Your best travel guide in China

Trekking tour along Mekong River in Vietnam + Li jiang River in CHina

Day 1 : Arrive Saigon 

On arrival at Saigon¡¯s Tan Son Nhat International airport, you will be greeted by your group leader and transferred to hotel. There are no activities planned for today but your group leader will be able to offer advice and assistance where necessary. This evening guide will return to hotel to escort you out on the town for a traditional music show and welcome dinner.
Day 2 : Cruising on Mekong River

The morning we travel by road to the small town of Cai Be in the heart of the Mekong Delta. Take a cruise around the tributaries of the mighty Mekong River, visit some local cottage industries, including the puffed-rice and rice paper makers, bonsai nurseries and fish farms as well as exploring a floating market. Ovnt in Vinh Long village.

Day 3 : Mekong Delta ¨C Ho Chi Minh City

After a leisurely breakfast we bid farewell to our charming hosts and take the boat to visit the cultural village near the town of Vinh Long. Here we can see various cottage industries including brick kilns, tofu and ceramic tile manufacture, even a coffin-maker! Following these visits we will once again board our vehicle for the drive to the town of My Tho, where we will visit Dong Tam snake farm and the Vinh Trang pagoda before journeying back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 4 : HochiMinh - Siem Reap

Early breakfast. Transfer to airport for flight to Siemriep. Exploration of the vast Angkor Temple complex.The Angkor Complex is perhaps the most stunning temple complex in the world

Day 5 : Angkor Temples & Sunset at Phnom Bakheng

This morning we visit Banteay Kdei Temple, then drive through the countryside to reach the magnificent Banteay Srei temple - the Citadel of Women. This Hindu temple, dating back to the 10th century. We return to the town for lunch. Afternoon visit the largest and most impressive temple - Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat was built between 1112 and 1152 by King Suryavarman II and dedicated to Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation, although some people believe it is actually dedicated to the king himself as the temple faces west, representing death. From here we proceed to the hilltop temple of Phnom Bakheng, and as the end of the day approaches, we climb the hill for a truly memorable sunset

Day 6 : Siem Reap- Vientiane

Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to airport for flight to Vientiane. Arrive in Vientiane at Wattary Airport. Tranfer to hotel. In the afternoon visit Wat Sisaket, the oldest original temple in Vientiane. Nearby is Haw Phra Kaew, once the royal temple of Lao monarchy. One of the most photographed images of Vientiane is Patousay, the victory gate also known as Anousavari. Another famous Vientiane landmark is the That Luang stupa. Return to hotel.
Day 7 : Vientiane - Tansfer to Sino-vietnam border(Friendship Bridge)

DAY 8 Arrive in Nanning, trasfer to Hotel Jinhua **** visit : local marchet
DAY 9 Nanning/Sanjiang bus ( 6-7 hours en bus) Hotel Sanjiang
DAY 10 Sanjiang 2 hours trekking in the morning; 2 hours trekking in the afternoon
DAY 11 Sanjiang/Longsheng( Longji) bus ( 3-4 hours) 2 hours trekking in the afternoon Hotel Longji
DAY 12 Longsheng( Longji) 2 hours trekking in the morning; 2 hours trekking in the afternoon
DAY 13 Longshen/yangshou bus ( 3 hours) 2 hours trekking in the afternoon Hotel Xi xijie ****
DAY 14 Yangshou biking Tour in Yangshuo, Aishan - Yongcun - Moon Hill - Yangshuo.
Bike from Yangshuo via the old road Aishan village to Yongcun village,We will pass by picturesque villages, tucked among subtropical plants and stretched in between rice paddies, see the moon hill in the distance and bike to Moon Hill, you may climb 819 steps to get to the top of the Moon Hill to a get a bird¡¯s-eye-view of the surrounding hills and have a close look of the ãMoon which used to be the underground river cannel, bike back to Yangshuo.

