A Glimpse into History & Religion of Xi'an

Famen Temple - Qianling Mausoleum
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Trip Highlights:
►  Visit the Famen Temple, the Buddhist sacred land.
►  Listen to the stories of the only female emperor in the Chinese history.
►  Save your precious time with no shopping stops.

At around 09:00, your guide and driver will pick you up at your own booked hotel in the downtown area, then your Xi'an day trip to the Famen Temple and the Qianling Mausoleum officially starts.

After a comfortable drive for about 1.5 to 2 hours, you will first come to the Famen Temple, a holy place of Buddhism. Here, you will be accompanied to visit the Namaste Dagoba which is 148 meters (160 yards) high and also worship a finger bone of the Gautama Buddha (Sakyamuni). The visit will last for around 2 to 2.5 hours.

The Famen Temple, located 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of Xi'an City, was built in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) and then turned into a royal temple in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Because of the placement of Sakyamuni Buddha's finger bone, it has also become the Buddhist shrine looked up by the whole nation. Nowadays, the temple is divided into two parts: the newly built cultural scenic spot and the architectural complex of the Tang style built on the historic site. The Famen Temple Treasure Hall, belonging to the latter, has a large collection of treasures that are used to worship the Buddha by the royals, which reflects the extreme wealth of the Tang Empire and the sincerity of the royals.

Today's lunch is on your own choice but surely your guide will be glad to offer you recommendations and help.
Famen Temple
Qianling Mausoleum

After lunch, we will continue the tour to the Qianling Mausoleum, which takes an hour by car. Upon arrival, your guide will lead you to visit the highlights of the Qianling Mausoleum, including the stone statues along the Spirit Way, the Blank Tablet, the Qijie Bei (Tablet of Seven Elements) as well as the 61 stone statues of the foreign diplomats. The 61 stone statues on both sides of Spirit Way are all headless. Their heads might be broken in a massive earthquake, while some say it comes down to locals’ superstition. As the golden age of Tang Empire was gone, the later generations from those foreign states felt so ashamed by the sight, as to fool local peasants into breaking their heads. Moreover, some even argue the heads were smuggled overseas, as such things actually happened during late Qing dynasty. Keen on mysteries? Our guide will show you a real one! Besides, you will also pay a visit to the Tomb of the Princess Yong Tai, where you can enjoy various colorful murals of the court ladies during the Tang Dynasty.

The Qianling Mausoleum, 85 kilometers (53 miles) northwest from Xi'an, is a tomb of the royal families in the Tang Dynasty. Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in the Chinese history, was buried here with her husband Emperor Gaozong and the Qianling Mausoleum has become the only tomb for couple emperors in the world. It was a rare tomb among ancient Chinese imperial tombs that has not been excavated so far. However, you can see its magnificent cemetery layout and a large number of stone carvings above the ground. The current excavated relics in the Qianling Mausoleum were all from the subordinate tombs of the Tang princes and princesses. Most of the exhibitions in the museum are tri-colored glazed pottery, colored figurines and murals.
Buddha in the Famen Temple
 A glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty
In the late afternoon, your Xi'an day tour to the Qianling Mausoleum will come to an end and we will drive for about an hour back to your hotel. We hope you have enjoyed this day trip with us!

Tour Prices
1 traveler2-3 travelers4-5 travelers
  • Prices are per person in US Dollars.
Price Includes
  • Private English-speaking guide
  • Private driver & air-conditioned vehicle
  • Entrance fees to tourist sites
Price Excludes
  • Hotel accommodation with breakfasts
  • Lunches and dinners
  • Tips or gratuities for guide and driver
 If you would like to take all arrangements on your own, we are pleased to offer the following independent travel information for one day excursion from Xi’an for you. Time is not enough to visit all sites mentioned about in one day if you take public transportation. So we suggest one day to Famen Temple or one day to Qianling Mausoleum separately for you. Please check the following programs for your reference.

One Day Independent Itinerary to Experience the Famen Temple Buddhist Culture & Xian's Nightlife

Originally built about 1700 years ago, Famen Temple, which houses the finger bone of Sakyamuni Buddha, is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in China. If you are interested in Buddhist culture and planning a day trip to somewhere outside Xi'an, Famen Temple is an ideal choice. It is located in Fufeng County, Baoji City, about 120 km (74.6 miles) away from Xi'an.

We suggest you set out early today. You can choose either of the two ways to get to Famen Temple.

