Great Gardens of China
This fascinating tour explores centuries of Chinese culture through the lens of gardens, landscapes and art. From the great gardens of the Ming and Qing dynasties to cutting-edge artistic innovations of the 21st century, China is a unique civilisation where the old and new coexist in surprising, dynamic harmony.
Designed with the garden-lover in mind, this tour will also appeal to anyone interested in China’s long and rich cultural history as well as the extraordinary changes taking place there currently. From the bustling cities of Shanghai and Beijing to the serene ‘garden capital’ of Suzhou and the striking jagged granite peaks of the Yellow Mountains, discover the Chinese traditions of garden design, along with stunning historical sights, dramatic scenery, and traditional and contemporary art and architecture.
China has long been a source of inspiration to horticulturists, artists and adventurers. Now let this captivating destination inspire you too!
Suggested morning departure from Sydney on Qantas (connecting flights available ex-MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL). Suggested departure from Perth on Cathay (via Hong Kong). Evening arrival in Shanghai and transfer to your hotel. (NB. Flight not included in tour cost. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with these travel arrangements).
Enjoy a full-day tour of Shanghai, a city that started as a humble fishing village before becoming a thriving trading centre in the late 19th century. Included in the tour is a visit to the 400-year old Yuyuan Garden. This meticulously reconstructed garden preserves its classical beauty, and features traditional Chinese architecture, miniature lakes, bridges and rock formations. After a welcome lunch, visit the Shanghai Museum. The museum building is shaped like a bronze tripod and houses one of the world’s finest collections of ancient and modern Chinese art and artefacts. Tonight, enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.
Embark on a ‘contemporary express’ trip of modern Shanghai, beginning with a visit to Yuz Museum, established in 2007 by Budi Tek, a Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur, art philanthropist and collector, to promote contemporary art and artists of both Asia and the West. Visit the Power Station of Art, home to the Shanghai Biennale and the first state-run museum of contemporary Chinese art. In the afternoon, visit 50 Moganshan Road, a contemporary art district with a thriving community of more than a hundred artists and whose studios are open to the public.
After breakfast, depart for the ‘garden capital’ of Suzhou, situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and near the shores of Lake Taihu. This enchanting city is renowned for its beautiful stone bridges, pagodas and meticulously designed gardens. Following lunch and a background talk, visit the Master of the Nets Garden is the smallest of the Suzhou residential gardens, yet is considered one of the most impressive because of its use of space, creating the illusion of an area that is much greater than its actual size.
Visit the Garden of the Humble Administrator, the largest classical garden in Suzhou and one of the most famous gardens in China. Continue to the Suzhou New Museum, designed by the renowned American Chinese designer I. M. Pei, who spent his childhood in Suzhou. The museum, which is an extraordinary contemporary interpretation of traditional Suzhou architecture, houses over 30,000 cultural relics, most notably Ming and Qing dynasty paintings and calligraphy, and ancient arts and crafts.
This morning visit two gardens. The first, Lion Grove Garden, is reputedly the world’s only surviving rock garden, whose name is derived from the lion-shaped taihu rocks. The Lingering Garden, originally a classical private garden and now one of the four most famous gardens in China and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Laid out in typical Qing style, the garden is renowned for its magnificent buildings in various shapes, sizes and colours. During the visit, join Genevieve for a talk about Chinese gardens.
The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy Suzhou’s many other gardens and attractions.
Leave Suzhou and drive to Hangzhou, one of China’s six ancient capitals. In the afternoon, enjoy a picturesque lake cruise on the West Lake, Hangzhou’s centrepiece, and loved by emperors, poets, painters and Communist rulers alike. This is followed by a visit to Guozhuang Garden. Completed in 1861, this elegant garden villa was built as a private retreat for a wealthy Qing dynasty silk merchant. It is a fine example of Chinese aesthetics in which the man-made and natural are in harmonious balance. Dinner this evening is in the hotel restaurant.
