You are invited to . . .
CHINA – Ancient religions in changing times
October 5-22, 2016
With guide Jeanette Hanson, Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker in China since 1991 and assisted by various friends in every stop.
October 5 Travel Day from North America
The majority of our group will arrive in Beijing by late afternoon. Upon arrival we will travel to our hotel and take some time to freshen up from the long flight. We will have our first meal together and have a brief orientation to each other and our hosts. For those who want to stretch their legs, we will venture out of the hotel for an orientation walk in the hotel area.
7 BEIJING After breakfast (almost all our hotel breakfasts will be buffet-style) our bus will take us into the Beijing traffic in the direction of Tiananmen Square, the center of the city and the site of many of China’s most significant political events over the past 600 years. We will take a few minutes each morning in the bus to learn a few Chinese words or phrases that we will find helpful in shopping or in engaging with people.
We will move into the emperor’s palace, commonly known in English as the Forbidden City. This enormous complex tends to be overwhelming, but there are also out-of-the-way spots in which to reflect and take great photos.
When we exit the Forbidden City we will move on into a park (made famous by the last Ming Dynasty emperor who hanged himself there). The ambitious among us can climb a man-made hill for a great view of the Forbidden City (smog permitting)! After lunch we will take a short drive to the architecturally stunning Temple of Heaven, one the oldest sites in the city. This is one of China’s most sacred places with reference to religion and culture.
8 BEIJING An early morning two-hour drive will take us into the mountains outside of Beijing where we will make our ascent to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. There will be ample time for hiking, taking pictures, and enjoying the sights of one the world’s oldest and most remarkable achievements. A cable car makes the ascent and descent enjoyable and manageable. Following lunch at a countryside restaurant we return to Beijing and spend some time wandering the narrow alleyways (hutongs) in the area around Hou Lake. This is a great place to see what remains of the old city of Beijing. We will also visit the White Cloud Temple, a Daoist temple and monastery since the mid-8th century.
9 BEIJING Attending a worship service in China is a special experience and on Sunday morning we will worship with Christians who meet at the Chongwenmen Church. During lunch we will meet with Pastor Wu Wei, who helps oversee all of the churches in Beijing. Pastor Wu is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (Virginia). This is a great time to ask questions and receive first-hand information on the church in China today. Following lunch we will leave for the outskirts of Beijing and spend some time at the Summer Palace, another large complex of buildings, temples, lakes, painted corridors, and ancient trees. From there we will travel to the airport for an evening flight to Xi’an.
Xi’an is China’s ancient capital and the starting point of the Silk Road. For many centuries this was the greatest city in the world—all that remains are the many hills where emperors are buried, and fascinating archaeological digs. We will stay in the middle of the city. It takes about an hour to get out to the Terracotta Warriors Museum complex, one of the greatest historical sites in the world. Discovered in the 1970s, the army of clay warriors that Emperor Qin buried with him in 220 BC looks ready to march into battle. After lunch you will have an opportunity to exercise your legs by walking on top of the 19th century city wall that encircles the old city. We will then head for the Muslim quarter to visit the grounds of one of China’s oldest mosques. Muslim traders from the Middle East came to the area and we can see how they accommodated their religion and architecture to Chinese styles, in contrast to Catholic and Protestant churches. On our way out of the Muslim quarter we will wind our way through a fascinating corridor of shops and markets to which you can return later to bargain for souvenirs.
11 XI’AN to LANZHOU
In the morning we will stop at the Big Goose pagoda on our way to the airport. This pagoda was built in 652 C.E. to house the Buddhist scriptures that were carried here by a Chinese monk returning from India. We will then fly to Lanzhou in Gansu province. From this provincial capital we will take a bus to the town of Xiahe, an intriguing valley of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and temples. This is a fascinating opportunity to see the Tibetan way of life and understand the culture and religion of this group of people.
In the morning we will wander around the maze of temples that form the Labrang monastery. We will have a local monk explain the rituals and practices as well as the history of the monastery. It will be possible to watch the monks go about their meditation, chanting, and study. The afternoon will be spent with a Tibetan nomad family in a grassland nearby.
13 LANZHOU TO CHENGDU
On the way back to the airport in Lanzhou we will visit a mosque in Linxia. Many places in Gansu province were crossroads of ancient cultures, bringing together Buddhism of various forms, Islam, Daoism, and even Christianity during its earliest introduction to China. A flight of nearly two hours will take us further south and west to Chengdu, a city of about 14 million and the capital of Sichuan Province.
