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Itinerary advice request: China in mid-October

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We are a family of two adults and two children (ages 6 and 8) planning a trip to China for mid-October to early November this year. We have visited Asia before (Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, Hong Kong), but this will be our first trip to mainland China. I would appreciate advice on the following tentative itinerary:

Arrive Beijing airport
Beijing: 5 days, overnight train to Pingyao departing final evening
Pingyao: 2 days, overnight train to Xi’an departing final evening
Xi’an: 3 days, followed by morning flight to Guilin and then on to Yangshuo
Yangshuo: 4 days
Longji Rice Terraces: 2 days, followed by morning flight to Hangzhou
Hangzhou: 2 days
Suzhou: 2 days
Depart Shanghai airport

I've already obtained some advice on this itinerary on the Lonely Planet forum, but I'm posting here as well since I have some different questions, and am interested in the different perspective of members of this forum. We're aware that it may be necessary to travel to Taiyuan for the train to Xi'an due to the difficulty of obtaining seats from Pingyao, and are considering advice to change the number of days allocated to some parts of the itinerary (e.g. move a day from Xi'an to Pingyao, one day fewer in the Guilin area). Any advice on the itinerary is welcome, but I do have some specific questions:
* Ending the trip in the Shanghai area is convenient as a departure point for the flight back home, but I'm having difficulty determining whether Hangzhou and Suzhou are worth seeing; in particular, some reports seem to indicate that the past glories have been almost completely destroyed by construction in the past few decades. Can anyone suggest more interesting (but practical) alternatives (either for the end of the itinerary, or insertion between some of the existing destinations)?
* If there aren't any better alternatives to the Suzhou/Hangzhou area, which of the two cities would be a more interesting choice of we decide to only stay in one of them?
* My impression is that the scenery at the Longji Rice Terraces depends strongly on the time of year. Can anyone comment on what they're like (particularly for the purposes of photography) near the end of October?

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