"Heavenly" China: A journey to the birthplace of China
China Tour where you visit the most important places of ChinaMap
A Trip to China: A bit of History
The history of China is as varied as the country itself. The tangible history began about 4000 years ago with the Xia dynasty (2205 BC - 1766 BC), succeeded by the dynasties Shang (1766 BC - 1122 BC) and Zhou (1122 BC - 221 BC). The great philosophers Confucius and Laozi lived in the second half of the Zhou dynasty, and the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, who became later Buddha, dates back to this time. Almost at the same time Sun Tzu wrote the famous thesis "The Art of War" and on the other side of the globe the Greek philosopher Socrates, Plato and Aristotle wrote their works.
In the history of China, the Qin dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC) is of particular importance. Qin Shi Huang, which translated means as much as "the first emperor of Qin" was the first one to succeed uniting China into a single Empire. Under his rule a part of the Great Wall was built, currency, weights and measures were standardized, and a uniform writing for the entire empire was created, whose main features are still used today in a simplified form. Even the oxcarts had a standardized wheel track. Although Qin Shi Huang himself only reigned for 11 years, he is considered to be the founder of China. His tomb near Xi'An is still unopened, but during excavations close to the grave site the famous Terracotta Warriors, which should protect Qin Shi Huang on his way to the afterworld, were found.
Journey to Beijing - Capital of China
Your journey to China begins in Beijing, the capital of China. The history of Beijing dates back more than 3000 years. At that time, Beijing was mentioned as a trading post in the north of today's China for the first time. Prior to the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang, Beijing was temporarily the capital of the old Kingdoms "Ji" and "Yan".
For the first time in its history, Beijing became the political capital of a great dynasty in 1153. At that time, the Jin emperor Wanyan Liang relocated his capital from Shangjing to Yanjing, the modern Beijing. The city Yanjing was renamed to Zhongdu, which translated means "Central Capital".
In 1215, Genghis Khan’s Mongolian army completely destroyed the city of Beijing. Interestingly, this was also the beginning of a transformation from Beijing into a powerful national capital. The construction of Dadu, the modern Beijing, began under Kublai Khan in 1267 and the first palace was completed in the next year. The entire palace complex was completed between 1274 and 1285.
Kublai Khan proclaimed the Mongolian Yuan dynasty in 1271, which lasted until 1368. When Mongolian armies defeated the last Song dynasties in southern China in 1279, Beijing became for the first time, the capital of a united China under Mongolian sovereignty. The city had 24 m thick city walls of rammed earth with 11 city gates. The place, where the Drum Tower is located nowadays, marked the geographical center of Dadu, the modern Beijing. Also Dadu was already built on a north-south axis, according to which the Forbidden City was later aligned.
With the take-over of the succeeding Ming dynasty in 1386, the city received the name Beiping, which translated means as much as "Northern Peace". However, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty chose the further south located city of Nanjing in Jiangsu Province as capital. The palaces of the Yuan dynasty were razed to the ground and Beijing was reconstructed into a military fortress.
Only under emperor Yongle (1403 - 1424), the imperial court moved back to Beijing. During the reign of Yongle, magnificent buildings were created such as, the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. The voyages of admiral Zheng He, the famous sailor, also date back to this time. Already at the beginning of the 15th Century, his junks reached ports in India, Africa, and possibly even America and Europe.
In 1629, Li Zicheng started a peasant uprising in the north-west of China and conquered Beijing 15 years later, in March of 1644. The then emperor Chongzhen committed suicide, by hanging himself from a tree in the Jingshan park north of the Forbidden City. Li declared himself emperor of the Shun dynasty, however was shortly thereafter defeated by Ming general Wu Sangui and the Manchurian prince, prince Dorgon. At the same time, the abdication of Li Zicheng signifies the beginning of the Manchurian Qing dynasty.
During the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Beijing was the venue of numerous uprisings and rebellions, however, remained the capital of China until the end of the Qing dynasty.
China Journey to Beijing
When travelling to China you should plan several days for Beijing. Beijing is a modern and dynamic city where you can easily get around thanks to modern public transport.
