Upon arrival, you will be met by your national guide and transferred to your elegant five-star accommodations centrally located in the Wang Fu Jing Shopping District, within walking distance of the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the new Chang Pu He Park. Its design is a perfect blend of modern fashion elements and traditional oriental charm. Spacious rooms have amenities including LCD TV, marble bathroom, hairdryer, coffee-tea making facilities, mini-bar and complimentary Wi-Fi. There are several restaurants offering authentic Chinese as well as western cuisine and there is an indoor/outdoor roof terrace bar offering dazzling panoramic views of the city and live music. The relaxing spa offers a selection of pampering treatments for the body and soul. Overnight at NEW WORLD BEIJING HOTEL.
Tiananmen Square faces the main entrance to the Imperial Palace Grounds, also known as the Forbidden City. Tour these grounds occupied from the Mid-Ming dynasty through the Qing dynasty by 24 emperors. The last emperor of China, Pu Yi, abdicated in 1912 and now the Forbidden City houses a wealth of rare treasures and antiquities. Art abounds throughout on ceilings and walls with numerous galleries displaying bronzes, porcelains, crafts, paintings, calligraphies, jewelry and clocks.
Construction began on The Forbidden City in 1406 and ended 14 years later. Surrounded by a 20-foot deep moat adorned with illuminated fountains and encased behind a 33-foot high wall designed to withstand cannon attack, its 188-acres of grounds are home to 800 buildings comprised of 9,999 rooms. Yellow is the symbol of the royal family and dominates throughout from the glazed roof tiles, palace decorations and the bricks used to pave the grounds. One noticeable deviation from the color scheme is the royal library’s black roof, believed to represent water that would extinguish a fire. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1987, it is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. Divided into two sections, the Northern Section (Inner Court) was where the emperor would work and live with his family and maid-servants. The Southern Section (Outer Court) was where the emperor exercised his command and rule over the country. The largest wooden structure in China and most magnificent hall is located here – the Hall of Supreme Harmony, where enthronement and wedding ceremonies took place. Within this elaborate complex of buildings, halls, palaces and pavilions, you will find a small oasis of relaxation at the Imperial Garden. The imperial family would come here to unwind along footpaths paved in a mosaic pattern created from small stones that meander among the exquisite beauty of flowers, ancient trees and springs.
This afternoon, travel to the southern part of Beijing to see China’s largest existing complex of ancient sacrificial buildings – the Temple of Heaven. Built in 1420 on a central axis, its sparkling white marble buildings and altars cover 667 acres. Emperors would come to the Temple of Heaven to worship and offer sacrifices to Heaven. The principle buildings are the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests, Imperial Vault of Heaven and Circular Mound Altar. Inside the buildings, you will be astounded at the breathtaking beauty of the intricate and detailed paintings that adorn the walls and pillars. Interesting architectural touches enhance the mysterious atmosphere of the Temple, such as the Three Echo Stones just outside the Imperial Vault. Stand on the first step entering the Vault and speak, you will hear one echo. Stand on the second step and you will hear two echoes! Also, if you and a friend stand at each end of the wall enclosing the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and whisper to each other, the wall will act as a conduit for your voice, just like a telephone. Overnight at NEW WORLD BEIJING HOTEL.
Surrounding the Forbidden City are several thousand ancient city alleys, built over 800 years ago beginning in the Yuan dynasty and continuing through the Ming and Qing dynasties. They are called hutongs and each emperor would establish their hutongs based on etiquette and class. The imperial kinsmen and aristocrats occupied hutongs near the Forbidden City, while merchants and other ordinary people were relegated to hutongs farther north and south of the palace. The hutong was designed around a quadrangle building with an inner courtyard. Today, many of the ancient hutongs have been destroyed to make room for modern residential buildings. However, those that still exist will give you an interesting look into the life of a Beijing resident as you tour via pedicab with stops at the Drum Tower and even a kindergarten. A brief stroll through the hutongs concludes with a visit to one of the local families here. Overnight at NEW WORLD BEIJING HOTEL.
Upon arrival you’ll be met and begin your sightseeing with a visit to Yangling Museum. The museum opened in 1999 and features recent archeological discoveries from Han dynasty tombs. This small museum represents the culmination of nearly 10 years of excavation work on the area around the tomb of the Han emperor, Jing Di (died 141 B.C.). While the actual imperial tomb of the emperor and chief consort has yet to be opened archeologists have excavated more than 20 “satellite tombs” which have yielded a treasure trove of exquisite funerary pieces. The finest of these pieces are on view and attest to the artistic elegance of the Han period. After centuries of civil unrest and war, the Han ushered in a prolonged period of relative peace and growing prosperity. Art, with court sanction, flourished and took root through the empire. Archeologists have only to look into the catalogue of Han funerary finds to provide evidence of this artistic renaissance.
