Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Delightful Adventures: Xi'an, China-Mini Great Walls and Terracotta Warriors

Xi'an was one of the coolest cities I visited in China. Yes, it was gray and smoggy all the time, but the ancient history abounding there is fascinating. Here are three MUSTS to do in Xi'an, China:

1. Mini Great Wall (Chengqiang)
Xi'an's history centers around Emperor Qin, who reigned from 221 BC to 210 BC. He is a pivotal figure in China's history because he unified China and became the first emperor. He was a strict dictator who believed everyone was out to get him. He maintained tight control over the masses by instilling strict laws and burning books which he banned, mostly dealing with Confucianism and philosophy. He even buried 460 scholars alive for owning these banned books! Sound like another Chinese dictator we know?? You may have seen a horrible, historically inaccurate portrayal of him in that sorry excuse for a movie "The Mummy 3."

Emperor Qin is often credited for starting the Great Wall of China when he defeated nomads living in the north and began to build a great wall of defense. He built his first protocol of such a wall in Xi'an. It still exists today (after being restored) and is know as "the mini-Great Wall."

I highly recommend visiting this wall, renting a bike (super cheap) and biking around it! Even more so, you should rent a tandem bike!

You can see sights from the wall, like...

the local market

how bad the smog really is (that is the sun in this pic!)

Keep in mind, you never know what is going to happen in China! The people will tell you that you can bike around the whole wall, but then you may run into a random gate. That's OK, you and your friends can break through it and then claim that you're just stupid foreigners if anyone catches you.

2. Emperor Qin's Tomb and the Xi'an Museum
There's some great historical items in these museums. Plus, some of the English on the signs and display explanations are really funny!

No one has ever excavated the emperor's tomb because they're afraid to. Apparently, he wrote something about "rivers of mercury" flowing through his tomb and they believe it means his tomb is deadly booby-trapped.

3. The Terracotta Warriors- #1 MUST SEE!!!

You may have hear of Emperor Qin's Terracotta Army. Again, if you saw that awful movie "The Mummy 3" you may have seen these warriors stupidly come to life. They are so fascinating and really should be a wonder of the world.

Here's the short-story behind the army: Emperor Qin was obsessed with immortality and constantly searched for the elixir of life and any other superstition he believed could make him immortal. He was constantly paranoid about losing his power. So, when he commissioned his tomb to be built, he also commissioned thousands of terracotta soldiers to be made. He believed these soldiers would protect him in the afterlife. In his paranoia, the emperor did not want word of his army to be spread so he killed the builders and artists and buried them in the tomb when he was done with them.

200 years later, in 1974, four farmers went to a field to dig a well. As they were digging, they began to dig up clay body parts. At first they were freaked out, but then they thought, "What the heck, let's see what this is," and continued to dig-and thus, discovered one of the most fascinating secrets in history. At first they didn't know it was a piece of history. They began using hollowed heads as cooking utensils. But, then as word got out, the government bought the land, sent in some archaeologists-and bam! amazing discoveries galore!

The discovery is so recent, the entire tomb has not been dug through yet. Mystery surrounds the place. There are over 8,000 discovered terracotta warriors, none of which are identical!

You can go to the gift shop at buy your own miniature terracotta warrior for 50 RMB (about $12)-made out of the same clay surrounding the actual warriors. DO NOT buy them from the over-eager vendors outside who run up to you and can only say "real warrior" and "you my friend" in English. They are selling fakes!

You can also meet the only living member of the farmer party of four who discovered the warriors, Yang Zhi Fa. He will sign a book for you (or your ticket if you don't want to buy a book) and point to a photo of himself with President Clinton.

The Terracotta Warriors are seriously one of the most amazing pieces of history I've been blessed to see with my own eyes!

Delightfully Trotting the Globe and Breaking Through Gates,

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