5 Days Shanxi Essence Tour of Pingyao-Taiyuan-Datong
Where should I go in China for the second or third-time visit? This 5 days Shanxi essence tour inspires you an ideal journey to explore Pingyao, Taiyuan, and Datong and discover the profound history/civilization of Northern China! Covering Qiao Family Courtyard, Pingyao Ancient Town, Jinci Temple, Hanging Temple, and Yungang Grottoes, it brings you a pure culture-tracing expedition! You will not only be amazed by the splendid Ming-and-Qing-styled architecture as well as culture, but also have chance to try the authentic Shanxi cuisines.
Upon your arrival at Pingyao Gucheng Train Station, the local English speaking tour guide and driver waiting for you at the exit gate by holding a welcome board with your name.
Your exploration begins with Qiao Family Courtyard which could be said as a name card of travel to Shanxi Province, boasting its unparallel value of viewing, scientific and historical research. It’s typical folk-art museum with strong characteristics of Shanxi merchants’ culture, reflecting the social and economic life in Ming and Qing Dynasties. Different from the tiny and elegant ancient town embraced by streams in southern China, Qiao Family impresses visitors strikingly with its square layout, tall and thick walls, grey bricks and red lanterns as well as classic overhanging eaves, suddenly bringing you back to ancient northern China when you stepping into the yard.
Today you will officially start your visit in Pingyao Ancient City. Bearing the history over 2700 years, sharing the title “Four Best Preserved Ancient Chinese Cities” together with Langzhong in Sichuan Province, Lijiang in Yunnan City and Shexian of Anhui Province, this ancient city is one of the only two ancient cities succeeding in applying World Cultural Heritage in China. Pingyao started to be built in Western Zhou Dynasty (827BC-782BC) and extended in 1370 AD, Ming Dynasty. Until today, the basic layout and landscape of Ming and Qing Dynasty is still visible in Pingyao.
The city had ever governed China’s finance in Ming and Qing Dynasty with over 20 exchange shops (it’s like bank in ancient time) headquartered here, about the half of the whole country, gaining the title of “Ancient Chinese Wall Street”. Today, you can still find the basic look of its ever prosperity from the relics.
Like the most city walls, Pingyao City Wall was built in early Ming Dynasty on the purpose of defense against the foreign invasion and get patched 26 times in later generations. The Wall is extremely admirable with its strong character in the lengthy past when you stroll on the wall top and behold the mottled bricks over there. Stretching round the city 6,000 meters in length and up 12 meters in height, the ancient City Wall divided the small city into 2 distinct worlds inside and outside its embrace: the inside was prosperous in trade with the streets lined with shops and people coming and going.
Visit the relics of the famous Rishengchang Exchange Shop to trace the history of Chinese financial industry. Built in 1823 by the general manager Lei Lvtai with fund support from local rich merchant Li Dajin, Rishengchang had even dominated the economic artery of Qing Empire in 19th century.
Setting your feet on the Ming-Qing Street, the one of busiest commercial street in China, you shall have a better idea in mind about how advanced the development in China was in that time. Today, the relics of those ancient shops still are well preserved and visible, including exchange shops, banks, drugstore, butcher, pawnshop… Local snack shops, souvenir shops and things like that inherits the ever prosperity of the street and dominates the major crowds here.
Besides, joining in a Paper Cutting Class in the ancient city would be a big highlight today. Following the local expert and waving the scissors in hands, you will amazingly get a vivid “bird” or “fish”, through which the interesting Chinese culture could be caught a glimpse.
Coming to Taiyuan, Jinci Temple is the No.1 attraction that you should not miss. It is the earliest imperial sacrifice garden existing today, dating back to Western Zhou Dynasty, about 11th century B.C. Each Taiyuaner is proud for Jinci Temple where their origin could be traced and for the historical heritage including the grand architecture complex, high-level sculptures, wall paintings and inscriptions. Immerse yourself into the elegant temple to learn the local history and culture with professional commentary from expert guide.
Afterwards, drive around 3.5 hours to Datong. You won’t be bored since you will visit the amazing Hanging Temple on the way. Located between the cliffs of Mt. Hengshan, Hanging Temple is the only unique temple in China that integrates Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The whole monastery is built in wooden framework structure. Though not very big, it astonishes people by the building design that relies on a mortise joint and embeds into the cliff without falling down. Owning a history over 1,500 years, Hanging Temple have earned compliment from many notable literati and poets in their works.
Today you will spend the full day to explore the splendid Datong! Firstly, we drive westwards to Yungang Grottoes. As the first batch of key cultural relics under state protection, also on the world heritage list, Yuagang Grottoes has a highly cultural and artistic meaning. It not only shows the traditional Chinese artistic style, but also incorporates the art characteristics of ancient India, the western regions and the Central Plain. Yungang Grottoes is the beginning of the "sinicization" of Chinese grotto art which mainly stores 45 grottoes and 51,000 stone statues.
Later, continue your visit to Shanhua Temple which is a Buddhist temple with great fusion Han culture in Song Dynasty and ancient northern ethnic culture of Jin and Liao Dynasties. Although it’s lesser visited compared with other Datong attractions, the artistic level of relics there including sculptures, wall paintings and ancient architectures show a pretty high level.
Moving on to Huayan Monastery, located in southwest of Datong ancient city was firstly built in 1038 of Liao Dynasty and rebuilt in 1140 of Jin Dynasty after being burning down. It’s a typical Buddhist monastery with name derived from the famous Buddhist scripture Avatamsaka. The monastery was divided into two parts: upper Huayan Temple and lower Huayan Temple connected each with a door. The best highlight of the upper Huayan Temple is the Mahavira Hall of Liao Time while the lower Huayan stores many precious Buddhist statues of Liao time. Huayan Monastery without doubt is a gem of Chinese ancient architectures and Buddhist culture.
Last, pay a visit to The Nine-Dragon Wall, built in late Ming Dynasty, is composed of colored glaze. Nine dragons are different in shape and form, each of which is connected by water grass, white clouds and rocks. It presents the superb sculpture skills of ancient China.
The core of our service is excellent travel guides. Over 20 years, we have built up a considerable professional guide team that is knowledgeable, attentive and flexible. The most experienced and reliable guides will be arranged for your unique China tour. Our passionate guide team is full of contagious enthusiasm and keen interest to share culture and history in a pleasant manner. We are always glad at your service to lead you to explore a real China and experience authentic local life in China.
Our Driver and Vehicle
The first mission of our service is to ensure you feel safe and comfortable during your travel. The vehicles we use are air-conditioned, clean and well-maintained. Our drivers are all licensed drivers with many years of driving experience. Moreover, we offer free baby seats for families with little kids.
Food is a very important part of Chinese culture. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to taste the real local Chinese food!
Buffet breakfast will be included in the hotel if you would like accommodation to be arranged by us. Having lunch at local restaurants close and convenient to the attractions you will visit, you would enjoy the local dishes in each city. Chinese style, Vegetarian or Muslim meals are all available. If you have any other diet requirements or allergies, please feel free to let us know, we will try our best to organize it.
For daily dinner, you are suggested to have it on your own when you are exploring each city in your own time, this way would be more flexible for you to choose food as per your interest and preference.