China | Beyond the Great Wall

Summer Palace, Beijing
Summer Palace, Beijing
Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Gatehouse at Tiananmen Square, Beijing
Gatehouse at Tiananmen Square, Beijing
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China
Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an
Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an
Shaolin Temple, Luoyang
Shaolin Temple, Luoyang
Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang
Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang
Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang
Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang
Tiger Hill Pagoda, Suzhou
Tiger Hill Pagoda, Suzhou
Garden of the Humble Administrator, Suzhou
Garden of the Humble Administrator, Suzhou
Giant Panda eating Bamboo, Chengdu
Giant Panda eating Bamboo, Chengdu
Traditional Chinese tea
Traditional Chinese tea
Chinese food - there will be plenty for you to choose from on your travels
Chinese food - there will be plenty for you to choose from on your travels

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

Themes

  • Prehistory
  • Medieval
  • Great Cities
  • Eastern
  • Cultural Excursion

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2018

Day 1

We set off on an overnight flight to Beijing, arriving in China on Day 2.

Day 2

On arrival to Beijing we transfer to our centrally located hotel, where we can either unwind in the comforts of our room, or perhaps begin to explore the intriguing streets surrounding us.

Day 3

Refreshed after a long night’s sleep and a filling breakfast, our official tour of Beijing begins with a visit to the Forbidden City, or Palace Museum, China’s biggest and most beautifully-preserved collection of imperial buildings. Spanning over 180 acres, and comprising of 980 buildings in total, it would take days to explore the entirety of this astounding complex. We take in as many of the highlights as we can this morning, such as the 52-metre-wide moat, the elegant Golden Stream, and the staggeringly large Gate of Supreme Harmony.

This afternoon we touch on recent history at the nearby Tiananmen Square, before continuing to the Temple of Heaven, a vast Taoist site constructed by the Yongle Emperor, the same ruler behind the Forbidden City’s creation.

Day 4

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 destination for any visitor to the capital. Though the origins of the park date back to the 12th century, the grounds were expanded significantly in the 1700s, when around 100,000 labourers were called in to enlarge Kunming Lake. The park’s hills and views offer a dazzling respite from the bustle of the city.

Later today we travel to Fahai Temple at the foot of Cuiwei Mountain, a destination famed for its vivid frescoes from the Ming Dynasty, which cover an area of over 230 metres.

Day 5

We explore the Tombs of the Ming Dynasty this morning, final resting place of thirteen emperors, including the famous Yongle, whose marble mausoleum lies just beyond the ‘Gate of Paradise’. The lavish stonework, dragon motifs, and feng shui layout of these tombs made this site an obvious candidate for World Heritage status, which it achieved in the year 2000.

In the afternoon we visit a site which not only holds UNESCO status, but the title of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It can only be the Great Wall, an unparalleled feat of Chinese engineering. While the original wall dates back to the 2nd century BC, the majority of the Great Wall was built and extended during the Ming Dynasty in order to keep warring Mongol nomads at bay. We experience the wonders of the wall for ourselves while walking on one of its more accessible sections.

Day 6

We bid farewell to the grandeur of Beijing and fly to Luoyang, a city in Central China located near the confluence of the Yellow and Luo Rivers. Luoyang has long been considered the traditional sacred centre of China, and as such has been the principal city for many a king over the centuries.

Excavations here have uncovered ritual sites dating back as far as Neolithic times – and many fascinating traces of Luoyang’s influential past remain.

Day 7

After breakfast, we visit the Longmen Grottoes, home to almost 100,000 Buddhist statues, which stand in a terrain of artificial caves and limestone cliffs. These remarkable statues differ wildly in size, ranging from just an inch to up to 17 metres high, and the collection is thought to have first been established at the time of the Northern Wei Dynasty (from 493 to 534 AD).

In the afternoon we continue to the Shaolin Temple in the Song Mountain region, where monks have followed a distinct form of Buddhism for over 1,500 years, practising Kung Fu martial arts alongside their meditations and studies of ancient texts. Sometimes referred to as the ‘number one temple under heaven’, this site is an active hub for the Shaolin sect.

Day 8

We take a scenic train ride to Xi’an this morning, one of the oldest cities in China, and the starting point of the historic Silk Road to Europe. Our afternoon is free to experience the city at our own pace. Visit the Islamic Quarter, with its Great Mosque and Bazaar, or walk the city walls, an imposing structure first established in the Ming Dynasty. Atop of these well-preserved fortifications is a 14-kilometre walkway, rewarding the intrepid traveller with marvellous views for miles around.

