Ever since the world discovered China through the writings of adventurer Marco Polo some 700 years ago, we’ve come to regard this large Asian country as the embodiment of all that is mysterious and exotic. Even now, after decades of economic growth, this vast country has lost none of its fascination. Indeed, the contrast between China’s ancient customs and the new ultra-modern state has only increased our fascination with a culture that dates back many millennia.read more/less
It’s a culture that is much celebrated by the Chinese themselves, as evidenced by the preservation of such important historic sites as the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace in the capital of Beijing, each recalling the days of China’s emperors. And then, of course, there’s the famous Great Wall, winding for 6,700 kilometers from the Yellow Sea to Central Asia, while its countless shrines exude the spirit of age-old Eastern religions. Given its huge size, China offers visitors limitless scope for exploration. From cruising through the picturesque Yangtze Gorges, visiting a bustling city or seeking out the tranquility of an ancient temple, China is full of incredible experiences.
HIGHLIGHTS OF CHINA
Temple of Heaven
Mutianyu Great Wall
Beijing Olympic Park
Peking Roasted Duck
Shanxi History Museum
Xian City Wall
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Special art lacquer work shop
Ancient style street
Zhouzhuang Water Town
Shanghai World Finance Center
Return airfare from Johannesburg with taxes
Share twin accommodation with breakfast in 5-star hotels
3 nights in Beijing
2 nights in Xian
1 night in Suzhou
2 nights in Shanghai
English speaking guide
4 Indian lunches + 1 Indian lunch
8 Indian dinners
2nd class bullet train Beijing/Xian/Suzhou
Indian Halaal meals
Any services not mentioned
DAY 1 ARRIVE BEIJING (D)
Meet and greet your tour representative in the arrivals hall and transfer to your selected hotel. You are at leisure for the remainder of the day. Dinner at a local restaurant, overnight at your hotel.
Beijing, only eclipsed by Shanghai in terms of size, is not only the political centre of China – a position it has held for more than 800 years – it also plays an important role in the nation’s cultural, economic, scientific, and academic life. Located in the northwest of the North China Plain, not far from the western slopes of the Yanshan Mountains, Beijing – formerly Peking – is a great place from which to explore this dynamic country due to its major network of road, rail, and airline connections with other major cities.
Beijing itself has no shortage of unique sightseeing opportunities and things to do. It is home to some of the country’s best-known tourist attractions, including a section of the famous Great Wall of China at Badaling Pass. Among the city’s many historical and cultural points of interest are the Imperial Palace, Beihai Park, Coal Hill Park, and the Temple of Heaven, most of them within the well-preserved historic city centre. Other highlights include exploring the mammoth Tiananmen Square, numerous important temples, the new construction brought about by the city’s increased prosperity and major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as enjoying the city’s many great shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities.
DAY 2 BEIJING (B/L/D)
After breakfast, depart on your morning to visit Tiananmen Square, the biggest public square in the world. Move on to the legendary Forbidden City, known as the Imperial Palace Museum where the history of all twenty-four emperors during Ming and Qing Dynasties is represented here in four palatial halls that form the largest ancient architectural complex in the world.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Temple of Heaven – built in 1420, in customary Chinese fashion of wood and entirely without nails, the hall sits on a three-tier marble terrace with balustrades and a conical roof covered with 50,000 blue glazed tiles. Set out in two sections – one rectangular, the other semi-circular to symbolize Heaven and Earth, it was here that, on the day of the winter solstice, the Emperor would ascend the Heavenly Altar to offer sacrifices and pray for good harvests.
Continue to the Niujie Mosque. Originally designed by Nasruddin, the son of an Imam, the Niujie Mosque is the largest and oldest mosque in Beijing. First built in 996 during the Liao Dynasty, the mosque features traditional Chinese architecture with Arabic calligraphy in the interior. After it was destroyed by armies of Genghis Khan in 1215, the Mosque was rebuilt in 1443 in the Ming Dynasty and significantly expanded in 1696 under the Qing Dynasty. It is now one of the major mosques in northern China and serves the majority of Beijing’s Muslims who live in the vicinity.
