Thursday, February 5, 2009
Since the week of Jan. 26th is a national holiday, on Tues. Jan. 27th we took advantage of the school break to take a 3 day trip to Xi’an, about 2 hour flight from Beijing and the beginning of the “Silk road.” Xi’an became famous in the 80s for the discovery of the Terra Cotta Warriors, who were created and buried by the tomb of the first emperor of China in 210 BC. Carefully restored, the area is an amazing site, with 6000+ life-size (or larger) warriors standing or kneeling in rows. While the clay bodies were made from several different templates, each face is different. It is like looking into the faces from 2000+ years ago, a photograph from before the time of Christ.
Xi’an offered a wealth of other sites to explore. One of our favorites was the Forest of Stele, which had been recommended by our neighbors Dave and Su. Western tradition preserved learning through painstaking work of monks copying the bible and classics. China’s scholars preserved learning for the generations by carving texts into giant pillars, called steles. The Forest of Steles is essentially the world’s heaviest library, with thousands of stones. One interesting find is the Nestorian stone, which is reputed to be the first evidence of a Christian presence in China in 600s.
We also had a grand time biking the 14 km (8 mile) wall that surrounds the center city of Xi’an. This old, restored wall is one of the few intact city walls in China. It was a bumpy ride, done on one tandem and two individual bikes. The wind was in our face as we rode north, but a few miles later we came to the turn and it was easy sailing after that.
And the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an offered a vibrant and lively shopping and eating experience. Although this is low season for tourists, many Chinese had returned for the Spring Festival so the streets were packed with people.