Day 10 Xi’an

I woke up well rested from our luxurious room.  After breakfast we headed out.  We drove for a while through the city past the Old City Wall and out into the countryside surrounding Xi’an.  It was a cloudy morning, the first we had encountered since being in China and though the countryside was still green and vibrant, the clouds hung low and dark and put a chill in the air.

Terracotta Warrior Factory

Terracotta Warrior FactoryWe arrived at another government sponsored factory that specialized in making Terracotta Warrior replicas.  They make them in the same manner that they did originally when the Terracotta Warriors were created in 210 BC.  We walked through the factory and watched as they made various kinds of terracotta art to be sold in the factory’s gift shop.  There were terracotta warrior replicas, horses, creatures from Chinese legend and folklore as well as many other items.  The process and carving can be quite intricate.  Some parts of the art will be made from molds while others require such fine detail that they are hand carved on each piece.  These items range in size from a few inches tall to life size replicas.  Our guide informed us that the items here were expensive and that if we wanted to get them later you could find the same things very cheaply, but that the items at this factory are much higher quality so it depended on what you wanted.  I wanted to get some Terracotta Warrior replicas as gifts and I did not want the quality to be poor so I purchased a set here.  Though a little expensive I think the price was worth it.  We spent lots of time in their gift shop that sold everything from terracotta art to fine silks and paintings.  After making our way back to the bus, we traveled on further into the countryside to the Terracotta Warrior Museum.

Terracotta Warrior Museum

Terracotta WarriorsThe Terracotta Warriors (bÄ«ngmÇŽ yÇ’ng 兵馬俑)were created to guard the tomb of the first emperor of China, Emperor Qín Shǐhuáng (秦始皇) and provide him with men to work for him in the afterlife, fulfilling the roles they played in life.  The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. There are three pits containing the Terracotta Warriors currently under excavation. There were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried.  These warriors were built in assembly line factories sponsored by the government.  They vary in height and facial features.  There are roughly 8 head variations that were used in combination with the various body types of the soldiers.  Once the heads were affixed to the bodies, unique facial features were applied.  Then the clay was cured in large kilns and after painted brightly to resemble the live soldiers.  Most of the paint has since worn away but some remnants can be seen in the better preserved pieces.  An entire city was constructed to house the emperor in the afterlife with his retinue of soldiers and retainers.  A farmer was digging a well on his land and discovered the ruins in 1974.  The farmer, currently in his late 70s, is still working for the museum signing tour books.  He makes 10 Yuan commission from each tour book sold.

They have moved the surrounding village and stores and created a large landscaped reserve around the site of the museum.  This helps protect the grounds around it where they are still excavating.  They used sonar to determine where the artifacts and pits are likely to be and then constructed large warehouse structures to house the operations.  These pits are mostly open to the public to tour and observe.  We made our way up to the pits and got the opportunity to see them.  They are truly impressive.  The size of these pits is massive and the array of clay soldiers is awe inspiring.  The ranks of soldiers are very deep and even from the railings high above you can make out the differences in facial features among the soldiers.

We made our way through pit #1 which is by far the largest of the excavation areas and has the most soldiers and horses uncovered.  Our guide Cindy gave us a limited time frame to get through the area so I split up from the group and made my way around the entire pit taking pictures.  We then hurried on to Pit #2.   By this time the clouds were getting heavier and lower and the smell of rain was in the air.  We were unfortunately made to rush through the next pits and the museum of artifacts because of the crowds and Cindy’s insistence that there was not much interesting to see in these areas and that we should hurry on.  This made most of us unhappy since we wanted to take time experiencing and taking in all that there is to see here.

Farmer Who Discovered Terracotta WarriorsWe saw the farmer that signs the books near the theater that reenacts the discovery and history.  He was eating lunch so I tried to snap a picture.  The people assisting him are supposed to protect him from photographs and keep him from being photographed.  I took one shot and didn’t risk another.  Later, I found out though that Grandmaster Eric Lee talked to him and paid him 20 Yuan to take a picture with him.  As is the norm in China, everything is for sale and it is all negotiable.  Rules only apply to those who do not offer money.  We then went to the theater.  They were actually selling popcorn here and the smell reminded most of us of home and was the first American like thing we had found so many purchased some with lots of salt and butter in true American fashion.  The theater was interesting in that it was 360° and still using projection.  It detailed the history of the site and reenacted the construction of the tomb and its clay inhabitants.

When the movie was finished we headed out into the drizzle and made our way to the restaurant that is on the museum grounds.  We ate a meal that was decent through the best part was definitely the noodles.  A couple of men made the noodles by hand at one end of the dining hall.  The beat and pounded and stretched the dough and then sliced it with deft movements into the pans to cook.  I ate a beef noodle dish that was similar to a stroganoff or stew and tasted great.  After lunch we made a very short tour through pit #3 and then walked through a steadily increasing rain through a vendor market set up like a mini-mall, with each shop tucked back into the brick building.  The sidewalks and storefronts were packed with things for sale.  We made our through the rain and past the vendors calling for us to stop and buy their items and finally made it to the bus.