We next visit a freshwater Pearl Factory located not far from the Summer Palace. The production of freshwater pearls originated in Beijing from the ancient art of pearl culture for use in the manufacture of authentic pearl jewellery. Visitors are shown a video on pearl cultivation before having the opportunity to browse through the factory store to view or buy from a wide range of pearl jewellery on display.
After dinner at a local restaurant you may consider taking in an (Optional) Peking Opera Show to round off the evening – a stylized Chinese form of opera dating from the late 18th Century, in which speech, singing, mime, and acrobatics are performed to an instrumental accompaniment. Return to and overnight at your hotel.
DAY 3 BEIJING (B/L/D)
After breakfast, depart on your tour to the less crowded section of the Great Wall at Mutianyu. We will stop at a Jade Factory enroute to witness the manufacture of jade sculpture and jewellery and have some time to browse the factory store where you may view or acquire any of the finished products on display.
The Great Wall at Mutianyu is located in Huai Rou County some 75 kilometres north-east of Beijing and is known for its beautiful surroundings of dense woods and rich pastures that change colours with the seasons of the year. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, this section served as the northern barrier defending the Capital and the Imperial Tombs. Should you wish to reach the highest point, an (Optional) cable car ride is a good choice.
After lunch, at a local restaurant, drive to the Ming Tombs, a collection of mausoleums built by the Emperors of the Ming Dynasty of China. The first Ming Emperor’s tomb is located near his capital Nanjing. However, the majority of the Ming tombs are located in a cluster at Changling and collectively known as the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty.
On the drive back to Beijing, stop for a short photo shoot outside the 2008 Beijing Olympics Park where you can view the “Bird’s Nest” and “Water Cube.” Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. This evening, consider attending an Optional Acrobatic Show – the Chinese have honed their acrobatic skills for decades and this show is a landmark of the evolution of acrobatics in China. Return to and overnight at your hotel.
Xi’an, between the Weihe River in the north and the Qinling Mountains in the south, is one of Northwest China’s chief textile centres and possesses more items of archaeological interest than perhaps any other smaller city in China, the most important being the world-famous Terracotta Army. Xi’an’s history stretches back some 6,000 years, and by the 3rd Century BC, it boasted one of the highest urban populations in the country. The remains of the Han Imperial Residence can still be seen, along with fortifications and other evidence of the city’s importance as the starting point of the famous Silk Road, which from here wound its way through Central Asia and the Middle East as far as the Mediterranean, linking Xi’an with such far away cities as Istanbul and Venice.
Among Xian’s other important historic sites are the 64-meter-tall Pagoda of the Great Wild Goose, a survivor of the Tang Dynasty from AD 618 to 907, and the 43-meter-high Pagoda of the Small Wild Goose, built in AD 684 in honour of the Tang Emperor Gaozong. Other must-sees include the Historical Museum of Shaanxi Province, China’s most important archaeological museum, illustrating the origins and achievements of Chinese culture from prehistory to the Qing period of 1368 to 1911; the Town Walls, completed in 1398 with four gates and numerous watchtowers; and the city’s 15th-century mosque, with its five courtyards and traditional Chinese buildings decorated with Islamic calligraphy and patterns.
DAY 4 BEIJING – XIAN (B/L/D)
Transfer to the train station after an early breakfast to catch the High-Speed Train G653 scheduled to depart Beijing at 08h05 and reach Xian at 13h43. Reception on arrival at Xian Station by your tour representative.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Shanxi History Museum, the largest centre for the collection, preservation, research and exhibition of cultural relics in Shanxi Province. The museum has a fascinating collection of over 200,000 exhibits from the Neolithic Age, of the Fang State in the Shang Dynasty and of the Jin Dynasty. In addition, cultural relics of the Northern Dynasty, collections of Shanxi pottery, opera relics of the Jin and Yuan dynasties and cultural relics of merchants of the Ming and Qing dynasties are all displayed here.
