Ancient hitching posts in the Little Wild Goose Pagoda park, Xi'An.
Arrived in Xi'An about 1pm to a very hot 38 degrees. Luckily we could head straight to the hotel and have a shower before doing anything else.
Xi'An is located on the banks of the Yellow River and has a history going back to 1000BC. It was the capital for many dynasties and the home to 13 emperors. It was also the starting point for the Silk Road which led to an exchange of cultures, technologies and ideas. Indeed, Buddhism found its way to China via Xi'An and the Silk Road.
Later in the afternoon we visited the Little Wild Goose Pagoda, an oasis of cool from the heat. The buildings in the park have been restored and house little shops. One was a music room and group of musicians were practising - lovely to sit and listen, very soothing.
View along the city wall, Xi'An.
Tonight we went to a Tang Dynasty Show with a dumpling dinner, the local speciality - we tried 17 styles of dumpling and could hardly move afterwards. Our dinner was rushed through a bit and then we had to just sit and wait over an hour for the show to start, but the hall was huge and we guess they must have had to feed a fair number of tourists. Very interesting to see a small group of French people find their way to a front table courtesy of a US dollar handshake with the waitress.
First thing next morning we visited the City Wall, which has been fully restored, all 9 miles of it. You can ride a bike or hire a rickshaw to get around the whole thing, but we didn't have long so just wandered along a small part of it. Chinese towns have always been protected by city walls but most have now disappeared so interesting to see how they operated with the various towers and vantage points.
Noel as a terracotta warrior, very fetching
We then visited the "official" terracotta warrior replica factory, where the soldiers are still made using the old method. We were given a very perfunctory explanation of how the warriors are made and then given plenty of time to peruse the goods, including lacquerware furniture and silkd embroidery. The centre was expensive and basically on the itinerary to try and get us to buy something, not very impressive. After lunch we headed out to the real thing, another UNESCO listed heritage site.
The Terracotta Warriors and Horses were prepared by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the "uniter" of the Chinese states to protect him in the afterlife and altogether over 7000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots and weapons have been unearthed from the pits since their discovery in the 1970s.
The real thing at the proper museum, Xi'An.
Pit 1 has restored and excavated trenches at the front and then works its way back to pits of rubble, showing how the warriors looked when first discovered. Amazing that they can put such pieces of rubble back together again - the terracotta army had been mostly destroyed during the peasants uprising after the Emperor's death and fascinating to see the layer of charcoal in the earth from the fire that swept through the tombs in the about 200BC. We also saw the restored Golden Carriages and the chrome-plated sword made over 2000 years ago! Visiting this site was one of our dreams and we were not disappointed. More time would have been great, but that's the nature of group tours. Very funny sign on the way back to Xi'An, where the streets are lined with "warrior factories" - see attached photo!
The next day we visited the Shaanxi Province Museum which was fascinating, lots of pottery and metalware dating back as far as the 17th century BC.
The Golden Carriage, Terracotta Warrior Museum, Xi'An
We bought a beautiful replica of a ceramic camel with people on his back, a copy of a Tang Dynasty piece linked to the Silk Road times. Just before they packed it, we noticed that one of the passenger's heads had been broken off and glued back on, so we asked for another one. They called the factory and a new one was delivered (which was intact) within 5 minutes - we did notice, however, that the old one went straight back on the shelf so some other less observant person will probably end up with it! Next stop was the Drum Gate to visit the Great Mosque and the Muslim Quarter, another legacy of the Silk Road. The Mosque was built in about 700AD and is in a Chinese style, indeed almost impossible to tell it's a mosque unless you look very closely.
Factory for the production of "counterfeit" terracotta warriors (think perhaps they mean replica?)!
The buildings had lovely woodwork and floors and a few pieces of mahogany furniture, although most was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. There was an old man outside the prayer hall discussing Islam with anyone who wished to listen and we sat in the garden for quite a while "listening" to him, even though we couldn't understand, very serene and quiet considering we were smack big in the middle of a large city. Just outside the mosque walls are the market, but this one is a bit of a tourist trap and no bargains to be found here. Had a "hot pot" dinner tonight whereby you cook your own choice of meat and vegies in a soup kept hot over a small burner. Had great fun creating our gourmet extravaganzas and then headed off to the train station for our next overnight journey, a 12 hour trip to Beijing
Old teacher at the Grand Mosque, Xi'An.
This train was a little more modern and we even had TV screens on our bunks so watched some very bad French comedy before going to sleep.