Chinese & Tibetan Buddhism in Sichuan
Embark on a spiritual journey into China's Buddhist heart with this immersive 11-day adventure. In Sichuan province, explore the history and temples of Chengdu before taking a trip to Leshan, where the huge, 71m tall Giant Buddha overlooks the Min River. Following an encounter with local pandas, guests then head up into sacred mountains near the border with Tibet, where ancient towns and monasteries are nestled among the hills, grasslands, valleys and glaciers.
Welcome to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province and ancient capital of the powerful Shu Kingdom. Chengdu has had the same name for over two millennia, which is proof of not only its longevity but also the major role that it has always played in the region.
Transfer to the hotel for check-in.Overnight in Chengdu.
Overnight in Chengdu.
Walk in the People’s Park, a perfect example of the parks where the Chinese practice Tai-Chi, Kung-fu, sword dance, meditation, dance, gymnastics… all activities that they consider essential to their well-being.
In the morning you will visit the archaeological site of Sanxingdui close to the town of Guanhan. Here hundreds of objects dating from as early as 2000BC have been found including pottery, jade sculptures and statues … The site was discovered in the 1930s, but it was in 1986 that the most spectacular discoveries were made. In particular these include a fabulous collection of masks and a “divine tree” made of bronze unique to China. This is evidence of the most advanced techniques available to the Shang (Chinese dynasty from the 17th-11th century BC), also attesting to the existence of a mysterious parallel culture in Sichuan province (still called Shu country) that fascinates scientists. Numerous exhibitions have been organised all over the world since this discovery that some consider to be as important as that of the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an!
Return to Chengdu and visit to the Wenshu Temple (or Manjushri to the Indians), the best preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu that still boasts a large number of worshippers. You will have a cup of tea in the House of Tea next door (the city has many such establishments and this is one of the most popular).
In the evening you will try mapo doufu, a traditional Sichuanese dish comprising of fresh tofu, minced beef and soy served in a sauce of garlic, peppered oil and Sichuan peppercorns.
Overnight in Chengdu.
Depart for Leshan. You will see here the largest Buddha statue in the world, carved into the side of a cliff more than 1200 ago to calm the anger of the Min River, which had inflicted floods upon the locals and mariners. The Giant Buddha, as it is commonly known, measure in at 71m high and 28m wide – truly a stone giant! You can get up close to its face to admire its 7m long ears, while taking the stairs down will let you get a real taste for the scale of this piece of art and will take you near to the toes, which alone measure 8.5m high.
Optionally: you can also admire the Giant Buddha from the Min River, on board a boat intended for this purpose. Consult us if you are interested.
You will then take a pleasant forest track through the Oriental Buddha Park, dotted with some small temples, thousands of small statues and the gargantuan artwork that is a lying-down Buddha which is over 170m long and which is, amongst similar works, the most impressive in the world.
Journey on to Emeishan, taking just under an hour to cover the approximately 40km that separates these two sites.
Depending on your choice of hotel you will either stay at the foot or at the summit of Emeishan.
Overnight in Emeishan.
During the 6th century AD, Emeishan was associated with Puxian (Samanthabara for Indians), a Bodhisattva often represented by a white elephant with six tusks.
The site is one of the 4 Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China and is still a major place of pilgrimage today. Most of its temples and monasteries date back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1644 and 1644-1911 respectively), and they are linked by more than 50km of stairs and mountain pathways.
You will alternate between walking, bus and cable-car over the course of the day in order to best discover the major temples and the pine forest, usually shrouded in a magical haze. You will probably also see Tibetan macaques along the route, but it is advisable not to feed them, or produce anything (such as a plastic bag) that looks like it may contain food, or indeed anything that looks like food if you do see them. This is the only way to be sure to avoid paying the fees of passage imposed by these increasingly gourmet monkeys!
You will be taken with your guide by bus to the Baguo Temple (literally “proclamation of the Nation”). It is located outside the heart of a beautiful garden and is known for its porcelain Buddha, made in the famous imperial furnaces of Jingdezhen.