DAY 15 Yangshou 2 hours trekking in the morning; 2 hours trekking in the afternoon
DAY 16 Yangshou/Guilin 2 hours by bus visits: Reed flute cave, elephant trunk hill Hotel Plaza****
DAY 17 Exit

 

Great Wall Hiking Tour 

 

Day01: Arrive in Beijing airport- transfer from Beijing airport to your hotel in Beijing. You will meet the tour group for the first on dinner table in the evening.
Day02: BaDaLing hike. Today we go to HeBei Province. BaDaLing is the "North Pass" of JuYongGuan Pass, the important strategic pass of the Great Wall. It used to be heavily guarded because it was the outpost to safeguard the capital, Beijing. In 1505, a city on the pass with two opposite gates "JuYong Outskirts and Key-to-the-North Gate" was built. The terrain is strategically situated and access to it difficult. The Wall at BaDaLing is 7.8 metres high and 5 metres wide and built with rectangular slabs of stone and green brick from the hills. Most foreign tourists are permitted to visit only the BaDaLing section of the Great Wall. It is necessary to have a government permit to hike on other parts of the wall but this has been arranged. 

Day03 : MuiTianYu hike - This is one of the most interesting sections of the Great Wall - the section visited by President and Mrs Clinton when they came to China. With its unique architecture it is called "The Wall Where The Eagle Must Bend his Wing".In the afternoon we visit the nearby 13 Tombs of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) - the world's largest concentration of Royal Tombs. Each tmb is located at the foot of a separate hill and is linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way. The stone archway at the end of the Sacred Way is 14 metres high and decorated with designs of clouds and sacred animals. Unlike their predecessors, the Ming Dynasty came from an agricultural society in central China and believed in an "after-life" where the dead had a life similar to those who were living. Ming emperors therefore constructed large mausoleums. The Dingling Tomb is the tomb of Emperor Wanli and his two empresses. The underground palace at the Dingling Tomb consists of multiple chambers where sacrificial utensils are on display. More than 3,000 articles have been unearthed including the golden crowns of the emperor and his queen.

Day04 : After breakfast we will depart by bus to ChengDe. Chengde is a city of particular charm in HeBei Province. It is situated on the northern fringes of the YanShan Mountains . The well-known BiShuShanZhuang (Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat) stands in the northern part of the city. Like a pearl inlaid at the centre of the Yan Shan Mountains, the city of historical and cultural renown boasts scenic hills and waters, grand ancient buildings, an imperial garden complex of the Qing Dynasty, unusual peaks and rocks and a pleasant climate. BiaShuShanZhuang ¨C in 1703 Qing Dynasty Emperor Kang Xi initiated the building of the Mountain Manor for escaping Summer Heat. This occupies 5.6 million square metres. Emperors of Qing Dynasty lived almost half of each year at the mountain manor where they went hunting, handled court affairs and received envoys from other countries. The numerous ancient buildings here represent both the northern and southern school of ancient Chinese architecture and merge the architectural style of China¡¯s ethnic groups.

Day05 : In ChengDe, around the mountain manor were 11 magnificent temples known as the Eight Outer Temples. They represent the Han, Manchu, Hui, Tibetan and Uygur architectural styles. As well as the palace we visit two majestic temples - PuTuoZongCheng Temple and PuNing Temple. The former was built in 1767 and covers 220,000 sq. metres and consists of nearly 40 impressive halls and other buildings. The main structure is the Great Red Terrace where stands the 35-metre-high, gilded and copper-tiled "Hall of All Beings Belonging to One". The PuNing (Universal Peace) Temple is a magnificent structure on the banks of the WuLie River. Built in 1755, it covers 33,000 square metres. The front is typical Han-style temple architecture and the rear is modeled after the Sam Ye Monastery in Tibet. The main building, the Hall of the Great Vehicle, symbolizes Sumeru, the mountain at the centre of the Buddhist world and it houses a giant statue of Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) with a thousand heads and a thousand eyes. In the afternoon we will hike up "Hammer Rock" mountain, near ChengDe city. In ChengDe, an exact duplcate of the Tibetan Temple Palace POTALA or Putuozongcheng Temple was built for all reigns of Dala Lama in the past
Day06: JinShanLing hike. JunShanLing has 67 watchtowers along 11 kilometres of the Great Wall with each watchtower and example of a different architecture. It is 5 ¨C 8 metres high, 6 meters across the base and 5 metres at the top. The walkway along the top is paved with square bricks providing a level surface wide enough to construct or erect batteries. Watchtower WangJingLou is 980 metres above sea level. It is said that one can catch sight of Beijing¡¯s light at dawn in autumn. JunShanLing is the most spectacular sight of the entire Great Wall and is representative of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.

