We'll take our time moving up to the high altitude of Tibet, starting with two full days in Beijing to recover from jet lag. Then we spend two days in Chengdu (Sichuan province) to adjust to altitude. Once in Tibet, we'll be taking our time absorbing all the sites and feeling of each place. There will be plenty of time for sketching, photography and just plain contemplation of your surroundings. In Lasa, and elsewhere, we will visit the well known as well as the little know. See detailed itinerary below.
Yumbu Lakang, Tibet
Our fall tour is a special trip celebrating the 17th Anniversary of the Great River Taoist Center and their purchase of a permanent home for the TaijiQuan & mediation school in Washington, DC. Though organized especially for GRTC students, this tour is open to everyone and a large portion of the profits will go to the Center's Trust Fund. On this journey we will visit sites important to the Taoist and TaijiQuan lineage of the Center including, Qingdao's Lao Mountain and Wudan Mountain. We will also return to Pingyao to get the flavor of an Imperial city in Ming and Qing times (we barely scratched the surface in '00, see previous tour below).
Ping Yao City Hall Gate, Shanxi Province
This was our most jammed packed tour ever and possibly the best. We saw so many great sites and events and covered more territory than ever before. From Beijing we flew north to Mongolia for the Nadaam Festival, beginning of the westward legs of our journey. Nadaam is an annual event to test Mongols in the three manly arts of horse racing, archery and wrestling. Next we were on to Xian, home to the Terracotta Warriors. Some of us had seen them before, but they are still hold our fascination in so many ways. Next we went northwest along the Silk Route to Dunhuang, the 'Art Gallery' in the Desert, famous for it Buddhist cave art. It is truly amazing to gaze upon paintings and sculpture and realize they are 1,000 years old. In the early morning we drove through the Gobi to reach Jiayuguan, a vast fortress that ends the Great Wall where it meets the desert sands. Flying back eastward we traveled to one of the most ancient wood temples in China, Jinci Si and the county seat of Ping Yao. Ping Yao is the best preserved medieval town in China and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This little town, with its intact city walls, bell and drum towers and over 400 protected ancient homes, turned out to be great little gem to explore. Yet there was never a climax. We were concerned that we might have done too much this time, but when we got back to Beijing, no one said they would have cut a thing and no one could easily pick their favorite stop. Each place was so special and grand in its own right that there was no big climax to the trip.
The most scenic of our past tours there was still plenty of historical interest along our path. Starting in Beijing we toured the lesser known Hutongs (courtyard house) around the old capital & the must see Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Great Wall & Ming Tombs. We even caught an evening of Chinese Acrobatics. In Chengdu, we toured Wuhan Temple dedicated to Zhege Liang & Liu Bei; then sailed down the Ming River Go for a view of the Grand Buddha. We followed that with cruising down the Yangtze through the Three Gorges; stopping at ancient local sites & touring little gorges on smaller boats. From there it was more boating in Guilin down the Li River, home of unbelievable landscapes & extraordinary peaks. In town we explored Reed Flute Cave, which is so large it was used as an air raid shelter, & been described as a Journey to the Center of the Earth. Further south, we stopped in Xiamen, home to Ming Rulers fleeing the Manchu invaders, for a Seafood Feast with one local family & rest day. There was free time for a walking excursions to Gulangyu, a peaceful island once a foreign port concession where no cars are allowed and exploring the city solo.Our last stop before returning to Beijing was Quanzhou, where Marco Polo landed. There we visited Laojun Yan, a Daoist temple & home of the largest stone statue of Laozi in China dating from the Song dynasty (9-10 cen.) & Kaiyuan Temple built in the Tang dynasty (7th cen.) & home to 1,000 monks during the Song & distinguished by its pair of tall pagodas.
Qing dynasty Corner Tower, Forbidden City, Beijing
Starting in Beijing there was lots of Qing history to investigate. The Hutongs, courtyard homes still standing in older ares of the city, were particularly interesting & a great counter point to the Forbidden City. From there we traveled north, much off the beaten path to Manchuria. Our first stop was the Qing Eastern Tombs. Its no exaggeration to stay we were the only ones visiting Kangxi's tomb. The deafening quiet was wonderful after the big city roar of Beijing. Continuing north, we stopped at the Dragons Head where the Great Wall runs into the sea and Shanhai Guan where the Manchus stole into China. The last stop on our north bound leg was Shenyang, the first Qing capital before conquering China. Shenyang's Imperial Palace is quite different for Beijing's Forbidden City, not just in scale but design, as were the tombs of Nurhachi & Huang Taiji the first Qing rulers. From Manchuria, we shifted gears & flew south to Hangzhou & then on to Suzhou. Both city's have a well deserved fame for their gardens & temples. We caught them in their spring glory, in full bloom.
We started in Beijing with a visit to Baiyun Guan, the 'Vatican' of Daoism in China, sitting in on their early morning chants & visiting with the Zhushi (Patriarch). Next we headed for the coast, stopping in Qingdao, famous for its beer with Amercians. The port is most famous amongst Chinese as home to Lao Mountain, literally cover with daoist places. We met with the local patriarch at Taiqing Gong (temple) & climbed up visiting Shang Qing Gong on the way. Next we ventured to Tai Mountain in central Shandong province. This mountain is the most famous & Central of the Five Mountains & was frequently visited by Emperors as evidenced by the calligraphy carved into the stone all along your trek up. Finally we went west to Xian where we caught the terra cotta warriors & old city before heading up Hua Mountain, another of China's Five Sacred Mountains. The sacred peaks of Hua are one hell of a climb up rock faces on ladders of chain with foot holds cut into the rock. We stayed over night on top of the mountain to enjoy more morning climbs & the great views. Finally we were back in Beijing for a few days of site seeing before heading home.