Magazine article History Today

"Flowers on Horseback"

Magazine article History Today

"Flowers on Horseback"

Article excerpt

Journey through China with History Today

16th September -- 1st October 2001 A 16-day tour of Boxer and Taiping China, plus much more.

SPECIALLY ARRANGED for History Today readers at the anniversaries of the Boxer and Taiping Risings, our tour includes visits to historic sites as well as exploring modern Chinese life far from the tourist crowds. The title "Flowers on Horseback" is a traditional evocation of the beauties to be seen while travelling through China's magnificent landscapes and history.

In the century since the Boxers, China has undergone speedier, more radical transformation than in all the previous two and a half millennia. By 1911 the imperial system had collapsed, the Empress Dowager Cixi was dead and Sun Yatsen was inaugurated as the first president of the Chinese Republic. China today is determined to place itself in the 21st century yet the richness of the past can be found at every turn.

The Tour

In her article on the Boxer Rebellion Harriet Harrison provides an evocative account from the viewpoint of one Chinese intellectual in the village of Chiqiao in Shanxi Province. The initial focus of our tour is also Shanxi, to the northwest of Beijing. It abounds in historical sites and also gives an insight into modern rural China.

We go to the Shanxi capital of Taiyuan, and cross the Niangzi pass which was defended by the allied armies during the Rising. But the tour also visits sites from much earlier in China's long history. Taiyuan is our base for visiting the Jin Ci temple with its remarkable collection of sculptures which provide a rare record of costume and customs of the Song dynasty We also visit Pingyao, a well-preserved Han Chinese city founded in the 14th century, often used by Chinese film directors for its authentic atmosphere. Of special interest here are the imposing buildings associated with banking, for which Pingyao was the centre for the whole of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries. We also visit Pingyao's extant churches and its equivalent of `stately homes'.

Leaving Shanxi behind, we travel across China and back and forth through Chinese history The Yellow River area is known as the `cradle of Chinese civilisation', with cities such as Luoyang and Xian. We encounter the periods of division -- the Warring States, the Northern and Southern dynasties, the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms -- each one followed by a period of unification. The indigenous Chinese Qin, the Tang, the Song dynasties were dynamic, creative and stable. But when China was weak and divided, conditions were ripe for rule by non-Chinese -- the Yuan dynasty was the age of Mongol dominance, the Qing of the Manchus, while European influence from the mid-nineteenth century brought the Opium Wars, the Taiping and Boxer Risings.

Tour Leader

The tour will be accompanied throughout by a History Today recommended tour leader, whose specialist knowledge and enthusiasm for Chinese history will complement that of local guides. At the time of going to press, we await final confirmation from our chosen tour leader.


Day 1 London-Beijing

Meet at London Heathrow Airport for the flight to Beijing.

Day 2 Arrive Beijing

Transfer to the hotel in time for lunch. In the afternoon tour the city and visit Tiananmen Square and the Memorial to the People's Heroes, where eight bas reliefs record the significant events and movements of the last one hundred years such as the May 4th Movement. The former legation areas, which were under siege during the summer of 1900, stood to the east of the Square. The Meridian Gate, which leads into the Imperial Palace was where Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China and reviewed the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. The Imperial Palace, or Forbidden City, was the creation of the third Ming emperor, who moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing (the `Northern Capital') at the beginning of the 15th century. …

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