Continue to the outskirts of the city to for a stroll along the top of its City Wall, which has protected Xian since the Tang dynasty (618-907), built with layers of dirt, lime and glutinous rice extract. It was enlarged to its present size with bricks, four gates, 5,984 arrowshooting holes and 98 guard towers by the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, to become one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Standing 40 feet high and almost nine miles long, this incredible structure has been preserved intact, and includes a deep moat for additional fortification. It is one of most important landmarks of the city.
Afterwards you’ll be transferred to your 5-star accommodations ideally situated within the ancient walls of historic Xian and within walking distance of nightlife, entertainment and shopping. Your luxury hotel incorporates several heritage buildings of historic importance and features 432 elegantly appointed rooms, four restaurants, two bars, fitness center, indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. Overnight at SOFITEL RENMIN SQUARE XIAN HOTEL.
All of the life-size warriors and horses were made of local clay and weigh from 242 pounds to 660 pounds, with an average height of almost six feet. Their construction was an indepth, multi-step process, and some experts believe real soldiers served as models, due to the different features each one exhibits. After each statue was finished, the craftsmen inscribed their names on the back of the robe, legs or armor, and over 80 of their names have been discovered.
This afternoon, visit a stunning, yet simple architectural marvel from the Tang Dynasty. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is a brick creation, constructed without the use of cement or mortar. Originally a five-story structure commissioned by the Buddhist translator and traveler, Xuanzang, to store his collection of Buddhist sutras and figurines, it was increased to 10 stories in the 8th century. Through the ages, warring factions reduced it to its current well-preserved seven stories and you can climb the stairs to the top of this designated National Key Cultural Relic, for a panoramic view of Xian. This holy place for Buddhists houses artistic treasures from the Tang Dynasty, including walls engraved with statues of Buddha by the renowned, ancient artist, Yan Liben. Soaring high into the sky in front of the temple is a statue of Xuanzang, the Buddhist master, and inside the temple to the east, is the Bell Tower, which houses a 15-ton iron bell molded during the Ming Dynasty. The scenery around the temple and pagoda is composed of waterscape fountains, musical fountains, gardens and paths that add to the tranquil atmosphere of Buddhist trappings and Tang Dynasty culture. Next take a walk through Xian’s Muslim Quarter en route to the mosque. The Great Mosque, one of the most interesting sites in a city known for its rich history. While the Buddhist traditions of Chinese culture are well known to most visitors, the influence exerted by Islam is not. Yet, of the religious beliefs within China today, no one can claim the strength of belief that Islam does. Enjoy your evening at leisure. Overnight at SOFITEL RENMIN SQUARE XIAN HOTEL
Upon arrival transfer to the pier to board your deluxe M.S. Yangzi Explorer Cruise Ship and settle into your comfortable cabin to begin your memorable cruise downstream. Carrying no more than 124 guests with a crew of 130, Yangzi Explorer boasts the highest ship staff-to-guest ratio on the river. Her staterooms set a new standard in spaciousness and elegance; all feature a mini bar, bathrobes and slippers, telephone, private safety box, television, hair dryer, and a private balcony to gaze at the passing Yangtze River landscapes. The ship will set sail on its downstream course trough the Three Gorges region. The total length of this cruise is 402 miles and is considered by most Chinese to represent the single most scenic area in all of China. Dining onboard is a delight with a team of internationally trained chefs delivering innovative a la carte menus featuring the finest of Chinese and continental cuisine served with complimentary house wines and other refreshments at lunch and dinner. Enjoy the exhilarating shore excursions that highlight the beauty and heritage of the area while relaxing on board the only international deluxe ship sailing the Yangzi today.
Tonight you are invited to watch a documentary film of the Three Gorges Dam Project showing in Tang Theater. Overnight aboard the M.S. YANGZI EXPLORER.
Following lunch disembark and head to Fengdu, a charming river village noted for its elaborate temples and bustling market. Mingle with the locals and gain a deeper understanding of the history and culture as you walk the streets of one of China’s most remote communities. Back on the Explorer you may participate in several sessions teaching various forms of Chinese art and cuisine.
Tonight meet the Yangzi Explorer’s Captain and crew at the Captain’s reception. Overnight aboard the M.S. YANGZI EXPLORER.
DAY 9 - SATURDAY YANGZI RIVER CRUISE: QUATANG GORGE/WU GORGE/ CRUISING SHENNONG STREAM /XILING GORGE
Continue passing through wondrous Wu Gorge, home of the twelve peaks of the Wu Mountains, experience a meandering landscape of dazzling peaks and rocks, forming a whimsical gallery of natural beauty. The cliff faces rise so sharply that legend relates that the “sun rarely penetrates the river”. Along the Wu Gorge, there are twelve peaks on each bank. These are the most prominent aspects of the scenery of Wu Gorge. Many legends relate to the twelve peaks. Among the twelve, the Goddess Peak is the highest and most notable. As it is the first peak to welcome the sun’s glow and says farewell to its afterglow, it is also called Wangxia Peak (Looking at the Sunglow peak). There are some popular legends relating to it that are worth knowing.