Day07: HuangYaGuan hike. HuangYaGuan was first built in 557 AD and rebuilt with bricks in the Ming Dynasty. The entire wall lies on a precipitous ridge of mountains. It has an eastern cliff as a screen against invasions and a western precipice as support. It had ancient defensive structures such as a fortress, high-wall, water pass, beacon tower and sheer precipice. Today we can see a museum, Beiji Temple and BaGua City (with a BaGua Labyrinth).

Day08: QingDongLing visit. QingDongLing ¨C (Eastern Qing Tomb ¨C 1644 - 1911) is a large group of structures which hold the remains of 5 emperors, 14 empresses and 136 imperial concubines/princesses. The beauty of the landscape is enhanced by yellow-glazed tiles dotted among green pines and cypresses. in the afternoon LawWenYu hike - this is the oldest part of the Great Wall (over 2000 years) and there is a a trail on the top. There is a trail on top of this part Great Wall in ruin and we will hike on it.

Day09: PanJaiKou Great Wall Hike. Part of this section of the wall has been submerged under a reservoir and can be seen by boat. After lunch we have a four hours bus ride to QinHuangDao city and stay for three nights in a four stars hotel.
Day10: JuiMenKou hike. JuiMenKou is the only part of the Great Wall in the shape of a bridge. This is one of the most important parts of the wall for defense and the site of many great battles against the invading Mongols. In the afternoon we will visit MENG JIANG NU TEMPLE Built in the Song Dynasty.

Day11: JaiShan to Dragon Head hike. ShanHaiGuan (literally "the pass there the first mountain meets the sea") is called the museum of the construction of the Great Wall because it features the following sections: OLD DRAGON¡¯S HEAD (the only part of the Great Wall that meets the sea), NUMBER.ONE PASS UNDER HEAVEN (The first pass of the Great Wall), JIANSHAN MOUNTAIN (the first mountain the Great Wall climbs).

Day12: Return to Beijing - sightseeing in Beijing. We tour the city and Tiananmen Square.
Day13: Forbidden City and Summer Palace.

Day14: Transfer to Beijing Airport.

 

Geography of our hiking tour

BaDaLing is the "North Pass" of JuYongGuan Pass, the important strategic pass of the Great Wall. It used to be heavily guarded because it was the outpost to safeguard the capital, Beijing. In 1505, a city on the pass with two opposite gates "JuYong Outskirts and Key-to-North-Gate" was built. The terrain is strategically situated and access to it is difficult. The Wall at BaDaLing is 7.8 meters high and 5 meters wide built with rectangular stabs of stones and green bricks from the hills. Most tourists are permitted to visit only BaDaLing section of the Great Wall.  

JinShanLing has 67 watchtowers along 11 kilometers of the Great Wall, with each watchtower an example of different architecture. It is 5 to 8 meters high and 6 meters across at the base and 5 meters at the top. The walkway along the top was paved with square bricks and provided a level surface wide enough to construct or erect batteries. Watchtower WangJingLou is 980 meters above sea level. It is said that one can catch sight of Beijing's light at dawn in Autumn. JinShanLing is the most spectacular sight of the entire Great Wall and is a representative of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.  

HuangYaGuan was first built in 557 A.D. and rebuilt with bricks in the Ming Dynasty. The whole Great Wall lies on a precipitous ridge of mountains. It has an eastern cliff as a screen against invasions and a western precipice as support. It had ancient defensive structures such as fortress, high-wall, water pass, beacon tower and sheer precipice. Today we can also see a Museum, Beiji Temple and BaGua City (with a BaGua Labyrinth).  

