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Magnificent China Exploration Tour - 16 Days

Destination: Beijing - Xian - Guilin - Shanghai - Qufu - Tai'an -Beijing
Duration: Sixteen Day
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Transportation: Vehicle & Train & Flight
Best Travel Time:All Year
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This masterfully crafted luxury tour introduces you to China's largest metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai as well as off-the-beaten-path towns of Qufu and Tai'an. In between, you'll visit the Terracotta Army in Xian and the picturesque Guilin whose scenery has inspired Chinese painters and poets generation after generation.Trip highlights include the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Terracotta Army, day cruise on the picturesque Li River, hometown of Confucius, and Sacred Mt. Tai.
Full price of this tour (per person in US$):
Price Price Instruction
US$3980/persons 3980USD/Person

Day 1: Beijing
Welcome to Beijing! Meet your guide on arrival in late afternoon and transfer to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure.


Day 2: Beijing
Capital of China, Beijing is a world-class cultural and educational centre with a population of 21 million (2013), ranking it China's second largest city behind Shanghai. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates, treasures that make it the most popular tourist city in China.

Beijing was already a strategically important city in northern China for centuries when Kublai Khan decided to move his capital here from Karakorum in Mongolia. With the collapse of the vast Mongol empire in 1368 AD, Beijing, known as Da Du or Grand Capital at the time, lost its status as the country's capital but soon regained it when the imperial court of the successive Ming Dynasty moved here from Nanjing. Beijing continued to serve as China's capital after Manchu tribes dethroned the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty in 1644 and established the Great Qing Empire (Qing Dynasty), which lasted till 1911.

Our first stop is the Forbidden City located in the centre of Beijing. Also known as Palace Museum or Gu Gong in Chinese, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties lived and carried out their administration. Construction of the Forbidden City took 14 years (1406-1420) to complete. The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 hectares or 180 acres. It exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

Lunch is at a family restaurant in a hutong neighbourhood. Hutong refers to an ancient alleyway with siheyuan or ''4-sided courtyard house" on both sides. The name hutong dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368 A.D.). According to some experts, the word originated from the Mongolian language, in which it is pronounced as hottog and means "well." In ancient times, people tended to gather and live around wells. So the original meaning of hutong should be "a place where people live around".

Afternoon sightseeing at the Summer Palace, a well preserved UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The imperial resort was first named Garden of Clear Ripples, which was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860 during the Second Opium War (referred to as Arrow War by the British). Reconstruction started 25 years later and was completed in 1895 when the name was changed to Yi He Yuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The design gives prominence to Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, south of the hill. The sprawling complex covers an area of 290 hectares and the buildings inside consist of over 3,000 bays.

Today we enjoy a delicious welcome dinner at one of the top rated Beijing roast duck restaurants. (B/L/D)


Day 3: Beijing
Morning sightseeing takes us to historic Jingshan Park for a panoramic view of the Forbidden City from above. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace in the old days, serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 meters above ground, 89 meters above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird's-eye view of the surrounding area.

We then proceed to Tiananmen Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square is 880 metres from north to south, and 500 meters from east to west. Said to be the biggest of its kind in the world, Tiananmen Square has the capacity to hold one million people. Tiananmen (Heavenly Gate) Tower sites at the north end of the square while the Monument to the People's Heroes dominates the centre. The square is flanked by The Great Hall of the People (west) and the National Museum of China (east). Chairman Mao's mausoleum and Qianmen (Front Gate) sit in the south of the square. Considered one of the top 16 tourist attractions in Beijing, Tiananmen Square is also the witness of the Chinese people's great struggles for democracy and personal freedom since 1919.

Afternoon sightseeing at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated in southeastern Beijing the Temple of Heaven is China's largest extant sacrificial temple where, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the emperors conducted the elaborate and most exalted sacrifices addressed to "the Supreme Ruler of the Universe." Construction of the temple started in 1406, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, and took 14 years to complete. The temple was expanded under the Qing emperors Qianlong (1736-1796) and Jiaqing (1796-1820). Occupying 2.73 square kilometres (roughly 1,700 by 1,600 metres), the area of the Temple of Heaven is more than twice that of the Forbidden City.