Most streets in the center of Beijing are laid out in a square pattern, which makes orientation quite easy.
The center of Beijing is the Forbidden City with the Tiananmen Square in front.
To the west of Tiananmen Square is the Great Hall of the People, where about 3000 members of the National People's Congress meet once a year.
Not far from the People's Hall is the Marble Mausoleum, where the body of former President Mao is on display. But if you want to see Mao, you have to reckon with long queues.
Journey to Beijing: The Forbidden City and Tian An Men
The Forbidden City should absolutely be part of a journey to China. Because of the enormous size and vast extent you should plan at least half a day for the visit. The Forbidden City was built during the Ming dynasty under the Reign of emperor Yongle from 1406 to 1420.
The Forbidden City includes the former imperial palace, which served as a home for 24 emperors over a period of almost 500 years. More than 9000 chambers and rooms are located with the Forbidden City, which is separated by a wall from the rest of the city. Until the abdication of the last emperor of China, Pu Yi, the vast empire China was ruled from the Forbidden City.
The striking Mid-Day Gate (Wumen) is the largest and most impressive of all gates and was only reserved for the emperor. In October 1949, Mao announced the establishment of the People's Republic of China from the Mid-Day Gate Balustrade. The name Forbidden City refers to the fact that normal mortals and people, who did not serve at the Imperial court, were forbidden to enter the Forbidden City until the early 1950s.
Especially worthwhile is a visit to the nearby Clock Museum in the Forbidden City with an interesting collection of antique clocks, which over decades were presented by foreign emissaries as a gift to the Emperors.
Travel to Luoyang and the famous Longmen Buddhist Grottoes
The city of Luoyang is located in western Henan province and is one of the six old cities in China. The earliest traces date back to the Shang dynasty of the bronze age, but the first real development seems to be a walled city with the name Chengzhou built in 1000 BC by the Zhou. In 25 AD, Luoyang was declared the capital of the Eastern Han dynasty by emperor Guangwu of Han. For several centuries, Luoyang was the focal point of China.
Luoyang’s trade and communication with the West on the Silk Road quickly developed. The Buddhism reached the city in 68 AD. In this year, the "White Horse Temple", one of the first Buddhist temples in China, was founded in Luoyang.
After the plundering of the city in 190 AD, the capital was relocated briefly to Xi’An, until, after a short period of revolts, the Capital was moved back to Luoyang by emperor Wen of the Wei dynasty.
The succeeding Jin dynasty (265 - 420) also used Luoyang as its capital. However, the Jin was overrun by Xiongnu forces in 311 AD and the capital was relocated to Jiankang, the modern day Nanjing. During this uprising, Luoyang was almost completely destroyed.
During the Northern Wei dynasty (493 - 543), Luoyang once again received the honor of being the capital for 50 years and flourished under emperor Xiao Wendi. During this time, the construction of the remarkable Longmen Buddhist Grottoes started. At the same time, the Shaolin temple was built on the nearby Mount Song.
The last prosperity period came during the Sui dynasty and the Tang dynasty, when Luoyang emerged as capital three more times for a short period of time. According to written records, Luoyang was at that time the second largest city in the world after Xi'an. While traveling to Luoyang a visit to the old town and the Longmen Buddhist Grottoes should not be left out.
Journey to China: The City of Luoyang, Shaolin Monastery, Longmen Grottoes und Baima Temple
The 6 million city Luoyang is located in the Henan province at the confluence of the Yellow River and the Luo River. The main attractions of Luoyang are without any doubt the Buddhist Longmen Grottoes from the 5th Century. The Longmen Grottoes are located 13 km south of the city center and are on the UNESCO list World Heritage Sites. For the Longmen Grottoes, you should definitely plan half a day.
70 km east of Luoyang, you find Mount Song with the famous Shaolin Temple. The original Shaolin temple dates back to 495, but over the centuries it has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times.
A visit to the Shaolin temple should be combined with a hike in the nearby Sanhuazhai nature reserve. Who wants to test his/her fitness can hike up to the Sanhuazhai temple, which can be done in 4 hours. If that seems too strenuous, you can also take a partial ride with the cable car and walk the rest.
