14 Day Educational Tour to Beijing, Xian, Kaifeng, Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Shaolin Temple, and Shanghai

Highlights:

  • This unique tour allows you to experience the arts, culture, geography, history, economics, government, and technology of China firsthand
  • This tour takes you to all the essential spots in China. You’ll travel to Beijing, China’s capital city, Xi’an, China’s ancient capital and home to the Terracotta Warriors, and Shanghai, China’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city
  • You’ll also get to experience Kaifeng and Luoyang, centers of ancient Chinese culture, and also home to some splendid temples and palaces
  • This tour also includes: four-star accommodation, all meals in China, entrance fees for all attractions we visit, ground and air transportation within China (including trains), and special dinners and banquets

(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

Detailed itinerary:

Day 1 arrive in Beijing

You will fly to Beijing, and upon arrival you will be met by your English-speaking guide. You’ll then be taken to your hotel, followed by a delectable dinner of Peking Duck, Beijing’s signature culinary dish.

Day 2 Beijing

Today will be a full-day excursion to some of Beijing’s most iconic sights. First, we will drive a little outside the city to a section of the Great Wall. The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest sights in the world. The longest wall in the world, it is an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture. Its winding path over rugged country and steep mountains takes in some great scenery. The Great Wall is the building project with the longest duration and greatest cost in human lives, blood, sweat and tears. It deserves its place among "the New Seven Wonders of the World" and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China.

In the afternoon, we’ll drive back into Beijing to visit magnificent Temple of Heaven. he complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. The Temple of Heaven park is best known for the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, an iconic building famed for its magnificent triple-gabled circular roof. You will also have an opportunity to walk the same imperial walkway that the same emperors walked hundreds of years ago in their holy rites. You will also see Beijing’s senior citizens using the park grounds for everything from tai chi and ballroom dancing to bullwhip practice!

In the evening we’ll attend a performance of Peking Opera. With its fascinating and artistic accompanying music, singing and costumes, the Peking Opera is China's national opera. Full of Chinese cultural facts, the opera presents the audience with an encyclopedia of Chinese culture, as well as unfolding stories, beautiful paintings, exquisite costumes, graceful gestures and martial arts.

Day 3 Beijing

In the morning, we will head to China’s political center, Tiananmen Square. The largest public square in the world, Tiananmen Square is seen as China’s political center. Its grounds have seen some turbulent moments, from the May 4th Movement of 1919 to the political turmoil of 1989. The south of the square is marked by the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, while the center of the square is dominated by the Monument to the People’s Heroes, an imposing 10-story granite obelisk. To the east is the National Museum of China, and to the west is the Great Hall of the People, home to China’s legislative bodies. The north of the square is dominated by the Gate of Heavenly Peace, known for its iconic portrait of Mao Zedong, and is the national emblem of China.

After walking across the street, we will enter what is perhaps the greatest attraction in China, the Forbidden City. After walking across the square we will enter the Forbidden City (known in Chinese as Gu Gong), the largest surviving palace complex and the former home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasty. The Forbidden City is one of the greatest attractions in the world. Built by the third Ming emperor between 1406-1422, the Forbidden City served as the official residence to the Emperor of China until the last emperor, Puyi, was forced to evacuate in 1924. The Forbidden City is divided into two parts. The southern section, or the Outer Court was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation. The northern section, or the Inner Court was where he lived with his royal family. Consisting of 980 buildings and with 8,707 bays of rooms, the Forbidden City is the best example of classical Chinese architecture in the world, and is a wonder to behold.

Day 4 Beijing-Zhengzhou

We’ll continue our imperial theme this morning by a visit to the Summer Palace. Being northwest of the city center, the Summer Palace has the largest royal park and being well preserved, the Summer Palace is ranked amongst the most noted and classical gardens of the world. In 1998, UNESCO listed it as one of the World Heritage Sites. Like most of the gardens of Beijing, it could not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French allied force of 1860 and was destroyed by fire. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled navy funds to reconstruct it for her own benefit, changing its name to Summer Palace (Yiheyuan). She spent most of her later years there, dealing with state affairs and entertaining.

