The main reason we went to Xi’an was for the Terracotta Army (Wikipedia). It’s supposed to be the 8th wonder of the ancient world or something. Perhaps the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century. It was pretty amazing to see how much effort they put into crafting these figures. Different types of soldiers, weapons, uniforms. And each one had unique facial expressions!
I was not super impressed, however. All I could think was “why did they do it??” Basically it was so this army could join Emperor Qin Shi in the afterlife. One big ego trip!!! Yes, Qin was a great emperor, being the first to unite China, standardizing language and measurements, and building the first of the Great Wall segments. But still – the dude must have had a god complex! What gives??? Not to mention – they call his reign the Qin dynasty, even though the dynasty consists of only one emperor. That seems a bit silly. At least Mo was able to buy a Terracotta soldier figurine at the market…
If the Terracotta Army was not that impressive, was Xi’an worth the trip? Absolutely. I have already written about how lively and interesting the city is. The other excellent landmark was Hua Shan (Mount Hua), one of the five sacred mountains of China (See Wikipedia). The mountain is about 7000 ft high (2100m) and features five peaks, four of which we hiked.
The hike itself was strenuous but awesome. We took a cable car up to the lowest peak, then we hiked between peaks for about five hours. It would have taken another four hours to hike from the base. Various websites have stated that this mountain is really dangerous. I was a bit worried myself, after reading them. But it really wasn’t that bad. The mountain actually gets a lot of tourists, many of which did not appear to be in great shape. There was even a guy yapping on his cell phone as he hiked up. The one warning is that there is very little hiking documentation in English. You don’t get much of a sense of how far any of the trails were, or how long it would take you. For example, if we had hiked from the base as we had originally planned, we wouldn’t have had time to hike up all the peaks. Oh well. At least there were vendors on the mountain selling food and drink 🙂
Yet another interesting thing about Xi’an is that it was the eastern end of the Silk Road back in the day (ya know, Marco Polo?). Check out the Wikipedia entry. Not only is there historical significance to this, you could see its effects even today. Most notably, there is a Muslim Quarter in Xi’an. Within the quarter is the Great Mosque. In this photo, you can see us having stumbled upon a funeral at the Great Mosque. It was a bit interesting to see Chinese people wearing Islamic garb. You could even tell that some people in this area had facial features that came from mixed blood with west. Now that I think about it, it was also a unique multicultural feat that my Mexican friend whose name is Mohamed but isn’t Islamic was visiting a mosque in China.
I will stop raving about Xi’an – after this last tidbit. The final cool thing about Xi’an is that it has fully intact city walls that surround the city. And you can ride a bike on them! It’s a great way to appreciate life, living conditions, culture… and smog! I think it’s about 15km all the way around. It took us about an hour at a leisurely pace.
Photos available online here.