The Baima temple on the eastern outskirts of Luoyang is also worth a visit. The Baima temple (translated: White Horse temple) was originally built in the 1st Century and was one of the first Buddhist temples in China. The present construction is particularly impressive with its ancient buildings and its devotional ambience.
From Beijing, the city of Luoyang can be reached with the express train in about 4 hours.
"...the journey was impressive. Especially we would like to mention the achievements of our guide Li. His German is excellent and he shared his great knowledge with us during the whole trip..... We definitely will come back to China to get to know another corner of this fascinating country..."
Marlies M. from Switzerland
"...especially we have appreciated to have found with you a trustworthy and honest agency on site..."
Sven P. from Germany
Day 1: YOUR CHINA JOURNEY STARTS WITH A CITY TOUR OF BEIJING
Drive to Tiananmen Square. The historic square is the center of Beijing and surrounded by the "Great Hall of the People", the National Museum and the giant Wumen-gate.
Then visit the Forbidden City, which joins the Tiananmen Square to the north. The Forbidden City served as residence for 24 Emperors over a period of 500 years. It was built between 1405 and 1420 and covers an area of over 720’000 square meters. Since 1987 the Forbidden City stands on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
After that you pay a visit to the Summer Palace. Built in 1750 the Summer Palace served as summer residence for the emperors and their families during the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911) and was also the refuge from the unbearable heat of the city.
Continue to Temple of Heaven which was constructed in 1421 together with the Forbidden City. The complex was visited by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to heaven for good harvest.
Drive back to your hotel.
Day 2: TRAVEL FROM BEIJING TO JIANKOU - GUBEIKOU HIKING THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
Travel northeast to the Great Wall near Jiankou. This section of the wall is still quite original and very few tourist visit this part of the Great Wall. The Jiankou part of the wall was built around 1368 and is, from a scenic point of view, one of the most impressive parts of the Great Wall.
With a total length of 6’300 km the Great Wall is one of the largest structures ever built by mankind. The Great Wall served as a protection from invading nomadic tribes from the north but also played an important role as a transportation route along the Silk Road.
The first part of the hike on the Great Wall takes place on the original, non-restored parts of the wall before you reach the renovated part near Mutianyu.
Once you reach the Zhenbeilou Tower you will be rewarded with magnificent views over the Jiankou section of the Great Wall and the surrounding mountainous terrain.
You continue hiking until Mutianyu, where you head down into the valley. Continue by local transport to the village of Gubeikou.
Stay overnight in a simple Guesthouse near the Great Wall of China.
Day 3: CHINA TOUR: GUBEIKOU GREAT WALL - JINSHANLING GREAT WALL HIKE TO SIMATAI
A short drive brings you to Jinshanling, the starting point of today’s hike to Simatai. This section of the Great Wall of China offers arguably the finest hiking anywhere on the Great Wall.
If you leave Gubeikou early, then you have this section of the Great Wall almost to yourself. In addition, the morning light is ideal for taking pictures.
From Jinshanling it is a 3 hours scenic hike to the Kylin tower.
With its 15 watchtowers in various forms, this section is undoubtedly the most beautiful section of a walk along the Great Wall. The constantly changing perspectives always result in new photo opportunities.
At Kylin Tower, you descend from the Great Wall.
Your driver will drive you back to Beijing.
Day 4: FROM BEIJING TRAVEL BY HIGHSPEED TRAIN TO LUOYANG - VISIT LONGMEN BUDDHIST GROTTOES
Travel by modern highspeed train to Luoyang in about 4 hours. Luoyang was founded in the 11th century BC and was originally called Chengzhou. Luoyang became a capital for the first time in 771 BC during the Zhou Dynasty.
Luoyang then rose again to become the capital under the later Han emperors (25 - 225 AD) during that time trade and communication with the West on the Silk Road developed rapidly.
During the Wei dynasty, Luoyang was once again used as the capital for 50 years (493 - 543). During this time, work began on the remarkable Longmen Grottoes and also the Shaolin Monastery came into existence.