Highlights not to be missed are climbing Longevity Hill, viewing the Empress Dowager Cixi’s extravagant Marble Boat, and talking a walk down Suzhou jie, a canal meant to resemble the beautiful river city of Suzhou.

Then we’ll head to a new status of China’s rising power, the Olympic park. The Olympic park served as the center of Beijing’s 2008 Olympic games. We will first stop by the Bird’s Nest, which hosted the opening ceremony along with track and field. Due to its unique design it is now one of the most iconic and unique stadiums in the world. Next it is off to the Water Cube, which is situated directly across from the Bird’s Nest. The Water Cube was the location for the swimming and diving portion of the games (where Michael Phelps had his record-breaking performance), and is now currently a water park, which is reportedly the biggest in Asia.

After our visit to the Bird’s Nest we will board a sleeper train to the city of Zhengzhou.

Day 5 Zhengzhou

Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, is a prime example of the changing face of China. Here you will modern buildings and shopping malls contrasted against the background of an ancient civilization.

In the morning, you will visit a local high school or college. You’ll tour the school grounds, while also having the chance to observe classes. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the different educational methods used in this school and in the one of your youth. Afterwards, you’ll be able to talk with the students, and maybe you’ll make a few new friends as well!

Then we’ll move on to the Henan Provincial Museum. First opened in 1927, it is one of the oldest and largest museums in China. Its site changed for several times and finally lies at Nongye Road, Jinshui District, Zhengzhou, Henan. It is a history and art museum with a collection of more than 130,000 pieces of cultural relics through the ages. Some of the treasures inside the museum include the world’s earliest musical instrument, an 8,000 year old, perfectly tuned, bone flute. Wander through the fascinating exhibits and then relax and listen to a musical performance of ancient Chinese instruments dating back over 1,000 years.

Day 6 Zhengzhou-Kaifeng-Zhengzhou

Today we will pay a visit to Kaifeng, the ancient capital of seven dynasties. As early as in Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), Kaifeng has been the political, economic and cultural center of China. It was also one of the most developed and prosperous cities at that time, known as “International Metropolis”. Each dynasty left a rich historical and cultural heritage. For example, there are a variety of architectural styles in the ancient buildings in Kaifeng, with characteristics of different period such as Song Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty, Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China.

In the morning we’ll visit a local school, witnessing classes and meeting with the students. At noon, you can enjoy the delicious and traditional dishes of the Baozi (dumpling) banquet. This banquet features many different flavors of local cuisine. After lunch we’ll visit the Dragon Pavilion, which is also known as the “little Forbidden City”. The site where Dragon Pavilion is located is the site of many dynasties' imperial palaces and reached its height of prosperity in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Then, most of the constructions were destroyed through wars. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the mansion of an emperor's son was established here with a garden. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) a hall was added, a place where the emperors' tablets were placed, thus getting the name of Dragon Pavilion.

We’ll also go to the Iron Pagoda, made entirely of wood with a brick exterior. It is called “iron” because this pagoda has miraculously survived many earthquakes and floods for almost 1000 years! In the evening we will travel back to Zhengzhou.

Day 7 Zhengzhou-Luoyang

Today you will travel to the 1,500 year old Shaolin Monastery, the birthplace of Kung Fu-the original form of all martial arts. This temple is situated at the western edge of the Songshan Mountains. In the Thousand Buddhas Hall, you can still see the footprints of the monks stamped o nthe floor-a reminder of the intensity of their practice. Here, you will be treated to a live Kung Fu demonstration performed by the Grandmasters and monks.

Defeng is also home to the earliest astronomical observatory in the world. Here, a Chinese astronomer, Mr. Guo, invented an official calendar based on his celestial observations. Predating the Roman calendar by two hundred years, his was accurate within one second of the Gregorian calendar.

After our visit we’ll take a short bus ride to our next destination, Luoyang.