The famous Hongqiao Pearl Market, the largest of its kind in the world, sits right across from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in various guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by the Chinese. If you are interested, please ask the guide to drop you off there. However, you'll need to get back to the hotel by taxi, which costs about 50 yuan or $8. (B/L)


Day 4: Beijing
Today we embark on a full-day excursion to the legendary Great Wall at Mutianyu, 75km northeast of the city. Zigzagging over 6,000 kilometres from east to west along the undulating mountains, the Great Wall was built to hold off tribal invaders from the north. Construction of the earliest sections of the Wall started in the 7th century B.C. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 and took 200 years to complete. The wall we see today in Beijing is almost exactly the result of this effort. (B/L/D)


Day 5: Beijing - Xian
Free morning to relax or explore on your own. We board the new high-speed train for Xian following a light lunch. The four-hour-forty-minute rail journey cuts through fertile farmland dotted with villages, providing the visitor an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful landscape. The track we travel on is part of the new 2,298 km high-speed railway connecting Beijing and Guangzhou, the longest high-speed rail line in the world. The Chinese for the past 20 years have been on a building spree expanding the country's rail network and upgrading existing railways. This new rail service rivals France's TGV and Japan's "shinkansen" in terms of speed, comfort, cleanliness and onboard facilities. (B/L/D)


Day 6: Xian
Eastern terminus of the fabled Silk Road and one of the ancient capitals of China, Xian is home to the world famous Terracotta Army.

Morning visit to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Built on the excavation site, the museum is located 30km east of the city. Designed to follow the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) into eternity, the Terracotta Army represents one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the 20th Century.

After lunch we return to the city for a stroll (or bicycle ride if you are up to the challenge) on the ancient city wall. The wall, declared national treasure by the State Council in 1961 under the premiership of Zhou Enlai, was started in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, encircling an area of 14 square kilometres. The wall runs 13.7 kilometres long and measures 12 metres in height and 15 to 18 metres in thickness at the base.

Tonight we enjoy a spectacular music and dance show reminiscent of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), a period generally considered a golden era of the Chinese civilization. Depending on the season, the theatre could substitute the show with one re-enacting the life of Emperor Qin Shi Huang - the first emperor who unified China. (B/L/D)


Day 7: Xian
Morning sightseeing begins with Shaanxi Provincial Museum. The modern, well-organized museum was completed in 1992 and traces the history of Xian from prehistory to Qing dynasty (1644-1911). The extensive galleries and exhibitions offer the visitor an excellent introduction to the area that greatly improves understanding of the numerous historical sites in and around the city.

We then visit the ancient grand mosque in the old town centre and the adjacent Muslim bazaar. The mosque was established in the 8th Century but the majority of the complex was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It was further expanded in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, this mosque is completely Chinese in its architectural style. It has neither domes nor traditional style minarets. (B/L)


Day 8: Xian - Guilin
Free morning to explore on your own. We recommend Bell Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. You can reach both by Subway Line 2, which has a stop right next door to our hotel. Bell Tower is 3 stops away (8 minutes). The pagoda is 7 stops away plus a short taxi ride at the other end which costs about 15 Yuan (less than $3).

After a light lunch featuring authentic local cuisine, we drive one hour to the city of Xianyang, where the airport is located, to visit one of the highlights of the trip - Han Yang Ling Mausoleum. This is the site of the joint tomb of Emperor Jingdi (188 BC - 141 BC), the fourth emperor of the Western Han Dynasty, and his Empress Wang. Objects unearthed from the 200 odd burial pits are on display and they include armored warrior figures with weapons, elegant palace maids with Han costumes, and countless animals with vivid expressions. The Han Yang Ling Mausoleum, which shows no sign of ever being robbed, serves as tangible evidence in the research of burial customs and civilization of the Han Dynasty.

Late afternoon flight to Guilin. A small city by Chinese standard, Guilin has long been renowned for its unique scenery. The name Guilin literally means "forest of sweet osmanthus", owing to the large number of fragrant sweet osmanthus trees in the city. (B/L)


Day 9: Guilin (Li River cruise) 
We begin today with a five-hour cruise down the Li River. The 83km stretch of the river between Guilin and Yangshuo affords breathtaking scenery as the river snakes through tall karst mountains, gigantic bamboo sprays, and picturesque villages -- sights that have inspired countless poets and painters for generations.

We disembark in Yangshuo after lunch and drive back to Guilin. We stop by a village en route. (B/L)


Day 10: Guilin
Morning at leisure. A walk along the Li River in front of the hotel is a wonderful way to soak in the beauty and tranquility of this lovely city.

