Imperial China Discovery & Learning Tour

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Imperial China – Discovery & Learning Tour”

October 7-21, 2015

Wednesday, October 7 – Departure from Dulles Int’l Airport, Washington, DC

Flying time on direct flights from North America to Beijing is about 14 ½ hours. A time difference of twelve hours between EST and Beijing means we will arrive in China the following day (8th).

Thursday, October 8 – Beijing

Most international flights from the USA east coast arrive in the middle of the 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.

Friday, October 9 – Beijing – The Forbidden City

After breakfast (almost all breakfasts will be buffet style in the hotel) we will stroll from our hotel on a walking street to Tiananmen Square, the center of the city and the site of many of China’s most significant political events of the past 600 years. At the square we will join lines filing through Chairman Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum, and then get a first-hand account of some of what happened here during May and June of 1989. We will then 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 where one can reflect and get some great photos. We will then move on into a park (made famous by the last Ming Dynasty emperor who hanged himself there) and for those who are ambitious, climb a man-made hill that gives a great view of the Forbidden City (smog permitting!). Following a late lunch we will make a short trip by bus to one of the few areas of the city that has been saved from development, where we can get some sense of what life was like in Beijing a few decades ago. We will then return to our hotel and dinner.

Saturday, October 10 – Beijing – The Great Wall

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 of the world’s oldest and most remarkable achievements. A cable car makes the ascent and descent enjoyable and manageable. Following lunch we will return to the city, stopping by the Olympic Stadium (Birds Nest and Water Cube) and then eating some Beijing duck before returning to our hotel.

Sunday, October 11 – Beijing – Chongwenmen Church – Temple of Heaven

Attending a worship service in China is a special experience, and on this morning we will worship with the Christians who meet at the Chongenmen Church, near the city center. Either before or after the service we will have the opportunity to talk with Pastor Wu Wei, who helps oversee all the churches in Beijing. Pastor Wu is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary. This is a great time to ask questions and receive first-hand information regarding the church in China. From the Chongwenmen Church we will take a short ride to the Temple of Heaven, one of the oldest sites in the city and architecturally stunning. This is one of China’s most sacred places with reference to religion and culture. Then we will make our way to the airport for a late afternoon one and one-half hour flight to Xian.

Monday, October 12 – Xian – Muslim Mosque – Monastery – Shopping!

For many centuries Xian was the greatest city in the world, but all that remains are the many hills where emperors are buried and where there are archaeological digs. We will stay in the middle of the new city of Xian, a fascinating hub where lights, energy and noise never seem to end. Then an opportunity for bike riding on top of the 19th century city wall that encircles the city. After our bike ride (walking is an option) we will point out several neat shopping streets. On our way out of the Muslim quarter we will wind our way through a fascinating corridor of shops and markets to which we may return later and bargain for souvenirs. Our afternoon drive will be out of the city to the site of the first Christian church and monastery in China (7th century), and also the site where the Daoist philosopher Laozi supposedly wrote the Daodejing, perhaps the most famous collection of Chinese writings.

Tuesday, October 13 – Xian – Terracotta Warriors Museum – Buddhist Temple

An hour out of Xian we come 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. In the afternoon you will have an opportunity to choose from several different options. These include visiting a Buddhist Temple complex (Big Goose Pagoda), a museum of stone steles that contains the monument detailing the history of the first Christian missionaries to come to China, the provincial museum, or you may opt for more shopping and wandering the streets and markets.

Wednesday, October 14 – Chengdu – Sichuan Province

A two-hour morning flight will take us further southwest to Chengdu, a city of about 14 million, and the capital of Sichuan Province. After checking into our hotel and having our first lunch of spicy Sichuan food (non-spicy also available), we will divide into small groups to explore the city. We will be given options from which to choose, and our guides will be university students who are studying English and tourism. This will be a great opportunity for us to spend time with Chinese young people and hear about their lives and families. The students will take us to their favorite restaurant for dinner, after which we will return to the hotel.

Thursday, October 15 – Chengdu – Leshan Teachers College – Evening Show

Today we will see some of the amazing Sichuan countryside as we take a two-hour bus ride to the “small” city of Leshan (ok, so it has nearly one million people). Here we will get a close and personal look at the largest seated Buddha in the world. We will also make a stop at Leshan Teachers College where we will have a chance to entertain university students with stories of our families, jobs, and life experiences. We will return to Chengdu for dinner and then attend a special performance of traditional song and dance presented by students from the Fine Arts College of Sichuan Normal University.

Friday, October 16 – Chengdu – Panda Reserve

Sichuan is home to the pandas, and 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 critters eating bamboo and hopefully frolicking. We will have lunch downtown with Pastor Peter Yuan, who is the general secretary of the Sichuan Christian Council and the Principal of the Sichuan Theological Seminary. A graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Peter will introduce us to the seminary. 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. We will get a first-hand feel for the high speed trains that China is building all across the country. From the train station we will make a short trip to our hotel, and have a free evening.