Transfer by bus then cable-car to the Wannian Temple (literally “ten thousand years”, an expression that means “longevity” in Chinese) which is the oldest temple on Emei Mountain. There you can admire a bronze statue of Puxian on a white elephant that weighs more than 62 tonnes.
Optionally: depending on the climate and your walking ability we recommend you take a walk (4km back from the Wannian temple) that will deliver you to the Pavilion of Pure Sound, suspended on a promontory encircled by the Black Dragon and White Dragon Rivers which turn into a waterfall whose sound gives its name to the Pavilion.
Transfer by bus then cable-car to the Jinding Temple located on the peak of the same name (which means “Golden Peak”). In addition to this majestic golden palace covered in glazed tiles and surrounded by marble railings, you can also appreciate the stunning view of the Wanfo peak (lit: ten thousand Buddhas) which at 3,099m high towers over the whole site.
The 2 peaks are nearly always bathed in a stunning sea of clouds that graces the site with a certain magic.
Optionally: It is possible to spend the night in one of the various monasteries on the mountain. The conditions are somewhat spartan but the experience makes it worthwhile. Please consult us if interested.
Note: it is recommended that you bring good shoes, especially if you wish to undertake the walk to the Pavilion of Pure Sound.
Late afternoon departure for Bifengxia.
Overnight in Bifengxia (basic accommodation).
On the morning you will get inside the Gorge and take the elevator, located behind the ticket office, which in a matter of seconds will take you to the heart of the gorge which constitutes the other major point of interest of the site. You will walk from here for 60-90 minutes, depending on your own speed, through an enchanting landscape: a crystal-clear river, luxuriant greenery, and the steep cliffs of the gorge hollowed out by waterfalls whose mist sometimes seeps enchantingly across the site.
Depending on the weather you can have a picnic in the tranquil pure air.
Note: the site is humid and the stone walkways can sometimes be a little slippery, and as such we recommend that you wear good walking shoes.
You can also get to the centre by bus on the main road if you would prefer to not take part in the walk.
Arrival in the Centre that boasts slightly fewer than 100 pandas, making it the largest centre for Pandas in captivity in the world. The panda (“xiongmao” in Chinese, literally meaning “bear-cat”) is an endangered species that the Chinese Government and specialist NGOs have been consciously protecting since the 1980s.Their efforts have been rewarded and the latest population counts have shown an increase of nearly 50% in the number of pandas in the world (it is reckoned that there are more than 2000 living in the wild, although it is hard to give an exact figure).
Pandas’ nourishment comes almost exclusively from bamboo, endlessly eating throughout the entire day, consuming up to 40kg a day.
Return to the park entrance by one of the park busses and transfer just after lunch to Hailougou Glacier Geopark (located 200km away, taking 4h30 to 5 hours).
You will stop in Moxi located just next to the park entrance to visit a small Catholic Church built in the 1920s!
Note: it is imperative that you bring sun cream, lip balm, sunglasses and that you regularly hydrate. It is strongly recommended that you consult a doctor before your trip to check you are physically capable of climbing to altitudes sometimes greater than 4,700 meters. Summer (from June to September) is quite hot – with some rainfall – but the nights are crisp.
Overnight in Hailuogou (basic accommodation).
Visit of Hailuogou on the morning. Hailuogou (Conch Gully en Tibétain) National Glacier Forest Park is located on the eastern side of Gonggar Mountain in Luding County of Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze, Sichuan Province. Under the historical borders of Tibet, the area used to include the province of Qinghai (then known as “Amdo”), a part of Gansu province, the north of Yunnan and the west and north of Sichuan (which was also known as Kham). In this region Tibetan culture is still omnipresent and Tibetan Buddhism has an active following.
The park boasts many geographic attractions, including ancient glaciers, grand glacier cascade, virgin forests, wild animals, hot springs …
Head to Hailuogou glacier by local van– private cars are banned. You will take then the cable car to reach the viewpoint (3,600m high) that overlooks the glacier above which stands the outstanding 7,500m Gongga peak with lesser 6,000m peaks flanking the sides.
