Friday - Forbidden City & Summer Palace Tour We started with a morning briefing with our Tour Manager, Scotty. Our exploration of Beijing began at Tiananmen Square, the largest public plaza in the world, built at the height of the Ming Dynasty. The square's Gate of Heavenly Peace was once used as a staging ground for imperial edicts and by Mao Zedong himself to declare the founding of the People's Republic in 1949. We entered the Forbidden City, once residence of Chinese emperors from the Ming to the Qing dynasties. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a masterpiece of Chinese architecture; its complex consists of 800 buildings with more than 9000 rooms. We stopped for lunch and visit a Pearl Shop. After, we continued outside the city to the fabled Summer Palace, former resort of the Empress Dowager. For dinner: Peking Duck with wine to celebrate our arrival in China.
Saturday - Great Wall of China We Traveled to the 2000-year-old Great Wall of China, one of the most amazing structures ever built by man, spanning nearly 4000 miles of China's northern frontier. En route, stopped at a local jade shop to admire wares crafted with one of China's most famous materials. Then we to climbed the ramparts of this ancient wonder to view beautiful mountain passes, plateaus and grasslands from atop this 7th century defensive fortification. Returned to Beijing via the architectural site built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics; saw the National Stadium and the Olympic Village. Ended the afternoon at the Temple of Heaven, a Ming dynasty complex where emperors held their ritual prayer ceremony, paying homage to heaven.
This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Xian. Upon arrival, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Later this afternoon, trace the beginnings of Chinese civilization at the Shaanxi Provincial History Museum. Opened to the public in 1991, the museum is in southern Xian, and is home to a wealth of historical artifacts and treasures from the Han and Tang dynasties
Monday - Xian Antiquities Tour with Terracotta Army
Morning visit to Xingqing park, center of the city's lively activities, where we joined the residents in their morning exercise, singing and dancing. Afterward, stopped at a lacquer furniture shop to learn more about this ancient technique that is still used today. Lunch at a local restaurant. Then, visited the archaeological site of the magnificent Terracotta Warriors, a vast collection of life-sized soldiers, horses and chariots that were entombed with China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. This world-famous site, discovered by local farmers in 1974, is still being excavated today, more than thirty years since the time of its first unearthing
This morning, traveled to see Chengdu's most famous attraction – panda bears. Due to many factors, including habitat destruction, pandas have become an endangered species. This unique experience allows you to visit the Chengdu Panda Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a facility dedicated to the preservation and protection of the pandas, in addition to educating the public about these majestic animals. Housing more than 80 giant pandas, the center is one of the largest panda breeding facilities in the world. Visit the center's Giant Panda Museum and learn about the conservation effort and the depth of research conducted at the center. After lunch, depart for Leshan. Here you will visit the Leshan Stone Buddha. Approximately 230 feet tall and dating back to 713 AD, this enormous statue is carved out of solid rock right on the cliff face of a mountain, with a river running at its feet. Later, we headed to Mt. Emei, one of the four most sacred Buddhist mountains in China
Today, ascended Mt. Emei, one of the four most sacred Buddhist mountains in China, endowed with towering majestic beauty, as well as mysterious relics associated with Buddhism and Taoism. Traveled by cable car to the Golden Summit, its main peak that seemingly reaches the sky. The first Buddhist temple in China was built in these beautiful surroundings in the 1st century AD. The area is also notable for its exceptionally diverse vegetation, with trees more than 1,000 years old. Relaxed over lunch before returning to Chengdu. Later a visit to pedestrianized Jinli Street, one of the oldest streets in the city's history, once center of Chengdu's thriving embroidery industry. The shops, tea houses and residences, now renovated, are modeled after an ancient architectural style dating back to the Qin Dynasty.
We travel this morning to Chongqing, a major cosmopolitan city and gateway to the Yangtze River. Upon arrival, lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, visit to the Stilwell Museum, dedicated to the General who was Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in the China-Burma-India theater. Stilwell aided the Chinese people and helped them to win the War of Resistance against the Japanese invaders. Later, another lond, unscheduled bus ride and embarkation on the Century Sun to begin the scenic journey on the Yangtze River.
The ship sailed this morning for Shibaozhai, built during the Ming Dynasty and considered one of the most exceptional architectural examples in the world. This vermilion 12-story pagoda stands impressively built into the side of a cliff face, rising almost 100 feet high, and was amazingly constructed without any nails. The tour highlighted the main attraction of the temple, with its traditional Chinese design. The structure is inspired by the mountains with patterns and figures that vary from odd to extraordinary. We climbed the stairs to experience the sights and take time to look at the paintings and sculptures on each level.
Awake this morning to beautiful vistas on the river. The ship travels downstream today through the Qutang Gorge, flanked by lush terraced hillsides, and the 25-mile long Wu Gorge, known for its fabled "Twelve Peaks". According to legend, the peaks are believed to be spirits of 12 fairies, the most famous of them being the Shennu Feng (Goddess) Peak, topped by a huge rock resembling a kneeling maiden. This afternoon's tour takes you on a scenic and relaxing journey up the beautiful Shennv Stream on a small motor boat
Sailed downstream through the Xiling Gorge. The longest section of the Three Gorges system is comprised of the Xietan, Qintan and Kongling rapids, known as the "Three Rapids of Xiling". This morning's excursion visits the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest and most ambitious hydroelectric project ever undertaken by man, nearly six times the size of the Hoover Dam. This project has forever changed the landscape surrounding the Yangze River. Tour the site to see this impressive achievement of engineering. After disembarkation and lunch in Yichang, we flew to cosmopolitan Shanghai, the fastest growing city in Asia, with its dramatic ever-changing skyline.
Next, visited the classical Yuyuan Garden (Garden of Happiness) built during the Ming dynasty. This beautiful and serene sanctuary features pagodas, lakes, and magnificent pavilions. After lunch, stopped at a local silk carpet and embroidery shop to learn more about this ancient Chinese craft and see some of the beautiful creations. Next, visited the Jade Buddha Temple, built during the Qing Dynasty to enshrine two beautiful jade Buddha statues given as a gift from Burma. These precious statues are rare cultural relics carved with sparkling and crystal-clear white jade, giving them an aura of sanctity and purity. Experienced the old world charm of the Bund, as we walk along the park-like waterfront promenade with gorgeous vistas of old and new Shanghai.