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Study Trip

Gansu, the Gateway to the Silk Road

Tuesday 10 – Saturday 21 October 2017
Leader: Mrs. Eileen Deeley, Council Member of the Siam Society

 

 

Situated in the northwest of China, Gansu Province marks the end of China proper: its western frontier juts right into the borders of the vast steppes of Mongolia, the unforgiving deserts of Xinjiang and the high mountain wastelands of the Tibetan Plateau.  For over two thousand years, Gansu has occupied a strategic position on the Silk Road as a vital passage between China and the West. Traders and travellers entering or leaving China have always been channelled through the narrow strip of land that stretches 1,200 km in the central part of Gansu passing a string of oasis towns and military bases. This passageway is known as the Hexi Corridor. Historically, Hexi Corridor had always been a significant passageway of the ancient Silk Road, whoever controlled the corridor could operate a stranglehold on the fabulous riches of the Silk Road trade. This enabled the growth of a strong communication network through Central Asia which linked Europe and Asia leading to a constant interchange of political, economic and cultural ideas.

But it was not just merchandise, technology and culture that passed along the Silk Road. From the early centuries AD, learned monks from the monastic centres of Central Asia propagated their religions to their Chinese counterparts by way of these trade routes. The many Buddhist caves chiselled out on precarious cliff faces along the Silk Road are among the earliest significant Buddhist monuments in the country.  On this study trip we will have the opportunity to visit several world-renowned cave temples of ingenious architecture and admire China’s earliest Buddhist sculptures and frescoes dating as far back as the 5th century AD.  In addition we will visit a major Tibetan monastery, home to the largest number of monks outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

We will also enjoy Gansu’s diverse landscapes that include parts of the foreboding Gobi Desert, the turbulent Yellow River, the majestic Qilian Mountains, the loess plateau that provide insulated cave dwellings, and the westernmost terminus on the Great Wall.

 

The tentative programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Tuesday, 10 October: Bangkok – Xi’an

2.00 p.m. Meet at Donmuang Airport, International Terminal(1), check in counter of Air Asia
4.35 p.m. Depart Bangkok to Xi’an by FD588
9.35 p.m. Arrive Xi’an International Airport, transfer to hotel

Day 2: Wednesday, 11 October: Xi’an – Tianshui

Morning: After breakfast, check out of hotel and proceed by coach to Tianshui, the second largest city in Gansu province. It was once the first stop on the Silk Road for entering Gansu Province,  midway between Lanzhou and Xi’an
Noon: Arrive Tianshui, lunch at local restaurant
Afternoon: Visit Maijishan Buddhist Grottoes.  The existing caves were excavated from the Later
Qin Dynasty (384-417 A.D.) to the Qing Dynasty (1616-1912 A.D.) Among all Buddhist Cave temples in China, Maijishan Grottoes boast of the most attractive natural view.
- Dinner and overnight at hotel Tianshui Kelly Rose

Day 3: Thursday, 12 October:  Tianshui – Lanzhou

Morning: After breakfast, check out of hotel and proceed by coach to Lanzhou, the capital city
of Gansu Province in northwest China with the Yellow River running through the city. The city used to be a key point on the ancient Silk Road.
Noon: Arrive Lanzhou, lunch at local restaurant.
Afternoon:

Visit Gansu Provincial Museum. About 350,000 pieces of ancient and cultural relics are on display, including the beautiful bronze Flying Horse, the 2nd century bronze statue unearthed in1969.

After the city tour in Lanzhou, visit the Waterwheel Garden, the water wheel was an irrigation device invented in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.).
Evening: Check in at Hotel Crown Plaza
- Dinner at local restaurant

Day 4: Friday, 13 October:  Lanzhou – Labrang Lamasery - Xiahe

Morning: After breakfast, check out of hotel and proceed to visit Labrang Lamasery which is located in Xiahe County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. This is a living lamasery well known for its grand architecture, its fine collection of books and documents and a history of more than 300 years. The 1,500 monks run six academies for religious and other teachings and learning, such as esotericism and medicine and so on. So it is the largest Tibetan monastic academy in China as well as the world and is one of the six major Tibetan monasteries of the Gelugpa order (Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism).  The monastery was founded in 1709 by Ngagong Tsunde, the first-generation Jamyang (the Living Buddha)
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Late Afternoon: Check in at Hotel Labrang Civil Aviation in Xiahe
Evening: Dinner at local restaurant

Day 5: Saturday, 14 October: Xiahe - Lanzhou

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After breakfast, check out of hotel and proceed to Bajiao Cheng, an earthen walled village that was originally built in the Han Dynasty (around 2000 years ago). Bajiao Cheng is still inhabited today.

