• We returned from our holiday last Wednesday and I just wanted to say a big thank you for organising our tours in Beijing last week.
  • Thank you for making possible an enjoyable trip for us. We learnt about Shanghai’s people, history and culture.
  • I am writing to you to thank you very much for our wonderful trip to Xian. The tour that you organised was fantastic.

Overview

Days Description Overnight  
Day 1 Welcome to China’s capital –
Beijing

The capital of the People’s Republic of China is a city steeped in history, but looking resolutely to the future. The 2008 Olympic games turned the eyes of the world onto Beijing, bringing an influx of prosperity that has propelled it onto the world stage. Unlike Shanghai where the relentless march of modernism has destroyed most of the ancient buildings, Beijing has always been more historically focused, and thus has a huge array of sites remain. The most famous and important are the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Summer Palace and Lama Temple, while newer yet no less significant attractions include the Bird’s Nest stadium, Chairman Mao’s mausoleum, and Tian’anmen Square.

Beijing has a metropolitan population of 22 million spread over 1,300 kilometers. It is made up of 16 districts and two counties. Evidence of human settlement has been found in the Zhoukoudian area dating back 700,000 years to the time of “Peking Man”. Beijing started life as a city named Jin in the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC – 771 BC), and spent a total of 800 years as China’s capital. In fact, its name means “northern capital”, in contrast to Nanjing (“southern capital”) which was China’s main city 229 to 280 AD during the Three Kingdoms period.

From the ancient hutong alleys to the vast spread of Tian’anmen Square and the gardens of the Summer Palace, Beijing is a roadmap of Chinese history and a fantastic modern metropolis.

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. Upon arrival, we will have a panoramic tour of city and visit the famous Olympic stadium-
The Bird’s Nest

See the centerpiece of the 2008 Olympics – a uniquely designed stadium that is symbolic of Beijing’s future.

When the Olympic Games came to China in summer 2008, the eyes of the world turned to the nation’s capital. Beijing was in the spotlight, and it didn’t disappoint. The centerpiece of the games was the National Stadium, nicknamed the “Bird’s Nest” thanks to its distinctive shape.

The Bird’s Nest was the sight of the impressive opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics, as well as the track and field events. It was designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron with help from Chinese designer Li Xinggang, and features exposed steel “ribbons” enclosing an inner shell. Construction began in December 2003 and was finally completed in March 2008 after a brief halt while the design was amended.

The stadium has 91,000 seats - 80,000 permanent and 11,000 temporary. It covers 258 square meters and cost 226 million yuan (33 million US dollars) to construct. Since the Olympics finished, it has been used as a ski center, an exhibition hall, and a tourist attraction. It is located in the Olympic Green Village in Chaoyang District, near to the “Water Cube” aquarium.

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. For your first meal in China you will enjoy one of Beijing’s signature dishes – The
Peking Duck

Experience the flavor of Beijing with the legendary dish that symbolizes the capital’s cuisine.

Think of Beijing’s food and your mind will most probably turn to Peking Duck. A delicacy that has spread across the world, this dish is at its most authentic in the city of its birth. Such is its importance that many people say “you haven’t truly visited Beijing unless you’ve eaten Peking Duck”.

The origins of the dish are shrouded in mystery. One story goes that Marco Polo introduced the tradition of roasting poultry to the Chinese, while other sources claim that Nanjing was the first city to prepare ducks in this way during the Northern and Southern Dynasty (430-589). When the capital was moved to Beijing, the tradition followed. It was during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) that Peking Duck rocketed in popularity, thanks to its inclusion on imperial menus.

The modern cooking process has changed little since the early days. Ducks from the Peking White breed are killed and plucked. Their entrails are removed and air is blown between the skin and the body. This is later filled with water, and the duck is suspended on a hook. The skin is allowed to dry, and is brushed with sugar. After 30 to 40 minutes in a smokeless oven heated to 270 celcius, the duck turns deep red and is ready to be eaten. The chef will bring your duck to the table and slice it while you watch, making sure to leave the skin on while shredding the flesh.

The traditional way of eating Peking Duck is to place the sliced meat on a thin pancake with plum sauce, shredded cucumber and spring onion, then roll it up and pinch it between chopsticks. If you haven’t tried it before, you’re sure to be impressed by the rich flavors and tender texture of the meat.

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, at a local restaurant.
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Day 2 Full day of exploring Beijing including:
Temple of Heaven

See where emperors prayed for a good harvest and walk around beautiful parkland.

The Temple of Heaven is a complex of buildings in the south-east of Beijing’s downtown area. Built between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor in the Ming Dynasty, it was used by emperors to pray for a good harvest.

The temple’s design reflects ancient Taoist beliefs about the earth and the cosmos. The complex covers over 2,700,000 square meters of parkland and paved land, and is enclosed by a wall. Inside the wall, the northern part is semicircular which symbolizes the heavens, while the southern part is square, representing the earth. This follows the old Chinese principle that “the heaven is round and the earth is square”.

The Temple of Heaven’s most striking building is the triple-gabled Circular Mound Altar (Yuanqiutan) with its blue tiled roof and patterned walls. This 38-meter-high structure is where the emperors used to offer their prayers to the harvest gods. The Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu) is a miniature version of the Circular Mound Altar, while the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian) runs from south to north. The main buildings of the are connected by the Vermilion Steps Bridge (Danbiqiao), also known as the Sacred Way.

Aside from the buildings, the Temple of Heaven’s park is also worth a look. It is popular among local tai-chi performers, and families out for a stroll.

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, the historic
Tiananmen Square

Walk across the world’s largest public square, the site of turbulent times in recent Chinese history.

Situated in the heart Beijing, Tian’anmen Square is the largest public plaza in the world. It  covers an area of 440,000 square meters and measures 880 meters by 500 meters. The square is located between two ancient gates, the Tian'anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) to the north, and the Qianmen (Front Gate) to the south, and backs onto the Forbidden City. The vast square has been used throughout its history for gatherings, parades and protests, and has hosted some now-infamous political incidents. One notable event was Chairman Mao’s announcement of the birth of the People’s Republic of China on October 1st 1949. This was followed by annual military parades on the anniversary every year until 1959.

Tian’anmen square saw celebrations for the 35th and the 50th anniversaries of the People's Republic of China in 1984 and 1999 respectively. In 1976, a million people gathered there to pay their last respects to Chairman Mao, and in 1989 army tanks and soldiers forced pro-democracy demonstrators out of the square with tragic consequences.

The plaza is surrounded by a selection of monuments and museums including the Museum of Chinese History, the Museum of the Chinese Revolution, the Great Hall of the People, Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum, and the Monument to the People's Heroes.

Thanks to its size, its historical and political importance, and the breathtaking views on a clear day, Tian’anmen Square is one of the most popular attractions in Beijing, and a must-see on any itinerary.

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and the famous
Forbidden City

Walk in the footsteps of the emperors at this incredible palace complex in the heart of Beijing.