Xian’s Old City Wall is rectangular in shape with a walkway on top and a total length of 14 kilometres. Built in Chinese architectural style as a defensive fortification, it has a moat, drawbridges, watchtowers, corner towers, parapet walls and gate towers. The wall is 12 metres high, 14 metres wide at the top, 18 metres at the base with ramparts every120 metres along the main wall. There are parapets on the outer side of the wall with 5,984 crenels and 4 watch towers located at the corners. The moat around the wall is 18 metres wide and 6 metres deep. The area within the wall is roughly 36 square kilometres, enclosing the small area of 14 square kilometres occupied by the old city.
We continue to the Great Mosque on Huajue Lane in downtown Xi’an that is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved mosques in China. According to historical records engraved on a stone tablet inside, the Great Mosque was built in 742 during the Tang Dynasty using a blend of traditional Muslim and Chinese architecture. Covering an area of over 12,000 square meters, the mosque is well laid out and divided into five courtyards landscaped with gardens. The further one strolls into its interior, the more serene one feels. Islam was first introduced into northwest China by Arab merchants and travellers from Persia and Afghanistan during the 7th Century. Some of them settled and married women of Han Nationality and their descendants are the Muslims of Xian today. Muslims played an important role in the unification of China during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties hence, other mosques were also built to honour them.
Our tour ends with a visit to the nearby Muslim Quarter. Also known as Huimin Jie in Pingyin, it is the hub of the Muslim community in Xi’an. Located to the north of the city centre, the quarter is a hive of activity, covers several blocks and is inhabited by over 20,000 Muslims. There are about ten mosques in the area that features a Muslim food and souvenir market. The popular Beiyuanmen Muslim Market is a great choice after sightseeing in the city centre. After dinner at a local restaurant, check in at your selected hotel for your stay in Xian.
DAY 5 XIAN (B/L/D)
Today we visit the greatest archaeological find of the 20th Century: the army of terracotta warriors and the bronze chariots entombed in vast underground vaults at Emperor Qin’s Tomb.
In ancient China, when someone wealthy or of high status died, there would be someone or something buried with the dead. The Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses were built to be buried with First Emperor of Qin when he died. Chinese Emperors usually began building their tombs when they were alive and Qin Shi Huang began to build his tomb soon after he became Emperor. It took about 40 years to finish with over 700 thousand workers used to build the Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses.
Three vaults of warriors and horses have been discovered thus far. Vault 1 is the largest pit among the three. These three pits cover an area of over 20 thousand square kilometres. The warriors and horses are the same size as those in real life. Each of the warriors looks different. The weapons the warriors holding are all made of metal, which can be used in real wars. It indicates that the Qin Dynasty’s metallurgy and weapon-manufacturing technology had already become quite advanced.
We next visit a symbol of the old Xi’an, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda – a well-preserved ancient building and a holy place for Buddhists located a few kilometres from downtown Xian. As part of the Da Cien Temple Complex, it attracts numerous visitors for its fame in the Buddhist religion and its simple but appealing style of construction. First built to a height of 60 meters with five storeys, it is now almost 64 meters high with the addition of two storeys. Externally the Pagoda looks like a square cone. Built of brick, it is a masterpiece of Buddhist construction. Inside, stairs wind upward so that visitors can climb and enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the arch-shaped doors on the four sides of each storey. On the walls are engraved fine statues of Buddha by the renowned artist Yan Liben of the Tang Dynasty while Steles by noted calligraphers also grace the pagoda.
After lunch, we stop by a special art lacquer workshop. Lacquer is a natural substance obtained from the sap of the lacquer tree, that’s indigenous to China. Up to a few hundred layers of lacquer are applied to an object’s surface in order to attain the final thickness of between five and eighteen millimetres. After the lacquer has dried, the object is decorated by carving various designs into the surface. While traditional imperial lacquerware came in the form of chairs, screens, tables and vases, today one can find objects ranging from trays, cups and vases to small decorative boxes, which are produced in Xi’an’s lacquerware workshops today.