Option 1:
You can take Metro Line 1 and get off at Hanchenglu Station. Metro Line 1 runs east-west through the heart area of the city. It could be convenient to find it if your hotel is in the downtown area. Beidajie and Wuloukou are popular transfer stations of Line 1. Leaving the metro from Exit D of Hanchenglu Station, you will find the West Xi'an Bus Station. There are direct buses run to Famen Temple from this bus station. It is recommended that you take the earliest bus leaving at 09:00. The ticket fare is CNY 37.5 per person for one way and CNY60 for a round trip. The bus journey from Xi'an to Famen Temple takes around 2 hours. If you start from the heart area of Xi'an, the whole journey, including the metro and bus ride, as well as the time you transfer between stations, might take about 4 hours.

Option 2:
Take an express train from Xi’an North Railway Station to Yangling Nan Station. The first D train departs at 07:35 and it takes 34 minutes to arrive at Yangling Nan Station. The second class ticket costs CNY27.5. After arrival, you can take a taxi to Famen Temple. The taxi takes around 40 minutes and costs around CNY80. This option costs more, but it saves time.

The present site covers a total area of around 66,660 square meters (about 16.5 acres) and consists of 24 courtyards and a subterranean palace housing numerous treasures and relics. It is really big, so you need to get ready to some walk with a pair of comfortable shoes. The old Famen Temple Pagoda complex and Famen Temple Museum are focuses of most visitors. Besides, it is worth noting that the finger bone relic is only on display every weekend, public holidays and the 1st and 15th day of every lunar month, from 10:00 to 16:00. Normally it takes about 3 hours for a comprehensive visit. Catch the bus leaving Famen Temple at 15:30 back to West Xi'an Bus Station. Or you may take the tourist special bus back to the Tang Paradise. This bus starts to sale return ticket from 14:30 and it leaves as soon as the seats are fully occupied. Remember that the bus stop is at the parking lot near to the old pagoda complex. Alternatively, you may take a taxi to Yangling Nan Station to catch an express train back to Xi’an. For your reference, the last D train departs at 20:32 from Yangling Nan Station to Xi’an North Railway Station.

Upon returning to Xi'an, we suggest you continue your trip to the Bell and Drum Tower as well as the Muslim Quarter. From the West Xi'an Bus Station, you can take Metro Line 1 to Beidajie Station, and change to Subway line 2 to the Bell Tower. If you back to Xi’an North Railway Station, you can take Subway line 4 to Xingzhengzhongxin Station, and change to line 2 to the Bell Tower. After arrival, you can enjoy the outstanding appearance of the Bell Tower from afar. If you want to enjoy the splendid city views, you may also ascend the tower at CNY30. When the lights are on in the evening, the area forms a kind of beauty of the city. Both of the Drum Tower and the Muslim Quarter are within a few minutes walking distance from the Bell Tower. When wandering through the Muslim Quarter at leisure, you can try the unique local food and buy some souvenirs.

1 Day Independent Itinerary to Qianling Mausoleum on Xi’an West Touring Line

 Route: Xi’an → Qianxian → Tomb of Prince Yide → Tomb of Princess Yongtai → Tomb of Prince Zhanghuai → Main Tomb of Qianling Mausoleum → Xi’an

The Qianling Mausoleum, located 80 km (50 mi) northwest of Xi'an, is a must-see on the western touring route of Xi'an. Built in 684 AD, it is the world's only husband-and-wife emperors mausoleum, where the Tang Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu Zetian are buried. Instead of a simple visit by most common tourists, we recommend you an in-depth tour of the Qianling Mausoleum, following which you can see not only the spectacular main tomb, but also the satellite tombs of the descendants of Empress Wu Zetian, while learning about the imperial ceremonies and folk customs in the heyday of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), and also the secret stories of the only female emperor in China’s history.

Opening Hours: 8:00 to 18:00 from March to November; 8:30 to 17:30 from December to the next February
Ticket Price: CNY 102 from March to November; CNY 82 from December to the next February
Note: The ticket includes the main mausoleum, Qianling Museum, and all attendant tombs that are open.

 8:00-9:30 Transport from Xi’an to Qianling Mausoleum
You are recommended to take a taxi or metro line 2 to get to the Xi’an North Railway Station, and take the high speed train there to Qianxian first.

High Speed Train D3509 from Xi’an to Qianxian

Departure: 8:30 at Xi’an North Railway Station
Arrival: 8:59 at Qianxian Railway Station
Duration: 29 minutes
Ticket Fare: CNY 24 for a second-class seat; CNY 38 for a first-class seat.

Upon arrival, take a taxi to the south gate of Qianling Mausoleum in 20 minutes at a cost of CNY 20. Or you can take the Qianxian bus line 1 or 2 to Qianling station, which takes around 1 hour and costs CNY 1.

