The Tang Dynasty is synonymous with Chinese culture at its creative best: at its height, the capital of Chang'an (modern day Xian) was the greatest city in the world, a liberal and cosmopolitan place with great wealth and sophisticated cultural life.
The Tang rulers were in control between the seventh and tenth centuries, a time of peace and prosperity in China, when the emperors encouraged people to push the boundaries of art, poetry, dance, architecture and literature.
Vast riches poured into Chang'an from the Silk Road trade between China and the nations beyond its western borders. Merchants came from far afield to acquire this previously-unknown material, created only in China, which was much prized by women in Europe. Silk and Tang fashion styles were also in demand in the neighbouring countries of Japan and Korea.
The success of the Tang Dynasty was built on a solid system of administration, plus a powerful military to keep potential invaders at bay. During the Tang era talented scholars were able to progress up the government system on merit, by passing the civil service administration examinations. New blood from around the country broke the previous domination of aristocratic northwestern families.
The Empress Wu, one of the few women to rule during China's long and illustrious history, took a shine to the more gifted bureaucrats and promoted them to key posts, bringing wealth and influence to their families.
The height of Tang dynasty splendour came under Emperor Xuanzong, who reigned from 713 until 755. China used mercenaries to bolster its military power - often people from ethnic minorities who proved to be fiercely loyal to the ruler - and readily incorporated fighting tactics and weaponry from other armies.
But later in his reign, weakened and slowed by age, the Emperor Xuanzong became infatuated by a beautiful concubine Yangguifei - who distracted him further from the court powerplays. A military rebellion was quashed, but the days of Tang domination were numbered.
But the Tang legacy lives on, ten centuries later, particularly in architecture and art forms. Tang influence can be seen throughout China and also in Japan and Korea, where Tang culture took a firm hold.
Around Xi'an, the site of Chang'an, there are fabulous treasures from both Tang and other eras. Indeed, the western region of China is blessed with a vast store of wonders, both man-made and natural. The Shaolin Temple has become famed worldwide for its energetic kung-style style of fighting, a system invented and refined by warrior-monks who had helped to protect a Tang emperor from his enemies.
Shaolin is within easy reach of Xi'an. There are historical, cultural and natural sites. The Forest of Pagodas boasts 240 such buildings, making it the biggest single collection in the entire country, while a close-by pottery replicates the distinctive three-coloured style of the Tang Dynasty era.
Close to Xian itself is Mount Huashan, one of five famous mountains in China, which boasts a series of strikingly-shaped peaks. Other rocks or valleys are given fanciful names, such as Hundred-foot Gorge, Laojun Furrow, Heavenward Ladder and Old Dragon Ridge.
The many museums in the region have fascinating displays which trace China's long and illustrious history. The Luoyang Folk Custom Museum displays the folk arts and customs of Henan Province, while Xian itself has a new, purpose-built museum which showcases China's development through the centuries.
Visitors are invariably awed by the richness of the country's civilisation: it is a testimony to the enormous contribution of the Tang Dynasty that its greatness is still being celebrated in the 21st century.
Dunhuang, a desert treasure trove famed for its historical cave-paintings, is one of the most important oasis towns on the Silk Road.
Dunhuang used to be called Shazhou and was one of the “four counties in Hexi Corridor” in Gansu Province. Dunhuang adjoins Anxi to the east, and borders Aksay all the way to the neighboring Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the northwest. There are many tourist attractions in Dunhuang, including the world famous Mogao Caves which were put into the “World Heritages” by UNESCO in 1987. Dunhuang is listed as a state historic and cultural city.
Xian (also Xi’an)
Xian, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is located in the heart of the Guanzhong Basin, with the Weihe River running along the northern border of the city. It is the largest metropolis in northwestern China. Known as Chang'an in ancient China, Xian is a world-renowned ancient capital.
For 1,062 years beginning in the 11th century B.C., Xian was the capital of 13 dynasties including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Eastern Han, Sui, and Tang. The continuous dynastic occupation kept the city beautiful and magnificent. More than two hundred and seventy palaces and temples were built during its heyday, such as the "Three Han Palaces" in the Han dynasty, namely Changle, Weiyang, Jianzhang Palaces, and numerous other palaces and watch towers. The most well-known among these is the Tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang, with the Terracotta Warriors and chariot. Xian is also the starting point of the ancient Silk Road.
Huashan Huashan is located in Shaanxi Province, about 120 kilometres east of the city of Xi'an, near the city Huayin in China. Also known as Xiyuè, Western Great Mountain, it is one of China's Five Sacred Taoist Mountains, and has a long history of religious significance. Originally classified as having three peaks, in modern times the mountain is classified as five main peaks, of which the highest is the South Peak at 2154.9m.
Zhengzhou Zhengzhou, the capital of henan province, henan province, is the political, economic, cultural and transportation center, the national famous historical and cultural city and the first China's excellent tourism city.
As the cradle of China's ancient civilization of the Chinese nation and one of the earliest settlements, zhengzhou has the most splendid culture. Here the traveling resources are rich unique, the city has more than 1400 cultural relics in the songshan, the Yellow River, wonderful scenery, hometown of the emperor, shaolin kung fu become zhengzhou's most influential tourism brand.
