Published: August 1st 2012August 1st 2012
This day trip was full of surprises and contrasts - from the small to the monumental - and covering very interesting parts of Chinese imperial history. The first visigoof the day was to emperor Jingdi's tomb. The excavations here were in the 1980s and the site has been left so that visitors can see the placement of the items in the tomb (walking over the excavated pits which have been covered by glass). Almost everything in the tombs is quarter size, so that the people look like large dolls and the animals (pigs, sheep, horses, dogs and chickens) could fit in a large toy farm. In the museum there was even a miniature set of saucepans. The doll figures were missing their arms because they were made of wood. Emperor Jingdi was a Han emperor (after the terracotta warriors).Excavation work is continuing at the site at one of the gates.
The next stop (with the heat blazing down) was at the Qian tomb, the tomb of the female emperor Wu Zetian and Emperor Gaozong (Tang dynasty). There is a huge processional way lined with huge sculptures of officers and animals. It felt like quite a walk from one end to
the other and the overall impression was of monumentality.
The last stop was perhaps the most strange, Famen temple. There were three areas to visit, new temple, old temple and museum. Both the old temple and the new temple contained the "Buddhas' finger looked after by a monk. It wasn't clear how there could be two! There were also two underground palaces, one under the museum which seemed to contain replicas of the caskets for the finger and one under the old temple that seemed to be a reconstruction of how the very small narrow underground palace used to look. The whole place was surrounded by mystery and legend. The underground palace was discovered in 1981 when half of the old temple collapsed. There weremangy treasures inside including jade and gold caskets of increasing sizes in which the finger was encased. There was another strange story that the underground palace was discovered earlier, but then resealed with nothing taken. All very Indiana Jones.