● If you start from the west suburb of Xi’an, you can consider taking coaches from West Xi'an Bus Station to Qianxian, which runs every 10 minutes from 7:00 to 19:00. It takes 1.5 hours and costs CNY 25.5 to reach to the Qianxian Bus Station, where you can take a taxi to reach the Qianling Mausoleum in 15 minutes at a cost of CNY 15 to 20.

The Qianling Mausoleum has 17 satellite tombs, among which the tombs of Prince Yide and Princess Yongtai are the largest in scale and boast the most unearthed cultural relics. For a thorough tour of the large scenic area, it is recommended that you spend CNY 30 to buy a ticket for the sightseeing car, which can save time and energy, as well as reasonably arrange your travel route in a ring.

Tomb of Prince Yide

From the ticket office of the south gate, it takes 5 minutes to arrive at the first visiting spot of today - Tomb of Prince Yide.

 Recommended Time for a Visit: 1 hour

Tomb Owner:
Li Chongrun (682 - 701 AD), aka Li Chongzhao, was the eldest grandson of Empress Wu Zetian and the eldest son of Li Xian, Emperor Zhongzong of the Tang Dynasty. In 684, Emperor Zhongzong lost his throne, and Li Chongrun was deposed as a commoner. In 701, he was killed with a rod by Empress Wu Zetian for discussing her secret lovers in the palace. It was also said that he was forced to commit suicide. He was only 19 years old when he died. His father, Emperor Zhongzong, restored to the throne in 705 and honored him the Crown Prince Yide, and in the following year, his coffin was moved from Luoyang to Qianling Mausoleum as an attendant tomb.

Things to See:
In addition to the stone pillars and stone lions, you will marvel at the exquisite murals in the long tomb passage. These colorful murals are rich in themes, among which the most eye-catching is the ‘Watchtowers’, the largest piece of the Tang Dynasty murals. The magnificent murals take the mountains as the background and depict the city wall, the Que watchtowers, and the guard of honor. The original painting has been moved to the Mural Hall of Shaanxi History Museum for better protection. The tomb now keeps a replica, but it is still very beautiful, providing visitors with an insight into the luxurious life of the Tang court and the imperial etiquette. There are also exhibition halls showing the precious relics unearthed from the tomb and the life stories of Prince Yide.

Tomb of Princess Yongtai

It takes 5 minutes by sightseeing car from the Tomb of Prince Yide to the Tomb of Princess Yongtai.

 Recommended Time for a Visit: 1 hour

Tomb Owner:
Li Xianhui (684 - 701 AD), the granddaughter of Empress Wu Zetian and the 7th daughter of Li Xian, Emperor Zhongzong of the Tang Dynasty. In 700, she married Wu Yanji, grandnephew of Empress Wu Zetian. In 701, when she was only 17 years old, she might be brutally killed by Empress Wu Zetian, because her husband and her brother Prince Yide had offended Wu Zetian by secretly discussing the empress's lovers, and were put to death. However, the tomb inscription stated that Li Xianhui died in childbirth. She could have died in childbirth due to shock after learning that her husband was executed. Her father, Emperor Zhongzong, later made her Princess Yongtai in 705 and reburied her and her husband together with an imperial standard, next to the Qianling Mausoleum.

Things to See:
The tomb ramp is wider and of higher standard than that of her brother Prince Yide’s tomb, and you can see that Emperor Zhongzong was very fond of his daughter Li Xianhui, who had died prematurely because of political struggles. The murals are well preserved, and of course they are replicas. The originals are also kept in the Shaanxi History Museum. Among them, the six pieces of ‘Palace Ladies’ are fine works with lively figures and vivid expressions, showing the luxurious life of the imperial family.

The princess's tomb is also the site of the Qianling Museum, where you can see the fine relics from the Qianling Mausoleum, the Exhibition of the Wu Zetian Era, and the cultural relics of the Silk Road and the Hu figurines of the Tang Dynasty. As for the Qianling Underground Palace, you are suggested to skip it, because the imitation scenes and puppets inside are too crude to be worth visiting.

 12:00-13:00 Lunch Break
There is a Foreign Restaurant where you can have lunch at the rest area of the Tomb of Princess Yongtai. If you are not hungry now, you can dine after getting to the main mausoleum of Qianling, where there are more choices like the Qianling Shengtang Food Center, Qianzhou Snacks, and Huangling Food Mall.

 13:00-13:30 Short Visit of Tomb of Crown Prince Zhanghuai
It takes 5 minutes from the Tomb of Princess Yongtai to the Tomb of Crown Prince Zhanghuai. It is similar to the first two tombs, but much smaller, and the murals inside are not as exquisite as those in the first two tombs. The tomb passage is very short and can be visited in 5 to 10 minutes. The passage is steep, making it difficult for the elderly to walk. If you're not interested in it or pressed for time, you can skip it and take the sightseeing car directly to the main mausoleum.

Tomb Owner:
Li Xian (655 - 684 AD), the 6th son of the Tang Emperor Gaozong and the 2nd son of Empress Wu Zetian. He was well educated and quick-witted, being praised by his father while suspected by his mother. In 680, he was condemned to treason and exiled. In 684, Empress Wu Zetian forced him to commit suicide at the age of 29.

 13:30-16:30 Main Mausoleum of Qianling
It takes 10 minutes by sightseeing car from the Tomb of Crown Prince Zhanghuai to the main mausoleum.

 Recommended Time for a Visit: 2 to 3 hours

Tomb Owner:
The Qianling Mausoleum is one of the most imposing imperial tombs in China. It buried two remarkable emperors - Li Zhi (Gaozong), the third emperor of the Tang Dynasty, and his wife Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history.

Things to See:
1. Sacred Way:
Getting off the sightseeing car, you'll see a pair of stone pillars and winged horses, and from here, you can head north up the long Sacred Way that leads to the main mausoleum. With a length of about 500 meters (550 yards), the road is flanked by stone statues of various officials and generals. After a 10-minute ascent, you will arrive at the south Zhuque Gate of the main mausoleum.

2. Stone Steles and Statues:
At the Zhuque Gate, you can see two stone steles. On the west side is the Stone Stele Dedicated to Emperor Gaozong, aka Holy Deeds Tablet, which was set up with the order of Empress Wu Zetian to commemorate her husband, Emperor Gaozong. She wrote more than 5,000 words to praise his merits and virtues. On the east is the famous Wordless Stone Stele, built with a spectacular monolith for Empress Wu Zetian. There are all kinds of debates about why it is wordless. Some people say that Wu Zetian thought her achievements were too great to be recorded in writing; while others believe that Wu Zetian, as the only female emperor recorded in China’s official history, thought she could not judge herself, so she left the judgment to posterity. When you look closely at the stele, in addition to the exquisite decorative carving, you will find that it is actually not blank, but has inscriptions in various languages. It had become a monument recording messages left by dignitaries and literati visiting the Qianling Mausoleum in the following dynasties.

Behind the two steles are the Stone Statues of 61 Foreign Officials, which are as tall as human beings and are dressed in different styles. Divided into two groups, they stand in neat deference on either side of the mausoleum, as if to welcome the two emperors. Their heads are gone, and only the bodies are left. The reason is unknown, with a lot of speculation. You can put your head above the statue's neck and take some interesting photos.

3. Mausoleum Mountain:
In the middle there is a path to climb the Liangshan Mountain. Some local farmers offer rides up the mountain for a fee, but it is not recommended in case of price traps. The mountain is 1,047 meters (3,435 feet) above sea level, but the climbing height to the top is only about 200 meters (656 feet). People of average strength can finish the round trip in about 1.5 hours. Pay attention to safety as it is a winding dirt and gravel road, with some steep and difficult sections. After reaching the summit, you can overlook the surrounding farmland, the Sacred Way, and the watchtowers on the east and west Breast Peaks. At this moment, beneath your feet, in the mountain, is the core of the mausoleum. However, due to the limited archaeological technology, the main mausoleum has not been excavated. It is said that there are abundant wealth and treasures inside. With a short stop on the mountain top, you can return down to the parking lot at the exit of the scenic area.

 16:30-18:00 Get Back to Qianxian County
Take bus line 1 to Qianshi Shizi or bus line 2 to People’s Theater, which are in the city center. It takes nearly one hour and costs CNY 1. Or you can go by a taxi, taking around 12 minutes and costing around CNY 15.

Now you can find a local restaurant to have dinner. If you are interested, you can try the Qianzhou Four Treasures, the famous traditional local foods which are rated as ‘China's Famous Snacks’, including Guokui (Crusty Pancake), Noodles, Chasu (Crisp Pie), and Beancurd Jelly. It is advised to finish your dinner before 18:00.

 18:00-19:30 Return Trip to Xi’an
Take a taxi to the Qianxian Railway Station in 15 minutes at a cost of CNY 15.

High Speed Train D1996 from Qianxian to Xi’an

Departure: 18:57 at Qianxian Railway Station
Arrival: 19:27 at Xi’an North Railway Station
Duration: 30 minutes
Ticket Fare: CNY 26 for a second-class seat; CNY 42 for a first-class seat.

● Note: If your time is tight and you can't catch the Train D1996, it doesn't matter. There are two more trains for you to choose from - D3682 (20:28-20:59) and D3586 (21:03-21:34).
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