View on the Grand Glacier cascade with a drop of 1,080m made up tons of ice cubes. The 6km glacier tongue penetrates into the virgin forest, forming a rare natural landscape with the blend of glacier and forest.
Soft walk in the Virgin forest that boast almost 5000 species of plants.
Head to Tagong. Enjoy the view on the surrounding prairies when you will approach the majestic Sacred Mount Yala (Zhara Lhatse in Tibetan, 5820m altitude), which sometimes seems to exude strange clouds of bluish smoke …
Arrival at Tagong and dinner in the Khampa Café & Art Centre that serves traditional food, but equally an excellent yak burger for those who fancy a culinary break.
Overnight in a traditional guesthouse (could be located in Tagong or in the nearby village attached to the convent, depending on availability). Basic facilities (separate toilet and shower room) but a very warm welcome!
Overnight in Tagong (basic accommodation).
Note: The hotel has double rooms, triple rooms or dormitories equipped with rustic furniture. Facilities are basic (toilets and shower rooms separate from the bedrooms) but the welcome is always warm!
Breakfast on the terrace of the Khampa Café & Art Centre, which offers a perfect view of both the monastery and the main square of the town.
Visit to the Tagong Monastery known for its vast collection of chortens (Tibetan stupa), its impressive statue of the 1000-armed Avalokiteshvara, and above all for the poignant religious commitment on display. Here can be found a reproduction of the statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni which fell from the convoy of the Chinese Princess Wencheng during her journey to Lhasa to marry the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, sealing an historic strategic alliance between Tibet and China (during the 7th century AD). This replica was made at the location of the fall of the original statue (which is today in Lhasa and which has become the most highly venerated Buddha statue in Tibet) and then the temple was built around it. This small, candle-lit room marked with the strong smell of sculptures made of yak’s butter and to where believers come to unendingly prostate themselves in tribute to their beliefs offers a truly deep immersion in Tibetan Buddhism…
Walk in the town, which is organized around a main street which looks like it could be taken from a western movie, with Tibetans sporting cowboy hats and the clip-clop sound of horses’ hooves, and around which there are several traditional Tibetan houses.
In the morning visit the surprising Heping Fahui Convent (Ani Gompa in Tibetan). The temple was built upon a wish made by the Lama Tsemper just before his death. He was a hermit who spent most of his life meditating in a nearby cave, and the temple is inhabited by the same nuns who up until the 1980s came here to provide him with food. The temple was consequently built and today is full of life and seems like a small village. You can admire the “mani” wall (stones and prayers) and the “kora” (a shrine at the end of a circular route along which are the famous stone windmills) that is attracting a growing number of pilgrims.
You will next visit the neighbouring hill, covered in thousands of prayer flags. Some Tibetans, particularly in Tibet, still practice the tradition of sky burial, where the bodies of the dead are left to the vultures, and this is still practiced on this hill. The soil is too stony – sometimes freezing in winter, making burial impractical and the trees are too rare and valuable to make pyres, meaning that this ritual was intricately linked to the particularities of the Tibetan terrain before taking on a more spiritual dimension over time. According to Buddhist Tantra, the soul of a dead person leaves to be reincarnated, while the flesh it used to inhabit lies on the ground like a simple empty shell. The act of feeding predators with this flesh is therefore considered to be a complete return to nature, the final act of self-sacrifice of the dead to the earth from which it came. A funeral can be performed with or without ritual (this is regulated and can be costly).
Note: it is possible to attend one of these daybreak ceremonies in Tagong or Litang (your next destination), although the dates are naturally unpredictable. Some scenes can be shocking and attendance is not advised for sensitive souls.
Journey to Litang. The first part of the trip is alongside the tumultuous river Liqi, and will offer you one last chance to admire Mount Yala (Zhara Lhatse) from the road. Lunch en route.
Arrival in Litang towards the end of the day. Dinner in a Tibetan restaurant.
Overnight in Litang.
Litang is the hometown of both the 7th and the 10th Dalai Lamas and consequently is a major religious centre for Tibetans.
