Last weekend we traveled to Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province and site of more than five thousand years of history.
We left Beijing by train after work on Friday. After a hotfish meal in the station diner, we boarded at 9pm, slept overnight and rolled in to Xian at 8am the following morning. Each cabin slept four and were clean and comfortable and it was only marginally odd sleeping next to complete strangers.
We were met at the station by our young friendly local guide, 'Hank', and after a brief detour by the hotel, headed to the East Gate of the City Wall. Renting a rather small tandem bike for just 40 RMB we toured the 9 mile perimeter of the city on top of the wall.
We finished in time to make it to the Musical Fountain in front of the Wild Goose Pagoda just in time for the noon performance which was well attended by the local population.
We filled the afternoon touring some of the historic sites including the pagoda, mosque and markets. After dinner we wandered through one of the parks between the city wall and the defensive moat to find people practicing tai chi, exercising, and listening to musical performances.
During a brief late evening stroll to the Bell Tower, the city was still alive with traffic, street vendors selling art, and people flying their kites into the black night sky.
Sunday morning we first went to the Shaanxi History Museum which told the story of many thousands of years of history focused on the area. It painted a picture of the changing fortunes over the centuries with prosperity in peace, conflict in war, and innovation and advancement in many areas long before the west.
Before heading to the airport, we spent the afternoon at the place Xian is now most famous for: the Terracotta Army (bingma yong). Built in the time of the Qin Dynasty (210 BC) the vast underground pits full of life-size, individually built, warriors statues lay forgotten until 1974 when accidentally discovered by a local farmer. The site is impressive both for the scale and detail in its initial creation and now with the painstaking effort to restore it.
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