Time permitting you will have the opportunity to go shopping at the Ancient Style Street before rounding off the evening with dinner at a local restaurant. Return to and overnight at your hotel.
DAY 6 XIAN – SUZHOU (B/L/D)
Transfer to the train station after an early breakfast to catch the High-Speed Train G1918 scheduled to depart Xian at 08h05 and reach Suzhou at 16h07. Reception on arrival at Suzhou Station by your tour representative. After lunch, depart on your tour of Suzhou City and Zhouzhuang Water Town. Round of the day with dinner at a local restaurant before checking in at your selected hotel for your overnight stay.
Historically, Suzhou was synonymous with high culture and elegance, and generations of artists, scholars, writers and high society in China were drawn by its exquisite art forms and the delicate beauty of its gardens. Like all modern Chinese towns, Suzhou has unfortunately endured much destruction of its heritage and despite its replacement with largely arbitrary chunks of modern architecture, the city still retains many pockets of charm to warrant exploration. Suzhou’s main attraction is her gardens, of which the Humble Administrator’s Garden is not only the Suzhou’s largest garden but also one of the top four gardens in China – a symphonic combination of rocks, water, trees and pavilions that reflects the Chinese appreciation of balance and harmony. Originally built in 1509 by a retired magistrate Wang Xianchen, it ranks as the best example of Chinese classical gardens with Ming Dynasty style. Adding to the charm are some excellent museums, surviving canal scenes, pagodas and humpbacked bridges.
Surrounded by lakes and rivers and crisscrossed by a network of canals Zhouzhuang, is fondly called the “Venice of the East”. It’s the largest old water town in China and known for its profound cultural background, well preserved ancient residential houses and the elegant watery views. Escape the metropolitan mayhem of the city and see how daily life has remained unchanged in these quaint and ancient enclaves. This charming old water town can be explored on foot or via a boat tour on the canals. Other interesting sights here include the Ming-era Hall of Zhang & Shen’s Residences and the Chengxu Temple, a Song Dynasty Taoist Shrine. With many stone bridges across the rivers showing distinctive views of the old water town, the Shide and Yongan Bridges, represent the most famous symbols of Zhouzhuang.
DAY 7 SUZHOU – SHANGHAI (B/D)
After breakfast, transfer by Coach to Shanghai & meet your tour representative. Check in at your selected hotel.
Shanghai, China’s largest city, offers many exciting sightseeing opportunities for travellers. Despite having a population of more than 24 million, this always busy city offers quieter historic districts and attractions alongside its many newer tourist sites. One of the world’s busiest container ports thanks its position at the mouth of the Yangtze River, the city also provides opportunities for exploration by water along the Chinese coast and its inland waterways. Things to do here include visiting a number of world-class museums and art galleries, such as the Shanghai Museum and the China Art Museum; wandering through lovely gardens and parks; shopping – especially in the “New World” pedestrian area with its luxury boutiques and galleries; and exploring fine old temples and traditional pagodas.
Depart on your afternoon tour of Shanghai Museum, located in People’s Square. Founded in 1952, the Shanghai Museum remains China’s most important museum of classical Chinese art. In a modern building that’s something of a work of art itself – its unique round top and square base encompasses traditional Chinese concepts of the earth – the museum’s four floors include impressive displays of bronzes and ceramics from prehistoric cultures to the 19th century, ink drawings, calligraphy and seals, as well as large collections of art from ethnic minorities. It’s also home to large collections of jade, coins, furnishings from the Ming and Qing periods 1368-1912, and a well-stocked gift shop.