The Forbidden City lies at the heart of China’s capital, and is a symbol of the many emperors who ruled the country in dynastic times. The palace complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its cultural importance, and it forms the largest collection of ancient wooden structures anywhere in the world. Covering 720,000 square meters and consisting of 980 buildings, the Forbidden City is the biggest palace complex in the world, and is surrounded by a moat six feet deep. Throughout history, the emperor was considered to be a direct descendent of the gods so his residence was out of bounds for common people, hence “Forbidden”.

As many as a million laborers are thought to have worked on the complex. Construction took nearly 15 years, starting in 1406 during the Ming Dynasty, and finishing in 1420. The buildings are crafted in traditional architectural style, including upturned eaves to discourage evil spirits from settling. The dominant color in the Forbidden City is yellow - a symbol of the royal family. The roofs were built with yellow glazed tiles, and many decorations and ornaments around the palace are painted yellow. Even the bricks on the ground are yellow. However, the royal library (Wenyuange) has a black roof, as that color was thought to embody the fire extinguishing properties of water.

The Forbidden City is divided into two main parts. The southern section (Outer Court) was where the emperor ruled over his household and the nation outside it. The Outer Court is made up of three main ceremonial and state halls: The throne room, or Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian) which is the most important structure in the complex, the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian).

The northern section of the complex (Inner Court) was the residence of the royal family. The Inner Court also contains three main buildings: the Palace of Heavenly Peace (Qianqinggong), the Palace of Union and Peace (Jiaotaidian) and the Palace of Terrestrial Tranquility (Kunninggong). There are six palaces to the east and six to the west of the main three, which are where the emperor kept his wives and concubines, and conducted daily business. Six eastern palaces and six western palaces surround these main buildings, and are probably where the emperor handled his daily affairs and lived along with his wives and concubines. These twelve palaces are now used as exhibition halls to display imperial treasures. The main exit gate of the Forbidden City is the Gate of Divine Might, behind the Imperial Garden.

The Forbidden City is one of the most recognizable symbols of China. Throughout its long history it has housed emperors, featured in films (‘The Last Emperor’) and music videos (‘From Yesterday’) and been a museum of imperial history as well as a cradle of Chinese culture.

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. In the evening we will experience a one of a kind Food Night Market on Wangfujing Street (
Night Market on Wangfujing Street

Taste some of Beijing’s more exotic culinary offerings at this atmospheric night market.

Beijing might be best known for roast duck, but head down to the night market on Wangfujing Street for a taste of the more adventurous side of the capital’s cuisine. Located where Wangfujing Street meets Jinyu hutong (alley), the market sells everything from candied fruit to exotic sea creatures on sticks.

During the day, Wangfujing Street is a bustling commercial boulevard lined with shops and department stores. When night falls, the stall-holders come out and the aroma of barbecues starts to waft in the air. Most of the “xiao chi” (small food) is served on kebab skewers, from regular lamb and beef to scorpion, starfish, and even insects. Try it if you dare!

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Day 3 The great wall. Discover this Chinese landmark at the Badalling section of the Great Wall (
Great Wall of China - Badaling Section

Walk along this legendary wall – a feat of human engineering and a new wonder of the world.

China’s Great Wall is one of the most famous structures on the planet, and a symbol and icon of the nation. Starting at Hebei Province in the east, it stretches for a total of 6,259 kilometers to Lake Lop near the Taklamakan Desert in the Muslim region of Xinjiang – China’s most westerly province. The wall was begun in the Qin Dynasty (220-206 BC) during the reign of the first emperor and completed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) making it the longest building project in history. The Great Wall’s purpose was to stop invasions by northern nomads – particularly from Mongolia – and consisted of high fortifications dotted with watch-towers. If the guards in a certain tower spotted invaders, they would fire gunshots to warn others along the wall. One shot means 100 invaders, two shots meant more than 500, and three signified more than 1,000.

It is possible to visit the Great Wall at several points along its course, many around Beijing. The most popular are Badaling, Mutianyu and Jinshanling. Of these, Badaling is the best preserved and the most frequently visited. It is famous as the place where President Richard Nixon viewed the wall on his history-making visit to China in 1972, and was climbed by Mao Zedong and 370 dignitaries and celebrities from around the world. Badaling and its nearby expressway were used as the finishing circuit of the Urban Road Cycling Course in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall was declared a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1988, and became one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Badaling means “reach eight directions”, because of the area’s many natural ridges that. The site is located in Yanqing County, about 70 kilometers north of Beijing, and runs for 7,600 meters with an average altitude of over 1,000 meters. This part of the wall was built in 1505 during the reign of Ming Dynasty emperor Hong Zhi. It has been open to the public since 1957 – the longest of any section.

The outside casing of the wall is made of 1000-kilogram granite slabs; the interior was formed by packing earth and small rocks tightly together. The wall averages 7.8 meters in height and 5.7 meters in width, and features crenellations for archers, a barrel-drain and a moat both inside and outside, along with the watch-towers that were used as firing posts.

A true wonder of the world, the Great Wall of China is one of the earth’s most important cultural relics. Spend some time walking along its ancient fortifications to experience living history.

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). En route we will also explore the Ming Tombs (Changling) and walk along the Sacred Road (
Ming Tombs & Sacred Road

See the tombs of thirteen great Ming Emperors set in rugged terrain outside of Beijing.

Fifty kilometers north of Beijing lies a necropolis dedicated to thirteen emperors of the great Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), rivaling Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in scope and historic importance. The mausoleums and tombs of the emperors are spread over an area of 40 square kilometers in an arc shape that conforms to ancient “feng shui” principles of geomancy. It was believed that the evil winds coming down from the Jundu Mountains would be stopped by the arc, unable to reach the emperors’ remains. The tombs in the necropolis are incredibly well preserved, offering an important insight into the pomp and riches of Imperial China.

The site on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain was chosen by the Emperor Zhu Di in 1402. The last emperor to be buried there was Si Ling in 1644. Only two of the tombs are open to the public – the grand Changling Mausoleum of Zhu Di, and Dingling, the underground burial place of Emperor Zhu Yijun, who was the longest serving Ming ruler. The Changling tomb covers 1956 square meters and includes a gorgeous palace made entirely of fragrant camphor wood. The Dingling mausoleum lies 27 meters below the ground.

The necropolis is accessed by the seven-kilometer Sacred Way, flanked along its length by 24 statues of guardian animals and 12 human figures. In imperial times, the emperor was known as the Son of the Heaven, and this divine boulevard was designed as the road down which he would return to his heavenly home after death. The Sacred Way begins with an enormous stone memorial archway dating back to 1540, It is the oldest and largest surviving stone archway in China.

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). Return to Beijing in time to see a stunning
Kung Fu Show

Watch a breathtaking display of Shaolin-style martial arts performed by a group of talented fighters.

Martial arts, or “wu shu”, developed over many centuries in ancient China, and were designed as a form of self defense in dangerous times. Through kicking, chopping, tumbling and leaping, kung fu fighters could overmaster their enemies in a few deft moves. Kung fu became famous across the world thanks to the films of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, and the recent fame of the Shaolin monks of the Songshan Monastery has spread its popularity even wider.