In the afternoon you visit the famous Longmen Grottoes. The rock carvings of Longmen came into being between the 5th and 8th century BC and are protected by the UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Located on both sides of the Yi river to the south of the ancient capital of Luoyang, the Longmen grottoes comprise more than 2,300 caves and niches carved into the steep limestone cliffs over a 1km long stretch.
Drive back to Luoyang for your overnight accommodation.
Day 5: LUOYANG - SHAOLIN MONASTERY - SONGSHAN MOUNTAIN - TRAVEL BACK TO LUOYANG
Travel to the Songshan mountains east of Luoyang. You visit the famous Shaolin monastery. The original Shaolin monastery was built in the year 495, but was destroyed over the years multiple times and every time was reconstructed.
According to the legend, the Indian monk Kodhidharma, the founder and first patriarch of Zen-("Chan") Buddhism came to the Shaolin monastery in 527 in order to teach the basics of what we know today as "Shaolin" martial arts.
You take a walk around the monastery. During a 30 Minutes presentation you get a good and close up impression about the stunning martial arts skills of these Shaolin monks.
In the afternoon, take an approximately 1-hour hike in Sanhuangzhai Nature Reserve in the scenic western part of the Songshan mountains. Then return to Luoyang. Visit Luoyang old town.
Overnight accommodation in Luoyang.
Day 6: TRAVEL FROM LUOYANG TO XI’AN - BICYCLE TOUR ON THE CITY WALL OF XI'AN
In the morning transfer to Luoyang railway station where you board the highspeed train to Xi’An. In about 2 hours you reach Xi’An.
The city of Xi'An is the capital of Shaanxi province and is regarded as the first capital of the empire of China under the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Called Chang’An in ancient times, the imperial city of Xi’An was the gateway to the West and was considered as the start/end point of the ancient Silk Road, one of the oldest trade routes in the world.
Transfer to the imposing south gate where you climb the city wall, which leads 14km around the old town. Here you can cycle around the city on the wall and get an impression of the size of Xi'an.
On the way back to Xi'an, stop by the Wild Goose Pagoda, one of Xi'An's most recognizable landmarks. In Buddhism, the Great Wild Goose Pagoda is of big importance as it is here where the Buddhist scriptures, which the monk Xuan Zang brought back from his journey to India in the 7th century, were translated.
Afterwards, visit the Bell Tower and the "Muslim Quarter" with the vibrant, crowded night market. Here you have the opportunity to taste the specialties of the Muslim Hui cuisine.
Overnight accommodation is at Xi’An.
Day 7: XI’AN - TERRCOTTA MUSEUM - FLIGHT TO GUILIN
In the morning you drive to the Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor located about 30km outside of modern Xian. Qin Shi Huang was born in 259 BC, first son to the king of Qin, one of six independent kingdoms inside modern China. These kingdoms had been warring for more than 200 years, but through a combination of military strength, strategy and natural disasters, Qin Shi Huang conquered them all, proclaiming himself not just a king, but also an emperor — the first of China.
Emperor Qin’s most memorable project was the massive mausoleum complex he had constructed for himself near the ancient city of Xi’an.
Guarded by an army of more than 6000 life-size terra cotta soldiers, the emperor’s tomb would remain hidden for more than 2200 years after his death.
After that continue your journey to Xi’An airport and flight to Guilin. Drive to Yangshuo. Yangshuo City is located on the Li river in the midst of an enchanting karst landscape in Guangxi Province in South China.
Upon arrival, take a walking tour of Yangshuo. To relax, you can sit down in one of the countless coffee shops and enjoy a cup of local tea.
Overnight in Yangshuo.
Tag 8: VISIT THE KARST LANDSCAPE OF YANGSHUO, GUANGXI PROVINCE, CHINA
Travel to Xianggong mountain. You enjoy spectacular views over the magnificent karst landscape and the Li river.
From here you take an easy but scenic walk through beautiful landscape of Yangshuo to Xingping. You take a walking tour around the cobbled streets of Xingping.
After that you board a "raft" and sail up the Li river through magnificent landscape towards Yangdi. The landscape around Xingping is so impressive; it even made it onto the 20 Renminbi note of the Chinese currency.
