8 Day Timeless Beijing (2011-2012)
After a breakfast and a tour briefing, you visit the Tiananmen Square. At 100 acres, it is the world's largest public square, flanked by an assortment of historical buildings, huge museums and Communist monuments, including Mao's Mausoleum. One visitor has written, "An army could be massed, and all the kites in the world could fly." You roam the Square; and walk through the Gate of Heavenly Peace, under the famed portrait of Chairman Mao, to enter the Forbidden City, the symbolic center of the Chinese universe and a lasing monument of dynastic China, from which 24 emperors of the Ming and the Qing Dynasties ruled the Middle Kingdom for nearly 500 years (1420-1911).
"Last Emperor's "Forbidden City"
Visit old Beijing's Hutong on pedi-cabs
Completed in 1420, the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the world's largest palace complex and China's most magnificent imperial architecture, consisting of many buildings with 9,999 rooms, on a 250-acre compound, protected by a 20-foot-wide moat and a 32-foot-high wall. Now known as the Palace Museum, the Forbidden City was the exclusive domain of the imperial court and dignitaries where outside visitors were forbidden for 5 centuries. Here you will explore the imperial treasures in the grand palaces and pavilions, exquisite courtyards and gardens in what was once the residence of China's rulers.
Afterwards, join our Culture InSites™ Program for a rickshaw ride along Old Beijing's Hutongs (narrow ancient alleys) to discover the sights and sounds of local Beijing life in these traditional Chinese neighborhoods. See the locals as they go about their daily activities; and tour the maze-like alleyways and courtyard houses before it's gone forever. Highlights include visits to a traditional courtyard home, to a local market, and a leisure walk along the "Lotus Lane" lined with bars, restaurants and tea houses. This unique tour features a delicious lunch served at a local family home with a Chinese dumpling-making demonstration. (B,SL)
A memorable day awaits! You will take a full day excursion to the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs and the Great Wall of China.
The Great Wall of China
The "Sacred Way" of Ming Tombs
After breakfast, you take a drive to the northwest of Beijing to visit the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs, regarded as China's finest example of imperial tomb architecture. Situated in a peaceful valley, the site was chosen by the Ming emperors as their burial place for its auspicious Fengshui alignment—a ridge of mountains to the north cradles the tombs on three sides, opening to the south and protecting the dead from the evil spirits carried on the north wind. Here you will walk along the elegant Sacred Way that leads to the tombs. Beginning with a grand marble gateway more than 400 years old, the long avenue is lined with 36 massive stone sculptures of officials, lions, elephants, camels and mythical beasts.
After lunch at a local restaurant, you take a scenic drive through the countryside and mountains to reach China's most renowned monument—the Great Wall. The wall was begun in the 5th century BC to keep out foreign invaders. Construction continued for centuries, eventually linking up the walls of the former independent kingdoms. The Great Wall meanders through China's northern mountain ranges from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert—a distance of over 3500 miles! Chairman Mao once said "You haven't walked on the Wall, you haven't been a good Chinese". Today you will have ample time to climb a section of the Great Wall and to get a sense of the enormity of this ancient edifice. (B,L)
In the morning, you visit the Temple of Heaven, the largest temple complexes in China and a paradigm of Chinese architectural balance and symbolism. One key element in China's architectural genius was the blending of the monumental with the delicate, and the Temple of Heaven is perhaps the finest expression of this mixing of near opposite.
"Hall of Supreme Harmony", Temple of Heaven
The "Summer Palace" for Empress Dowager Cixi
During each winter solstice, the Ming and Qing emperors would perform rites and make sacrifices to Heaven praying for good harvest for their empire. The most striking edifice is the "Hall of Prayer of Good Harvests", which according to the emperor's Fengshui masters, is the exact point where heaven and Earth met. Built in 1420 (without the use of a single nail), this masterpiece of Ming architecture, features triple eaves, dramatically carved marble balustrades, and gorgeous glazed azure roof that symbolizes the color of heaven. This 120-foot-high structure is fixed by four inner pillars represent the seasons, and two sets of 12 columns denote the months and the traditional Chinese division of a day.