Shaolin is the type of kung fu practiced in the north of China, as opposed to Wudang in the south. Shaolin is considered to be the most pure and original, since the monks integrated the movements of birds and animals into their actions. Sticks and spears are also used.

Watching a kung fu show is a great way to get to know this ancient martial art, and enjoy a spectacular stage performance at the same time.

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Day 4 This morning we will continue to visit some of Beijing’s top attractions including: the
Summer Palace

Visit the beautiful gardens where the emperor cooled off during the summer months.

The Summer Palace is a gorgeous lakeside landscape 15 kilometers outside of Beijing, where the emperor and his family escape the heat of summer in the capital. The main site includes the 2.9 square kilometer Kunming Lake, which was artificially extended to resemble Hangzhou’s famous West Lake. The excavated soil from the project was used to make Longevity Hill, which is home to pavilions, gardens, ponds and cloisters.

The Summer Palace was begun in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), but reached its current size and scope in 1705 during the reign of the Qing Emperor Qianlong. Many of the buildings were damaged during the Anglo-French attacks of the Boxer Rebellion in 1860 and the Eight Allies invasion of 1900, but the gardens survived and were revamped in 1902.

Three quarters of the Summer Palace’s 294 hectares are covered in water. The central attraction is the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge) at the top of the hill, but the surrounding area is home to over 3,000 pavilions, towers, bridges, and corridors.

The Summer Palace is split into four parts: the court area, front hill area, front lake area, and rear hill and back lake area. The front hill area has the most attractions including the lakefront and Longevity Hill. There is also the Gate of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Moral Glory, Tower of Buddhist Incense, and Hall of the Sea of Wisdom.

The rear hill and back lake areas are mainly landscaped gardens criscrossed with winding lanes and paths, adjoining Kunming Lake and Back Lake. The Garden of Harmonious Interest was modeled on the classical gardens of Suzhou.

The court area is where the emperor conducted state business and rested. The main palace buildings include the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (which was the emperor’s office), the Hall of Jade Ripples, the Hall of Joyful Longevity (once home to China’s last empress, Cixi) and the impressive Long Gallery.

The front lake area makes up the largest part of the Summer Palace, and includes Kunming Lake. Here you’ll find the Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Jade-Belt Bridge, Nanhu Island, a bronze ox statue, and the Marble Boat.

UNESCO made the Summer Palace a World Heritage Site in 1998, declaring it "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design." It is an unforgettable site and an essential part of your Beijing itinerary.

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Hutong

Get a rare glimpse of how Beijing looked in ancient times with a trip to the alleys and courtyard homes of the hutong.

Before Beijing became the modern metropolis it is today, most of its residential districts were made up of networks of alleys and courtyards known as hutong that fanned out from the Forbidden City. These neighborhoods are so integral to the fabric of the city that they are thought to embody Beijing’s culture.

The word “hutong” is thought to come from Mongolian, and means “water well”. The hutong itself is the lane that connects the courtyard residences. These are known as “siheyuan”, and are open spaces surrounded by four buildings. In imperial times, a single siheyuan would house one extended family. Hutong lanes were built to connect the courtyard homes, and narrower alleys connected the lanes. The lanes ran east to west, and the courtyards usually faced south to catch the sun.

Hutong neighborhoods developed in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 256 BC) and housed much of Beijing’s population until the development boom of the late 20th century. As the need for space grew, most of the hutong were destroyed. Throughout the Republic of China era (1911 – 1948), many traditional neighborhoods had fallen into poverty, and were razed to make room for new residential and commercial buildings.

Nowadays, the best-preserved hutong neighborhoods are located around the Drum Tower and Bell Tower. They are open to visitors, and popular for pedicab tours.

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by Rickshaw and the Lama Temple
Lama Temple

Admire intricate carvings and beautiful statues at one of China’s most important Buddhist temple.

In Beijing’s Dongcheng District sits a gorgeous temple that started life as a home for imperial eunuchs, before becoming the center of Geluk Buddhism. Containing five lavishly decorated halls filled with statues and engravings in Tibetan and Han styles, it is among China’s largest and oldest Buddhist temples.

The Yonghe Temple (also known as the Palace of Peace and Harmony, or simply Lama Temple) was built in 1694 as a residence for the court eunuchs. It then became the court of the Kangxi Emperor’s son, who later became Yongzheng Emperor and turned half of the complex into a lamasery (Buddhist monastery). When his successor Qianlong ascended to the throne, he granted the temple imperial status, changing the turquoise tiles for yellow ones to signify royalty. The Lama Temple escaped the ravages of the Cultural Revolution thanks to an appeal by former prime minister Zhou Enlai.

The temple is laid out along a central axis that runs north to south for 480 meters. At the southern end is the main gate, and there are five main halls along its length, separated by courtyards. There are the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the Hall of Harmony and Peace, the Hall of Everlasting Protection, the Hall of the Wheel of the Law, and the Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses. The Hall of the Heavenly Kings used to be the main entrance to the monastery, and contains a statue of the Maitreya Buddha along with icons of the four Heavenly Kings.

The Hall of Harmony and Peace is the temple’s main building, housing three bronze statues of the Buddhas of the Three Ages. The Buddha of the Present (Gautama) is in the middle, between the Buddha of the Past (Kasyapa Matanga) and the Buddha of the Future (Maitreya). The Hall of Everlasting Protection served as Emperor Yongzheng's living quarters when he was a prince. It is now home to a statue of the Healing Buddha (Bhaisajya-guru).

The Hall of the Wheel of the Law is used for reading scriptures and holding religious ceremonies, and has a statue of Je Tsongkhapa who founded the Geluk School. The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses houses a 26-meter-tall statue of the Maitreya Buddha carved from a single piece of white sandalwood.

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. We will then drive to the airport for our flight to “The Capital of Heavenly State” –
Chengdu

Wander down an ancient street, see impressive modern skyscrapers, and witness the mix of old and modern in one of China’s most laid-back cities.

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, has a reputation for being a city that likes to have fun. It has twice as many bars and teahouses as Shanghai despite being half the size, and the locals have a relaxed attitude that is very different from those in the east coast cities. Located in the middle of Sichuan, Chengdu has a population of over 11 million, and covers 12 square kilometers. A recent poll in a Chinese magazine named it as the fourth most liveable city in the country. The fertile plain on which it sits has been known as “Country of Heaven” since ancient times. The city itself bears the nicknames Hibiscus City after its official flower, and Brocade City because it has been a center of fabric making since the third century BC.

There has been human settlement on the Chengdu plain for over 4,000 years. The Jinsha tribe lived there during the Bronze Age, and China’s first emperor built his palace there 2,400 years ago. He called the city Chengdu, meaning “become a capital” – a name it has held ever since.

