Day 1: Hidden Gems. This journey begins in Beijing. If you need advice or assistance getting to Beijing then please contact us. We visit the Ancient Observatory to the East of the city. This under-rated site contains an eclectic collection of both Chinese and Western astronomical instruments. The Jesuits had a large influence at court for a while, mostly because their instruments and calculations were more accurate.
The delight is in seeing western instruments made to Chinese designs: with dragons and other strange beasts forming supports and decorations. The explanations around the site relate traditional beliefs to the scientific phenomena observed. Look out for the Golden Bird covered by a Toad; obviously a solar eclipse. Later we will head north to Jiaodaokou where a number of interesting sites are congregated.
We will visit: the Yonghe Gong Lama Monastery, home to the Panchen Lama when he is in Beijing; the Temple of Confucius, once a very important site but now sadly forgotten. The temple contains some original Yuan Dynasty architecture; and the very tranquil Imperial Academy where the very best candidates prepared for their government examinations. This program allows for unhurried visits. We may include other gems at no extra charge if time permits. In the evening we will head to Houhai, a scenic lake area with a variety of restaurants and bars. Meals: lunch, dinner.
Day 2: Ancient Temples. We leave Beijing the city for an excursion to Mentougou District where two temples have survived the ravages of time. The Tanzhe Temple is said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Beijing. The temple gets its name from the zhe, a type of Mulberry tree, growing within the grounds. In Chinese culture Mulberry trees are associated with fertility.
This temple has therefore attracted Royal patronage, most notably in the Ming Dynasty. Perhaps more importantly, many powerful court eunuchs also sought to compensate for their childless lives by burying their amputated parts at the site hoping for some sort of blessing in the life to follow. Later we visit the nearby Jietai Temple. This site is noted for its ancient trees and an exquisitely carved marble ordination altar. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 3: Hutongs and Fragrant Hills. In the morning we explore a hutong, one of Beijing's traditional alleyway residential areas with courtyard houses. We have included a family visit where you will not only stop for lunch but help prepare it. There is a short lesson on stuffing dumplings and then everyone can join in as your guide translates questions and answers. In the afternoon we head out to the Fragrant Hills Park where the lovely Azure Clouds Temple with its towering Diamond Throne Pagoda sits atop the summit.
Note: The day's activities are planned to end mid-afternoon. You can therefore plan to continue your travels this evening. If you want to stay in the city for a bit longer to do your own thing then you can easily book extra nights at the same hotel with us.
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