14 CHENGDU Today you will see some of the amazing Sichuan countryside as we take a nearly two-hour bus ride to the holy Daoist mountain of Qingchengshan. While it may seem like the climb up this mountain is endless at times, most of the climb will be done by cart and cable car. In the afternoon we will see the site of an archeological dig with amazing gold, bronze and jade artifacts that date between 2-3000 years old. In the evening there is an option to attend an evening of traditional Sichuan entertainment at a tea house.
15 CHENGDU TO NANCHONG Sichuan is home to the loveable pandas; since they are most active in the morning, we will begin our day with a visit to the panda reserve where you will get to see these delightful and rare animals happily eating bamboo and hopefully frolicking about.
We will have lunch downtown with Pastor Peter Yuan, the general secretary of the Sichuan Christian Council and the Dean of the Sichuan Theological Seminary. A graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Peter will introduce you to the seminary and some of the students who attend there. From here we will join the millions of Chinese who travel by train each day as we journey for several hours through the Sichuan countryside to the city of Nanchong. You will get a first-hand feel for the sleek and smooth high-speed trains that China is building across their vast country. We will have dinner with a group of English teachers who have been to North America—with conversations about such topics as education in China, family pressures in today’s economy and lifestyle, and how life has changed for Chinese people over the past decade, especially under the extensive modernization programs.
16 NANCHONG Nanchong is a small city of about a million people where things (especially cars) seem to be going in many different and inexplicable directions. Your morning will begin the same as that of many Chinese, particularly the elderly, with a demonstration and then practice of Chinese tai-qi (tai-chi, stretching exercise). Then we will worship with a Christian congregation in the area. We will then take a bus and do some walking to reach a rural area that is near Nanchong. There we follow the narrow paths between rice paddies, visit a farmer’s home, and learn how hundreds of millions of Chinese people live and find a way to make a living—definitely a part of China that commercial tours never reach. We will have lunch at Farmer Duan’s home. This is not a “tourist farm”—this private visit is being arranged especially for us!
17 GUANG’AN TO SHANGHAI On the way to the airport we will stop in Guangan, the hometown of Deng Xiaoping. Deng is the man most responsible for the China of today, and for the cheap things that you buy at Wal-Mart. Deng followed Chairman Mao and immediately set China on the economic course that has transformed the country. We will visit his home and also an excellent museum dedicated to him. Lunch will be at a nearby “happy farmer home”, one of the guesthouses that have sprung up in the village near the museum. We will arrive in Chongqing by mid-afternoon for a flight to Nanjing.
18 NANJING We will have time to see some of the remains of the ancient “south capital” and also look at modern practice of religion in China with a trip to the Nanjing Confucius Temple and several churches.
19 NANJING TO SHANGHAI In the morning we will visit the Massacre Museum that commemorates those who died in the Japanese invasion in 1937. After that we will have a chance to see the home of a German citizen who worked to save Chinese lives during that Massacre. The afternoon will end with a fast train ride from Nanjing to Shanghai. After dinner we will have an evening walk on the riverside Bund in Shanghai to see the meeting of old and new, and the amazingly lit skyline.
In the morning we will first explore the Pudong area, the new part of Shanghai that sits on the eastern side of the river—everything you will see was built over the past 15 years. The skyscrapers include the impressive and colorful Oriental Pearl Tower, and the Shanghai World Financial Center, which has an observation floor on the 101st floor where you can view all of central Shanghai. We will then cross the river to old Shanghai, walking through the charming Yuyuan Gardens with quaint temples reflected in the water and then along the famous promenade of the Bund, where we can admire the Western-looking buildings with beautiful colonial architecture that line the avenues along the waterfront. These were the center of Shanghai life in the 1800s and early 1900s when Western countries divided up the city. There may also be time to spend an hour in the Shanghai museum. The building alone, designed in the shape of an ancient bronze tripod, is worth the visit.
We will board our bus to visit one of the interesting water towns in the Shanghai area. The waterways, bridges, interesting roof lines, and little wooden boats give this area the nickname “Venice of the East”. After returning to Shanghai there will be an optional evening acrobat performance.
22 SHANGHAI There will be various departure times, but plans are flexible so that you can spend time before your flight seeing as much of Shanghai as possible.
Two optional tour extensions will allow you to choose from flying up the Yangtze river and taking a 3 day river cruise down the Three Gorges, or flying to Guilin and Hong Kong for five more days. Others will head back to North America on this afternoon’s flight.