The modern city is an intriguing meld of ancient and modern. Slick skyscrapers sit side by side with quaint old bridges, and modern boulevards contrast with traditional early Qing Dynasty alleys. Jinli Old Street with its craft bazaar, opera performances and food stalls is a great place to get a feel for what Chengdu was like in the past.

Spicy local dishes like ma po tofu, Chengdu hot pot and dan dan noodles are sure to set your palate on fire. Make sure you have a cool drink at hand!

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. Upon arrival we will meet our guide and transfer to the hotel.
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Day 5 Our first day in
Sichuan

Enjoy a cruise down the Yangtze River, see rare pandas, and eat some of the spiciest food in the world.

Sichuan Province in southwest China spreads over a massive 485,000 square kilometers, and is known as the “Land of Abundance” thanks to its mountains, rivers, forests, and booming cities. For natural beauty, it has to be one of China’s richest regions, and its remoteness has preserved most of its rugged charm. Bordered by the Tibetan Plateau in the west, and the Three Gorges and Yangtze River to the east, Sichuan has a population of 87 million – the second largest of any province in China.

Sichuan has three attractions that are listed as World Cultural and Natural Heritage List: Emeishan (Mount Emei) and its huge carved Buddha at Leshan, the Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area, and the Huanglong Valley. The province is also famous for its pandas, which live at the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base and charm visitors with their antics. Chengdu itself is a vibrant city famous for lacquer, satin and brocade. Sichuan’s other main city is Chongqing, which is actually a special administrative area.

Another unique aspect of Sichuan Province is the spicy local cuisine. Generous use of dry and fresh red chilis and a special variety of numbing pepper adds an unmistakeable flavor and a definite kick. If you can’t handle the heat, ask for your food to be prepared “bu la” (not spicy) but whether the chefs will take any notice is a different matter!

Sichuan has been settled since the 15th century BC. During the ninth century BC, two rival tribes rose up called Shu and Ba, and created modern-day Chengdu and Chongqing. Thanks to its strategic position in a basin of the Yangtze ringed by the Himalayas, Qinlong Range and mountainous Yunnan Province, Sichuan was used throughout history as a military base and retreat for emperors. Its location also makes it a cultural melting pot. The west of the province is home to the Tibetan, Yi, Qiang, Naxi and A-Hmao ethnic minorities.

With such a diversity of stunning natural beauty, bustling urban centers, and colorful minority culture, Sichuan provides a vast array of experiences that you will never forget.

province begins with a visit to the famous
Panda Reservation

See pandas in their natural environment and learn about how this rare species is being preserved.

The Giant Panda is China’s national treasure, and one of the symbols of the nation. Sadly, there are just 1000 pandas remaining in China, found only in Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan Provinces. Eighty percent are in Sichuan, and the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center is working hard to increase the population and protect the animals they already have.

Located 10 kilometers from downtown Chengdu, the center covers 92 acres. Most of this space is dedicated to recreating the pandas’ natural habitat, with over ten thousand bamboo plants and other greenery. As well as giant pandas and lesser pandas, the habitat is home to black storks and various other rare species. The research center itself includes a feeding room, sleeping area, and medical zone, as well as a museum and research lab.

A visit to Sichuan would not be complete without a trip to see these adorable animals.

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and continues to
Leshan

A small city that is the gateway to some of Sichuan’s most impressive scenic spots.

Leshan means Happy Mountain in Chinese, and there is definitely something cheerful about the city. Located at the meeting of the Min and Dadu rivers, Leshan is 120 kilometers from Chengdu in the south of Sichuan Province. It was formerly known as Jiaozhou, and is known for having the most beautiful scenery in the whole region including the winding river that flows past the huge stone Buddha carved into the mountainside. Leshan is also known as Fragrant Crab-apple City thanks to the many crab-apple trees that grow in the vicinity. The family home of Chinese writer, academic and politician Guo Moruo can be seen in the Shawan District.

The city is home to two autonomous counties, Mabian and Ebian, which are strongholds of the Yi ethnic minority, as well as a smaller city called Emeishan. Leshan stands in the shadow of the Wuyou and Lingyun peaks.

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where we will enjoy a cruise to see the
Giant Buddha

Sail past the world’s tallest Buddha statue, and learn how it literally stilled the tides.

The 70-meter-high Buddha carved out of the rocks facing Mount Emei is possibly the most stunning historical site in the whole of Sichuan Province. The serene figure is Maitreya, a bodhisattva represented as a smiling monk naked from the waist up. His shoulders measure 28 meters, and each of his fingers is three meters long. Exquisitely hewn with impressive attention to detail, the Buddha has 1,021 individual buns carved in his hair. His toenails are big enough for an adult to sit on.

The statue was commissioned by a monk named Haitong in 713 during the Tang Dynasty. Such was his dedication to the project that he gouged out his own eyes when funding was withdrawn. It wasn’t until 70 years after his death that the work began in earnest on the statue. The work was finally completed by Haitong’s disciples in 803. The monk’s purpose for setting a Buddha at this spot was to calm the rough waters where the Min, Dadu and Qingyi rivers met. Incredibly, his wish came true, as the amount of stone deposited in the river during the carving actually changed the currents and slowed the rivers’ flow.

Today the Buddha suffers from pollution and poor air quality, but despite his blackened nose and evidence of erosion, he is a true feat of human devotion. Rounding the bend in the river and catching sight of him for the first time will take your breath away.

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. In the afternoon a short drive to
Emeishan

Climb one of Chinese Buddhism’s four most important mountains, and watch the famous Cloud Sea from the Golden Summit.

Mount Emei stands 3,009 meters tall, towering over the southwestern part of the Chengdu plain close to the city of Leshan. It is one of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism (the others being Putuoshan in Zhejiang Province, Jiuhua in Anhui, and Wutai in Shanxi).

The mountain has four main scenic regions: Baoguo Temple, Wannian Temple, the Qingyin Pavilion and the Golden Summit. The latter is 3079 meters above sea level, and is topped with stunning gilded halls. From this spot you can admire the rolling mists known as the Cloud Sea. The mountain is dotted with grottoes, waterfalls, brooks and gates, as well as 76 Buddhist monasteries from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644–1911) Dynasties. Most notable is the Leiyinsi complex, which was built on stilts up the side of the mountain. The first monastery was established on Emeishan 1,900 years ago, making it the birthplace of Buddhism in the Yangtze valley.

Tribes of macaque monkeys live on the mountain, and most are tame enough to take food from visitors. If you would like to feed then, buy packets of food from the vendors instead of feeding them human food, as it is better for their health.

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(Mount Emei) where we will spend the night.
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Day 6 Our day starts with a one-way cable car ride to the top of
Emeishan

Climb one of Chinese Buddhism’s four most important mountains, and watch the famous Cloud Sea from the Golden Summit.

Mount Emei stands 3,009 meters tall, towering over the southwestern part of the Chengdu plain close to the city of Leshan. It is one of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism (the others being Putuoshan in Zhejiang Province, Jiuhua in Anhui, and Wutai in Shanxi).

The mountain has four main scenic regions: Baoguo Temple, Wannian Temple, the Qingyin Pavilion and the Golden Summit. The latter is 3079 meters above sea level, and is topped with stunning gilded halls. From this spot you can admire the rolling mists known as the Cloud Sea. The mountain is dotted with grottoes, waterfalls, brooks and gates, as well as 76 Buddhist monasteries from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644–1911) Dynasties. Most notable is the Leiyinsi complex, which was built on stilts up the side of the mountain. The first monastery was established on Emeishan 1,900 years ago, making it the birthplace of Buddhism in the Yangtze valley.

Tribes of macaque monkeys live on the mountain, and most are tame enough to take food from visitors. If you would like to feed then, buy packets of food from the vendors instead of feeding them human food, as it is better for their health.

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where the
Wannian Temple

Touch a lucky bronze elephant and see your reflection in a tranquil pool.

One of the highlights of Mount Emei is Wannian Temple, located two kilometers from Qingyin Pavilion. Before the Ming Dynasty, the temple was known as Samantabhadra, in honour of the incarnation of Buddha who is said to protect the mountain. The modern name Wannian means long life.

The complex was built during the reign of Emperor Long’an during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (397 – 401) and houses a 62,000 kilogram bronze and copper statue of the Buddha riding a white elephant. If you rub the elephant, it is said that good fortune will follow. The statue dates back to 980.

All of the buildings in the temple complex face east, and include the Mile Hall, Hill Gate, Zhuang Hall, and Daxiong Hall. The Brick Hall that houses the statue has a domed roof and is dotted with stupas. It is the only structure that remains from ancient times, after a fire raged through the complex in 1945. Don’t miss the White Water Pond, and the view of the trees reflected in its surface.

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is located. On our walk down the mountain we will see the
Monkey Area

Watch troupes of monkeys caper among the ancient pavilions.

One of Emeishan’s attractions that is guaranteed to raise a smile is the ecological monkey area above Qingyin Pavilion and below the Hongchun Terrace. Covering 100,000 square meters, it is the largest of its kind in China, and features rope bridges, plank walks, and pathways. The monkeys are a Tibetan breed, and number around 400 across eight colonies. The females weigh up to 15 kilograms while the males can grow as large as twenty.

There have been monkeys on Emeishan since the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) as a warrior developed a style of boxing based on their movements. No-one knows for sure how the monkeys arrived at the mountain, but legends abound. Some say that a Tang Dynasty pharmacist discovered them playing chess, while another myth suggests that they originally acted as guides for lost travellers ascending the peak.

Whatever the reason for their settling on Emeishan, it’s hard to imagine the mountain without them. Some are shy, while others are more boisterous and aggressive. The calmest, friendliest monkeys tend to congregate around Elephant Pond. Visitors are warned not to touch the monkeys, and feed them only with special food sold by vendors. If a monkey approaches you when you don’t have food, show it your empty palms so it knows not to pester you. Never go alone into a group of apes, and hold onto your belongings because they have been known to steal. Most importantly, don’t panic, run or scream.

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and
. Begin our drive back Chengdu and visit
Jinli Old Street

Browse local handicraft stalls, taste Chengdu’s favorite snack, and watch puppet shows on a historic street.

Sichuan Province’s capital city deftly mixes old and new, and the best way to enjoy its ancient elements is on Jinli Old Street. The pedestrian avenue runs for 350 meters and is flanked with stalls, shops, bazaars, and snack vendors. The street is paved in green flagstones, and the buildings have been designed in the style of western Sichuanese towns from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Dark wood, red lanterns, and engraved stones add to the atmosphere.

Back in the Qin Dynasty (220-280), Jinli Street was famous for the thick, ornate brocade that was woven there. During the Shu kingdom of 221 to 263, it was Chengdu’s busiest commercial street. Thanks to funds raised at the Wuhou Memorial Temple nearby, the street was renovated and opened to the public in 2004.

Start at the huge archway carved with the street’s name in Chinese characters, and wander past shops and stalls selling fabric, local crafts, art, and papercuttings. Watch shadow puppet shows and Sichuan operas on the raised stage in the middle of the street, and try the local specialty San Da Pao – a mix of sticky rice, brown sugar, sesame and beans. If you need a jolt back to reality, there a branch of Starbucks, but there are plenty of authentic Sichuanese snacks and drinks to try instead.

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.
Chengdu tl_files/china-packages/icons/bus.png
Day 7 After a morning flight to our next destination – Jiuzhaigou - we will take a tour of
Huanglong National Park

Explore a magical land of turquoise pools, golden rocks, and gushing waterfalls.

Get your camera ready! Huanglong National Park is a landscape so surprising and surreal that it takes a while to realize that you’re still on earth. The natural calcium carbonate in the water has crafted white and golden rock formations that surround pools in all shades of blue, from deepest turquoise to bright aquamarine. These stepped ponds are flanked with rich green forests, and snow-capped peaks jut into the sky.

Located in Songpan County in north-west Sichuan Province, Huanglong Valley takes its name from the yellow dragon that the rock formations resemble, winding through the mountains. The area also includes Muni Valley with its vast lake and network of limestone caves. The site was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1992.

The main scenic area runs for 3.6 kilometers through Huanglong Valley, and includes the Yingbin Colored Ponds, Glowing Waterfall (Feipuliuhui) and Xishen Cave as well as the Huanglong Temple and Cave with three calcium-encrusted Buddhas. The most arresting rock formations and color varieties are found at Shitazhenhai. Rare creatures roam free in the forest ecosystem, including giant pandas and snub-nosed monkeys.

This unique landscape is one of the most beautiful in China, and an essential part of a visit to Sichuan Province.

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. Named after a mythical yellow dragon, the park is home to tranquil ponds, dense forests, and an ancient temple. We will then drive to Jiuzhaigou Park (
Jiuzhaigou National Park

See some of the planet’s most breathtaking natural scenery in this UNESCO protected parkland.

Meaning Valley of the Nine Towns, Jiuzhaigou gives its name to the area of designated parkland that inhabits the highest tableland in the world, between the Sichuan Basin and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Full of multi-level waterfalls, lush forest and peaceful lakes, Jiuzhaigou is located in the north of Sichuan Province, 330 kilometers north of Chengdu. Only discovered by the government in 1972, it was used for logging until its scenic value was recognized. It became a national park in 1982 and was opened to the public in 1984, gaining UNESCO World Heritage status in 1992.

The park is inside the Aba Tibetan Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, and many of its sites are sacred to the ethnic minority groups who still live in seven of the nine eponymous towns. Its highest point is Mount Ganzigonggai at 4,764 meters, and its lowest point is 1,998 meters above sea level. It is home to countless species of endangered plants and animals, and some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

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) to prepare for tomorrow’s tour.
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Day 8 During our full day tour of Jiuzhaigou Park in the Valley of the Nine Villages, we will admire scenic lakes, multi-level waterfalls, and stunning rock formations. Jiuzhaigou tl_files/china-packages/icons/sightseeing.png
Day 9 Our morning begins with a flight to our next destination –
Chongqing

Visit the “Chicago on the Yangtze” – one of China’s four self-governing super-cities.

Along with Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, Chongqing is a unique ‘city state’ that governs itself on a municipal level. Thanks to its position in the west of China, it is an important hub for transport and trade, and a bustling modern metropolis. Its ever-growing skyline of glittering skyscrapers has earned it the nickname “Chicago on the Yangtze”.

Chongqing is the start of most Yangtze River cruises and is thus popular among tourists, but the city as more to offer than just a ferry terminal. Ciqikou ancient village and the elaborate 9th century rock carvings at Dazu are other major draws.

Modern Chongqing has a population of over thirty million, and an area of 382 square kilometers – both staggering figures. It is thought to be the location of the semi-mythical State of Ba from the 11th century BC, and has been known as Jiangzhou, Yuzhou and Gongzhou through the ages. It was named Chongqing meaning ‘double celebration’ 800 years ago. During the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 to 1945 it acted as China’s capital.

More than just a ferry stop, Chongqing impresses thanks to its size and scope, and represents the recent development of China’s western provinces.

. Upon arrival we will drive to
Dazu

Visit the county that’s famous for incredible ninth century rock carvings.

Dazu County has a population of several thousand, and is best known for the elaborate rock carvings at Baodingshan, Nanshan, Shimenshan and Shizhuanshan. Its name means ‘big foot’, and steep, curving roads lead up into the mountains from the tiled roofs and narrow streets of Dazu Town.

Known as “the county of rock carving”, Dazu is situated in the south-east of Sichuan Province, 271 kilometers from Chengdu to the west and 167 kilometers from Chongqing to the east. The county has an area of 1,400 square kilometers, and has been inhabited since 758 during the Tang Dynasty.

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to see the
Dazu Stone Carvings

Admire thousands of beautifully carved statues and inscriptions from the Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist belief systems.

Begun in 650 during the Tang Dynasty, Dazu’s rock carvings are some of the most impressive in the world, and are rivalled in China only by the ones at Mogao cave in Gansu Province. Dazu was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 and continues to attract visitors from around the world to marvel at the skill and scope of the carvings.

There are five main areas at the site. Beishan lies in the north-west of Dazu County and is home to well preserved Buddhist statues including the noble Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, also known as the Oriental Venus. In the north-east is Baodingshan which has nearly 10,000 Buddhist figures carved into the cliffs. Nanshan in the south-east of the County is a Taoist site, and Sanqing Cave has a hierarchy of the gods crafted from clay in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The Shizhuanshan site in the south-west of Dazu County combines Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist statuary and inscriptions, which is rare in Chinese cave art. Finally, Shimenshan in the east is mainly Taoist, and includes a statue of the Great Jade Emperor.

A visit to Dazu offers a unique view of China’s three main religious standing side by side.

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, and return to
Chongqing

Visit the “Chicago on the Yangtze” – one of China’s four self-governing super-cities.

Along with Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, Chongqing is a unique ‘city state’ that governs itself on a municipal level. Thanks to its position in the west of China, it is an important hub for transport and trade, and a bustling modern metropolis. Its ever-growing skyline of glittering skyscrapers has earned it the nickname “Chicago on the Yangtze”.

Chongqing is the start of most Yangtze River cruises and is thus popular among tourists, but the city as more to offer than just a ferry terminal. Ciqikou ancient village and the elaborate 9th century rock carvings at Dazu are other major draws.

Modern Chongqing has a population of over thirty million, and an area of 382 square kilometers – both staggering figures. It is thought to be the location of the semi-mythical State of Ba from the 11th century BC, and has been known as Jiangzhou, Yuzhou and Gongzhou through the ages. It was named Chongqing meaning ‘double celebration’ 800 years ago. During the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 to 1945 it acted as China’s capital.

More than just a ferry stop, Chongqing impresses thanks to its size and scope, and represents the recent development of China’s western provinces.

for the night.
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Day 10 This morning we will visit
Ciqikou Old Town

Stroll through the lanes of an ancient town and admire local art and handicrafts.

Wandering through the quaint alleys of Ciqikou, it’s hard to believe that the metropolis of Chongqing is only 14 kilometers to the west. Indeed, Ciqikou resembles what Chongqing may have looked like if it weren’t for the rapid development that has turned it into the giant it is today. Nestled on the banks of the Jialing River close to where it meets the Yangtze, Ciqikou’s modern name means ‘Porcelain Village’. Over 20 old kilns have been unearthed in the town, and it was a center of fired pottery during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911). It is Ming and Qing architecture that characterizes most of the buildings in Ciqikou, with their distinctive bamboo and timber frames, lattice windows, and red doors. The town’s former name was Long Yin, meaning ‘hiding place of the dragon’.

The town is laid out along 12 main intersecting lanes, and the variety of shops reflects its history as a supply post for ships sailing up the river.  Ciqikou is popular among artists, many of whom have studios along its streets where they make and sell their works. It is also a good place to pick up Shu embroidery, and try local snacks like salted peanuts. If you need refreshment, there are plenty of traditional teahouses where you can participate in a tea ceremony or stock up on tea leaves. 

in Chongqing before taking an afternoon flight to
Shanghai

Experience the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s most exciting cities, where contrasts abound.

A thoroughly modern metropolis, Shanghai is one of the world’s biggest and most vibrant cities. With a population of nearly 20 million spread over 18 districts, it is huge in every respect, but manages to combine stunning futuristic business centers with tree-lined boulevards and local neighborhoods. Shanghai’s history as a point of international trade has gifted it with a diverse array of cultures, but glimpses of ancient times can be seen at the temples and traditional gardens that have survived many generations of war and political turmoil.

The two Chinese characters that make up Shanghai’s name mean “above” and “sea”, reflecting the city’s maritime history. Before the Song Dynasty (920-1279), it was a small fishing village on the banks of the Huangpu River, a tributary of the great Yangtze. As the dynasty progressed, it was raised to the status of a market town, and eventually became a city in 1297. The building of a city wall in 1554 during the Ming Dynasty and the erection of the City God Temple in 1620 elevated Shanghai to even greater importance, and it became a major sea port during the Qing era (1644-1911). The opium trade of the 19th century led to international colonization, with vast areas of the city coming under the control of the USA, UK and France. Much of the architecture still visible today in Shanghai dates from this period, including the low-rise, tree-lined avenues of the French Concession with their Art Deco villas, and the majestic Neo-Classical banks and custom houses of the Bund waterfront. The 1920s and 1930s are known as the “golden age” of Old Shangahi, when the city had a reputation for vice and intrigue, earning it the nickname “Whore of the Orient”.

Rapid modernization after the Mao era gave the city its modern look. The skyline of the Pudong Financial District on the east bank of the Huangpu bristles with gleaming silver skyscrapers, and huge shopping malls have sprung up on Nanjing and Huaihai Roads. This mix of busy commercial areas, ancient temples, and colonial neighborhoods contributes to Shanghai’s reputation for contrasts.

While Mandarin is the official language of China, Shanghai people speak a dialect known as Wu, or “Shanghainese”. It is incomprehensible even to native Mandarin speakers, and adds a certain local color to the streets and markets. Unlike the types of Chinese food that have spread to the West, Shanghainese cuisine is sweet and glutinous, involving stewed seafood, wine marinades, and light flavors.

As China’s cultural and economic powerhouse, it is an energetic and often chaotic metropolis that has to be seen to be believed.

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. During our first evening in Shanghai we will visit
Nanjing Road

Wander the length of Shanghai’s busiest shopping street, stretching from the Bund to Jing’an Temple.

Known as Park Lane in colonial times, Nanjing Road is the world's longest shopping street. Its six kilometers of shops, boutiques, malls and department stores attract over one million people every day, symbolic of Shanghai’s rapid ascent as a capitalist enclave in a communist land.

Nanjing Road began to develop as a shoppers’ paradise in the early 1900s with the opening of eight department stores. This was followed by a series of franchise stores, and the rest is history. Nowadays, you can get everything from cheap souvenirs to Louis Vuitton handbags, and break for coffee or drinks at one of the many cafés and bars that are intermingled with the shops.

Nanjing Road is divided into two parts. East Nanjing Road runs from the Bund to People’s Square, and has mainly Chinese brand shops. West Nanjing Road (called Bubbling Well Road in the colonial era) starts at People’s Square and stretches to the western suburbs past Jing’an Temple. It is this part of the road that houses most of the international shopping malls and boutiques.

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and enjoy a great view of
The Bund

Visit Shanghai’s iconic waterfront with its austere colonial buildings, and enjoy the view of the modern skyline across the river.

Shanghai’s historic waterfront stretches for a mile between the Waibaidu Bridge and Yan’an Road, and is home to 52 beautiful colonial-era buildings in Neo-Classical, Gothic, Baroque and Art Deco styles. A stark contrast to the futuristic skyline across the river and the local Chinese neighborhoods behind it, the Bund is a symbol of Shanghai’s boom years as an international sea port.

The Bund as we know it today started life in 1846 when a British trading company opened an office there. Before long, the whole stretch of the Huangpu’s western bank (Puxi) was lined with beautiful grey-stone buildings housing banking headquarters, customs houses and trading offices. The word “bund” comes from Anglo-Indian and means “embankment”.

During the early years of the People’s Republic (post-1949), the Bund’s buildings were taken over by the People’s Liberation Army and used for state business. Starting from the 1980s, they returned to commercial use, and now house some of Shanghai’s best bars, clubs, restaurants and boutiques.

Recent developments have extended the Bund to the south, and erected a 771-meter-long retaining wall and promenade that is busy from dusk until dawn. To visit the Bund is to witness all facets of Shanghai’s past, present, and future, and a must-stop on any itinerary.

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.
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Day 11 Our introduction to Shanghai’s attractions will start at the
Shanghai Museum

Learn about the history of the metropolis at this uniquely designed museum.

For an overview of Chinese history, the Shanghai Museum is the place to go. Located in People’s Park in the center of the downtown area, the museum holds 120,000 artifacts, as well as the biggest and most varied collection of Chinese art anywhere in the country. The building has eleven galleries spread over five floors, covering every period of Chinese history from prehistory to modern times. Noteworthy collections include jade, calligraphy, seals, furniture, bronze, and sculpture.

The building itself is a relic in itself. It was designed in 1993 by a local architect who fashioned it in the form of an ancient bronze cooking pot called a “ding”. The museum has a domed roof and a square base, reflecting the ancient principle of “round sky, square earth”. The building was completed in 1999, and the museum’s collections were moved from their former home on nearby West Nanjing Road, in what used to be the clubhouse of the Shanghai Racecourse.

With so much to see, a trip to the Shanghai Museum can seem daunting, but even if you see only a small part of its displays, you will have learned plenty about the history of this incredible city.

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, which will be followed by a trip to the
,
Yu Garden

Experience a traditional Ming Dynasty garden built by a governor for his parents.

Although Shanghai has fewer historic sites than Beijing, there are several that are worth a look. The most popular is the Yu Garden – a lovely Ming Dynasty garden dotted with bridges, pavilions, pools, and rock formations.

Yu Yuan, as it is called in Mandarin, means garden of happiness, and was constructed in 1577 by a Ming Dynasty governor as a gift to his parents. It fell into disrepair after their deaths, and lay in ruins until two wealthy merchants bought it in 1760 and restored it. It suffered damage during the Opium Wars of the 19th century, but was renovated and opened to the public in 1961. Thanks to its popularity and cultural importance, it was granted National Monument status in 1982.

Yu Garden lies at the center of a massive bazaar selling traditional Chinese handicrafts such as silk, seals, fans, chopsticks, and jade. The bazaar is home to dumpling shops as well as the obligatory branches of Starbucks and Haagen-Dazs.

The five-acre garden follows Ming Dynasty (131368-1644) design traditions from the Suzhou school, and includes stone walkways, lakes and pools full of carp and goldfish, rock formations, halls, and tea houses. Look out for the beautiful zig-zag bridge over the lotus pool, which was specially designed to stop evil spirits entering the garden.

Yu Garden is split into several distinctive parts: Ten Thousand-Flower Tower, the Lotus Pool, the Jade Magnificence Hall, the Inner Garden, the Heralding Spring Hall, and the Grand Rockery containing the Three Corn Ears Hall and a giant slab of rock.

From the highest point of the garden, you’ll catch a glimpse of Pudong’s modern skyscrapers across the river, which forms a contrast that perfectly sums up Shanghai.

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and
Chenghuang Miao Bazaar

Traditionally, every Chinese city that had a fortifying wall also had a City God Temple. This was where the townsfolk gathered to pray for peace and good fortune, and the gods in question were often high-ranking officials of ancient times. Shanghai’s City God Temple was originally dedicated to Huo Guang, Qin Yubo and Chen Huacheng who were chancellors and administrators of the old imperial court.

Located close to the Yu Garden in Shanghai’s old walled city, Chenghuang Miao was originally named Jinshan Temple, and was used for the worship of a local god. It was converted to City God status in 1403 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor in the Ming Dynasty. It grew in popularity during the Qing Dynasty, especially when Emperor Daoguang was in power between 1782 and 1850. To profit from the temple’s many visitors, shops and stalls sprung up around it. This is the Chenghuang Miao that is still operating today.

Connected to the Yu Garden, the Chenghuang Miao Bazaar covers 5.3 hectares and is a haven for tourists looking for the perfect souvenir. The main bazaar is enclosed in a grand traditional wood and timber building with a tiled roof and upturned eaves, but stalls spill out down the surrounding streets. Vendors sell everything from tea, jewelry, and fans to ceremonial weapons, masks, and knock-off bags. The bazaar is famous for its excellent dumpling and bun shops, but there are also branches of Starbucks, KFC and Haagen-Dazs for the less adventurous.

