Day 1 - see photo album on this blog: Xi'an Cultural Enrichment for more of my photos
We are offcially in China after an 11 hour plane flight from San Francisco to Xi'an via changing planes from our United Airlines flight in Beijing then on with Air China to Xi'an land yesterday late their time. Our group of 8 had been "up" for about 29 hours from the time we left our homes and left from various airports to join up with each other in San Fracisco but needless to say we wasted no time on this day 1 of visitations to begin our cultural enrichment tours of Ancient History sites. If you want to touch a big chunk of ancient history of China then come to Xi'an. It is the heart of such civilizations, emperors, dynasties and the ever changing face of religious beliefs. There are more things in tact in this area than any other place in China due to it's prominence in being an early capital area of the country.
First though we started off needing to review plan of seeing the city wall which was still also in tact and seeing the Terra Cotta Soldiers. Our own first lady had flown into this city today and so we were going to try to avoid places that would be blocked off due to her visit with the girls. So Terra Cotta Soldiers were first as they then found out that she was starting at the City Wall.
Terra Cotta Soldiers: http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/emperor-qin/
there is no wonder that this is the 8th wonder of the world. This site though was only actually found in the 70's by a farmer who was digging on his land. The process of excavation then began. So while I did not grow up looking at history books talking about this site like todays school students are, I had seen enough pictures over time of this unbeliveable site that I was on this private giddy excitement path to see this place in person. They have done an amazing job of trying to keep the soldiers a treasure. They are covered now by big dome buildings with heat and coolness adjusted. Looking at the first pictures of uncovering the soldiers you can see how the paint has faded on them and they are now the gray color that you see in print. It is a known fact that after building these soldiers that everyone who worked on the project for the first emperor Qin was killed. They are not with the soldiers as that would have decomposed the site itself. Imagine a countryside of people who knew they were going to die after the project was done and were honored to do so because it would give them a higher status. Life of people were judged by whether or not they could die for a cause and thus be given more power. The grounds stretch out for acres and the pits you visit vary as to how much has been dug up and what is in them including a pit that has nothing in it. It is believed that the construction of this site stopped after emperor Qin died. Rows of soldiers in places and other places horses and columns of their city wall. The displays on walls and in glass are very informative and glass cases contain artifacts and tools they found wile digging.
There are no devices to rent to listen to the stories in English - Chinese recorded headsets are available yes but English no. You can walk around on your own or you must go with a guide that has a handle on most of the English language if you want explanations. They are all dressed up and carry a little sun umbrella for the hot skies on all of these cement walking paths. Read up ahead of time if you want good information. A national geographic link is provided above on this blog to put in a new window in your browser. We are learning that keeping people employed is more of a priority in China than trying to have tourism set up for tourists from many countries and languages. This site however has over 7 million people visit it in a year. Tourist season is just barely beginning and the tour busses lined up outside of the site looked a bit intimidating as to the crowds that might be inside of the grounds. It was not so. Everything is spread out quite a bit so we did not have to fight crowds to do the typical thing of leaning over the railings to get your best possible picture.
Soon more China police started showing up marching in rows together and then our own people in black suits and wired up at the ears for radio contacts began to indicate the first lady might arrive soon. Our group did try to talk to the secret service or our people who were clearly there for security. Our group was begining to know each other and clearly we were seeing that we are a playful but yet united group to spend the next few days with each other. The secret service or our security people were not going to be distracted by small talk but did smile and let one of our members know they would not be telling us when the first lady would arrive or how or where she would first arrive there. This whole twist to the day added another level of excitement. Whee we were visting for the first time just like our first lady was.