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Tours and Travel: professional guides, expert itineraries.
Tours of Ancient & Modern China
Cultural & Art
It is widely known that due to China’s extensive, tumultuous history the country contains a plethora of famous sites, ancient cultural relics, and one of the world’s largest collections of Buddhist scriptures and temples. However, over the last two decades, with modernization occurring at a breakneck pace throughout much of China, a renewed sense of possibility has been kindled within the Chinese people. Chinese culture and art is in the midst of a renaissance; a direct result of the powerful juxtaposition between ancient and modern China.
A Scholarly Approach
VariArts crafts culture and art tours focused on a variety of topics that delve into the changing dynamics of China’s rich cultural heritage. Whether interacting with one of China’s 56 minority cultures, rubbing elbows with the country’s up and coming contemporary artists, or exploring the diversity of Chinese architecture, VariArts customizes tours to meet the needs of your personal journey. In addition, through the use of sinologists and scholars as our tour guides, travellers are encouraged to understand what they experience, rather than merely seeing it at face value. VariArts invites you to discover China’s diverse ways of life, and to join us as we explore the ever evolving nature of one of the world’s oldest and most populated countries.
Sample China Cultural and Art Tour:
Day 1. Beijing
Arrive at Beijing in the early afternoon. Meet your local guide at the airport and transfer to the hotel directly. The rest of the afternoon is free for recovering from jet lag and resting at the hotel. A welcome dinner will be held at Hua Jia Yi Yuan – a courtyard restaurant offering the best Peking duck in Beijing.
Day 2. Beijing
Our tour in Beijing starts at the center itself, at the Forbidden City, home to successive emperors of imperial China. This massive Ming masterpiece was the seat of successive emperors, and a visit here will give you a sense of the grandeur of imperial China. A renovation expert will give us a private tour of an un-renovated section of the Forbidden City open especially for us. Following lunch at a lakeside Hakka restaurant, take a pedicab tour of Old Beijing. Visit a local calligraphy master and learn to appreciate subtle stylistic differences in this mental and spiritual discipline. Dinner is hotpot – one of the most famous Beijing meals.
Day 3. Beijing
The day begins with a morning visit to the Temple of Heaven, where emperors once prayed for a good harvest, making offerings of grain, silk, and animals. In the compound of the temple you will find hundreds of locals practicing morning exercises. After a demonstration, our Tai Chi master will teach us how to execute a few of these graceful, flowing forms. After lunch at a traditional Beijing noodle restaurant, visit the Summer Palace, a beautiful example of Chinese garden architecture. We will enjoy a private boat trip out onto Kunming Lake. The day ends with a Peking Opera performance.
Day 4. Beijing
Depart this morning for an excursion on the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. After the hike, enjoy lunch at the Schoolhouse Canteen, a boutique Western restaurant offering stunning views of the Great Wall. The afternoon is spent at the Dashanzi Contemporary Art Area where factories and warehouses have been converted into galleries and studios. The community exemplifies the move towards expression for artists in China. For the art collector or aficionado, Dashanzi is a wonderful place to wander around, looking into various galleries and chatting with up and coming Beijing artists. Dinner is at Le Quai, a restaurant serving superb Chinese cuisine in a 250 year old building relocated from Jiangsu Province.
Day 5. Guiyang
This morning we have a short visit to the Olympic Venues (Bird’s Nest and Water Cube) before heading to the airport for our flight to Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province. The rest of the day will be left open for you to either visit its museum – an excellent introduction to local history and culture – or take a walk to Qianling Park to climb a thousand steps to the old Buddhist monastery and sip tea in its garden. For dinner, enjoy typical Miao ethnical fish soup while taking in a singing show.
Day 6. Jichang Village
Today’s program highlights the remaining culture of the old Han (Chinese) ethnic group. The ancestors of these villagers migrated from Jiangxi Province to Guizhou Province in the Ming Dynasty. We will drive for 1.5 hours to reach Jichang village. Women here are still dressed in traditional Ming dynasty costumes, and houses remain faithful to the Ming architectural styles. Following lunch at a villager’s home, we will enjoy a private local opera performance, famed for the performers’ symbolic masks. The afternoon will be spent exploring a nearby old Han village. We will drive back to Guiyang in the late afternoon.
Day 7. Maomaohe Village
Today, we will drive 3 hours to Leishan county, center of Miao culture in southeast Guizhou. From Leishan, we will hike for half an hour before reaching Maomaohe Village, known for its Long-Skirt Miao, a subgroup of Miao ethnic minority group. Local people will give us their warm welcome ceremony. In order to gain a better understanding of life and customs in their area, dinner is with the villagers. If the weather is good, we will have a bonfire party with local people in the evening
Day 8. Datang Village
After breakfast in Maomaohe village, we will drive to Shuidian village via Leishan. Hiking in Shuidian village for 2 hours, you may feel as though you are idling along a corridor of landscape paintings of limestone pinnacles set against terraced rice fields and picturesque villages. Enjoy lunch with a Bai family, one of the region’s colorful minorities. In the afternoon, we will visit Datang village, inhabited by Short-Skirt Miao, another subgroup of the Miao ethnic minority group. Datang is well known for its beautiful dancing and singing performances. Local villagers will welcome our group with the same hospitality they’ve shown to their VIP guests. We will head back to Maomaohe village in the late afternoon and dine with a local family
Day 9. Shanghai
Today we will drive from Leishan to Guiyang via Kaili. En route back to Guiyang, we stop at a private embroidery-learning institute. The well-regarded institute draws pupils from across the world. After a traditional Guizhou chicken soup lunch we take a short flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival, we meet our guide at airport and transfer to the hotel directly. The rest of the day will be free to explore Shanghai on your own or have rest at hotel.
Day 10. Shanghai
Our Shanghai exploration begins with a walking tour of the French Concession. Most of the houses of this area remain intact, providing a charming area for strolling, imagining the life of Shanghai’s wealthy community prior to World War II, browsing a few shops, and sampling a few of China’s most famous. To see what the interiors of these houses looked like, we spend a few minutes at the residences of Sun Yat-sen or Soong Qingling. Lunch is a buffet inside Four Seasons Hotel. The whole afternoon spent at the Shanghai Museum, which contains one of the world’s finest collections of Chinese art, housed in a state of the art museum.
Day 11. Shanghai
This morning, we drive to Yu Garden to explore Shanghai’s traditional, and distinctly Chinese, beginnings. This garden is the most celebrated classical Chinese garden in Shanghai. It captures the essence of southern China landscape design from the Ming and Qing dynasties, characterized by an exquisite layout and beautiful scenery and architecture. Then we exit into the center of Chenghuangmiao (God of the city) Bazaar, a bustling market popular with both locals and visitors, where we can find a variety of Shanghai snacks and souvenirs. The afternoon is open for exploration in the market. A farewell dinner will be held at Whampoa Club at 3 on the Bund. The restaurant offers a stunning night view of the Bund.