. In the evening we will take in a breathtaking acrobatic show and enjoy a stroll around the lifestyle and leisure hub
Xintiandi

Enjoy the cosmopolitan atmosphere of this contemporary lifestyle hub built in a series of old lanes.

Xintiandi means “new heaven and earth” in Chinese, and it definitely lives up to its name. Offering an array of high-class eating options, designer boutiques, and plenty of terraces and patios for people-watching, it is one of Shanghai’s most popular areas for affluent locals and curious visitors.

The Xintiandi development was begun in the early 2000s when two blocks of traditional shikumen (stone gate) houses were saved from demolition and turned into shops and restaurants. The project has won awards for preserving the traditional architecture and atmosphere of the longtang (alleys) while giving the area a modern facelift.

Xintiandi’s North Block is home to Western and Chinese restaurants, cafés and bars, while the South Block ends with a huge glass-fronted shopping mall. Both blocks have shops and boutiques, as well as stallholders peddling luxury handicrafts.

Watch Old Shanghai meet new Shanghai with impressive results at this popular attraction.

, which is made up of converted stone-gate lane houses, or shikumen.
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Day 12 Our last day in Shanghai starts with a trip to the -->
Jade Buddha Temple

Observe monks at prayer and see a Buddha statue made entirely of jade.

Hidden away in the residential sprawl of north Jing’an District, the Jade Buddha Temple is a working monastery as well as a place of worship. Located close to Shanghai’s main railway station, it was built in 1884 to store two jade Buddhas presented to the Qing Dynasty government by an abbot from a neighboring province.

The temple is divided into three main halls. The Chamber of Heavenly kings close to the front entrance commemorates the four great figures of Buddhism, and the Great Hall contains 18 golden statues of famous Buddhist practitioners as well as three golden Buddhas. The eponymous jade Buddha is in a hall on the second floor.

As well as a temple and monastery, the building also houses a library from which research texts are published and lectures held. It has been the site of the Shanghai Institute of Buddhism since 1983.

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and continues to the Pudong --> (
Lujiazui

See Shanghai’s iconic skyline up close.

Before the economic boom of the 1980s, the area known as Lujiazui (Lu’s Mouth) on the eastern bank of the Huangpu River was dedicated to low-rise housing, warehouses and factories. Thirty years later it is an ultra-modern financial district, with some of the world’s tallest and most striking buildings.

Lujiazui is the only officially designated finance and trade area out of China’s 185 state-level development zones. It is home to over 500 international and domestic companies across more than 30 skyscrapers, and has given Shanghai its legendary skyline. Luxury five star hotels have moved in to the area, offering a boost to the city’s tourism industry. Many of the skyscrapers have bars and restaurants on their upper floors.

Lujiazui’s “big three” are the Oriental Pearl TV Tower with its pink spheres, the Jin Mao (shaped like a pagoda), and the Shanghai World Financial Center, which many people nickname “The Bottle Opener” due to its distinctive cut-out square. Currently the world’s third tallest building, the SWFC will soon be overtaken by the Shanghai Tower that is being built beside it.

As well as the business area, Lujiazui also has several excellent shopping malls, a riverside promenade lined with restaurants and bars, and an aquarium.

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)
new area. There we will visit Shanghai’s distinctive TV tower --> (
Shanghai TV Tower

Ascend Shanghai’s most futuristic building for a bird’s eye view of the entire city.

Sitting on the eastern bank of the Huangpu River like an alien spaceship, the striking Oriental Pearl TV Tower was Shanghai’s first skyscraper, and remains one of the city’s tallest buildings. Its unique design is a highlight of the Shanghai skyline, with 11 pink tiled spheres arranged around concrete pillars.

At 468 meters tall, the Pearl was the tallest building in Shanghai when it was opened in 1995, and remained so until the Shanghai World Financial Center went up 2007. Rumors abound that the designer, Jiang Huancheng, was inspired by a classical Chinese poem about pearls falling onto a jade dish, but he has denied the story.

The Pearl has a total of 15 observatories, the most popular of which are the 350-meter-high Space Module, the Sightseeing Floor at 263 meters and Space City at 90 meters. The Space Module offers the best views of the surrounding skyscrapers and beyond. On clear days you can see all the way to Chongming Island, the alluvial sand bar that is China’s largest island. The module’s glass floor panels offer vertiginous views of the ground hundreds of meters below.

The Oriental Pearl attracts over 30 million visitors per year, making it one of Shanghai’s most popular tourist destinations. There is a revolving restaurant at 267 meters, a 20-room hotel between the lowest two spheres, and a museum of Shanghai history on site.

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)
and Shanghai History Museum, and view some of the tallest and most magnificent buildings in the world. We will then ride the -->
Maglev

Zip to Pudong Airport in record time on the world’s fastest train.

The quickest way of getting between downtown Shanghai and Pudong International Airport is to take the Maglev. Also known as the Transrapid, this “train of magnetic levitation” gets you from Longyang Road metro station on Line 2 (seven stops east of People’s Square) in just seven minutes and 20 seconds if traveling at its optimum speed of 431 kilometers per hour.

Construction of the Maglev took two and a half years. The route opened in 2002 at a cost of 1.3 billion yuan. Magnetic levitation technology originates in Germany, and has revolutionized high-speed travel.

The Maglev runs from 6:45am until 21:32, and trains depart every 15, 20, or 30 minutes depending on the time of day. There are plans to link the Maglev with People’s Square and eventually Shanghai Hongqiao Airport in the west of the city, which would be a further boost to the city’s already advanced transport infrastructure.

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- the fastest train in the world - to the airport for your flight home.
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Jewish Ghetto

See where Shanghai’s early Jewish communities sought refuge from the Nazis during decades of war and turmoil.

Shanghai’s Jewish ghetto was an area of one square mile in the northerly Hongkou district that was established during the Japanese occupation of the city. It was there that 20,000 Jews escaped from the insidious spread of Nazi anti-Semitism that was rife in Europe during the 1930s and ’40s.

The first Jews to arrive in Shanghai were 26 German Jewish families, including five famous doctors. Next came Jews from Austria, Poland and the former Czechoslovakia, arriving by both land and sea. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 saw 18,000 Ashkenazi Jews arrive in Shanghai, a number that was unsustainable. The new arrivals lived ten to a room in cramped, unsanitary conditions, and struggled to find work. Luckily, rich Sephardim and Mizrahim came to their aid, including the wealthy businessmen who had arrived in the 1840s and the Russian Jews who had fled the Bolsheviks. Despite Nazi demands for the Jews to return to Europe, they remained in Shanghai and escaped certain death in the concentration camps.

In 1943, the Japanese occupiers set up the Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees, and allowed all post-1937 arrivals to move their homes and businesses to this new ghetto. Shanghai was liberated in September 1945, and most of the Jewish people left the city when the State of Israel was formed in 1948.

The site of Shanghai’s Jewish ghetto offers an insight into the refugee community that thrived there for so many decades.