Continue to the Xiaotaoyuan Mosque, headquarters of the Shanghai Muslim Association and one of the famous Muslim Cultural centres in Shanghai. First built in 1907 and rebuilt in 1925, featuring traditional West Asian architecture. Within the entrance are a rectangular courtyard and a prayer hall on the west side with a capacity for 200 worshipers. The primary hall has 2 storeys. Inside the middle, there exists a vaulted dome, with the Wangyue (Moon Watching) Pavilion upstairs. A three-storeyed hall building stands on the eastern side of the courtyard, with a library and a reading room on the second and the third floor correspondingly, and a sermon room on the first floor. The Imam’s room, reception rooms, and ablution facilities are located on the southern side of the courtyard. In the evening, have dinner at a local restaurant. Return to and overnight at your hotel.
DAY 8 SHANGHAI (B/D)
Depart on your full day tour of Shanghai after breakfast, starting with the splendid Yu Yuan Garden laid out in 1559. Also known as the Garden of Happiness, it covers an area of some 20,000 square meters and consists of an outer and an inner garden. The oldest section is the Outer Garden, with further changes made in the 18th century when Sansui Tang, the park’s main hall was added. The building is notable for its lovely roof ornaments, figurative representations in bas-reliefs, and window openings, as well as its dragon-adorned walls.
The best-known building is the Hall of Spring where the Company of the Little Swords (Xiaodao Hui) had its headquarters between 1853 and 1855 when it ruled Shanghai. Of great historical importance are the artificial rocks in this part of the garden, the only work of the master garden designer Zhang Nanyang that has been preserved. The newer and much smaller Inner Garden dates from 1709 and includes features typical of a classical Chinese writer’s garden: attractive little pavilions, decorative stones and miniature mountain ranges, dividing walls and small ponds, and even a richly decorated theatrical stage.
Continue to the bustling Chenghuangmiao Tourist Area located in the old city of the East Huangpu District that caters to sightseeing, shopping and food. Besides the Chenghuangmiao Temple. There are also some free spots, such as Zigzag Bridge outside Yuyuan Garden and the mid-lake Pavilion Teahouse a must-visit spot where visitors can experience Shanghai’s folk customs, authentic snacks and local cuisine. The colourful lamps on antique buildings also make it a beautiful landscape. There are several small commodity wholesale malls and complex shopping malls, as well as many gold shops, jewellery and souvenir stores.
Moving on we visit the Shanghai World Financial Centre is a lofty skyscraper in Pudong New Area, Shanghai. It is a mixed use skyscraper which consists of offices, hotels, conference rooms, observation decks, and shopping malls. In September 2007 the skyscraper was topped out at 492 metres to become the then 3rd tallest building in the world. The building’s most distinctive architectural feature is the aperture at the building peak, which has a trapezoidal shape resembling a bottle opener. It was originally a circular shape but was changed after the government of China objected, stating that the circular hole resembled the rising sun on the Japanese flag.
This evening you can stroll the Bund. Best known by its Anglo-Indian name of Bund (Wàitan), the Zhongshan Lu is a lovely broad promenade running along the west bank of the Huangpujiang River. It’s particularly popular among tourists as the area has retained a European feel. It was once the location of the city’s International Settlement that is particularly noticeable in the many old English and French buildings now serving as restaurants, boutique stores, galleries, and offices. Always bustling, it’s a splendid place for a stroll day or night as you take in the Bund’s 52 unique buildings constructed in a variety of styles including Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Renaissance influences, along with what amounts to one of the world’s most impressive collections of Art Deco architecture. The Bund is also a great place from which to embark upon a sightseeing tour aboard a boat around the port and the confluence of the Huangpujiang and Yangtze Rivers.
Visit the fashionable pedestrian street of Xintiandi that retains the antique walls, tiles and exterior of the Shikumen residences of old Shanghai while embracing a totally modern world in its interior. Roaming here, you will get the taste of both Shanghai in the 1920s and the modern urban lifestyle of the 21st Century. Have dinner at a local restaurant before your return to and overnight at your hotel.
DAY 8 DEPART SHANGHAI (B)
Breakfast at the hotel. You are at leisure until your transfer to the airport for your onward flight.