We arrived in Xi’an, the city known for the legendary Terracotta Army. We got a nice hotel inside the old city wall, which was a great location. We were able to find a lot of things to see and do in the very close vicinity.
We walked everywhere we visited inside the town. We went to the famous Drum Tower, where they used to signal to the city from for various reasons. Inside was a whole collection of drums from China. There was also a drumming demonstration, which was very fun to watch.
Down the road from the Drum Tower is the sister tower, the Bell Tower. Here obviously, the theme was bells. Inside there was a demonstration of different musical instruments that I hadn’t seen before, and a girl did one of the fan dances to one of the pieces. That was fun to see.
Both towers also had historical displays of furniture and silk screens, which seem to find their way into every museum in China. I did see some very nice furniture and screens during my China stay.
I took a picture of one of the construction sites by the Towers, not because it was special, but to show the scaffolding system that is used in most of the construction. They use bamboo poles tied together for scaffolding, and they just building them up to the sky. It’s everywhere in China, although I did see a few places using the regular metal scaffolding.
Walking around this same area we came across the coolest looking Starbucks.
We walked through a large marketplace area, and bought some dried kiwis and dried mangos, and some cherries and blackberries. The fresh fruit was much yummier, but it was interesting to try dried kiwi.
Past the marketplace we found The Great Mosque. It was built as a Chinese temple originally, then taken over by the Muslim community. It was not what I would expect from a mosque, but I haven’t seen very many. I know that art of people or animals or nature is forbidden in Islam, to prevent the creation of idols. In this mosque though, there were a lot of animal images, carried over from the Chinese past decorations. It was a beautiful garden and area, with plants and statues and fountains. The rooms along the outside we were not allowed to enter: the ceremonial washing room, and the prayer room.
On the following day, Josh and I had our tour to the Terracotta Warriors. Our tour was a really sweet deal though. We got a car and driver and a tour guide for the whole day. Our guide was a sweet college girl, who is working as a guide to help get through school. She spoke English very well (we could understand her most of the time). She told us of some other great stops that we could make to see the most in that day. I’m glad we had her because I think that in most places we end up missing cool things.
We started off at an early human settlement. It was one of the earliest sites that they have in China, with the remains of their houses, and recreation of their village, and displays showing how they formed pottery and buried their dead.
After that, she took us to a factory where they produce the miniature to full size Terra-Cotta Warriors to sell. They also created screens and tapestries there. It was very interesting.
We wanted to the the Emperor’s Hot Spring Palace. This was the place that an ancient Emperor came to in the winter, and built mostly for his favorite concubine. It was a lovely area, and I would live there. The palace goes right up to the edge of the mountains, and the views were stunning.
After that we had some lunch, and we went next door to a silk factory. They showed us how silk is made. It is incredible. They have to loosen it from the silk worms and either string it together into threads or stretch out the silk into layers for a comforter. Then, of course they showed us their lovely silk products and tried to sell them to us. Unfortunately, we didn’t buy the beautiful silk bedspreads and sheets, although they were beautiful.
After that stop we headed over to the Terracotta Warriors. The Emperor himself was not buried with his army, he was buried about a kilometer away, and his burial site is not finished being excavated. The Warriors is not completed either, but they are waiting of one of the pits for technology to advance until they can preserve the color of the warriors before it disintegrated in the air. There are sections that they have preserved on some of the warriors, but the technology is not perfect, and it’s very costly at the moment, too. If they can get it though, there is one pit that still has all the warriors buried, so that when the means to better preserve them is there, they will uncover them at that point.
I liked looking at all the warriors, and the large pits. It’s incredible on several levels, first of all the amount of time needed to create so many soldiers, with different stances, different unique faces, and the regular army ranks. In another way it is also incredible, in that the amount of time it will take to complete the excavation is going to be so long. In the pits, the warriors have actually been broken to bits. The wooden roofs that were to protect them eventually decayed and fell in, and the soldiers were broken. The archeologists are working, since they started uncovering the soldiers, to put them back together again. They have, at the back of the largest room of warriors, a section of partially repaired men, some missing heads or arms or legs. They look like the soldiers who went to war.
It was a great day, and a great stay at Xi’an. I would recommend going to Xi’an over going to one of the bigger cities. It had tourist sites, which I don’t normally think are a highlight, but in a country as different from ours as China, tourist sites are a lot more fun than getting lost in a city where no one speaks English, except people trying to sell you something.
I did see one more interesting site as we were driving through Xi’an. A large group of people were giving haircuts, outside, under the highway overpass. They had their chairs and their styling tools. It was very unique. Very China.