This morning visit Lingyin Temple, the oldest and most influential Buddhist monastery in South-eastern China with a history of more than 1,600 years. In the afternoon, visit a couple of select contemporary art galleries. Tonight enjoy a performance of ‘Impression West Lake’.
Transfer by coach from Hangzhou to Huangshan (Yellow Mountains). Frequently the subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed area is well known for its striking scenery, including peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, ancient twisted pine trees, and unique cloud formations. In the afternoon, attend a talk and then visit Tunxi Old Street, lined with two- and three-storey houses displaying the 800-year old design of ‘shop in the front, and house or workshop at the back’.
Enjoy a full day in the Yellow Mountains. Take a cable car from Yungu Station and visit a number of mountain peaks such as Brush Pen Peak, Begin-to-Believe Peak and Lion Peak as well as the Xihai Grand Canyon.
After a morning at leisure, transfer to the local airport for the flight to Beijing.
After a talk by your tour leader this morning, today’s city tour begins in Beijing’s geographical heart, Tiananmen Square. At over 40 hectares, Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest public square and has been the site of demonstrations, celebrations and political incidents for nearly a hundred years. Visit the National Museum of China, China’s largest and most comprehensive history museum including collections of decorative objects and artefacts such as bronzes, pottery, lacquer ware, jade, textiles and paintings. This afternoon visit the Red Gate Gallery, founded in 1991 by Australian Brian Wallace and is China’s first private contemporary art gallery owned and managed by a foreigner.
This morning visit the Imperial Palace (The Forbidden City). Dating back to the 15th century, this site is a magnificent complex of pavilions, courtyards, gates, ceremonial halls, residences, gardens and lakes. After lunch, visit Jingshan Park, a beautifully landscaped royal garden with wonderful views over the Forbidden City. End the day with a tour of the Hutong district surrounding the ancient Bell and Drum Towers, which were used to tell the time during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.
Visit the Summer Palace, the summer retreat of the imperial family during the Qing Dynasty. Renowned for its architectural grandeur and stunning natural beauty, a large man made lake makes up three-quarters of the total area. The afternoon is at leisure. Optional opera/music/ballet performance at the new National Centre of the Performing Arts, commonly referred to as ‘The Egg’. (Not included in tour price, additional cost applies).
Explore the burgeoning contemporary art scene with a visit to Guanfu Museum, China’s first private museum and 798 Art Space, the pioneer of the contemporary art in modern China.
(BL or D)
Visit the Temple of Heaven, a superb example of imperial Chinese architecture. Following a special farewell lunch, today’s tour ends in the nearby Pearl Market, Beijing’s largest arts and crafts market.
Suggested travel arrangements for SYD / MEL / BNE / ADL / CBR tour members.
8.00 PM checkout and transfer to Beijing Capital Airport for departure on overnight Qantas flight to Sydney.
Mid-morning arrival in Sydney (connecting flights available to MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL).
Suggested travel arrangements for PER tour members.
After breakfast tour arrangements conclude with a private transfer to the airport for departure on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. Late evening arrival in Perth.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
23 JAN 2017
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours for airfares and flight reservation. Specials and business class upgrade are available.
All foreigners require a visa for China. Renaissance Tour will arrange your visa in early 2017.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located hotels with private facilities and daily breakfast (B)
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader throughout
- Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner). Local beer and soft drinks with meals
- Transfers on arrival and departure
- Transportation throughout in comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Performance ‘Impression West Lake’ in Hangzhou
- Return cable car ride in the Yellow Mountains
- Domestic flight: Huangshan – Beijing on 3rd Apr (local airlines with 20kg checked luggage allowance)
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Chinese visa (single entry)
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- Return international flights
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, mini-bar, taxis etc.)
- Travel insurance (recommended)
- Airport porterage
Shanghai – Central Hotel ****+
Suzhou – Pan Pacific Hotel *****
Hangzhou – Shangri-La Hotel*****
Huangshan (the Yellow Mountains) – Huangshan International Hotel ****
Beijing – Regent Hotel *****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted