Journey to the Middle Kingdom
- Work with giant pandas at a renowned breeding center.
- Venture into limestone caves to discover hidden Buddha statues.
- Take a Shandong cooking class in one of the ancient hutong neighborhoods of Beijing.
- Hike a remote part of the Great Wall at sunrise.
Choose one of these projects and delve further into your area of interest:
Itinerary 21 Days
Brimming with ancient monuments and skyscrapers alike, China has catapulted into the 21st century as a major economic power. Yet a timeless way of life continues away from the burgeoning cities, in a countryside carved with rugged mountains and deep gorges, and speckled with traditional farming villages. Some of China's most famous residents, the giant pandas, make their home in the wilderness of Sichuan. Meet pandas with expert Marc Brody, explore the pagodas of lakeside Hangzhou, and delve into the excitement of Shanghai and Beijing, seeing China from the unique angle of your On Assignment project.
Beijing and the Great Wall
Days 1-8. Beijing is a city of color and motion: bicycles blur past crimson-walled temples, crowds bustle down neon-flanked shopping streets, and new buildings and businesses seem to sprout up on a daily basis. But Beijing's ancient roots are still visible among the modern high-rises and the flashy billboards. We'll explore the city in all its guises, from the ornate courtyards of the Forbidden City to the avant-garde studios of the 798 art district.
Partake in the popular pastime of flying kites in historic Tiananmen Square; and in the gardens of the Temple of Heaven, join in on leisure activities of all kinds—from checkers to rhythmic gymnastics. Bike through a hutong, an age-old neighborhood of Ming dynasty courtyard homes. In one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries outside of Tibet, spin a prayer wheel and observe practicing monks. Enjoy a unique chance to meet editors at National Geographic magazine's China headquarters, and watch acrobats spin and climb through the air at an evening performance.
Venture outside the city to a tiny farming village next to a seldom-visited section of the Great Wall. We spend two nights at a simple guesthouse here and enjoy meals prepared by our hosts. See the Great Wall as few visitors do: experiment with nighttime photographic "light painting" on the ruins of an ancient guard tower or wake up early for a hike to watch the sun rise over the wall.
The Pandas of Rural Sichuan
Days 9-13. A flight and a bus ride bring us to Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province, west of Chengdu. At the invitation of the director of Wolong’s Panda Centers, we’ll have an exclusive, behind-the-scenes visit of this new internationally renowned panda facility for research and medical treatment, guided by panda expert Marc Brody. Spend a day volunteering; feeding the bears, participating in all aspects of their care, and even observing these gentle giants close-up in their enclosure.
Our next stop is the Wolong Nature Reserve, part of the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, a World Heritage site. Settle into the village of Hetaoping, located in a region of steep, lushly forested mountains where many of the few remaining wild giant pandas still roam. Our village is the site of a panda research and conservation center supported by Panda Mountain—part of Marc Brody’s organization, the U.S.-China Environmental Fund. Learn from experts about the challenges of breeding, reintroduction of pandas to the wild, and forest conservation as you explore panda habitats on guided hikes. Get acquainted with village life, helping ethnic Tibetan farmers as they harvest crops; and learn the steps of a centuries-old Tibetan dance.