second day in Xi'an: gazing at the warriors
18.05.2009 - 18.05.2009
May 18, 2009
It's raining today...only a light drizzle. After a few hours it became a gorgeous day. Bright, sunny, and warm First stop of the day is the Terracotta Factory. The tour was a bit short for a process that looked so long and involving. I would have liked to see the process as done on the scale 2000 years ago. I found it interesting that each soldier had it's own unique facial features. The things you can get done when you're not distracted with television, eh?
We traveled to the actual terracotta site after that. It was divided into three pits; the site for uncovered and covered soldiers, pits of broken statues, and chariots and weapons. I especially enjoyed the chariots (I'm a sucker for horse statues for some reason....). The main pit (Pit 1) looks much, much larger in pictures (how ironic). But considering they're not even done excavating the area means there's much more to uncover. They say in about 100 years they'll have the entire tomb uncovered and mapped out. More power to them, eh.
It's rather mind boggling that a single emperor (Qin Huangdi for those not well versed in Chinese history) could accomplish such a feat. It's a little unfortunate that his 3000 concubines had to be buried alive....
On our way to lunch we passed by the actual burial site of Huangdi. It was a moderately large mound-no signs, bells, or whistles. It just looked like a decidedly out of place mound with grass growing on it. Mind you, the actual burial site was a few minutes' bus drive away from the site of the terracotta army. Quite a gargantuan tomb. He said he wanted the largest tomb in the world and he got his wish (yes, the site is larger than the pyramids...).
In retrospect, I'm glad I went to the High Museum when they featured the soldiers. At the actual site in China, you're standing up over the pit and are unable to get close to them. At the High you were a few inches away and could really take in the detail and craftsmenship of the work. Ah well, I got the best of both worlds...fufufufu.....
The next stop on our trip were the hot springs. I thought they were actual hot springs we could swim in (the only reason I brought my bathing suit) but it wasn't. Apparently there IS a place behind it where you can swim, but we didn't know about that until way after we left. The hot springs were centered around the story of an emperor (forgot which one, shame on me) who fell in love with a woman who was a little plump. The standard for women's beauty at the time were the thin, skinny women. His advisors told him to pick other women (or atleast get concubines) but he refused because he loved her so much. They have a statue of her in one of the fountains. What's left of the hotsprings are the hollowed out pits the water used to be kept in. It was pretty cool, I must say. There was even a spot to soak your feet (after paying some money). I skipped out, mostly because the group had to meet back in a few minutes.
The hot springs also had a spot where Chiang Kaishek stayed (he had his own bath..fufufu). As a brief aside of background story, Kaishek was a Nationalist who hated the communist party and wanted them destroyed (this occured around the 30's). But at this time China was fighting the Japanese and both the Communists and Nationalists hated the Japanese. During the night, communist troops stormed the springs, killed the guards, and hunted down Kaishek. He tried to hide but they found him and more or less forced him to join forces with the communists on a united front against the Japanese. During the raid, as it were, there are still bullet holes in the glass and brick of the some of the buildings. And wow, those were some BIG bullet holes. I can't imagine hearing gunfire in the middle of the night. Oh wait, I live in south augusta. I can imagine.
Kaishek had an interesting saying: "Communism is a disease of the skin, Japanese is the disease of the blood." And of course, you cure the disease of the blood first. And for any of you wondering, yes, a lot of China still hates Japan. Read up on the Nanking Massacre and you'll find out why.
After the hot springs was a really crappy touristy Tang Dynasty show. It was hardly politically correct. The women wore costumes that exposed their midrifts, the characters wore these neon blue and green outfits. Those costumes didn't exist in the Tang period and those colors didn't either. Heck, I wish those colors didn't exist today. The show was only good if you wanted to see a bunch of pretty colors and dances. The music wasn't even politcally correct. Violins didn't exist back then. Some of them were dancing to classical western music. What the heck. One of my profs detested it because it was so off from Tang Dynasty accuracy. If you're going to modernize something, go all the way. Don't half arse it. Yeesh.
When we returned to our hotel, a few of us went to the Vanguard, a Chinese supermarket three stories tall. A lot of products were really cheap. I was looking for some facial wash and almost every single one said "whitening". Being pale is considered beautiful in China, so they have a lot of products that essentially bleach the melanin in your skin. No offense, but I don't want to "whiten". Ironically, they have some of the clearest, healthiest skin I've ever seen. Of course, when you have a thin veil of chemicals covering something, it almost always looks pretty.....