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Published: September 8th 2011
From the Walls
As most China travellers know Xi'an is one of the oldest cities in the Middle Kingdom. It is one of the four ancient capitals, home to many great and important dynasties including the Sui, Han, Qin and Zhou, and of course the home of the Terracotta Warriors.
Xi'an is a city steeped in history, oozing culture and dripping with old world touristy charm. When I arrive, I step bleary eyed out of the gloomy terminal at the station into blinding sunshine and a giant blue-grey wall. The wall which surrounds Xi'an sits like a giant Lego fortress around the intricate maze of civilisation. At first glimpse it appears ugly and foreboding, casting lengthy shadows on a clean, crisp day.
Journal 27th July
Almost 20 hours on a train, about 3 hours sleep and a wander about the Muslim Quarter I am officially beat. The hostel is a pretty unatmospheric place, it sits opposite the old Bell Tower which lies on a giant metropolistic roundabout. The hustle of the city roars in through the windows. Its strange to see so many Muslims in China, the women in their hijabs, bejeweled saris and the men with skull caps. Its
nice to see variety in China again. The smells of lamb, mutton, noodles, dumplings and cold teas fill the air of the Muslim Quarter; teapots, trinkets, mahjong tiles and toy terracotta warriors line the streets.
After yesterday I have one piece of advice. Chinese tours...DON'T DO IT! We were up and out by 9.30am, weaving in and out of honking traffic towards BanPo Neolithic Village (Stop number 1).
BanPo is the archaeological site of a neolithic setlement. The village is about 6,000 years old. It was found as the local government were excavating and clearing a site for a local coal power plant. The village itself held a matriarchal society, with only blood relatives settled in one place. The women of Ban Po did not marry, instead they would find partners from neighbouring tribes (I am not judging, although it sounds much more stress free than dating).
Ban Po has many burial sites, all of the remains buried in a ritual like manner with small urns and pots which would have been filled with wheat or grain. Each burial was facing west and according to our guide this was so the departed could follow the setting sun
to the dark and unknown lands.I find this kind of romantic, in the literary sense of the term , when you consider the development of thought, religion & spirituality.
It was after this I got to thinking about life 6,000 years ago and my mind just couldn't process how long ago it was, so as the guide was telling us about a moat style defense system for the village I quietly asked Scott...
'Were dinosaurs alive 6,000 years ago?'
As soon as it had escaped my lips I knew the sheer stupidity of the question. Scott roaring with laughter repeated the question and I slid into embarrassed denial. I became the giggle for the day, not for the first time (and I highly doubt the last) I was let down by my complete lack of common sense.
(Stop Number 2)
From here and utterly ashamed of my (highly valued ;-p) intellect we travelled on. The next pit-stop was a quick tour of a Terracotta Warrior factory. The downfall of all great tourist sites is the amazing exploitation of foreign tourists and the price of souvenirs. The factory was a quick stop and barely worth mentioning apart from the fact
that we were told that they use similar techniques to the real warriors and the clay from the same mountainsides as Emperor Qin's magnificent creation.
(Stop Number 3)
Lunch - A Traditional Xi'an style banquet, as with all Chinese food, delicious!
(Stop Number 4)
Finally! The Terracotta Warriors. First a few facts from Wiki.
Chinese: 兵马俑 Pinyin: bīngmǎ yǒng. Literal translation: soldier and horse funerary statues.
It is a form of funerary art buried 'with' the emperor Qin Shi Huang in 210-209 BC and whose purpose was to help guard his empire in his afterlife.
They were discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers.Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.
At first glance (once you've made your way through ticket gates, touts and tourists) the site is like a giant aircraft hanger filled with mud and tourists. It was a little overwhelming to begin with, the sheer size and amount of these great looming guardians of Emperor Qin's death. After the initial overwhelmed feeling, the magic
At a pet store
wore off and the amount of people ground me down.
I'm not going to write much more about them, I've ticked them off the bucket-list, I wouldn't go again.
The most fascinating thing for me was that there are still so many unexcavated, awaiting discovery, painted faces, costume still in tact. The chance to excavate and uncover them myself would be the only thing to lure me back to the crowds of aggressive tourists.
(Stop Number 4)
The heavens had opened and the endless grey sky turned to endless drizzle as we arrived at Huaqing Hot Springs. Huaqing is beautiful, the gardens are magnificent and the stunning Mt Lishan sits regally in the background. It is famed for the romantic story of Emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Yang Guifei. The place is beautiful, but as the Lonely Planet says full of Chinese tour groups taking the obligatory thousand and one photos.
Back to the hostel beer and bed.
Today we cycled the walls of Xi'an. My favourite day in Xi'an, 14 km on a bike. The sun shining and seeing Xi'an. The city is beautiful, with ancient style architecture and golden roofed temples. The
views, the weather, the company all made the perfect.
Tot: 2.026s; Tpl: 0.058s; cc: 11; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0292s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb