Between Beijing and Xi'an there are several superb cultural treasures yet to be discovered by the tourist hordes. Datong is one of them. Can be easily reached by train or flight from Beijing, Datong is home to the outstanding Yungang Caves, also known as the "Cloud Ridge Caves". These grottoes, amongst the finest in China, are cut into a kilometer stretch of cliff with beautifully-colored frescoed walls framing more than 50,000 Buddhist statues, ranging from miniature to monolithic. South of Datong the Wooden Pagoda, precipitous Hanging Monastery and the caves of the troglodytes all make intriguing stops on the journey to sacred Mount Wutai.
Day 1 Fly or take an overnight train to Datong (D)
In the afternoon, we visit the Yungang Grottoes, The four main sites in China that are famous for their stone sculpture are Mogao in Dunhuang, Longmen in Luoyan, Dazu in Chongqing, Yungang in Datong and Majishan in Taisnhui. Among these, the Yungang grottoes are considered first among equals, for their tremendous size, their ancient history, and their relatively complete state of preservation. Located at the southern foot of Wuzhou Mountain some 16 km west of Datong City, Shanxi Province, Yungang Grottoes were built against the mountain and extend about 1 km (0.62 miles) from east to west. The construction of the caves was started under the auspices of the noted monk Tan Yao in 453 A.D. and took 50 years to complete. Some 40,000 people, including the Buddhists from what is present Sri Lanka, contributed to the huge project.
The 53 grottoes in Yungang Grottos include some 1,000 niches with about 51,000 statues - a treasure-trove of cave art that combines traditional Chinese art forms with foreign influence, particularly Greek and Indian. Sculptures here are noted for their vigorous features and rich variety that range from the smallest, only 2 centimeters high, to the tallest -a Buddha 17-meters high. The tallest Buddha is surrounded by many small Buddhas in Grotto No. 5, also called the Big Buddha's Cave. In 2001, Yungang was listed as one of UNESCO's "World Cultural Heritages". We stay overnight in Datong.
Day 2 Datong - Mt. Wutai (B, L, D)
Today, we drive for about 4 hours to reach Mt. Wutai. En route, we visit the almost 1000 years old Yingxian Wooden Pagoda. Built in 1056, the Yingxian Wooden Pagoda, also named Sakyamuni Pagoda of Fogong Temple, is located in the Fogong Temple, Yingxian County, Shanxi Province. It is regarded as one of the "Three Pagodas in the World", together with the Eiffel Tower in France and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. It is built on a four-meter-high groundwork with a total height of 67.31 meters, and a diameter of 30.27 meters at its bottom. It is 31.41-meter higher than the White Pagoda in the Beihai Park, Beijing, and 3.21-meter higher than the Dayan Pagoda (the Big Wild Goose Pagoda) in Xi'an.
Lying at the northeast corner of Wutai County, the mountain is one of China's four sacred mountains famous in Buddhist religion. Standing at 3,058 meters above sea level, it was seen as the "roof of northern China." Covering an area of 2,837 square kilometers, Wutai Mountain enjoys a picturesque landscape, including peculiar-shaped cliffs summit, ancient pine and cypress trees enchanting wisps of clouds drifting around the mountain, and magnificent and splendid pavilions and halls. The area's biggest attractions are the numerous Buddhist temples. Mt. Wutai contains some of the most imposing structures and a huge variety of well-preserved Buddhist art works including painted sculptures, frescoes to refer to the area as "a treasure trove of art". Mt. Wutai is believed to be the palace where Manjusri lived and preached and so most of statues found here are in his image.
Day 3 Mt. Wutai (B, L, D)
It is said that Mt. Wutai is the dwelling place of Manjusri Bodhisattva. 360 temples were built here dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) but now only 47 of them exist. Over the years, incalculable numbers of pilgrims and visitors have come here. Among these magnificent temples, five are the most famous: Xiantong Temple, TayuanTemple, Manjusri Temple (Summit Bodhisattva), Shuxiang Temple, and Luohou Temple. You will spend the whole day visiting those temples and exploring Buddhist cultural relics. Stay over night up Wutai mountain.
Day 4 Mt. Wutai - Taiyuan (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we drive for about 4 hours to get to Taiyuan, provincial capital city of Shanxi province, where you will take flight for your departure. End of trip.
590 US Dollar per person for a group of 6 or more people
Airfare is not included in the tour price.
Price Includes: - All hotel accommodations based on double occupancy, including tax and service - All meals as stated in the itinerary highlighting the local cuisine with water, tea, coffee, local beer, and soft drinks - Group airport arrival and departure transfers - All ground transportation in private air conditioned vehicle with bottled water and snacks on coach - All sightseeing, entrance fees - Services of local guides, site experts, and other support personnel - Tibet Travel Permit.
Price Excludes: - International airfare - Any en route stopovers, hotels, and meals to and from China - Excess baggage charges and airport taxes - Passport and visa fees - Items of a personal nature such as, laundry, mail, phone calls, faxes, spa treatments, hard liquor - Normal level of gratuities for local guides and drivers - Trip cancellation, travel delay or baggage insurance.