Continue to Lanzhou
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Evening:

Check in at hotel Crown Plaza in Lanzhou

Dinner at local restaurant

Day 6: Sunday, 15 October: Lanzhou – Wuwei

Morning:

After breakfast, check out of hotel and proceed to Wuwei, which lies in east part of the Hexi Corridor and used to be a vital stretch of trade routes along the ancient Silk Road route through which travelers from eastern China could travel to Xinjiang, and onwards to Central Asia.

Visit Tiantishan Grottoes. Excavated on the eastern cliffs of the Huangyang River in the Qilian Mountains from the time of Northern Liang dynasty (397–439 CE). The carvings and decorations of the grottoes continued throughout the Northern Wei, Tang, and Ming dynasties.

The site is a honeycomb of 17 caves in three layers. The biggest cavern is 30 meters high, 19 meters wide and 16 meters deep. It houses a Sakyamuni statue that is 15 meters high and 10 meters wide, with smaller peripheral caves and murals.  Because of the construction of the Huangyang River reservoir in 1960, local government approved moving the wall paintings and polychrome statues of the grottoes to the Gansu Provincial Museum for preservation and built a 10-meter-high dam to protect the caves from water damage. Visitors can view the big Sakyamuni statue from the top of the dam and walk down the ladder to the statue's feet.
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Afternoon: In Wuwei, visit Confucian Wenmiao Temple, the largest and best-preserved Confucius temple in Gansu Province. Next we will visit the Xixia Museum that mainly exhibits cultural relics of the Xixia Kingdom which occupied the area round the Hexi Corridor from the 11th -13th centuries.  In the museum, the most attractive exhibition is the Xixia Tablet engraved with both Xixia and Chinese scripts.
Evening:

Check in at hotel Royal International in Wuwei

Dinner at local restaurant

Day 7: Monday, 16 October: Wuwei – Zhangye

Morning:

After breakfast, check out and proceed to Zhangye, one of the important stops along the ancient Silk Road, at mid-point of the Hexi Corridor. According to records, Macro Polo travelled to Zhangye and lived there for several years.

Visit The Giant Buddha Temple (Dafo Temple), which houses China's largest reclining Buddha.  Legend has it that an emperor’s advisor named Wei Mie of the Western Xia period (Xixia) found a huge reclining Buddha covered with glazed tiles of emerald-color here. To show his respect to Buddhism, the Giant Buddha Temple was built in 1098 A.D. to house this statue.  The temple was restored many times in later periods.
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Afternoon: Visit Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, known for the unusual colors of the rocks, which are smooth, sharp and several hundred meters tall. They are the result of deposits of sandstone and other minerals that occurred over 24 million years. Wind, rain, and time then sculpted extraordinary shapes, with varying colours, patterns, and sizes.
Evening:

Check in at Hotel Jinyang International in Zhangye

Dinner at local restaurant

Day 8: Tuesday, 17 October: Zhangye – Jiayuguan

Morning:

After breakfast, check out of hotel and proceed to Jiayuguan, a moderate city in Gansu Province that lies in the Gobi Desert between Lanzhou and Dunhuang. The city was originally established in 1372 during the Ming Dynasty when a fortress was built to protect the last frontier of the Chinese empire. Later it gradually became a small township engaged in local trading, catering to the needs of the military garrisons stationed at the fort. The city used to be an important pass of the famous Silk Road, being the first pass at the western end of the Great Wall in the Ming Dynasty.

