China Uncovered: Sacred Mountains and Ancient Waterways. This journey was cancelled in April 2020 and is now planned for April 202301 - 18 April, 2023

Trip Dates:
01 - 18 April, 2023
Trip Price: £3760 not including international flights
Single Room Supplement: £780
Trip Length: 18 days

One of the greatest and most ancient Chinese beliefs is that mountains trace the course of dragon bones under the earth, and that rivers and watercourses are their domiciles. Indeed as far back as the 2nd century BC, Meng Tian, a general under the First Emperor Qin Shihuangdi, who is perhaps best known for overseeing the construction of the Great Wall but who also oversaw the construction of the Lingqu Canal (part of this journey), joining the Yangtse and Pearl River systems, held just this belief. Given his fantastic accomplishments, he was not a man to be scared of anything. Yet towards the end of his life, his greatest fear was that through these very spectacular construction projects, he had cut through the veins of the earth and this was an unpardonable crime for which death was his just and only punishment. 

These sorts of fundamental beliefs were subsequently incorporated in cartography and a Ming dynasty map, called the General Map of the Three Great “Stem Dragons” of China, shows the empire divided by the Yellow and Yangtse Rivers into three main sections, each with its respective mountain ranges and its own geomantic energy. This unique journey will focus on the two southern dragons, who inhabit the watercourses and form the sacred mountains of South China. 

But this is not a journey of the past, Dr Greenbaum will show that this is a journey into the psyche of present-day China, what makes ‘the Chinese tick’ today. A little over a century ago, every Chinese government office had a yinyang section. They would advise officials on the location and strength of the dragon veins that ran through the earth. The past has returned. Since 1949, it was thought that almost every Chinese official had been enjoined to worship the hammer and sickle at the exclusion of all else. Yet a recent survey undertaken by the Chinese Academy of Governance found that more than half of all officials had resorted to traditional forms of divination. Sometimes done privately, sometimes public. These days, may many parents now spend thousands of yuan having a fengshui master choose the characters for their child’s name. On another level, the course-work for the executive MBA programme, at Peking University no less, includes a fengshui component on maximising wealth, taught by an erstwhile street vegetable seller! 

Through Dr Greenbaum’s lectures and informal instruction,  learn more of the paradoxes in China today as you travel along the slopes and peaks of China’s sacred mountains and along the great waterways that formed the very backbone of one of the oldest empires on earth and gave the Chinese their ‘land of rice and fish’ (‘milk and honey’). This is China in the raw, away from many of the tourist hotspots and the development juggernaut taking place in the major cities. See ancient hydrology projects and explore sites writ large in the Chinese imagination. Wander through working temples where fervent believers showcase some of the lesser known Chinese traditions and faiths which down the ages entranced the northern emperors.

The journey begins in Sichuan Province, western China, traces the course of the Yangtse River to the plains, before turning south along the waters leading upstream toward the Nanling Mountains; across which lies the Pearl River Delta, with its fecund soil, limpid rivers and karst mountains.

The journey is open the alumni of Oxford and Cambridge Universities and their family and friends. Please note that Distant Horizons has sole responsibility for the operation of this tour. The participating University has no direct control over the operation of any tours.



Maximum Party Size: 20

Trip Leader: Dr Jamie Greenbaum

Dr Jamie Greenbaum is currently researching the history of early Chinese utopias and also a history of the early State of Yan (the area around and to the north of present-day Beijing) at Beijing Univesity. He has travelled widely in China and lectured on both Ancient and Contemporary China. Since 2003, he has led six very successful visits for Oxford and Cambridge Universities to China including two along the Silk Road.

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China Uncovered: Sacred Mountains and Ancient Waterways. This journey was cancelled in April 2020 and is now planned for April 2023 Trip Comments:

‘The journey was truly memorable and it will take some time for the epic to sink in. What a find you have with Jamie Greenbaum! Words can not express the debt of gratitude which we all felt for the way in which Jamie informed us, stimulated our thinking, entertained us and bubbled with enthusiasm.’
‘A brilliant trip, unlike anything I have ever done before. Faultlessly organised and perfectly executed and led by Dr Greenbaum. Very congenial company.’
‘It was a remarkable success. The overall planning and supervision were simply excellent. Well done!’
‘I thought the trip was exceptionally well planned and paced with variety and flexibility. Our travelling companions were delightful.’