts as its central focal point. It is the largest and perhaps the most famous in all of Suzhou, and natural beauty is in abundance here - something we can really take in during this breathtaking tour stop.
We start at the strikingly modern Suzhou Museum, noted for its world-class store of Chinese arts, crafts and calligraphy, including both Ming and Qing Dynasty paintings. This is the perfect setting for such an exceptional collection. Later in the day, we return to the city of Shanghai on China’s east coast. An undeniable modern marvel, Shanghai is currently the world’s most populous city with over 24 million inhabitants as of 2014. We check into our hotel before taking a scenic river boat trip along the Bund, the city’s historic quay, to view its 19th century trading houses from the water. This perspective shows us a new side to Shanghai.
The morning of our last full day in China will be spent with a visit to the Shanghai Museum, where the country’s foremost ancient art collection has its home. In the afternoon, we enjoy special access to a collection of objects that reveal the more recent history of communist China at the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre. This provides us with thought-provoking insight into life under Chairman Mao through the medium of artwork from the Maoist period of communist China and its Cultural Revolution era.
This morning we say our goodbyes to the East and the adventures we’ve been lucky enough to have here. Then, we fly back from Shanghai to London. Upon arrival, it will be time to say goodbye to both the tour and this memorable trip.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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