We had a fabulous experience in Dunhuang. We learned that less than 3% of the visitors are American yet more should go to experience the richness of the area. Truthfully, it was The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel website and link to your tours that piqued our interests to visit. As seasoned, independent travelers who have never utilized a tour company, we were immensely gratefully that we chose you to coordinate our trip to Dunhuang. The customized 4-day tour with a private driver and English speaking guide allowed us to enjoy the incredible historical sites, vast Gobi desert ventures, fun camel ride and authentic Chinese culture, cuisine and life, which we would never have experienced on our own. Our guide, Ms Fan, was knowledgeable, compassionate, friendly, and flexible to adapt each day to best suit our interests and desired activities. She was absolutely fantastic, and we give her five stars for her extraordinary skills as a guide. Mr Lee, our driver, was always reliable and a safe driver. Thank you for employing the best people to serve your clients. Also a note of acknowledgement for the wonderful stay at The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel. Our suite was beautifully decorated, the beds were very warm and comfortable, and the staff were always gracious and helpful. Eric Huang, Assistant Manager, was definitely a key resource person and we appreciated his help. We dined at the Chinese Restaurant because Western foods we could eat at home. All the meals were attractively presented and tasted outstanding. Hot Pot was a favorite dining experience. We traveled to China solely to visit Dunhuang, to stay 6 days at your hotel, and to take the 4-day personalized tour. Standing on the roof top cafe to enjoy the sand dunes and walking around the large hotel grounds are memorable experiences. We were never disappointed, and would highly recommend the hotel and your tour services to others traveling to Dunhuang. We will definitely share our experiences with family and friends, and hope more travelers will make the journey to Dunhuang.
Again, many thanks to all the fine staff who made our trip memorable.
Eirin and Gregory Hilton
4 Days Dunhuang (21 – 24 October 2012)
After a fantastic couple of weeks in China we leave for Hong Kong tomorrow. We have had a great time and the memories will stay with us for a lifetime.
Could you please forward our sincere thanks to our local guides, ZHAO in Beijing, SUSAN in Xian and SISSI in Shanghai who have made our trip so memorable? They have all been extremely kind and helpful making sure we experienced the local culture and history in each location.
Thank you also for organising the trip and ensuring we had such a great time.
With sincere thanks.
Kevin & Sallie Redmond
The Titan Times Hotel in Xian is very recommendable. The guide Mary Qu was excellent, her English is outstanding and she is very friendly. The pre-tour briefing was very good.
Ms. T. Lesaffre
24-28 Sep 09
Conditions along the Silk Road vary from a typical continental climate around Xian to a desert climate as you travel westward. Average daily variation is about 12°C. Temperature in certain desert areas may vary up to a maximum of 36°C in one day between noon and midnight.Despite the hot weather, the summer months of June, July, August and September are a popular time to travel when the oasis towns are full of life, flowers are blooming, fruits are in season, and the fragrance of sweet melons and grapes fill the air. Spring and autumn though short and barely noticeable, are a comfortable season to travel too. Winter is cold but offers a different perspective in scenery.
Light cotton dresses, sunglasses and a hat to guard against sunburn for the summer. Wool and fleece layers, topped with a down jacket with wind-breaking shell, scarves, gloves, hats and woolen socks for the winter.Wear layers that can be added on or discarded as weather changes. Comfortable rubber-soled shoes are recommended.
“Culture Hotel” is our hotel brand that aims to bring to you a unique hotel concept. Each hotel blends in with local architectural style and décor to preserve the indigenous flavour of the region. During your trip, you may have a chance to stay at one of below distinctive hotels that have character and soul:
: Lusongyuan Hotel
: The Silk Road Dunhuang Hotel
: Pingjiang Lodge
: Tunxi Lodge
: Turpan Oasis Hotel
: Xidi Travel Lodge
: Tsongkha Hotel
Food & Beverages
Hotels in China usually offer buffet breakfast or continental breakfast. You may bring some snacks along with you for the trip. Avoid drinking tap water and eating cold dishes or beverages at the street market. Drink only bottled water and well cooked food during the trip.
The most efficient and comfortable way to travel is by air. Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines operate regular flights along the Silk Road cities using aircraft models Boeing 707, 737, 757 and Airbus A320. In addition, the Lanzhou - Urumqi Railway line operates train service along the Silk Road. For the more adventurous travellers who prefer to trace the footprints of Marco Polo, they can consider entering China by road through the Khunjerab Pass from Pakistan on the KarokoramHighway, or by the International Railway from Moscow to Urumqi.
China Visa & Travel Document
Most of the overseas passport holders are required to apply for a China Visa to enter China. Please check with your local Chinese embassy for visa application. To visit Tibet, all overseas passport holders are required to apply for a special permit. Please allow at least 14 working days to apply for the Tibet Permit. Remember to check if your passport is valid for at least 6 months’ before your departure date.
There are two service systems for China Cell Phone – GSM and CDMA. China Mobile's feature is the GSM system, while China Unicom the CDMA system. Cell phone network covers most provinces in China except that transmission may sometimes be interrupted in certain desert areas. Most hotels have IDD lines where you can make IDD calls in your room. Internet access is available at the business centre of most hotels.
The currency is called Chinese Yuan (CNY), which is also known as Renminbi (RMB) locally. International credits cards like Visa and Master are accepted by hotels in the major cities. US Dollar Travellers Cheques are acceptable for money exchange in most hotels.