Local Farming Village

Road in Farming VillageWe drove out to the country side heading to a rural farming village.  We were on our way to see how a middle income farming family lives in China.  It is customary to give a gift when visiting and entering some ones home so we pooled out money together to give them a monetary gift for allowing us to see their home and meet their family.  I was not entirely sure what to expect having seen some of the other villages already. We neared the village and our guide Cindy pointed out that these two story houses were owned by the upper income families in the village.  We arrived and pulled over to the side of the road where several people were hailing us to stop.  It had now been steadily raining or drizzling all afternoon.  The road into this part of the village was hard packed dirt from heavy usage.  The rain and animal poop that littered the road created a slimy, slick surface that one had to be careful walking on.  We walked through the village the children from the family running around us excitedly.  The walls of the house courtyards were close and most of the gates closed.  We walked for a ways into the village and were finally directed into a gate built into the side of the hill.

I was amazed but what I saw.  The courtyard for this family was dirt and made out of the hollowed out area of the hill.  A small garden was on one side and beyond part of the wall had collapse and the hillside had rushed in caving in that part of the courtyard.  The family’s house was built into the side of the hill.  Once inside it was a good sized long room built back into the hillside.  The ceiling was arched and the roof smooth and plastered with a mixture of mud and straw, with pieces of straw still visible in the plaster.  There was some furniture along the outer edges of the room though it was sparse and only one large stone slab in the corner that served as the bed for the entire family.  One smaller room was at the very back and served as a sort of pantry where they kept and stored food in the deepest, driest part of the burrowed out home.

The family consisted of the grandmother and grandfather, several women whose husbands must have been out working in the afternoon, and three or four children.  They spoke a dialect that I could not recognize or understand at all.  The children would run around you tugging on you for attention.  The grandparents would make gestures and eventually I understood that they were saying to take pictures of the children.  I did so and then realized their intent as they would then hold out their hands and ask for money for the pictures.  Though I felt bad, I pretended to not understand them and turned away feigning interest in something else.  We had already given them enough money that was easily more than a few months income, and though it tore at the heart to see the squalor that these people live in, I did not want to give more.  We eventually turned back to head toward the bus.  We carefully made our way back and the children ran after us demanding money and holding out their hands.  I told them no and walked on which made them angry.  One stepped forward quickly and appeared that he might try and kick at my shins and promptly slipped in the mud and sat down hard where he began to cry.  His brothers picked him up and hustled him along and I made my way back to the bus.  I attempted to scrape the mud and crap off of my boots before getting back onto the bus but it was not very successful.

A Long Awaited Massage

We headed back to the hotel and had some free time in the early evening before dinner and the Tang Dynasty show so some of us decided to go out and get massages.  This is one thing I had been waiting for since leaving Tagou Academy a few days before. We went to the same place that the others had gone to the day before.  The place was very nice.  I shared a room with my friend George and they had us change into some light shorts and shirt and sit back in these very comfortable chairs and put our feet up.  The rooms were pleasantly warm and they brought us tea to drink. George and I soaked our feet in a tub of hot water which felt great after walking all day.  Then two girls came in and began our massage.  They were very skilled and the massage was just what my aching muscles needed.  One girl spoke a little English and the one massaging me spoke none.  I tried talking to them in the little Chinese that I speak and we talked and laughed.  The girl working on me was very shy while the one massaging George would wink at me and then start giggling.  The girl massaging me would massage, press and pound on my sore muscles and I would exhale sharply or wince with the pain.  It is good pain and I like the resulting relaxation of the muscle.  She would see my discomfort and start to ease off on the pressure and I would have to motion for her to make the pressure harder and deeper.  It may feel uncomfortable but that is how you release the deeply built up pain in the muscles.  The massage lasted 70 minutes but time seemed to go by too quickly.  They massaged the entire body and when they were finished I felt wonderful.  My muscles and body have not felt that relaxed in a long time.  I wish we had a place like this back in St. Louis, I would go at least once a week.  Once everyone was ready we met the rest of our group on the bus waiting outside and headed off to dinner and a show.

Tang Dynasty Show

The Tang Dynasty (Táng Cháo 唐朝) was from 618A.D. to 907 A.D. and was a time of inspired poetry, music and dance.  This golden age of art and literature created some of the most celebrated works of Chinese culture through the modern day.  We ate a wonderful meal upstairs at the restaurant and then headed downstairs to the theater to take our seats.  The stage was large and well lit and the sound was great.  Every seat had a great view.  The show went through various stages.  We were often greeted by the Emperor and Empress as they described the next scene that would entertain us behind the curtain.  The scene changes where intricate and surprisingly fast.  The performances showcased music, song and dance.  The musicians that played were very talented and performed some amazing pieces.  One percussion piece with drums, gong and cymbals was very impressive indeed as it related entirely through song how ducks gossip and play in the water and a separate piece on how the hungry tiger comes down the mountain in search of prey.  The beautiful colors and costumes whirled before our eyes as ladies danced gracefully the traditional dances made popular during this period.  The whole show was fantastic and I was sad to see it come to an end.  All of the performers were extremely talented and captivated the audience.

Afterward we returned to the hotel.  I was ready to sleep.  Being on the go for so many days is really starting to catch up with us all.  We all would like to spend some more time at leisure relaxing and enjoying ourselves instead of feeling rushed to go here and there and rushed through every exhibit before we can really take it in and truly appreciate it.  It is supposed to rain all day tomorrow so perhaps we can alter our plans for tomorrow for our last day in Xi’an.

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