Morning visit to the splendid Chode Gompa monastery, part of the Yellow Hat Sect (Gelupa), the most recently founded of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the origin of the institution of the Dalai Lama. You will get to enjoy the beautiful views of the town and the surrounding area from the roof of the third main room. You will then partake in a walk in the surrounding area, characterized by its monks, houses typical to the region, chortens, a mani wall, and a comfortable atmosphere where local children play amongst small herds of yaks.
Litang was an important stop on the Tea Horse Road, another branch of the incredible heritage and history of the region. Much less well-known that the Silk Road, the Tea Horse Road was a key trade route between areas as remote as Xishuangbanna (in the extreme of Yunnan) which is known for pu’er tea, and for their various other goods Tibet and Nepal, Laos, Burma and India. It was under the Tang Dynasty (618-907) that the Road became famous due to the increasing interest of Tibetans in tea. The Tibetans traded their horses for this typically Chinese commodity, and thus a high altitude caravan network was built up with Litang rapidly becoming a major step. The immense prairies of the region were a perfect environment for horses and became well known for this, so much so that the annual Horse Festival takes places at the end of August and during which time the town is transformed into a town of nomadic tents. This popular festival includes horse races, horseback shooting demonstrations, songs and dances.
Horseback riding in the afternoon to properly appreciate the spectacular countryside of green prairies (in summer) and the surrounding eternally snow-topped mountains. It is said that the best horse riders in Tibet are to be found in Litang, so you will be in very good hands!
Dinner and night with a nomadic family who will share with you the secrets of their organic existence, closer to nature and far from the bustle of urban life.
Night in a tent (comfort levels as you might expect). Make the most of this unique experience and admire the stars (on a clear night), which may never have been closer to you before.
Note: Litang is one of the highest towns in the word (400m higher that Lhasa!) and the altitude can cause some trouble to people who haven’t prepared. It is therefore imperative that you consult with a doctor before your trip to check that you are capable of adapting to this kind of environment.
Overnight in Litang.
Return to Litang for breakfast and shower at the hotel.
Head to Yading National Park. The time on the road is an integral part of each trip, making them an attraction of their own! The first part of the route will provide another opportunity to see nomadic tents, and herds of yaks happily grazing on the immense pastures. Then you will pass through great expanses of hilly areas which are covered in millions of stones of all shapes and sizes, which overall looks something like an asteroid field. The final part of the journey runs alongside a choppy river bordered by pine trees whose color changes from green to yellow in autumn.
The entrance to the park is located around 30km (20 miles) from your hotel (an old guesthouse that has been converted into a hotel, basic facilities but with private toilets and shower room). This final section will pass through two small Tibetan villages.
Welcome to this small paradise which includes 3 sacred mountains: Jambeyang (Manjusri, 5,985m), Chanadorje (Varjapani, same height) and the highest of the three Chenresig (Avalokitésvara, 6032m). The most able and committed pilgrims come to these mountains to complete their pilgrimage, or kora. The three mountains symbolize compassion, wisdom and energy, three values which open the road to Buddhist nirvana. Nobody has even climbed these mountains, both for technical reasons and because doing so would be considered as sacrilege by Tibetans.
The park is huge and the walking possibilities are endless. Simply put, the park is round and encircled by a road used only by the park’s electric vehicles. These vehicles stop at main points of the park, giving access to the lakes and mountains found at the centre of the park.
You will leave the hotel and go by car to Longtongba from where your adventure will begin! You will start by taking a 5-10 minute ride in an electric car alongside a choppy river bordered by pine trees that leads to the entrance of the “circle”: Luanhuanpeng (alternatively this section can be completed on foot in around 40 minutes) which gives a marvelous view of the superb Chonggu Prairie, crisscrossed by several crystalline rivers from where your walk will start.
You will then walk to the little Chonggu Monastery, over 700 years old and departure point for the kora. The corpse of the founding monk still rests there, who according to the legend should have been punished by the Gods for daring to cross the sacred ground to build this temple, and only earned himself a pardon by dedicating his entire life to reciting the Buddhist canons. The monks still burn incense to this day to commemorate his goodness.
