Friday, March 15, 2013

China Trip: Xi'an

After two full days in Beijing, we made a quick stop at the Bird's Nest, and then boarded a plane for Xi'an. We were going to see the Terracotta Warriors - something I have wanted to see in person ever since my Chinese history classes with Dr. Marks at Whittier College.

Xi'an was not nearly as crazy as Beijing. The tour bus ride was not nearly as frightening, but I was still glad we had a local driver and guide. As with Beijing, there were always a ton of Chinese tourists, touring their own country. This still fascinates me, because I don't think Americans tour the US the way the Chinese do China.

We started at the Shaanxi History Museum, which displays works of art. There were some Terracotta statues here, which was actually good to see because at the museum you could get up close (something I did not realize or appreciate at the time).

Terracotta Warrior at the Shaanxi Museum in Xi'an.
The smaller statues were amazing - mostly because there would be whole armies of them displayed.

Painted Honor Guards for Prince Quinjian of the Ming Dynasty (Shaanxi Museum).
Xi'an is known for its dumplings, so dinner one night included a variety of dumplings. Each one had a different filling, and was sometimes shaped according to its filling.

Notice the yellow duck? A duck-filled dumpling.
The greatest sight in Xi'an are the Terracotta Warriors. Created for China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, they are a life-sized army, interred in vaults for more than 2,000 years. The warriors are an ongoing archaeological excavation project, and when I went there were three pits open to visitors. Pit 1 is the largest and best for viewing the warriors, while Pits 2 and 3 are much smaller, with much less to see.

I did feel a little let down because you are quite far from the actual warriors, and because the site is so crowded, you have to keep moving and can't really soak it all in the way you might want. However, this is one of those sights you must see in China. The workmanship is incredibly detailed, and there are not just standing soldiers, but kneeling archers, scholars, horses, and more. The history behind it all is worth at least a quick read if you don't have your own Dr. Marks telling you about them in class.

Pit 1

Terracotta horses
Many of the statues were destroyed long ago, so workers today are doing repair work.

Just to give you an idea how large Pit 1 is inside.

The warriors come in all shapes and sizes.
These statues were to the back of Pit 1, and on this particular warrior, you could still see the red paint on his clothing. They were painted at one time. The passage of 2,000-plus years has worn the paint away in most cases.

Pit 2 was very dark and not as exciting.

Much of Pit 3 is not excavated.

It is a long walk from where your tour bus drops you off to the Terracotta pits. However, there is a tram - for a fee. We rode the tram up, but it was not-so-mysteriously unavailable on the way back down. There of course is a shopping to do on the way back to your tour bus.

By the way, our tour guide tried to be the middle man on arranging the tram ride. Doing so would have allowed him to make a little extra cash. M best friend's dad knew what our guide was doing, and so he took care of the arrangements for us. I don't think any of us were offended, it felt like it was just a part of the culture. The important thing is to remember that most everything is negotiable in China, so be aware.

Our final stop in Xi'an was the City Wall. It was built to keep enemies and invaders out.

Xi'an City Wall
Looking back at the city from the wall. This side is lower because it did not need to be defended.

This side of the wall was meant to keep people out, and is higher than the side that faces the city.
Another interesting thing about China was the construction. Everywhere we went there were multiple cranes and highrise structures.

They are constantly building in China!

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