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"Old China" in the Pearl Delta - 2 days/ 1 night  

  

 

  

 

If you are in Hong Kong and would like to see some of China’s treasures in the limited amount of time available to you, this short, two day private excursion might be just what you are looking for. There is much to see on Hong Kong's doorstep. The Pearl River Delta has become one of the leading economic regions in China and is a major manufacturing centre of the world. It is only a few years, however, let's say thirty, since it was rice paddies, market gardens, fish farms and duck farms. Despite the creation of massive new cities and expressways, which are interesting in themselves, there are still a good number of very interesting places and architectural treasures, reminders of "old China", as this short private tour will show you. 

 

 

Fascinating beauty spots illustrate the former glory of this ancient part of China. Thousands of years of Chinese history are embodied in this region. Among other things can be found a spectacular quarry from the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD), a superb ancestral hall dating from the Yuan dynasty (1271-1386) and several ornate Qing (Ching) dynasty (1644-1911) scholars villas.

  

 

Despite the encroachment of much industrial ugliness and the total destruction of beautiful centuries-old villages, many remnants of the past still remain. Behind a modern eye-sore, a quaint and crumbling old tile roofed cottage with a gaping moon-gate or fan-shaped window might catch your attention. An old man with a wispy white beard, carrying two buckets on each end of a bamboo pole, or a lumbering buffalo, will remind you of picture-book “Old China”.

  

  

This itinerary has been prepared following visits to all of these sites, hotels and restaurants, by Graham Elsom, a long term resident of Hong Kong and the Managing Director of Concorde Travel.

 

 

 

 

 
Day 1       Hong Kong to Guangdong
 
  
  
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Depart Hong Kong by high-speed ferry 
 
Arrive Pearl River                                            
 
Met on arrival and proceed by private car/minibus to the Qinghai (Clear Sunlight) Garden, one of the four famous gardens of the Qing dynasty built in Guangdong Province.
 
 
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Originally the home of a Ming dynasty scholar, Huang Shijun, it was later, in the Qing dynasty, bought by Long Yingshi, a government official. It was this man’s great-grandson who, after a visit to Suzchou, reconstructed the villa. The present villa blends Suzchou design with that of Guangdong. There is an emphasis on water and a major group of houses, called the Boat Hall, is built in the shape of a traditional southern-style boat. The beams of the corridor leading to the so-called Boat Hall are carved with patterns of tropical fruits. Perhaps the most original feature is a door carved with over one hundred brightly painted, fist-sized peaches. The owner of the house must have been very fond of fruit. The garden also supports many ancient plants and precious species of flowers.
 
 
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Enjoy lunch in a traditional setting overlooking the garden at the Food Street Qinghui Garden.
 
 
After lunch, proceed to Foshan, a city with a history of 1200 years. The first stop is at the Zumiao (Taoist Ancestral Temple). This ornate structure from the Song dynasty (960-1279) was built entirely of interlocking wooden beams, no metal or nails were used in its construction. Its roof bears particularly fine examples of Shiwan pottery, possibly the finest example anywhere of porcelain tableaux art.
 
 
 
The building stands in grounds covering an area of 3000 square metres. The original buildings were destroyed by warring factions. During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) they were re-built, only to be destroyed once again. Attempts to restore the buildings during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) were hampered by corruption and neglect, but subsequently a local patriarch of the Ho clan, was able to restore the buildings for the glorification of his illustrious ancestors who were born in the area and who had become famous artists, painters and musicians.
   
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Proceed to nearby Shiwan, where the ceramics adorning the Zumiao were made, and an historic centre for ceramics in southern China.
 
Visit the ancient Nanfeng Kiln that was built in the Ming dynasty (1506-1521) and is still un use. It is the oldest “dragon” kiln in China and is a very important cultural relic.
  
  
The potters of Shiwan are still active today and you will be able to stroll through streets, which are located very close to this old kiln, lined with artisans stores. Many display superb and sometimes very inexpensive pieces. With time to look around you may well be tempted to purchase some of these wonderful ceramics works of art.
   
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Continue into the bustling city of Guangzhou (Canton) for overnight at the beautiful White Swan Hotel, overlooking the Pearl River. A welcoming swimming pool is at the waters edge.
 
 
  
In the evening, proceed to the nearby Lian Xiang Lou Restaurant, located in an exciting shopping street containing many wonderfully restored buildings. After dinner you will be free to stroll back to the hotel past the many colonial style buildings of Guangzhou's historic Shamian Island, on which the hotel is located. Perhaps you might prefer to do some shopping first?
 
 
 
Following China's defeat in the Opium War, the country's humiliation increased with the establishment of the British and French concessions on Shamian Island.The imposing Victorian and older style European buildings on Shamian Island, including the parks and churches, are a poignant reminder of that period.
 
  
 
 
 
Day 2      Guangzhou (Canton)
 
 
 
  
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After a wonderful buffet breakfast overlooking the busy Pearl River proceed to another of the famous four gardens of Guangdong Province.
 
 
During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) scholars from leading families would proceed to Beijing to undertake examinations. Once qualified, they would return home to their provinces with considerable social prestige. In 1855, one such scholar, Wu Bing, set about constructing the Yuyin Garden, which covers an area of 1598 square metres and took five years to complete. As was the practice, he built it in commemoration of his illustrious ancestors. 
 
  
The building has withstood the rigours of time and survived the Cultural Revolution intact. It is a fine example of an aristocrat’s residence, with pavilions, lotus ponds with ornate bridges, covered pathways and artificial grottoes. It is laid out in the compact style of the gardens south of the Yangtze, as seen in Suzchou, for example.
 
  
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Continue to Lianhuashan, more often referred to as Lotus Mountain.
Located on the banks of the Pearl River, Lianhuashan was, two thousand years ago, a famous stone quarry. The mountain of stone appears to have been literally sliced away like a giant cheese. What remains today, are towering walls of rock, often adorned with calligraphy. The walls are reflected in the tranquil natural pools in which they are now set. One can follow walkways across the ponds and meander among the outcrops of rock.
 
Atop the mountain is the Lotus Pagoda, built in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644),together with a modern construction, an enormous modern statue of the Godess Guanyin. This was built with 120 tons of bronze, is gold plated and is 41 metres high. It is one of the largest constructions of its type in the world.
 
 
 
Lunch will be taken at the Fu-You-Yuan vegetarian restaurant on Lotus Mountain. 
 
 
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The afternoon focuses on the small riverside city of Humen, a place of enormous historic significance for Hong Kong. This is because events that took place there, led directly to the creation of Hong Kong as a British colony. Visit the impressive Museum, with exhibits detailing the momentous incidents of the Opium War. One can see the actual ponds in which the opium was destroyed by the Chinese officials.
 
 
 
 
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Visit the ancient fortifications on the river banks. They are on both sides of the river and marked the lines of defense coming in from the open sea. Huge cannon and vast ammunition stores can still be seen on both sides of the river. During the Opuim War, the Chinese are said to have suspended the ultimate barrier, a submerged iron chain, across the Pearl River at this point.

Proceed to the ferry wharf.
 
Depart via the Pearl River by high-speed ferry 
Arrive Hong Kong  
                          
 
"Old China in the Pearl River Delta" is a private guided tour, available at any time, any day, to an individual, a couple or a group. It can be modified to suit individual preferences.