China Day 4- Xi’an
The morning of another day. It was a short night. Brekkie down and we are ready to roll. A new bus driver and a new guide for the local sites. Her name is Ruth and she looks about eight, but is 35. She doesn’t have the nerves of steel our permanent guide Tina has, as she winced every time we have a near smash up. Tina takes the back of the group like a piece of sticky rice or a mother hen keeping us all together.
Xi’an is one of China’s smaller cities with an urban pop of about four million and another four million in surrounding area. This is an older China capital and currently famous for the discovery of the Terra Cotta Warrior army produced under Emperor Chin (where the word China originated). More later.
We started with a visit to the old city wall and gates that have been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The scale of the works is massive. The stairs to the top just about did me in. The Pearl waited at the bottom for me to have a coronary.
Then the bus was off to the regional museum. The traffic was lighter in Xi’an than in Beijing, but the crowds at the museum were as heavy as ever, again predominatly Chinese tourists. The displays and relics were from stone age prehistory through the various dynasties to the present. The hour allotted did not do this museum justice.
We were then off to the jade factory. Jade has a long and colourful use in China where it still is said to possess special powers. An informative explanation of the intricacies of jade classification and history preceded a shopping spree. Items ranged in price from a few dollars into the millions. A dangerous place. The Pearl was ecstatic.
Next stop a few miles out of Beijing was at the Terra Cotta Warrior Factory. Here various scale models of the originals are reproduced as well as full sized replicas – exact copies in every detail. The official took us on a tour with artisans showing how the work is done. Sales and shipping are worldwide and the price. . . well like all things Chinese, the details are in a good haggle.
Lunch, another variation on some fine Chinese fare. The beer was cold and the service splendid.
Words are inadequate to describe our next visit- The Terra Cotta Warrior Excavation site. You could spend days here. Discovered by four farmers digging a well in 1974, this world heritage site and the work being done is simply stunning. Excavation will continue for many more years and the exact site of the Emperor’s tomb has not been located or excavated, although it is generally known. Whether tomb robbers have desecrated it in earlier history is unknown. The one surviving well digger who found the site and is honourary president of the site was in attendance and personally signed a book detailing the site. It was an honor to shake his hand.
Back across the countryside we passed fields of wheat, vegetable plots and pomegranate orchards. Everything was a deep green, spoiled only by the ever present smog. A massive effort to grow and transplant trees everywhere in the cities must be complimented. Sycamores, linden, aspens, locust, and parasol tree plantations must suck a lot of pollutants out of the air and provide welcoming shade from the hot, humid weather of this area, but there is much more work to be done on climate change. 150 days a year of rain are typical with the monsoons coming in summer.
We noted everywhere people collecting trash, sweeping streets, and even small boats dipping trash from the waterways. Small corner booths were common where bundles of cardboard and other recycleables were being collected. These were public employees. Everyone works.
We finished our day with a dim sum (dumpling) banquet (again delicious) and a Tang Dynasty Dancing Show. Unfortunately we were so exhausted by this point it was all a bit of a blur.
Back to the hotel for a 5 am wakeup and an early flight to Wuhan.