ShanHaiGuan Great Wall (literally 'the Pass where the first Mountain meets the Sea') is north of QinHuangDao city and is called 'the Museum of the Construction of the Great Wall' because it features the following sections: Old Dragon' Head (the only part of the Great Wall that meets the sea), No. 1 Pass Under Heaven (the first pass of the Great Wall), JiaShan Mountain (the first mountain the Great Wall climbs), JiuMenKou (the only part of the Great Wall in the shape of a bridge) and Meng Jiang-Nu Temple built during the Song Dynasty.  

BiShuShanZhuang: In 1703 Qing Dynasty Emperor Kang Xi initiated the building of BiShuShanZhuang (Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat), which occupies 5.6 million square meters. Emperors of the Qing Dynasty spent almost half of each year at the mountain manor where they lived, went hunting, handled court affairs and received envoys from other countries. The numerous ancient buildings represent both the northern and southern schools of ancient Chinese architecture and merge with the architectural style of China's ethnic groups. Around the mountain manor were 11 magnificent temples, known as the Eight Outer Temples. They represent the Han, Manchu, Hui, Tibetan and Uygur architectural styles.

QingDongLing: QingDongLing (Eastern Qing Tomb 1644-1911) is a large group of structures which holds the remains of 5 emperors, 14 empresses and 136 imperial concubines and princesses. The beauty of the landscape is enhanced by yellow-glazed tiles dotted among green pines and cypresses.

 

THE GREAT WALL

The Great Wall is perhaps China's most famous and most mythologized site. Several sections are conveniently visited from Beijing, including at Badaling, the most popular site, about 70 km (43 mi.) northwest of Beijing and at Mutianyu, 90 km (56 mi.) northeast of Beijing. These impressive brick and earth structures date from the Ming dynasty, when the wall was fortified against Mongol forces to the north. The Ming wall is about 26 feet tall and 23 feet wide at the base, and could accommodate up to six horsemen riding abreast. Watch towers were built on high points every 200-300 meters or so and were housed with small garrison forces that could communicate with fire signals or fireworks. These stretches of the wall are part of a system that extends from the Shanhaiguan fortress on the Bohai Gulf in the east to the Jiayuguan fortress in the west, altogether some 6000 km (3700 mi).

The Ming sections of the wall are only a late stage in a long history of the wall construction. The wall is most often associated with the First Emperor of China (Qin Shi Huangdi , reigning during 221-210 BC), who after unifying China by conquest undertook to link up previously existing sections of walls belonging to conquered states. The First Emperor mobilized massive conscripted labor forces, including convicts and prisoners, by some accounts up to a million strong, to conduct this building campaign.

While the Great Wall in its various versions had real military defensive functions, it also served symbolic purposes. For long periods Chinese populations lived north of the wall and nomads or semi-nomads lived south of it. The wall served as a symbolic reminder of dynastic authority and also of cultural distinction between settled agrarian culture and cities on the Chinese side and pastoral horsemen on the other. It continues today to serve as a marker of cultural and national identity.

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We begin and end our hiking tour in Beijing. After meeting in Beijing we proceed to HeBei Province, where most of the parts of the Great Wall we visit are. HeBei Province has a population of about 65 million people. Among its cities we visit Chengde and Qinhuangdao (Including Beidaihe and Shanhaiguan).

ChengDe, a city of peculiar charm, is situated on the northern fringes of the YanShan Mountains. The well known BiShuShanZhuang (Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat) stands in the northern part of the city. Like a pearl inlaid at the center of the YanShan Mountains, the city of historical and cultural renown boasts scenic hills and waters, grand ancient buildings, an imperial garden complex of the Qing Dynasty, unusual peaks and rocks and a pleasant climate.

