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Album: By Country | By Date China | July 2001 < Prev: Emei Shan Part 2 | Next: Temple of Heaven Park >
Travelogue: By Country | By Date China | July 2001  

July 2001 - Chengdu to Xian to Beijing

After we failed to get train tickets, we flew to Xian where we resumed the quest for train tickets. While tracking down tickets, we went to a water park (we were so surprised to find one in China that we had to try it, though we've never been to one in the U.S.!) and paid a visit to the famous terra-cotta warriors

Sign at Chengdu airport.  It seems accurate Interesting juxtaposition Out the window of the YMCA in Xian.  Xian seems to be in the midst of an urban renewal binge.  Whole blocks have been flattened.  Xian has many fewer English signs than Chengdu but, it seems like, as many boutiques and mini-skirts. Three of the four people involved in figuring out our laundry
Near the Y in Xian was a string of photo shops.  In these places, people dress up in fancy clothes - the stores have loads of dresses and tuxedos - get carefully made-up and photographed. The results were actually pretty spectacular As we walked around in Xian, we started to be able to figure out some of the Chinese characters Street food
The Xian Water Recreation Center.  It was just like these things must be in the U.S. - clean, loud, and expensive. The kids scaling an ersatz volcanoe Souvenir junk outside the site of the terra-cotta warriors.  We took a bus to the site.  Many (all?) of the buses are privately owned but run on set, numbered routes.  We got out three times, while the driver and conductor waited, trying to find the right place to see the warriors.  They didn't seem to mind too much.  An introduction to the site was given in a movie in the round which featured lots of stabbing and galloping horses.  The soldiers are part of the burial accoutrements of the first sovereign emperor, Shih huang-ti of the Ch'in dynasty, who unified the empire, began construction of the Great Wall of China, and prepared for death by constructing a 20-square-mile funerary compound.  The soldiers were found by well diggers in the 1970s some 2,100 years after his death.
Some of the 6-8 thousand soldiers.  No one is certain that all the soldiers have been found.  The buried army faces east, poised for battle, about three-quarters of a mile from the outer wall of  Shih huang-ti's tomb. In pits nearby have been found the remains of seven humans (possibly the emperor's children), a subterranean stable filled with horse skeletons, an assemblage of half-size bronze chariots, 70 individual burial sites, a zoo for exotic animals, and other artifacts.  Today, most of the surface area consists of farm fields, buildings, roads, etc. The tomb itself, one of our first wrong stops on the bus, remains unexcavated. It lies within an inner wall and beneath a four-sided pyramid mound that was originally landscaped to appear as a low, wooded mountain. The interior is reputedly a vast underground palace that took about 700,000 conscripted workmen more than 36 years to complete. Today the mound has a stairway and lots of tourists running up it. This pit is about 290 meters long and nearly 70 meters wide.  The soldiers were buried, in battle order, i.e. with a vanguard, guards along the sides, and organized in groups - in long corridors roofed with timbers and covered with mats and then wood.  Part of a small pit which reputedly represents a command post, containing only 68 figures.
Another part of the command post The figures are supposedly all different and were once painted. Some figures as they were uncovered. Close up of one of the figures
An archer.  The figures had weapons made from wood and a special alloy that gives them the appearance of remaining sharp even today. Archeologists continue to work at the site. A half-size set of bronze horses pulling one of two chariots found in another place related to Shih huang-ti's tomb.  Shih huang-ti was emperor of the Ch'in dynasty (221-210/209 BC) and the first to unify China. He ascended the throne at age 13, in 246 BC.  By 221, with the help of espionage, extensive bribery, and the ruthlessly effective leadership of gifted generals, Shih huang-ti had eliminated one by one the remaining six rival states that constituted China at that time. The visitor complex incorporates the modern Chinese love for big, hot spaces.
The location is beautiful. On the train.  We're traveling "hard sleeper," essentially second-class sleepers.  They were spotless, run by a professional crew, and a wonderful (though not very private way) to travel.  Tote and Maggie goofing around.  Unlike the Indian trains, one can see out of the large, clear windows.
Peking West train station. At our Beijing apartment.  Inexplicably, the apartment costs about as much as our apartments in Paris and Rome.  Perhaps the first things unpacked were Tea and his stuffed compatriots.