Thursday, April 17, 2014

Xi'an - Part 2

Xi'an City Wall
This will be a marathon posting. An all-time record for the number of pictures, I think. That's appropriate since it matches the day.

After the Terracotta Warriors we took a short visit to the Xi'an city wall. This is a 8.5 mile long, 39 ft high wall that completely encircles the old city. Construction on the current wall was started in 1370 during the Ming dynasty. It is the best preserved of all the city walls in China. In comparison, the Beijing city wall was torn down to make way for the 2nd ring road.

From the city wall we headed over to the Great Mosque of Xi'an. The mosque was was established in 742 but most of what exists today dates from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Xi'an Great Mosque Stele

It is an active mosque. The Muslim population of Xi'an is about 60,000. Xi'an is the eastern end of the Silk Road and as a result had residents from all over Asia. It has all the accouterments that we saw in mosques in Singapore and Malaysia but with Chinese characteristics.

Well in Xi'an Great Mosque

These young boys were playing with the well.

Here is a picture of the 4 of us.

This place has a reputation with me for bad signs. At least you can decipher this one. Seven years ago I took the picture below.

The first 2 characters are shengxin which my dictionary translates as 'save worry', or 'to cause no trouble', or 'to be spared worry', or 'worry-free'. The last character is lou which means tower. No idea about the English.

After we left the mosque we wandered through this bazaar to get to the main street in the Muslim area.

Xi'an snacks - chuan

There are all sorts of food on offer. The are skewers of meat called chuan. The Chinese character for chuan is δΈ². There is some logic in the language.

Click to enlarge.

I asked what there are but I don't remember. Pumpkin fried bread maybe?

This is sticky rice, honey and dates.

Peppered walnuts in Xi'an

These are peppered walnuts. The woman's expression is her way of saying, "I can't believe these laowai think I am grinding up these walnuts into powder."

This is doufu or as better known in the west, tofu. Looks spicy.

These are potatoes.

Here is a display of walnuts and dates. The price on the walnuts varies depending on the quality of the walnut - thickness of shell, color of the meat, etc.

I don't know what they are cooking but apparently it takes a hot wok. I thought the flames were neat.

This is some sort of bread.

No idea what is in the wok. Those are baked jiaozi of some sort.

Still not sure what this is. Perhaps some sort of candy. The guy was continuously stretching and twisting the material.

The are sheep feet, I guess. Definitely not pig feet since this is a Muslim shop.

It was a holiday weekend so it was pretty crowded.

Here is a better look at some more chuan. Probably lamb.

Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show

We had a nice dinner in a restaurant off the street and then headed to the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show.

The performances were done very professionally.

The Tang Dynasty lasted from 618 - 907 and was one of the most prosperous in China.

3 dancers in Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show in Xi'an

The sets were quite nice. This scene transformed into the one below as the lights came up.

There is a story here but I can't recall it. They have a nice English and Chinese narration of various performances.

Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show dancers

Very elaborate costumes and well choreographed, I thought.

I did remember to turn on the movie feature of my camera briefly.


Bell Tower in Xi'an

On the way back to our hotel we passed by the Bell Tower and I took this out the window.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an

Over the weekend we took a trip to Xi'an with Margot's parents. The highlight of the trip is, of course, the Terracotta Warriors.

These warriors were made to accompany Qin Shihuang into the afterlife. Qin Shihuang was the first emperor to unite all of China in 221 BC.

The figures are all life sized.

It is difficult to get a sense of the size of this undertaking. There were over 8000 soldiers and 500 horses.

Perhaps this series of pictures will help put it in perspective.

Click any picture to enlarge.

This is Pit 1. It is the largest.

Here is a snapshot of Ed and Nancy in front of the pit.

Here are Margot and me.

They are still reassembling the warriors. This is a section of the work area.

The figures were originally brightly colored. However, much of the color stuck to the earth when they were excavated. In some cases exposure to air caused the colors to fade.

The site was discovered in 1974 by some farmers digging a well during a drought. Some of the farmers were afraid to report the find to authorities as this was during the Cultural Revolution and ancient culture and those who valued it were often labeled "counter-revolutionaries".

The pits were underground with rammed earth walls separating the ranks of warriors. The trenches were covered with timbers and reed mats with earth piled on top.

The army in Pit 1 was looted after the end of the Qin dynasty. All the weapons were taken and the pits were set on fire. This caused the roof to collapse and crush all the figures.

This is pit 2 and was not looted.

All the figures on display were reassembled from fragments like these.

This is a picture of a picture showing some of the original coloring.

All of the faces are said to be different. The heads were manufactured separately from the bodies. This is a kneeling archer in a display case in the museum.

The figures are very detailed down to the soles of the shoes. The figures are marked with the name of the workman for quality control purposes.

The tail was made separately.

Originally this cavalry soldier carried a crossbow.

This is a standing archer.

Learn more here. ---> Terracotta Army

For 10 RMB you can stand with some replicas and have your friend (or stranger) take your picture. We chose not to stand in line.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring has arrived in Beijing

Spring as arrived in Beijing! Last weekend we took a walk in Ritan Park.

This mother and daughter brought their sketch books and enjoyed the warm sunshine.

It was blue sky day which is a bit unusual.

Getting your picture taken in front of the flowering trees is a national pastime for women of a certain age.

The magnolias were in full bloom.

Margot has been here 18+ months and is beginning to fully embrace the local customs.

Not sure what these are but that is forsythia in the background.

This guy was working this spinning top. Here is a video. It is pretty amazing.


On the way back we encountered this TV cameras on the sidewalk.

Turns out they were across the street from the North Korean embassy. No idea what they were waiting for.

This is part of a small propaganda board outside the embassy. The picture is of Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current dear lead Kim Jong-un.

I didn't know where to put this. There was big promotion at a department store down the street a couple of weeks ago. I imagine this is character from a movie but I have no idea which one.