More than 290 years have elapsed since Emperor Kang Xi initiated the building of the Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat in 1703. As the largest surviving imperial garden complex in China, it occupied 5.6 million square meters, double the space of the Summer Palace or eight times the size of BeiHai park in Beijing. The 72 scenic spots designated by Emperor Kang Xi and Emperor Qian Long are reputed to be 72 gems scattered in the area. The numerous ancient buildings here represent both the northern and southern schools of ancient Chinese architecture and merge with the architectural style of China's ethnic groups. They highlight the elegance and harmony of the scenic spots that served as pleasure grounds for the emperors and their political arenas as well. Emperors of the Qing Dynasty each spent almost half a year every year at the mountain manor where they lived, handled court affairs and received envoys from other countries. Naturally it was the second political center of the Qing Dynasty.

Around the mountain manor were eleven magnificent temples, known as the Eight Outer Temples. They represent the Han, Manchu, Hui, Tibetan and Uygur architectural styles. With their main gates facing the mountain manor, these temples symbolize the unity of the multi-national country.

We will visit the Palace Area. The palaces and halls in the Mountain Manor for Escaping the Summer Heat were a symbol of imperial power and an epitome of the imperial family's life style. There were no vermillion walls to surround the palaces and halls and yellow tiles to add solemnity to these buildings. However, the unpainted pavilions and columns, the simple and unsophisticated buildings and the rich variety of valuables and curios remind the visitors of the unforgettable past.

The palace area has a number of buildings along its central axis such as LiZhengMen (Gate of Splendour and Propriety), the Inner and Outer Meridian Gates, DanBoJingChengDain (Hall of Rectitude and Sincerity), SiZhiSuWu (Chamber of the Four Wisdom), YanBoZhiShuangDian ( Hall of Refreshing Mists and Ripples), YunShanShengDi (Tower of the Cloud and Mountains Resort) and XiuYunMen (Cave and Cloud Gate). Nine successive courtyards extend from north to south. The simple and elegant buildings are neatly and symmetrically laid out and the surroundings are secluded and quiet.

We will also visit two majestic temples in Chengde: PuTuoZongCheng Temple and PuNing Temple

PuTuoZongCheng( Potarak Doctrine) Temple was built in 1767 on the model of the Potala in Lhasa, Tibet. The temple covers an area of 220,000 square meters and consists of nearly 40 impressive halls and other buildings. "PuTuo" is a Han transcription of the Tibetan word "PoTaLa", the name of the hill near Lhasa. The main structure is the Great Red Terrace where stands the 25-meter-high, gilded copper-tiled WanFaGuiyDian (Hall of All Laws Belonging to One).

The temple was built on the occasion of the 80th birthday of Emperor Qian Long's mother and the 60th birthday of the emperor himself. Princes and dukes of ethnic groups from Mongolia, QingHai and XinJiang came to extend their congratulations on that occasion. Emperor Qian Long had this historic event inscribed on a stele. The stele stands intact in a pavilion in front of the temple as a witness to that event.

The world-famous PuNing (Universal Peace) Temple is a magnificent structure on the banks of the WuLie River in the north suburbs of ChengDe. Built in 1755, it covers an area of 33,000 square meters. The front part is typical of Samgharama in Han-style temple architecture while the rear part is modeled after the SamYe Monastery in Tibet. The main building, the Hall of Great Vehicle, symbolizes Sumeru, the mountain at the center of the Buddhist world, and houses a giant statue of GuanYin (Goddess of Mercy) with a Thousand Hands and a Thousand Eyes. This is the biggest wooden sculpture of its kind in the world. The 22.28 meter-high statue is made of five kinds of wood -- pine, cypress, fir, elm and linden. The statue holds a musical instrument in each of the hands, showing the power of Buddha dharma. Behind the temple are rockeries and age-old pine trees that add to the beauty of the garden to the temple.

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QinHuangDao city, 280 KM far away from Beijing, is located in the eastern portion of HeBei Province. Backing on YanShan mountains and facing BoHai sea, the city has plenty of natural scenery and historical interest. From here we will hike various sections of the Great Wall , including the eastern starting point named the Old Dragon Head, the " First Pass under Heaven" named ShanHaiGuan, the most perilous wall at JiaoShan, the wall over the valleys at JiuMenKou, the Wall under Water at PanJiaKou. Also in this area are the MengJiangNu Temple which was built according to an ancient legend about the Wall and the Wall Brick Kiln Ruins at QianXi County.

We will visit the Eastern Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty which are not far from the city. The buildings in front of the tombs are very magnificent with red brick walls, golden roofs and marble bridges. Altogether five emperors, 15 empresses and 136 concubines were buried here. Several tombs were excavated and have been opened to visitors.

 

As the capital of China, Beijing is one of the world's truly imposing cities, with a 3,000-year history and 13 million people. Covering 16,808 square kilometers in area, it is the political, cultural and economic center of the People's Republic. We spend three days in Beijing at the completion of the hiking tour.

Situated in northeast China, Beijing adjoins the Inner Mongolian Highland to the northwest and the Great Northern Plain to the south. Five rivers run through the city, connecting it to the eastern Bohai Sea.

Administratively, the Beijing municipality equals the status of a province, reporting directly to the central government.

Rich in history, Beijing has been China's primary capital for more than seven centuries. China's imperial past and political present meet at Tiananmen Square, where the Forbidden City palace of the emperors gives way to the Great Hall of the People congress building and the mausoleum of Chairman Mao Zedong. The old city walls have been replaced by ring roads, and many of the old residential districts of alleys and courtyard houses have been turned into high-rise hotels, office buildings, and department stores.

THE FORBIDDEN CITY (Gugong)

At the city center is the imperial palace complex of 24 Ming and Qing dynasty emperors. In imperial times it was called the Purple Forbidden City from the association of the emperors with the color of the Pole Star. Surrounded by 10 meter (32 feet) high walls and gates and a 50m (164 ft.) wide moat, it was inaccessible to ordinary people, but well populated by imperial family members, their servants and staffs, officials, and guards.

The major ceremonial buildings of the palace are aligned on a north-south axis that extends beyond the walls toward the Temple of Heaven complex and Yongding Gate in the south. The main entrance to the palace complex is via the Meridian Gate (Wumen), from which the New Year was announced each year by the emperor, proclamations were read, and the fate of prisoners decided. Past five white marble bridges and the Gate of Supreme Harmony, a great courtyard could accommodate several thousand people for state ceremonies such as the imperial weddings.

The three most important ceremonial buildings are on the north-south axis, raised on a high white marble terrace, and accessed by ramps carved with ornate dragons over which the emperor was carried in a palanquin. The three main halls and associated side buildings formed the outer courtyard of the Forbidden City, devoted primarily to official and ceremonial functions, but including imperial libraries and studies. The inner chambers at the rear of the Forbidden City included private living and sleeping quarters of the imperial family, divided into three palaces and twelve courtyards. The Western Palaces were the residences of empresses, concubines, and princes. The Eastern Palace halls are now used as museum exhibition spaces, devoted to ritual bronze vessels, ceramics, craft objects, antique clocks, and paintings, including objects from the imperial collections and archaeological finds. The back precincts include the Palace of Aging Peacefully (Ningshou Gong) where the Qianlong Emperor of the late 18th century spent his retirement years.

TIANANMEN SQUARE

Just south of the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square (The Gate of Heavenly Peace Square), the largest inner-city square in the world and that can hold up to a million people. It was cleared in 1958 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. It replaced an older open space in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the main entrance to the imperial city and that had a longer history of political importance. On May 4, 1919, students demonstrated here against provisions of the Treaty of Versailles following World War I that were considered unfair to China. The May Fourth Movement spawned here was a widespread movement for political and literary modernization that impacted the rest of the century.

After the founding of the People's Republic, Tiananmen Square became symbolic of the socialist state through the construction in 1959 of the Great Hall of the People on its western side, and the Museums of Chinese History and the Chinese Revolution on its eastern edge. In the same period, a Monument to the People's Heroes was erected in the center of the square. In addition, following Chairman Mao Zedong's death in 1976, a Chairman Mao Mausoleum building was erected directly on the main north-south axis of the square. It contains the preserved body of Mao in a crystal sarcophagus, along with a standing marble statue of the Chairman. China's imperial past, revolutionary history, and political present are all represented vividly in Tiananmen Square.