Day 8 Luoyang

Luoyang served as the capital for nine dynasties over a period of more than 1,500 years. 96 emperors from the prehistoric Xia Dynasties, through Shang, Western and Eastern Zhous, Cao Wei, Sui, Later Liang, Later Tang and Later Jin Eastern Han established their seat of power there. Luoyang's importance in history means that it has significant influence in China's cultural heritage and has many historical sites. Although the political upheavals in the last century destroyed some of its grand historical heritage, Luoyang still retains many of its significant ancient landmarks which are the main tourist draw cards.

Our first stop in Luoyang will be the spectacular Longmen Grottoes. The grottoes contain one of the three most important Buddhist sculptures and carvings in China. The Longmen Grottos enjoy a good location where two mountains confront each other between which flows the Yihe River. Carved from a solid rock mountain over 1,500 years ago, the site has over 2,345 caves and more than 100,000 statues of Buddha. Chinese noblemen sponsored the creation of most of these statues, ranging in height from miniature (1 inch high) to gigantic (57 ft.) The Longmen Grottos are of great value in world sculpture history, and it has been listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

At night, we’ll relax and enjoy the delicious delicacies of the Water Feast, a banquet with a tradition originating from a Tang Dynasty empress. You’ll be delighted by the sights and sounds of ancient Chinese music and instruments, which are played for you as you have your feast.

Day 9 Luoyang-Xian

In the morning, we’ll join a morning exercise group with some locals, where they engage in the Tai Chi form of martial arts. Tai Chi is a sophisticated method of fighting based on the reconciliation of dynamically interacting forces. Daily practice of Tai Chi promotes mental clarity and a healthy body, assists with balance and helps the circulation of the blood. Tai Chi is also a vehicle for the realization of surpassing beauty.

We’ll then head over to the White Horse Temple, the first Buddhist temple in China, as it was built over 900 years ago, and is renowned as the cradle of Chinese Buddhism. Although it is not the largest nor the most beautiful Buddhism monument in China, this temple with its large number of Buddhism items housed there, is well worth a trip.

An interesting legend related to the temple goes that a white horse carried the first Buddhist script from India here in ancient time hence the name White Horse Temple. History records that the site was original the place used by the second Han Emperor-Liu Zhuang as a summer resort and for study. In 68 AD, when Buddhism reached its heyday in India, two Indian monks brought Buddhist scriptures to Luoyang on the back of a white horse. The emperor, who was a devout Buddhism believer, built the temple to house the scriptures and named it White Horse Temple. It was said that there were once thousands of monks living in the temple. It was even used as a refugee sanctuary during the social turmoil of Wang Mang in the Eastern Han Dynasty.

The two monks who brought scriptures from India were buried here. Many monks from outside China have visited the monk and many of them have spent the rest of their time in that temple. The famous Tang Dynasty monk-Xuanzang started his 17 years long pilgrimage trip to Indian from this temple. After returning, Xuanzhang became the abbot of the White Horse Temple, where he disseminated the scriptures of Buddhism for the rest of his life.

In the afternoon, we will then visit the Guanlin Temple. Guanlin Temple was built to commemorate the great general Guanyu of the State of Shu during the Three Kingdoms Period. Very little is known about when the temple was first built. The complexwas developed during the Ming Dynasty and was underwent several renovation and expansion during the succeeding Qing Dynasty. It's now comprised of halls, temples, pavilions and Guan's Tomb. Some valuable stone tablets with elegant calligraphies are also found here. The place is very popular among the locals, who worship the valorous general by burning sticks of incense.

In the evening we will board a bullet sleeper train to the city of Xian.

Day 10 Xian

Xian, which was also known as Changan, was China’s capital city during the reign of Qin Shi Huang, the man who founded the first united Chinese state, and who also commenced construction on the Great Wall. Think of Xian as China’s version of “the Valley of the Kings” as there are numerous tombs and mausoleums dotted around the city.

Our first stop will be Xian’s most renowned attraction, the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum. he Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum is the result of the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China. Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had begun to work for his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his after life. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigor.