The monastery is located at the entrance of an awesome path through the forest that will lead you to the emerald-colored Zhuoma Lake (around 1.5km from Luanhuanpeng) in which you can see the reflection of both the surrounding pines and the majestic Mount Chenresig. The biggest of the three mountains, and which represents Avalokitésvara (the Buddha of compassion and the patron saint of Tibet), was compared by Joseph Rock to a “giant white throne, a place destined for a Tibetan divinity.”
Note: The water of the lake is sacred and it is forbidden to touch it.
Return to the hotel. With a bit of luck you will be able to watch an unforgettable sunset over Mount Chenresig from your hotel.
Overnight in Yading (basic accommodation).
Note: The hotel has double rooms, triple rooms or dormitories equipped with rustic furniture. Facilities are basic but toilets and shower rooms in the rooms).
Return to Luanhuanpeng by the same route as before (car and electric car), this time taking the path to the left to the electric car station where you will drive to the Luorong Prairie. This prairie is known for its colorful vegetation (particularly during autumn), and you will cross it heading toward Mount Jambeyang (which represents Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom), all the while hypnotized by the immaculate white-ness and its pyramidal shape.
A sloping path of around a 12km (there and back) on horseback (not included in the quotation), accompanied by the sound of waterfalls in the background, will take you to the Sea of Milk and to the Sea of Five Colours, 2 exceptionally beautiful lakes that make up the highest part of your journey.
The Sea of Five Colours is particularly spectacular, nested at an altitude of 4,700m and surrounded by grand pine trees. Hundreds of prayer flags are draped along the route, in particular in front of Jambeyang showing the intense spirituality of this place.
Note: the horses belong to local people and the price of this activity can be modified according to different seasons. Therefore we can’t book this activity in advance and include the tariff in the tour price.
Depending on your speed and the climate, you can take an opportunity to enjoy a picnic in the lakes area.
Note: This journey can also be made on foot (taking somewhere between 4 and 6 hours depending on your speed), but be warned that an ability to deal with the altitude and a good level of fitness are a must. It is expected that if this option is taken you will require an extra night in the park. Please ask us for more information.
Return to the electric car station on Luorong Prairie, then to Luanhuanpeng and Longtongba where your driver will be waiting for you.
Head back to Daocheng.
Overnight in Daocheng.
Early morning transfer to Daocheng airport (one of world highest airport) located 40 km away (which will take around one hour and half). Expected flight departure time: around 8:30 am (to be confirmed).
Arrival in Chengdu airport 60 minutes and transfer to the city for some free and easy time.
In the afternoon, transfer to the airport for your homebound flight for Singapore.
|Price per person in SGD dollars|
11D Chinese & Tibetan Buddhism in Sichuan
|Valid from May 01 - Dec 31, 2016|
|02 Persons||03-04||05-06||SGL Supp.|
|Standard Class Hotels||5726||4520||3587||337|
|Tour prices above do not include airport and related taxes of SGD $260± per person, and must be paid to Pacific Arena at the time of ticket issuance. Please note all airport taxes are subject to change by the airline until the air tickets are issued.|
Standard Class Hotels
- Flower Hotel in Standard room
- Monastery in Emeishan in Standard Room
- Ya’an Hongzhu Hotel in Standard Room
- Mingzhu Huayang in Deluxe Room
- Jya Drolma & Gayla's Guesthouse in Standard Room
- Budala Hotel in Standard room, or Nomad’s tent
- Longmen Guesthouse in Deluxe Room
- Daojia in Standard Room
- Return 'Q' class airfare between Singapore and Kunming on Silkair (MI)
- Accommodation in Standard Twin room in selected hotels with daily breakfast
- Other meals as indicated in the itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner) at local restaurants;
- Admission fees to sights and mentioned visits;
- Tours and transfers as mentioned by private air-conditioned vehicle;
- English-speaking guide (no shopping basis) for the land tour;
- China Visa and visa application fees, where applicable;
- International airport taxes, war risk insurance and fuel surcharges;
- Travel insurance;
- Beverages where meals are included;
- Personal expenses such as phone calls, internet access, laundry, bar bills;
- Tips & gratuities to guide and driver;