After two hours you reach Yangdi. You are picked up by your driver and head back to Yangshuo.
Recommendation for the evening:
In the evening you visit the show Liu Sanjie, a spectacular show that uses the Li river as a natural open air stage and involves over 600 actors. The show is choreography was done by Zhang Yi Mou who was also responsible for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
Day 9: YANGSHUO - MOON HILL - LONGSHENG RICE TERRACES
Drive to Moon Hill. The Moon Hill takes its name from the circular hole in its summit, which looks like a full moon.
Travel to Dazhai. Dazhai is the starting point of our exploration of the magnificent "Dragons’s Backbone" (Longsheng) rice terraces. These incredible terraced rice fields have been cultivated over 18 Generations by the local Zhuang and Yao ethnic groups and are still in use today.
From the parking lot you continue on foot towards Tiantouzhai. The path first leads steep uphill for ca. 1.5 hours. Your efforts will be rewarded with some spectacular views over the terraces rice fields and the nearby villages.
If time permits you can take a stroll through the rice terraces by yourself.
Overnight accommodation at Tiantouzhai in a guesthouse in the rice terraces.
Day 10: TIANTOUZHAI - HIKE TO PING'AN VILLAGE - TRAVEL TO HANGZHOU
Simple breakfast in the local style. From Tiantouzhai you hike for 4-5 hours through the glorious landscape in the direction of Ping’An. (Shorter hikes can also be arranged)
In Zhongliu you will be given lunch with a local family of the Yao ethnic minority. The Yao women are noted for their long hair.
By tradition the Yao women cut their hair only once in their life, when they reach their 16th year. The length of hair of the Yao women has even given them a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
You reach Ping‘ An early in the afternoon. There is time for a stroll around this car-free mountain village.
At the parking area of Ping’An your driver will be waiting for you for a drive to Guilin Airport and flight to Hangzhou. Transfer and overnight accommodation at Hangzhou.
Day 11: HANGZHOU - HISTORIC WUZHEN
The historic town of Hangzhou is located 170 km southwest of Shanghai on the banks of the Qiantang river.
Hangzhou is located on the "Grand Canal" and was once a thriving trade center for goods transported between Beijing and Hangzhou. With a total length of 1800km, the Grand Canal is the longest artificial channel in the world.
In the morning, visit the old town of Hangzhou.
After that you drive to Wuzhen. The historical water village Wuzhen is located 120 km southwest of Shanghai. Its location on the Grand Canal made Wuzhen a prosperous trading port for goods from the south to Beijing.
Wuzhen is famous for the old, well preserved buildings of the old town and the many ancient, beautiful bridges that cross the countless canals and rivers of the city. Wuzhen is sometimes referred to as the "Venice of the East".
Take a walk along the cobbled streets and take a boat trip on one of the many canals that cross the city.
Overnight in Wuzhen.
Day 12: TRAVEL BY HIGHSPEED TRAIN FROM WUZHEN TO SHANGHAI
Transfer to Tongxian railway station. Board the comfortable bullet train which takes you in about 45 Minutes to Shanghai. Transfer to your hotel in Shanghai.
To get an overview of the size of the metropolis Shanghai you visit first the Exhibitions and Planning Museum where a replica of the whole city is shown in 3D.
Visit "the Bund" with its dozens of historical buildings that once housed numerous banks and trading houses for various European nations during the colonial period in the 19th and 20th centuries.
After that take a stroll in the historic Yu Yuan garden. This wonderful garden was created by the Pan family in the 16th century and is now considered a prime example of the gardening art of the Ming dynasty.
Visit to the French concession with the Tianzifang. Just a few years ago, what was a normal Chinese residential area has become a living potpourri of galleries, shops, cafés, bars and restaurants within the last few years.
In the late afternoon, drive to the other side of the Huangpu river to the Shanghai World Finance Center in Pudong. From the 100th floor you can enjoy the view over the lights of Shanghai.
Overnight in Shanghai.
Day 13: YOUR CHINA JOURNEY ENDS IN SHANGHAI: SHANGHAI DEPARTUE
Day at leisure in Shanghai. Transfer to the airport according to your flight time. End of your China Tour.