The museum is divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively. They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest, first opened to the public on China's National Day, 1979. There are columns of soldiers at the front, followed by war chariots at the back. No. 2 Pit, found in 1976, contains over a thousand warriors and 90 chariots of wood. It was unveiled to the public in 1994. Archeologists came upon No. 3 Pit also in 1976. It is the command center of the armed forces. It went on display in 1989, with 68 warriors, a war chariot and four horses.

Day 11 Xian

In the morning, we will visit a local high school or university for a cultural exchange session. You’ll tour the school, while also talking and conversing with the students and teachers. Afterwards, we’ll head to the Shaanxi Museum, which is perhaps the best museum in China. Since Shaanxi, the province Xi’an is in, is the cradle of Chinese civilization, this museum takes on a special importance.

The museum is divided into 3 main exhibition halls. The Basic Exhibition Hall is composed of the No 1 exhibition hall, the No 2 exhibition hall and the No 3 exhibition hall, marked by time order. The No 1 exhibition on the first floor hall displays the articles used during the period from 1.7 million years ago to 206 BC of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC). This exhibition contains rough stone tools used by the apeman, the pottery, bronze sacrificial vessels, weapons and terracotta figures.

By visiting the No 2 Exhibition Hall on the second floor, you will gain a general understanding of the historical process from 206 BC in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220AD) to 589 AD in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589). To the west of the Basic Exhibition Hall lies the Theme Exhibition Hall. The exhibitions in this hall are often theme-oriented to show the history or the culture relics of Shaanxi Province, such as the 'Shaanxi Bronze Ware Exhibition', the 'Shaanxi Pottery Figure Exhibition' and the 'Buddhist Culture Relic Exhibition'.

Day 12 Xian-Shanghai

In the morning, we will walk on Xian’s City Wall. It's the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Xi'an City Wall was erected in the 14th century Ming Dynasty, under the regime of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. When Zhu Yuanzhang captured Huizhou, long before the establishment of the Ming Dynasty, he was admonished by a hermit named Zhu Sheng, who told him to "build high walls, store abundant provisions and take your time in proclaiming yourself emperor." If you like, you have the option of renting a bike or a rickshaw on the wall in order to cover more ground in a shorter time.

We’ll then head to the Xian airport, where we will make the short flight to Shanghai. China’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Shanghai is China’s center for industry and commerce. It is called the “Paris of the East”, because for many years the city was home to a large number of Europeans, giving it a lively international flavor.

After landing, we’ll first visit the City God’s Temple. This used to be the temple to a local deity, which the inhabitants believed would protect them in every city. The city deities were frequently real persons to whom the town owed something, Today, arts and crafts stores are in the temple.

The it’s off to the Bund, Shanghai’s iconic landmark. The Bund is a waterfront embankment and has been regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years. It affords marvelous views across the river of the Pudong district and its numerous towers. The most famous and attractive sight which is at the west side of the Bund are the 52 various buildings of different architectural styles including Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and the Renaissance.

We’ll cap off our day with an evening cruise of the Huangpu River, Shanghai's central river. You’ll be given great views of the city’s two main sides- Puxi (with the Bund) and Pudong skylines, along with the neon and lights that fill up the sky.

Day 13 Shanghai

In the morning, you will visit the newly built Pudong area, modern China’s business center. On the way, you’ll enjoy some of Shanghai’s most exciting new architecture, such as the Shanghai International Convention Center-China’s tallest building, and the third tallest building in the world. We’ll also visit Shanghai Circus City, where you can really witness the modern and changing face of China.

We’ll next take a walk along Shanghai’s famed Nanjing Road, the city’s premier shopping street. open-air bars, abstract sculptures, and lingering sounds from street musicians will all enhance your stroll. Also, this is your last chance to shop in China!

Day 14 Shanghai-Departure

Today is your chance to say goodbye to all the new friends you’ve made while in China, and you’ll be taken to the airport for your flight back home. Have a safe journey!