Xi’an in central China – 5 to 9 May 2015

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May 7th 2015
Published: June 2nd 2015
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Xi’an in central China – 5 to 9 May 2015

We arrived in Xi’an at 2.00pm to a warm day. A young trainee guide picked us up and gave us a short history of Xi’an. Xi'an is more than 3,000 years old and was known as Chang'an in ancient times. For 1,000 years, the city was the capital for 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. Xi'an is the undisputed root of Chinese civilization having served as the capital city for the Zhou, Qin, Han, and Tang dynasties. It is the eastern terminus of the Silk Road which is the route that joined eastern Traders with the western traders.

We stayed in the Golden Flower Hotel and we soon learned that this city of 9 million people were more accustomed to international visitors and there was more English spoken there. It is the city that is closest to the Terracotta warriors, hence the number of tourists.

That night we got advice from the hotel where a good local restaurant was nearby. In fact we found one across the busy road out front of the hotel where we took our lives in our own hands!!! The restaurant was a hotpot and BBQ place where we cooked our own meat on a circular BBQ at our table and there was also a central element for a hotpot to cook our vegetables. It was really tasty. We got to know the husband and wife owners who guided us in our food selection to cook. We tried the chicken gizzards but they were too chewy and so spat them out!!!!

The next day we headed for the Old Town by taxi. We arrived at the eastern gate and were struck by the magnitude of the wall. As the world's largest city wall, the Xi'an city wall has been restored and is 12m high, 18m wide is its base, 15m wide on the top, 13.7km long, so we hired bikes and road ¾ the way around. We saw the landscaped park around the base of the exterior walls and moat and saw the many battlements and towers. The present city wall was built in the Ming dynasty (A.D.1368-A.D.1644) on the foundation of the Chang'an Imperial city wall of Tang dynasty (A.D.618-A.D.907).

We then walked inside the Old Xi’an and visited the Bell Tower where was saw a demonstration of many different bells being played. Nearby was the Drum Tower which had lots of different sized drums. There was also a drumming performance which was just finishing when we arrived.

Another highlight was the visit to the Great Mosque. It is built in a perfect mixture of Islamic and Chinese architecture styles, with seating for 1,000 worshipers and the Moslem Street district around it. It is famous as the very first mosque ever to be built in China. Only Muslims are permitted entry to the actual mosque but there was plenty to see in the many accompanying courtyards.

We then caught the metro back to the hotel for a cold beer. There are only 2 lines but there are another 200 stations on 4 more lines being built as we speak.

That night, again on the advice of an English speaking hotel person, we caught a taxi into Dayan Pagoda which was in the middle of the Xi’an Gardens. This is also where there was a spectacular musical fountain show which lasted 30 minutes. It was amazing and put the one we say in Singapore to shame!!!

Before the show we found a restaurant for dinner. No one spoke English so between using the translator app on my phone and one of the waiters racing to get an English speaking person from another close by restaurant, we selected 2 dishes, one of which was a whole crispy chicken (head and all), which was yummy....washed down with a cold local beer.

We had to look hard to find a taxi to take us back to our hotel. We eventually found a van which had temporary bench seats in the back. We negotiated a price which we were happy with, and all went well. Taxis (although this was not a taxi!!) are very cheap in China.

The next day (7 May) we met our guide Alex Fan and the 35 other passengers on the SNA Tour. All but 2 were from Australia. There were 2 Kiwis. I must say we usually enjoy having people from other countries on tour, but all went well.

We all piled on the bus and visited the Shaanxi History Museum. This museum houses a collection of local artefacts that span the entirety of the province's history from the Neolithic through the Qing dynasty. In particular it contains fabulously well preserved pottery from nearby Banpo neolithic village and many excellent Shang Dynasty bronzes. I thought the most eye-catching articles were those from the Tang Dynasty, originally used by the royal family.

We then had a wonderful Chinese lunch at a local restaurant, after which time we visited the Moslem markets and the Ancient City wall. It started to rain a little and was certainly cooler than the day before. We also drove through the Old Xi’an and then visited the Little (Wild) Goose Pagoda which was completed in 709AD.

We were back in the hotel at about 5.00pm. That night it was raining so we decided to stay in the hotel for a Chinese meal and sat with 4 people from Perth.

8 May 2015

We were really looking forward to today. It was a day for visiting the 8th wonder of the world – the Terracotta Warriors. It was an incredible experience. The Terracotta Army or the "Terracotta Warriors and Horses" is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.

The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BCE, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong District, Xi’an, Shaanxi province. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits nearby Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.

We visited the Pit No. 1, 2, & 3 with No 1 being the most impressive. The other pits were still under excavation. We also visited the museum and the pottery factory which made all the figures for tourists. There was also a lot of highly lacquered tables and chairs, cabinet’s etc, all inlayed with jade, pearl and other stones. It was all very beautiful.

The museum was a challenge with lots of Chinese being keen to get the best photographic perspective of the displays but it was interesting reading the history and the method of excavation.

We me Mr Young, one of the 4 farmers who discovered the Worriers. The Terracotta Army was discovered on 29 March 1974 ]to the east of Xi’an by these farmers who were digging a water well approximately 1.6 kilometres east of the Qin Emperor's tomb mound at Mount Lishan, ]a region riddled with underground springs and watercourses. For centuries, occasional reports mentioned pieces of terracotta figures and fragments of the Qin necropolis – roofing tiles, bricks and chunks of masonry.] This discovery prompted Chinese archaeologists to investigate, revealing the largest pottery figurine group ever found in China.

It was so exciting to see this amazing display. The Emperor was obviously well prepared to continue his lavish life after his death!!!!!

What a fantastic day...but wait, there is more. After getting back to the hotel for an hour, we hopped back onto the bus to have dinner and to see one of the very famous Chinese dance performance which was presented as multiple stories based on the Tang Dynasty. It was spectacularly colourful performance. The costumes were magnificent. Dinner included 16 different types of Chinese dumplings, individual dumplings filled with egg, mushroom, beef, ham, other vegetables and a few other fillings I didn’t know!! Your just have to trust that it is all good, and it was.

We went back to the hotel extremely satisfied with our total day. It was then time to pack our bags ready to catch the Bullet Train tomorrow to go to Luonyang.

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