Day 9

Following breakfast we spend a morning 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 were discovered as part of a vast necropolis by farmers in 1974. We view the assembled ranks and other elements of the monumental tomb complex.

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. The excavations that followed formed the first large-scale archaeological dig of the People’s Republic of China. We view the findings from this 20-acre site, which provide significant evidence of a society led exclusively by women.

Day 10

Our first stop today is the Han Jingdi Tomb, the final resting place of Emperor Jingdi, all too often overlooked. Here we view some of the 50,000 impressive terracotta figurines which have so far been discovered inside the tomb’s numerous pits, with likenesses including those of eunuchs and women on horseback.

We continue on to Famensi Temple, home to certain alleged Buddha relics, including a finger bone found within layers of silk and sandalwood boxes. The towering pagoda of the temple is thought to be the first of its kind in the region, and has been extensively renovated from dynasty to dynasty.

Day 11

We fly to Chengdu this morning, capital of Sichuan Province and a hub for the entire southwestern region. After lunch we explore the 3,000-year-old settlement at Jinsha, near the Modi River. Accidentally discovered in 2001, excavations here have uncovered exquisite jade, ivory and gold artefacts, and evidence of a once flourishing civilisation.

We return to the now flourishing city of Chengdu for dinner, and a chance to sample some of the local Sichuan cuisine.

Day 12

Our day begins at the enigmatic site of Sanxingdui, where two enormous sacrificial pits were discovered less than a century ago, a direct link back to a culture of around 3,000 to 5,000 years old. A huge museum showcases the hoards of antiquities so far found here, including an amazing bronze statue of a tree measuring almost four metres high.

After lunch, we view the Qingyang Palace, or Green Ram Temple, one of the oldest and largest Taoist temples in the world. It is said that stroking the bronze goat statues that guard the main hall will relieve any life troubles and pains. Failing that, a brew in the temple’s teahouse might do the trick…

Day 13

Today we fly to Suzhou, north of Shanghai, an important commercial centre. The city has been a significant gathering place for artists and writers across the centuries thanks to its delicate gardens and traditional architecture. Add to this the charming scenes of bridges and canals, and it’s no surprise that Suzhou has been repeatedly dubbed the ‘Venice of the East’.

Day 14

There are few garden names more evocative than the Garden of the Humble Administrator – though, given that this is widely regarded as one of southern China’s finest gardens, there are also arguably many alternative sites more demonstrative of humility! We spend our morning in this renowned classical garden, strolling alongside placid pools and waterways, and observing Ming patterns of planting that are still followed to this day.

In the afternoon we contemplate Nirvana at the restful Lion Grove Garden, whose name derives from the lion-shaped rocks and grotto at its centre. Our feline theme continues at Tiger Hill, an enthralling site which features a leaning pagoda and the intriguing Sword Pond, under which it is believed some 3,000 swords are buried.

Day 15

Today begins with a visit to the strikingly modern Suzhou Museum, noted for its world-class store of Chinese arts, crafts and calligraphy, including Ming and Qing Dynasty paintings. The perfect setting for an exceptional collection.

Later we transfer to the city of Shanghai on China’s east coast. A modern marvel, Shanghai is currently the world’s most populous city, with over 24 million inhabitants as of 2014. After checking into our luxurious hotel we take a river boat along the Bund, the city’s historic quay, to view its 19th century trading houses from the water.

Day 16

Our adventure is nearing its end. We make the most of our last full day in China with a visit to Shanghai Museum, where the country’s foremost ancient art collection has its home. Among the one million artefacts contained within these walls are a transparent Han Dynasty mirror, one of only three in existence, as well as nationally significant galleries of currency and Chinese seals.

In the afternoon we enjoy special access to a collection of objects which reveal the more recent history of communist China at the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre. A thought-provoking insight into life under Chairman Mao.

Our day draws to a close with a fantastic farewell dinner – a chance to share our thoughts on this incredible country over a feast of local food and wine.

Day 17

We say our goodbyes to the East, and fly home from Shanghai.

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We depart from London this afternoon and set off for an overnight flight to Beijing,

Day 2

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 wasdeclared 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.

Day 3

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.

Day 4

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.

Day 5

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.

Day 6

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.

Day 7

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.

Day 8

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.

Day 9

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.

Day 10

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.

Day 11

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.

Day 12

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.

Day 13

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.

Day 14

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.

Day 15

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.

Day 16

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.

Day 17

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.

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels
  8. Flights

Travel Information

For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

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2019 Tour Details

Thu 10th October - Sat 26th October

Available

£5,495

inc.

sgl supp: £995

CAN19A

Led By: Dr Kim Hunter Gordon

Guide Lecturer

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