27 March 2007
We made it to Xi'an today. It's spring here and the fruit trees are starting to bloom. Just like everywhere else in China that we have been, there is a ton of construction going on with the accompanying dust covering everything in a fine layer and muting out the colors. It's almost as if a hazy filter has been put over our eyes.
The town is certainly less hectic than Shanghai, with fewer people, less traffic, and less pollution . . . so It's a nice change. We wandered around the Muslim district and finally were able to see what I had envisioned I would see before the trip. Small alleys full of window sized businesses selling everything under the sun, Asian bazaar! I think we saw two other groups of white folks, which was also nice. I always like to feel like I'm off the beaten tourist track, even when I'm not.
The highlight of the day was visiting the Grand Mosque. It dates back to the 18th century and is unlike any other Mosque I've ever seen. Instead of the typical structure with a dome and minaret's, this mosque was like a Chinese imperial garden. A wild mixture of cultures.
I can already tell I'm going to miss the flood of humanity here in China once I get back home. The crowds of people walking the streets at night gives the the place such a festive atmosphere . . . and lets just say that downtown Cincinnati doesn't have quite as many people on the streets at night.
Tomorrow we plan on joining a English speaking tour group and seeing the many archeological sights East of the city.
Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge
30 March 2007
We have spent the last couple of days seeing the archeological sights around Xian. The highlight was the 2200 year old Terracotta Warriors from the Qin Dynasty, but by no means was that all this city had to offer.
My dad and I took a city tour organized through our hotel, which ended up being a bit of a waste money. Our guide was more interested in talking with her boyfriend on the telephone than telling us about the sights, and of course there was the obligatory stop at a jewelry factory (store). One interesting and unexpected site on the tour was where Chang Hai Sheck (the Chinese pro democracy leader during the 1920's - 40's) was captured and subsequently signed an agreement with Mao and the Communists. As interesting as the actual site itself was the "official" Chinese version of events that led to Chang Hai Shecks capitulation (at gun point). We call it "revisionist history" in the West.
At another stop on the tour my dad took a couple of photos of Chinese cars (which we never see in the States), and one of these car photos led to a run in with a plane clothed police man. Apparently my dad unknowingly took a photo of an undercover police car, and the plane clothed policeman didn't like that. He ran down our bus and said that photos of his car must be deleted. Of course he said all of this in Chinese, so we couldn't understand what all of the fuss was about, but our guide assured us that this was not a joke, and we must comply with his order. Naturally we complied. Yaoza!
Once we got past all of the big brother ugliness, the tour became down right amazing. The Terracotta Warriors and nearby Qin Mausoleum were out of this world! When Emperor Qin died in 207 B.C., he had the Terracotta Warriors buried near his Mausoleum for protection in the after life. Each of the 8000 + warriors are unique, with different facial features and body positions. In the burial mound itself, two stunning bronze chariots each intricately decorated and being drawn by teams of four horses were found. To give some perspective, Alexander the Great was storming through the Western world about this time.
The following day we decided to explore without a guide. Our first stop was the Shaanxi History museum, which had a great chronological display - pre historic, Qin, Tang, Ming and Qing Dynasty - pottery pieces, as well as stone, bronze, silver and gold sculptures. Another highlight of the day was walking on the ancient city wall, which afforded good (but hazy) views of the town.
Our favorite area of town was the Muslim district, and the nicest part of the district, in my mind, is the Mosque. The grounds are incredibly peaceful and serine, which is a good change of pace from the chaotic and noisy streets of Xi'an.
Ed and Paul had joined us in Xi'an from Shanghai a day earlier, and as were were headed our separate ways the following morning (my dad and I to Pingyao, and Ed and Paul to Beijing) we had a beer bash. Yee haw!
Our latest plans have us spending a couple of days in the UNESCO Heritage Site of Pingyao, followed by flying back to Shanghai and joining up with the rally - catching a ride up to Beijing in one of the cars.
Here are a couple of short videos from Xi'an
Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge
Click here to see our original plans for this trip.
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