Saturday, October 17 – Nanchong – Chinese Taiqi – Farmer Duan’s Home

Nanchong is another “small” city (about a million people) where things (especially cars) seem to be going in many different and inexplicable directions. Our morning will begin the same as that of many Chinese, particularly the elderly, with a demonstration and then practice of Chinese taiqi (stretching exercise). We will then go to the rural area near Nanchong, where we can walk the narrow paths between rice paddies and visit a farmer’s home. We will learn how hundreds of millions of Chinese people live, and find a way to make a living. The afternoon will be spent with Chinese friends who will give us brief introductions to several topics that could include: Chinese calligraphy (we get to practice), traditional medicine, tea culture, and painting. We will have dinner with a group of English teachers who have been to North America – they will talk with us about education in China, what it means to have only one child, current family pressures and how life has changed for them during the past decade.

Sunday, October 18 – Guangan - Chongqing – Yangtze River Cruise

On our way to Chongquing we will stop in Guangan, which is the hometown of Deng Xiaoping. Deng is the man most responsible for the China of today and for the cheap things that we buy at Wal Mart. Deng succeeded 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 with a retired government official who has many stories of life before and after Deng Xiaoping. We will arrive in Chongqing by mid-afternoon and have some hours to see the downtown area of this mountainous city located on the Yangtze River. Sightseeing options include an excellent urban planning museum or a museum devoted to the Three Gorges. Then about 9:00 we will board our river boat for our Yangtze River cruise.

Monday, October 19 – Yangtze River – Fuling – Fengdu

Our boat will leave Chongqing in the early morning and will wind its way, as we sleep, along the Yangtze and past a number of river towns. One of these is the city of Fuling, the location of Peace Corps volunteer Peter Hessler’s excellent book entitled Riverboat. There is a shore excursion in Fengdu, known as the city of ghosts. If nothing else it is a chance to see what a river town looks like.

Tuesday, October 20 – Yangtze River – The Three Gorges
Today is the highlight of the Yangtze River tour, the day when we pass through the Three Gorges. We will disembark and board smaller boats to navigate up the lesser gorges, a unique and picturesque adventure. Also when we are on board the cruise boat we will enjoy great meals, various cultural and craft demonstrations, and have an opportunity to purchase crafts.
Wednesday, October 21 – Yangtze River – Yichang – Flight to Shanghai

The river cruise ends near the city of Yichang, which is also where the Three Gorges Dam the world’s largest, is located. We will have an opportunity to see parts of the dam before we head for a small airport and our afternoon flight to Shanghai. After checking in at our hotel, those who are up for it will be able to walk to The Bund, an area along the Pu River that is rich in history, and proves to be a great place to view the distant skyscrapers!

Thursday, October 22 – Shanghai – Yuyuan Gardens – Xintiandi

We will first explore the Shanghai that sits on the eastern side of the river – everything we see was built in the past 15 years in this new part of the city. The skyscrapers include the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jinmao Tower, which has the world’s highest hotel lobby (54th floor) and the amazing Shanghai Tower. We will then move to the other side of the river to old Shanghai, walking through Yuyuan Gardens and checking out the Western looking building that were the center of Shanghai life in the 1800s and early 1900s when the Western Concessions divided up the city. We will end our day in an area called Xintiandi, the old French Concession area that has been reclaimed and has many fine restaurants. Time permitting we will also visit the building where the Chinese Communist Party first met in 1919.

Friday, October 23 – Zhouzhuang – Last-Minute Shopping
Today we leave the mega city and spend some hours in a small “water-town” there are numerous small towns around Shanghai that have canals for streets and are great places to relax, take picturesque photos, and do some shopping. We will return to Shanghai early enough so you can do more shopping (!) or stroll along the Bund.

Saturday, October 24 – Shanghai – Washington, D.C.

What we are able to see today depends on flight schedules, but those with time can visit the Shanghai Museum, perhaps China’s most modern and best historical museum. The museum is located in People’s Park, so there are more fascinating areas to explore and great places to do last-minute shopping. Flights depart from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.

                                                         "Imperial China"

                                                                              October 7 - 24, 2015

                                                                      $4989 from Washington, D.C.

Planned in cooperation with Mennonite Partners in China, and accompanied by Myrrl Byler, Director, and Jeanette Hanson, Ass't Director Jeanette has lived in China for 23 years.  Mennonite Partners in China is a program of four Mennonite agencies, and builds relationships and carries out projects with Chinese partners in educational institutions, local government organizations and Protestant churches.  MPC carries out exchange programs, seeking to be a Christian presence in the manner of Jesus. 

TravelVenture Tours, with Ed and Edie Bontrager of Harrisonburg, VA began taking tours abroad in 1970, while serving in pastoral ministry.  Most of these early trips took people to the Middle East, mostly to Israel and Turkey.  Since then they have expanded their travel ministry, with one or both taking groups to Africa, South America, India, Russia, Indonesia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, totaling almost 40 tours.  As escorts they will make sure that our travel days go well and are enjoyable.

You may check out the itinerary of this trip by going on our web site -  -  For further information contact Ed and Edie Bontrager at 540-438-8304 or 

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