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Yungang Grottoes Caves & Pingyao
4-day tour of UNESCO World Heritage sites of
Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Temple, The Qiao Courtyard and Pingyao

 

Highlights:

• Tour the Yungang Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an incredible example of ancient Buddhist art and carvings
• Discover the ancient town of Pingyao, one of the only cities in China to maintain its ancient city walls and streets. Being here will transport you back in time to the China of yesteryear. The city is something of a living museum
• Walk along the Hanging Monastery, one of the most curious and interesting places in China. Depicted in numerous travel magazines and shows, the Hanging Monastery, set against a large mountain cliff, is a paradigm of the ingenuity of ancient Chinese architecture and design

What Pingyao and Yungang Grottoes Give You:

Pingyao, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an exceptionally well-preserved traditional Han Chinese city. Its city walls, old temples and courtyard houses were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Located on the old trade route between Beijing and Xi'an, Pingyao was one of the flourishing trade centers in northern China. It was here, where China's first banks were set up in the early 18th century which rapidly developed into a widespread network of banks all over the country. One of China's four most famous "Buddhist Grottoes", Yungang Buddhist Grottoes are 16 kilometers west of Datong. 53 caves are cut into the southern cliffs of Wuzhou Hill which contain over 50000 magnificently carved Buddhist statues.

One of China's four most famous "Buddhist Grottoes", Yungang Buddhist Grottoes are 16 kilometers west of Datong. 53 caves are cut into the southern cliffs of Wuzhou Hill which contain over 50000 magnificently carved Buddhist statues.

DAY-BY-DAY DETAILED ITINERARY:

“B” for Breakfast

Day 1: Beijing-Pingyao (by fast train-first class) (L)

You will take the morning bullet train D2001 (07:58 am) from Beijingxi to Pingyao Old Town, Upon arrival at the train station at 12:13 noon, you will be welcomed by your local English-speaking guide, and he/she will take you to your hotel, which is in the style of a traditional courtyard. For much of today’s touring, we will be walking within the ancient town of Pingyao, which is built in the style of traditional Chinese urban planning, which includes 4 main streets, 8 narrow roads, and 72 smaller lanes, all of which for a neat and logical grid.

After lunch, we’ll come across the Ri Sheng Chang Bank, which was the scene of China’s modern banking and commercial business. As early as in 1824, Ri Sheng Chang bank had begun its business. Within a few years of its founding, its branch banks were rapidly distributed to Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan and Liaoning Provinces. Branch banks were also set up in such big cities as Beijing. Today, people can still trace its great prosperity of the bank groups nicknamed as the "Asian Wall Street" from the remaining bank and shop buildings along the West Main Street in ancient Pingyao City

You’ll have the chance to walk along Pingyao’s ancient city wall, which is one of the only cities (along with Xian) in China to have its city wall intact. Built with rammed earth inside and brick and stone outside, the ancient city walls measure 10 meters high and 6162.7 meters long, with 3-5 meters wide tops. Except the southern wall, which zigzags a bit according to the land contour, the other three walls all go straight, making the city area a square one. One city gate was built each to the southern to northern walls and two city gates were built each to the western and eastern walls. All six city gates have gate towers and inside gates attached to them. A watchtower was built on the wall top every 50-100 meters away, totaling 72 watchtowers in all along the four walls. From the wall you will have a great view of the ancient city center.

For the night you will stay in the Yunjincheng Courtyard Hotel. Composed of 18 Ming and Qing style courtyards in delicate decoration and with complete room facilities as well as high-grade service, the Yunjingcheng Courtyard Hotel has won a great reputation home and aboard since opening in 1998.