We gather in the lobby in mid-afternoon to set out for the Reed Flute Cave. Created by an underground river more than half a million years ago, Reed Flute Cave, which served as an air raid shelter during World War II, is a karst cavern of stalactites and stalagmites. Resembling the set of a science fiction movie, the cave is bathed in artificial purple-blue light.

On the way back to the hotel we'll climb the scenic Fubo Hill (63 metres). Those not interested can be driven back to the hotel, which is only 2 kilometres away. (B/D)

Optional Longji Excursion
You may forgo all of the above activities and choose this physically challenging excursion instead. Located about 80km (2 hours drive) from Guilin, Longji is famous for its terraced rice fields. Built by the local farmers of different ethnic groups from Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the fields spread 500 meters from the foot of Mount Longji to the mountaintop covering an area of 66 square kilometres.

The scenery is at its best in early May (planting) and late September (prior to harvesting). There's not much to look at between mid-October and late April. During the summer, the hike up the hill in high heat and humidity can be too much to bear for many.

Price will be confirmed once we find out how many would be interested. The cost including lunch can be anywhere between $55 and $120 per person depending on the number of participants.  At Laurus Travel's discretion, the excursion may not be offered. The tour price does not include this because the excursion is too seasonal and it's not suitable for all travellers.


Day 11: Guilin - Shanghai
Morning flight to Shanghai. Before 1949, Shanghai was widely known in the West as a city of quick riches and paradise of the adventurers. After four decades of anemic growth in a state planned economy, Shanghai is roaring back to recapture its position on the world stage. With a population of 23 million and rapid economic expansion in the last 20 years, Shanghai has again become a leading global city with significant influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology and transport.

Our sightseeing this afternoon begins with a visit to Jade Buddha Temple, followed by a walk on the Bund - a waterfront promenade famous for its landmark neoclassical buildings of European style. (B/L/D)


Day 12:  Shanghai
Today's schedule takes in Shanghai Museum, Yu Garden in the old town centre, and a walking tour of French Concession (extra-jurisdictional territory from 1849 to 1946). Evening entertainment is a dazzling acrobatic show. (B/L/D)


Day 13: Shanghai
Today is a free day to explore on your own. Our recommendations include Jinmao Tower and the popular evening cruise on Huangpu River to enjoy the city's spectacular neon-lit skyline. The new bullet train system has made it possible to explore a number of popular tourist destinations near Shanghai, such as Hangzhou and Nanjing, without overnight stay. If you need assistance on this, please ask your guide. (B)


Day 14: Shanghai - Qufu
After breakfast we ride the bullet train to Qufu, hometown of Confucius, arriving in three hours. Confucianism, the collective term for the sage's philosophy and teachings, has played and continues to play a vital role in the evolution of the Chinese civilization. To some extent, Confucianism defines the soul of China as a nation, at least for the Han Chinese who make up 92% of the population.

We visit the mansion inhabited by Confucius' descendants (now a museum), the sage's last resting place at Confucius Forest, and finally the massive Confucius Temple which features a series of impressive gateways, clusters of twisted pines and cypresses, inscribed steles and tortoise tablets recording ancient events. The temple, cemetery and the residence together form the UNESCO World Heritage Site. (B/L)


Day 15: Qufu - Tai'an - Beijing 
Following a leisurely breakfast, we drive 100km to Tai'an, the city at the foot of historic Mt Tai, the most revered of the five sacred Taoist mountains of China. Since the dawn of Chinese history, Mt Tai has been a great source of inspiration for poets, writers and painters. In 1987, the UNESCO designated Mt. Tai a World Natural and Cultural Heritage Site. We ride the cable car to midpoint and then walk for about an hour to the summit for a rewarding view of the surrounding countryside. Please be forewarned that the hour-long walk includes strenuous stair climbing. The energetic may choose to skip the cable car and conquer the entire 6000 steps on foot. The climb can be hard work but the central route's bewildering catalogue of bridges, trees, towers, statues, inscribed stones, caves, pavilions and temples combine to take your mind off your aching calves.

The bullet train ride to Beijing after dinner takes 2 hours. (B/L/D)


Day 16: Beijing - Home City
Spend the morning packing and relaxing. Transfer to the airport to board return flight departing in the afternoon. Re-cross the International Date Line and arrive home the same day. (B)


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