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Highlights of Xi'an


March 30, 2000. It is an hour and a half flight from Beijing to the Xi'an airport.  The airport is situated about thirty miles from the city (6 million plus people) primarily due to the fact that the area surrounding Xi'an is filled with mausoleums of past emperors. Since Xi'an was the capital of 11 dynasties, there are hundreds of burial mounds in the area.  The climate is warmer and drier then Beijing but the air is more smoggy.  The environment is akin to a winter holocaust - gray, hard to breathe, particles of dirt attaching to your skin and clothing - all from the usage of coal with no pollution controls in place.

Inside the Walled City of Xi'anAtop the Ancient Walls of Xi'an

Our first stop is at the Ancient City Walls.  The Walls were originally built on the Tang Forbidden City walls during the Ming Dynasty. The Walls form a rectangle of 14km; they  are 12 m high and 12-14m wide on top with towers punctuating the corners and the gateways. Today the Walls merely  split the city into an inner and outer ring.  We watched a welcoming ceremony for Japanese dignitaries visiting Xi'an from the top of the Wall.  There is a significant Japanese presence in Xi'an primarily due to a large Compaq factory.  Interestingly the Walls were used as air raid shelters when the Japanese bombed the city. 

Welcoming CeremonyCeremony for Keys to the City

Outside of the city was the Sheraton Hotel in which we stayed.  Across the street was a military training school and along the wide boulevard in front of the hotel were many vacant storefronts.  Traffic is horrendous and signs of a very low standard of living were visible when we saw people living in mounds of dirt created temporarily on construction sites. The military often were the construction crew for many new buildings.

March 31.  Xi'an jumped onto the map in 1974 when a local farmer discovered the entry ramp to an underground pit containing the life size army of 6,000 terra cotta warriors guarding China's First Emperor. The pit (one of three open today) containing the 2000 year old army of warriors is now the center of financial livelihood of this region. Because photography is not allowed inside the pits, the pictures of the warriors which we took are from the pottery factory and the historical museum that we visited in Xi'an.

Close upThe many faces of the terra cotta warriers


Care Surrounded by Strange MenCare with new friends
Emperor Qin Shihuangdi is buried 3 km from the pits. In Pit #1 the soldiers along with the cavalry, archers, generals, horses, chariots face east in rectangular battle array in order to protect the Emperor.  The vanguard are the crossbow and longbow bearers, then the armoured soldiers , along with the 35 horse drawn chariots. Each figure has unique facial expressions and features. Weapons of the era (swords of metal, spears) were found intact with the figures.

Where once the warriors were painted, the oxidation of the figures upon exposure to the atmosphere as destroyed the colors.  Many of the tombs remain closed until better and safer techniques can be used in discovering the contents of the remaining buried treasures.
  Xi'an Terra Cotta Soldier atop Ancient WallJon with the Terra Cotta WarriorsDetail of one Soldier

Pit #2 (opened in 1976) contains 1000 figures. 

Scaled Terra Cotta Chariots Close Up of Terra Cotta Funeral RigDetailed Horses with precious metal bridles

Pit #3 containing 68 warriors is the Officers pit and the command post of the generals. The structure surrounding it was built most recently  and  has more modern technology used in uncovering the artifacts.  Here colors on the figures are still intact in the climate controlled areas of the pit.  

After lunch we visited the White (Little) Goose Pagoda - a 7 story Buddhist temple built in 707-709 AD and housing sacred Buddhist scrolls from India. The Pagoda is located on the grounds of the Jianfu Temple built in 684 AD. Only 25% of the Chinese population practices any sort of organized religion with Christianity being the largest and most organized. 

White Goose Pagoda - Buddhist templeMausoleums of Buddhist Priests

The Boban archeology site is another preserved dig in the area dating back ~6,000 years ago.  A 50's elementary school  style building houses the artifacts today.

We completed our day at the Shaanzi (Xi'an) Historical Museum.  A very modern facility that was recently completed (1992) for the housing of the major artwork, pottery, artifacts, clothing from the major dynasties from ~2000 BC to Ming. 

Historical Museum Exterior CourtyardAnimal Creature in the Museum

Ancient Xi'an BellsAncient Pottery Piece

Ancient Figures found in the PitsMetal Budda

Terra Cotta Soldiers in the Museum
We dined this evening at the 'famous' Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Theater. The performance was much better than our Beijing theater experience. 

Costumed Soldiers Chorus with highly decorated sets

Complete Cast in Finale

April 1-  Our departure from Xi'an is on a wet gloomy note. The ride to the airport via backroads which took us through neighborhoods of block houses with dirt floors, no electricity, sewer or running water.  We are on our way to Chongquing.


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