Day 2: Pingyao - Qiao Family Compound -Hanging Temple- Datong (B, L)

After breakfast in the hotel we'll make the 6 hour drive to Datong. On our way to Datong we'll first stop at the Qing Family Compound. This extensive compound was originally constructed in 1756 by Qiao Guifa, who made his fortune selling tea and bean curd in Inner Mongolia. He returned to his hometown in Qi County and built his dream house, which was then expanded by later generations of Qiao's. This magnificent complex is laid out in the shape of the Chinese xi character, meaning "double happiness." After entering through the main gate, one finds oneself on a long path leading to the main hall, which is the family's ancestral hall. This path divides the compound into southern and northern sections. Both halves have three courtyards each, and these six courtyards in turn include 20 smaller courtyards, 313 rooms, and a number of gardens spread out over a two-acre piece of land. The compound impressed visitors not just for its size but also for the exquisite craftsmanship displayed in the brick carvings, woodwork, murals, and inscribed tablets. The wide variety of different roof styles is particularly interesting to see, and there are over 140 chimneys in the compound, each having its own design. Zhang Yimou's popular film, Raise the Red Lantern, was filmed here.

After lunch we will drive 3.5 hours to visit the famed Hanging Monastery. Perched precariously halfway up a cliff some 50 meters above a river, the Hanging Monastery is one of the most remarkable sights in China. Consisting of a complex of 40 rooms linked together by mid-air corridors and walkways, this remarkable monastery appears to be glued to the side of a sheer precipice. Known as "Xuankong Si" in Chinese--"Temple Suspended in the Void"--this architectural wonder was built in 490 and has been hanging here for 1400 years. It has been renovated a number of times, most recently in 1900, and much of the current structure dates from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

For the evening you will be staying at the Datong Garden Hotel. Situated in the central downtown area of Datong, it features a convenient location-adjoining to shopping malls and only a five-minute drive to such cultural relics and historical sites as the Drum Tower, Shanhua Temple and the Nine Dragon Wall.

Day 3: Datong- Yungang Grottoes - Huayan Buddhist Temple-Nine Dragon Screen (B, L)

Following breakfast we will go to the signature attraction of Datong, the Yungang Grottoes. They are excellent examples of rock-cut architecture and one of the three most famous ancient sculptural sites of China. The others are Longmen and Mogao.

The site is located about 16 km south-west of the city, in the valley of the Shi Li River at the base of the Wuzhou Shan Mountains. The grottoes were mainly constructed in the period between 460-525 AD during the Northern Wei Dynasty. They are an outstanding example of the Chinese stone carvings from the 5th and 6th centuries. All together the site is composed of 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes. In 2001, the Yungang Grottoes were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Yungang Grottoes is considered by UNESCO a "masterpiece of early Chinese Buddhist cave art... [and] ...represent the successful fusion of Buddhist religious symbolic art from south and central Asia with Chinese cultural traditions, starting in the 5th century CE under Imperial auspices."

The work on this first period of carving lasted until the year 465 AD, and the caves are now known as caves 16–20. Beginning around the year 471 AD, in a second construction phase that lasted until 494 AD, the twin caves 5/6, 7/8, and 9/10 as well as the caves 11, 12, and probably 13 were constructed under the supervision and support of the imperial court. The imperial patronage ended 494 AD with the move of the Wei court to the new capital of Luoyang. All other caves emerged under private patronage in a third construction period, lasting until 525, when the construction came to a final halt due to uprisings in the area.

Since the end of the works, the sandstone of the grottoes is exposed to heavy weathering. The ensuing centuries therefore ssaw several attempts to preserve the caves and to repair sustained damage. During the Liao Dynasty the caves saw some renewing of statues and the buildup of the "10 temples of Yungang" from 1049 to 1060 that were meant to protect the main caves. However, they were destroyed again just some 60 years later in a fire. 1621, during the early Qing Dynasty, brought the construction of the wooden buildings that still can be seen in front of the caves 5 and 6. Since the 1950s, cracks in the sandstone have been sealed by grouting, and there are efforts to reduce the weathering due to sandstorms by forestation.

We should have some time to visit the old quarter of the city ,Huayan Buddhist Temple and the Nine Dragon Screen, a 600-year-old screen made of glazed tiles and depicting nine dragons. This is the oldest glazed screen in China. In front of the screen is a long, narrow pool of clear water. When reflected in the pool when there is a light breeze, the dragons really to appear to be dancing and cavorting.

For the night you will again stay at the Datong Hotel.

Day 4: Datong-Beijing (via plane) (B)

We will drive you to Datong airport, and from there you will take flight# CA1120 (09:20/10:25) back to Beijing, thus ending your tour with us.

 

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