Cultural Tour in Shanxi

Loess Plateau

Do you want to explore a traditional loess cave house for the first time? Do you want to stay in a monumental mansion which once belonged to a rich Chinese family? Do you want to see something completely different from what you’re used to? Then Shanxi province is the place for you!

Shanxi Province is considered “the museum of ancient Chinese architecture”. This province contains more than 70% of the old buildings constructed during or before the Song Dynasty (960-1279). There you will also find the Yungang Grottoes, Mount Hengshan,which is one of the “Five Great Peaks” of China, the ancient city of Pingyao, many Shanxi Grand Compounds and an amazing view of the Loess Plateau. The Ancient City of Pingyao is a well-preserved ancient town which was particularly prosperous during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties. The Shanxi Grand Compounds act as fantastic examples of the artistry of Northern Chinese architecture. And the stunning view of the Loess Plateau is something unique to Shanxi Province. (Read more about Shanxi)

During this tour, we will

  1. visit the most famous cultural attractions in Shanxi Province;
  2. enjoy the splendid scenery in the Loess Plateau, including the Yellow River;
  3. learn the history of the Jin Merchants (read more about the Jin Merchants);
  4. experience life in a loess cave house;
  5. try various kinds of local food made from flour.

This tour includes:

  • A well-planned cultural tour, which covers all of the most famous cultural attractions and amazing scenery in Shanxi Province;
  • All entrance fees, transport, and accommodation costs and some of the meal costs;
  • An English speaking guide with knowledge of Shanxi History, particularly with regards to the history of the Jin Merchants and the architecture of the Shanxi Grand Compounds;
  • Small group sizes (no more than 10 people);
  • The opportunity to experience real local life and public transportation;
  • The feeling that you are travelling with friends;
  • A pdf file of the culture, history and other useful facts about Shanxi Province.

Highlights of the tour:

hanging temple01

The Hanging Temple 

The Hanging Temple, or Xuankong Temple, was built onto a cliff-face in Mount Hengshan and has survived for more than 1,500 years. It is the only existing temple that combines teachings from the three traditional Chinese religions: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The supportive foundation of the structure is hidden within the bedrock. The temple includes 40 rooms; the highest room, Sanjiao Hall, is 90 meters above ground level. There are more than 80 statues made of copper, iron, stone and clay within the temple. (Read more about the Hanging Temple)


Pingyao Ancient Town

Pingyao was the financial centre of China during the Qing Dynasty. The first bank in Chinese history was set up there. Now it is considered the most well preserved ancient city in China, in that it illustrates perfectly what a typical big city in the Ming and Qing Dynasties was like. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Read more about Pingyao)


Qiao's family compund02

The Shanxi Grand Compounds

Jin Merchants (merchants from Shanxi) played a dominant role in Chinese history during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. They became incredibly wealthy and used that wealth to build grand compounds for their families. These castle-like structures were constructed based on the architectural style of northern China. Similar to the traditional Chinese Quadrangle, the courtyard is usually rectangular in shape and all of the rooms will face towards the courtyard. The whole mansion looks like a compound formed by many small quadrangles. The external walls are high and strong, which makes them perfect for defensive purposes. (Read more about the Shanxi Grand Compounds)

Yungang Grottoes01

The Yungang Grottoes

This group of grottoes was carved between 453 and 495 AD, during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD). It was the first group of grottoes to be constructed under imperial patronage. The whole site is composed of 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 Buddha statues and statuettes. It is one of the “Four Grand Groups of Grottoes” in China and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. (Read more about the Yungang Grottoes)

The Yaodong Villages 

house cave01The Yaodong (Loess Cave House) is a typical type of dwelling found in the Loess Plateau, with more than 4,500 years of history behind it. Nowadays, there are still more than 40 million people living in this type of building. (Read more about Yaodong)

Of the Yaodong Villages, we have chosen Qikou Ancient Town and the two other listed villages to visit on our tour. We have chosen these three villages specifically so that you can see all three types of Yaodong, which can be found in these three places respectively.


“Qi” means “the moraine in the river” in Chinese. Qikou was the most important port on the Yellow River during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which was the most prosperous era for the Jin Merchants. More than 200 hotels, along with numerous warehouses, in Qikou were constantly busy during that period. (Read more about Qikou)

xiwan chen's house

Xiwan Village

Xiwan village was a small port, and the whole village also acted as a castle-like compound for the Chen clan. One of the Chen’s Ancestral Halls still remains in the village and there is also a large mansion there, which belonged to Chen Sanxi’s family.  The Chen’s Courtyard is different from that of a typical Shanxi Compound; it is a compound comprised of Yaodongs built in ascending steps along the sides of the hills in Xiwan.


Lijiashan Village

More than 400 Yaodongs have been built in rows on the hills of Lijiashan village, which creates an amazing and unique architectural landscape. There are both loess cave houses and loess caves in Lijiashan, which have been strengthened by stones and bricks. During the Qing Dynasty, two rich families from the Li clan built large mansions in the village, and these mansions demonstrate beautifully the local art of brick-sculpture, stone carving and woodcutting.

The Yellow River

The Yellow River is the second longest river in China, and it is also the most important river in Northern China. Billions of different species of animal live in the river. The Yellow River is not yellow at its source; it is the yellow sandy soil which has eroded from the Loess Plateau that gives it its colour. Thus, thanks to the Loess Plateau in Shanxi, the Yellow River graduates from being completely clear at its source to being a deep yellow colour further down the line.