SUMMER PALACE

Fifteen kilometers (9 miles) to the northwest of Beijing is the Summer Palace. Yi He Yuan, or the Summer Palace, is the best-kept existing royal garden in Beijing. With a concentration of the best of ancient buildings as well as styles of gardening, it is a virtual museum of traditional Chinese gardening. Now a large park of 716 acres, it was formerly the imperial garden retreat from the summer heat of Beijing. Surrounding hills shelter the site, and the Kunming Lake provides a cooling effect. The site was used as an imperial park as early as the mid-12th century, and continued as an imperial garden in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

In 1860 Anglo-French forces burned the site to the ground. It was reconstructed 25 years later by the Empress Dowager Cixi in 1888, using funds that had been reserved for building a modern naval force. It was completed in 1895, and the name was changed to Yiheyuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The large marble boat that sits immobile by the edge of the lake is an ironic reminder of the waste and mismanagement that led to the decline of the imperial state.

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THE Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty -- World's Largest Concentration of Royal Tombs

At a distance of 50 km northwest of Beijing stands an arc-shaped cluster of hills fronted by a small plain. Here is where 13 emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) were buried, and the area is known as the Ming Tombs. Construction of the tombs started in 1409 and ended with the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. In over 200 years tombs were built over an area of 40 square kilometres, which is surrounded by walls totaling 40 kilometres. Each tomb is located at the foot of a separate hill and is linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way. The stone archway at the southern end of the Sacred Way, built in 1540, is 14 metres high and 19 metres wide, and is decorated with designs of clouds, waves and divine animals.

Different Views on Death

Beijing served as the national capital during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Unlike Ming and Qing rulers who all built massive tombs for themselves, Yuan rulers left no similar burial grounds. Why the difference

This has to do with people's different views on death. Beijing nomads came from the Mongolian steppe. Mongols who established the Yuan Dynasty held the belief that they had come from: earth. they adopted a simple funeral method: the dead were placed inside a hollowed nanmu tree, which was then buried under grassland. Growth of grass soon left no traces of the tombs. By contrast, during the Ming Dynasty established by Han Chinese coming from an agricultural society in central China, people believed in the existence of an after-world, where the dead "lived" a life similar to that of the living. Ming emperors, therefore, had grand mausoleums built for themselves. Qing rulers did likewise. The stone archway at the southern end of the Sacred Way, built in 1540, is 14 metres high and 19 metres wide, and is decorated with designs of clouds, waves and divine animals. Well-proportioned and finely carved, the archway is one of the best preserved specimens of its kind in the Ming Dynasty. It is also the largest ancient stone archway in China.

The Stele Pavilion, not far from the Great Palace Gate, is actually a pavilion with a double-eaved roof. On the back of the stele is carved poetry written by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty when he visited the Ming Tombs.

The Sacred Way inside the gate of the Ming Tomb is lined with 18 pairs of stone human figures and animals. These include four each of three types of officials: civil, military and meritorious officials, symbolizing those who assist the emperor in the administration of the state, plus four each of six types of animals: lion, griffin, camel, elephant, unicorn and horse.

Yongling, built in 1536, is the tomb for Emperor Shizong, Zhu Houcong (1507-1566). He stayed in power for 45 years.

The Dingling Tomb is the tomb of Emperor Wanli (reigned 1573-1619), the 13th emperor of the Ming Dynasty, whose personal name was Zhu Yijun, and of his two empresses, Xiao Duan and Xiao Jing. The tomb was completed in six years (1584-1590), it occupies a total area of 1,195 square meters at the foot of Dayu Mountain southwest of the Changling Tomb.

The underground palace at Dingling Tomb consists of an antechamber, a central chamber and a rear chamber plus the left and right annexes. One of the pictures shows the entral chamber where the sacrificial utensils are on display. Two marble doors are made of single slabs and carved with life-size human figures, flowers and birds. More than 3,000 articles have been unearthed from the tumulus, the most precious being the golden crowns of the emperor and his queen.  

 
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