Later, you take a photo stop at the "Bird Nest" and visit the exterior portion of this huge complex—the main stadium of 2008 Beijing Olympics. In the afternoon, you tour the idyllic Summer Palace, once the summer retreat and playground for the imperial family and royal court during the late Qing Dynasty. Considered the finest Chinese imperial garden, the Summer Palace spans over 700 acres with breathtaking views, temples, pavilions, palaces and halls including the lavishly painted "Long Corridor". It is most associated, however, with the Empress Dowager Cixi who paid for the extravagant Marble Boat with funds meant for the modernization of the Imperial Navy. (B,L)
After breakfast, you are at leisure to explore this vibrant city on your own, or join an optional tour to the Lama Temple, Panda Pavilion at Beijing Zoo, Behai Park, Peking Duck dinner followed by the "Legend of Kungfu" performance.
"Legend of Kungfu" Perfomance
The optional tour starts in the morning with a visit to the Giant Panda at Beijing Zoo. Afterwards, you tour the Lama Temple, the most renowned Tibetan lamasery outside Tibet. Its five main halls are a stylistic blend of Han Chinese, Mongol, and Tibetan motifs. The highlight is encapsulated within the towering Wangfu Pavilion—a vast 55-ft high statue of Maitreya (the Future Buddha), carved from a single block of sandalwood.
After lunch, you tour the idyllic Beihai Park. Located northwest of the Forbidden City, this royal park offers a natural balance to the imperial thoroughfares of the palace with a large lake surrounded by willow trees. Folklore attributes the scooping out of the lake and its subsequent pile of the earth to the great Kublai Khan, who used Beihai as his stomping ground before the Ming dynasty upstaged him with the Forbidden City. Dominating Jade Islet on the lake is the White Dagoba, a Lamaist stupa inaugurated for a visit by the Dalai Lama in the 17th century.
Diner tonight is a specially prepared meal of Beijing Duck, cooked to crispy perfection. Afterwards, you attend an exciting evening performance of "Legend of Kungfu". (B)
Today is a free day for you to explore Beijing on your own with our specially prepared Beijing Orientation List. Your tour guide is standby to assist you with information you may need about Beijing's hidden treasures, eating, playing and shopping. For your convenience, transportation can be arranged as a group at reasonable price.
Beijing's pictureque Dazhalan area
Your hotel is centrally located near the shopping malls, fine restaurants and subway stations.
Beijing's shopping scene has undergone a dramatic change over recent years and slick department stores to co-exist with older retail outlets. Its vast array of retail options range from shopping malls and department stores to specialty stores, boutiques, and antique shops.
Don't miss Beijing's old shopping district and markets. It is a fun to wander through the picturesque Liulichang district browsing through shops that were once frequented by Ming and Qing era intellectuals and which house fine collection of antiques, pottery, books, woodblock prints, paper lanterns, musical instruments and more. Continue to the nearby bustling Dazhalan market for tea or local snacks, and to explore some of the oldest specialty shops in Beijing.
Beiing has long been China's cultural wellspring. The city is currently the nexus of the hottest art scene in Aisa. You may want to visit 798 Art Zone or Dashanzi Art District, it is a part of Dashanzi that houses a thriving artist community, among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. It is often compared with New York's Greenwich Village or SoHo, but faces impending destruction from the forces driving Beijing's urban sprawl.
You may also want to check out Beijing's infamous dirt market, Panjiayuan, where you can find whatever your heart desires from any part of China—from trinkets to treasures, Mao caps to Ming pottery, village handicrafts to Yinxing teapots, fake Rolex to Tibetan trunks...
How about Silk Alley, and Hotpot for dinner, followed by Peking Opera or Acrobatic show...? Flexibility is yours. (B)