The Location of Shanxi in China:

shanxi location









Accommodation: In Qixian Ancient town and Pingyao Ancient town we will stay in a traditional Shanxi Courtyard (4 nights). In Qikou we will stay in the featured loess cave house that has been equipped with modern amenities (2 nights), and in Datong city (2 nights) and Taiyuan city (1 night) we will stay in 4-Star hotels.

Please Note: In the Shanxi Courtyard hotel and the loess cave house we will be sleeping on traditional Chinese heated brick beds.

Food: Breakfast will be provided every day and we will also provide 5 dinners consisting of authentic Shanxi cuisine.

Transportation: The cost of the high-speed trains, normal trains, coaches and the hired car we will use are all included.

Duration: 11 days and 10 nights

Date: 10th of May to the 20th of May, 2017

Final Deadline for Subscription: 10th of March, 2017

shanxi foodCost pp£1180 (including: 9 nights of accommodation; all entrance fees to the attractions; 5 dinners; 9 breakfasts; all transportation fees during the designated tour times; an English speaking guide; a pdf file with useful facts about Shanxi province;
Single supp:+£350

Please Note: the cost is based on the subscription of at least 4 participants; the maximum is 10 participants.






Day 1 Beijing – Datong

Meeting Point: Beijing Railway Station

Meeting Time: 9:30 AM

It will take us six and a half hours by train to get to Datong. During our journey, we will have plenty of opportunities to see the prairie and the edge of the Loess Plateau.

Accommodation: 4-Star hotel

Dinner: We will sample traditional Shanxi cuisine together.

Day 2 Hanging Temple and Yungang Grottoes

In the morning, we will go by car to Mount Heng, which is where the Hanging Temple is located.

We will return to Datong city around about 1pm to have lunch, and then we will go to visit the Yungang Grottoes in the afternoon.

Accommodation: 4-Star hotel

Dinner: Dinner not included on this evening

Day 3 Datong – Qixian

We will leave for Qixian by train in the early morning (about 7:30am). Our train journey will cut straight through the Loess Plateau. We will arrive at about 3:00pm and spend the afternoon exploring the old town.

Accommodation: Traditional Shanxi Courtyard

Dinner: We will sample traditional Shanxi cuisine together

Day 4 Qiao’s Family Compound and Qu’s Family Compound

We will visit the Qiao’s Family Compound in the morning and the Qu’s Family Compound in the afternoon, as well as a few other historical sites in the old part of the town.

Accommodation: Traditional Shanxi Courtyard

Dinner: Dinner not included on this evening

Day 5 Pingyao Old Town

We will go to Pingyao in the morning and spend the whole day there exploring the old town. Our tour will start with the most famous attractions: the site of the first bank in China, several sites of other ancient banks, the ancient security organisation, and the city wall.

You’ll also have a few hours alone to spend exploring the old business street. There are various shops there that sell local art and traditional handcrafts.

Accommodation: Traditional Shanxi Courtyard

Dinner: We will sample authentic Shanxi cuisine together.

Day 6 Pingyao Old Town

One day simply wouldn’t be enough to uncover all of the hidden gems this ancient town has to offer, so the next day will be spent continuing our exploration! Our guided tour will include the three main temples, the old town hall, several large mansions, and a few other attractions covered by the admission ticket. If the tour stays on schedule, you should have a few hours left to spend wandering the town on your own.

Accommodation: Traditional Shanxi Courtyard

Dinner: Dinner not included on this evening

Day 7 Shuanglin Temple and the Wang’s Family Compound

We will visit Shuanglin Temple in the morning for roughly 2 hours, and then we will go to visit the biggest Shanxi Grand Compound – the Wang’s Family Compound.

Accommodation: Traditional Shanxi Courtyard

Dinner: Dinner not included on this evening

Day 8 Pingyao – Taiyuan – Qikou

We will go to Taiyuan, the capital city of Shanxi Province, by train. From there, we will catch a coach to Qikou. This coach journey will not only provide ample opportunity to enjoy the spectacular landscape, but give you an unforgettable experience of traveling through the barren Loess Plateau.

Accommodation: Loess cave house

Dinner: We will enjoy a meal together made up of various local dishes

Day 9 Lijiawan Village and Xiwan Village

We will hike to these two villages, which will give us the chance to appreciate the spectacular scenery throughout the Loess Plateau and along the Yellow River.

Qikou – Xiwan: Approximately a 1km hike

Qikou – Lijiawan: Approximately a 3km hike

Accommodation: Loess cave house

Dinner: We will enjoy a meal together made up of various local dishes

Day 10 Qikou – Taiyuan

We will spend one last beautiful morning in Qikou and then we have to return, by coach, to Taiyuan.

Accommodation: 4-Star hotel

Dinner: We will enjoy a meal together made up of various local dishes

Day 11 Taiyuan – Beijing

We will return to Beijing by high-speed train, which will take just 3 hours.



Please Note: You can choose to stick to this tour entirely, or you can just incorporate it as part of your wider plans to travel across China. We can provide you with information and help you with any other travel plans you may have if you need us to. We also provide a hotel booking service and a flight or train booking service for all of our members’ traveling in China outside of the 10 designated days of the tour. We will also provide a consultancy service for you, which will help you to plan your journey across China and give you useful tips on traveling in China.


We hope that you will have a wonderful time traveling with us!

For more information, please contact us at

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