Disembark from the ship at Badong and transfer to a local longboat poled by Tujia boatmen. Immerse yourself in unrivaled crystalline waters, rich forest and towering rock formations and catch a glimpse at several species of endangered flora and fauna including the elusive Golden Hair Monkey and many varieties of medicinal plants.
Starting from Xiangxi (Fragrant Stream) Kou of Zigui County in the west and ending at Nanjin Pass in the east, Xiling Gorge, zigzagging about 49 miles, is the longest gorge among the three gorges of the Yangtze River. Because of numerous reefs and odd-shaped stones existing in rapid shoals, the gorge is also well known for its danger. Besides the natural landscape, some historic landmarks including the Huangling Temple and Three Travelers’ Cave (Sanyou Dong) are also worth visiting. Scenery along the Xiling Gorge is spectacular.
Tonight enjoy a proper Chinese banquet feast and participate by dressing up along with the crew. Overnight aboard the M.S. YANGZI EXPLORER.
Disembark this afternoon and transfer to the airport for your flight to Shanghai, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Shanghai is a bustling, prosperous city of 18 million residents, and the largest economic and trade center in China. Originally a seaside fishing village, it is now a multi-cultural metropolis with modern and traditional Chinese features co-existing side-by-side.
Your home for the next three nights is the Fairmont Peace Hotel, conveniently located at the famous Bund promenade and the unrivaled shopping area on Nanjing Road. It is a luxurious Art-Deco masterpiece brilliantly reinvented for the 21st century where old fashioned glamour sparkles with new luster. While keeping with the traditions intact, such as the opulence of the signature Chinese restaurant, Dragon Phoenix and the esteemed Jazz Bar, Shanghai’s premier destination for jazz, the legendary hotel’s new contemporary spirit is felt in the elegant Cathay Room and Terrace with spectacular views of Pudong, the refined Jasmine Lounge as well as the Parisian style Victor’s Café. The hotel has an awardingwinning spa, fitness center and swimming pool. Comfortable rooms offer amenities including WiFi access, 37-inch plasma television, in-room safe, mini-bar, coffee/tea-making facilities and hairdryer. Overnight at FAIRMONT PEACE HOTEL SHANGHAI.
This afternoon, enjoy a tour of the French Concession, the district ceded to the French following the Sino-British Opium War in 1842. Many of Shanghai’s most beautiful residences were created in the French Concession when Shanghai was known as the “Venice of the East” – which today exemplify Shanghai’s exotic blend of old and new, of east and west. Recall the days of old as you admire the historic houses on either side of charming tree-lined streets.
Next proceed to the river promenade for a stroll along the west bank of the Huangpu River. The Bund (derived from an Anglo-Indian name meaning quay or embankment) is an ideal location to admire the historic banks and trading houses which parallel the river. These colonial style buildings grew in conjunction with the cargo and freighters that would arrive here in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
This evening, enjoy a dazzling display of spectacular agility as you attend a Chinese Acrobatic Show including round trip transfers. Overnight at FAIRMONT PEACE HOTEL SHANGHAI.
With natural scenery of little bridges spanning bubbling streams, the ancient river town of Zhujiajiao is built on top of crisscrossing waterways flowing from Dianshan Lake. The town, occupying an area of 47 square kilometers, has a simple and elegant Ming and Qing Dynasty architecture that is quintessentially southern Chinese. Nine long streets run along the rivers and a thousand buildings flank both sides. The quiet streets, paved with stone slabs, secluded alleyways and arched stone bridges all express the beauty of the water, said to be the soul of the town.
This afternoon enjoy a tour of the Shanghai Museum to view the eleven galleries and three exhibition halls of ancient Chinese art. The Shanghai Museum is located in the center of the city in People’s Square. A specialty of the museum is its ancient ceramics collection, consisting of over 500 pieces of artwork from various dynasties, including painted and gray pottery from the Neolithic age, primitive celadon from the Shang, Zhou and Warring States, mature celadon from the East Han Dynasty, tri-colored glazed pottery from the Tang Dynasty, and blue, white and black glazed porcelain from the Song, Jin and Liao Dynasties.
Continue to the amazing Urban Planning Museum and I-max movie that contains an incredibly accurate model of the city in a couple of decades, complete with every tiny little detail and every single building. The model is huge and incredible. See the informative film “Contemporary Shanghai” which provides participants with an “orientation” on the city – its layout, population, development, etc. A visit to this museum is an in depth introduction to Shanghai helpful to both firsttime and repeat visitors to the city – with its rapid rate of development Shanghai is a city that is in constant flux. Overnight at FAIRMONT PEACE HOTEL SHANGHAI.
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