Visit Jiayuguan Town, the First Beacon Tower of the Great Wall, Xuanbi Great wall (Overhanging Great Wall), the Great Wall Museum and Mural Tombs of Wei and Jin Dynasty
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Evening: Check in at hotel Holiday Inn Jiayuguan
- Dinner at local restaurant

Day 9: Wednesday, 18 October: Jiayuguan – Dunhuang

Morning: After breakfast, check out of hotel and proceed to Yulin Grottoes Temple. The forty-two caves house some 250 polychrome statues and 4,200 m2 of wall paintings, dating from the Tang to the dynasties https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuan_Dynasty (7th – 14th centuries).
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
Afternoon:

Continue to Dunhuang, the historical city Dunhuang is famous for the Mogao Caves. Since the opening of the Silk Road in the Han Dynasty, Dunhuang gradually developed into an important town controlling economical exchanges, as it commands a strategic position at the crossroads of the ancient Southern Silk Route and the main road leading from India via Lhasa to Mongolia and Southern Siberia, as well as controlling the entrance to the Hexi Corridor.

Arrival at Dunhuagn, visit the Echoing-Sand Dunes. When you slide down the slopes, you can hear the roaring echo of sand, hence the name. Nearby is the Crescent Lake, the crescent-shaped spring surrounded by the endless Gobi Desert.
Evening:

Check in at Hotel Silk Road Dunhuang

Dinner at hotel

Day 10: Thursday, 19 October: Yardang National Geologic Park – Yumen Pass

Morning: After breakfast proceed to visit the Yardang Landform in Yardang National Geologic Park. Then continue to visit Yumen Pass, the crucial fort along ancient Silk Road for the import of jade from Xinjiang. The fort was first built in the Han dynasty and again in the Tang. The current Yumen Pass is the remains of the one built in the Tang dynasty. After that onto visit Hechang Military Depot, about 20km away from Yumen Pass. The military depot was used to store food and clothing during warfare with the nomadic Xiongnu people in the Han dynasty
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant.
Evening:

Drive back to Dunhuang

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Silk Road Dunhuang

Day 11: Friday, 20 October: Dunhuang - Xi’an - Bangkok

8.00 a.m.

After breakfast, check out of the hotel and proceed to visit Mogao Grottoes, composed of 750 caves that stretches 1,600 meters long from north to south; the first cave was chiseled in 366 A.D.  Acknowledged as the pearl on the ancient Silk Road, Mogao is now a World Culture Heritage Site. The statues and murals in the grottoes explain some fundamental facts of local culture, arts, Buddhism, economy, and trading along the Silk Road in ancient times.

Visit the Digital Exhibition Center first for about 40 minutes then the caves.
Noon: Lunch at local restaurant
1.30 p.m. Transfer to Dunhuang Airport
3.30 p.m. Depart Dunhuang to Xi’an by MUS2216
5.45 p.m. Arrive Xi’an Airport, transfer to International terminal, check in for flight back to Bangkok
10.50 p.m. Depart Xi’an to Bangkok by FD589

Day 12: Saturday, 21 October: Bangkok Don Muang Airport

1.25 a.m. Arrive at Bangkok Don Muang Airport

Booking

Bt. 122,500 (or Bt. 125,500 for non-members). Single room surcharge Bt. 22,000.

A deposit of Bt. 30,000 and photocopy of passport must accompany the booking. Payment in full is required one month before the start of the trip (i.e. by Saturday 9 September). Please pay by cash or cheque payable to ‘The Siam Society”. Alternatively, you can deposit/transfer the money to the Siam Society travel account at the Thai Military Bank, Asoke Branch saving account no. 053-2-18000-7. Please fax or e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us.

Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the deposit has been made. There is a 4% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges.

Includes/Excludes:

The contribution includes all meals as mentioned in programme, accommodation for two persons per room, entrance fees, tips to local guide and driver and other costs incurred to make this trip possible.

It excludes visa fee, personal expenses, tips for additional service, any chargeable beverages/ drinks (e.g. hotel minibar), payment or offering for photographing and video shooting, individual service apart from the group, other expense of personal nature like telephone calls, laundry etc.

Cancellation charge:

30 days before the start of the trip:                          No cancellation charge
30 – 15 days before the start of the trip:                   50% of the tour cost
Less than 15 days or cancellation without notice:       No refund

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary. Seats are limited. Please book your place as soon as possible. For further information and bookings please contact Khun Prasert or Khun Supanut.