Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our Visit to Xi'an

Xi'an City
Originally uploaded by jimwink

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. To be honest, going through the pictures takes some time and we have just been lazy about posting them. Here are the photos from the last two days of our vacation to Beijing.

For this part of the trip we decided to go to Xi'an (shee-on). This is the home of the famous Terracotta Warriors. We ran into our first problem at the airport. For some reason the flight was delayed. Not sure what the real reason was, but it put us behind about 3-4 hours. So we landed in Xi'an a little after noon and after a crazy taxi ride, we arrived at the hotel. I'll let Rachel blog about the taxi ride. It needs it's own post. After settling into our hotel my first priority was making sure we had time to see the terracotta army so we scheduled to have a personal driver come and pick us up first thing in the morning. Then he could take us straight to the airport after we were done. I wanted to go early to try and avoid the crowds as much as possible. After everything was set we had the rest of the day to ourselves to just explore. First on the list was the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower which happen to be just across the street from where we were staying.
The Bell Tower was built in 1384 by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang as a way to provide an early warning signal to the town by rival rulers. It also marks the geographical center of the this ancient capital. The wooden tower is the largest and best preserved tower of its kind in China. It is 118 ft. high. It stands on a brick base which is 116ft long and about 30ft high on each side.

The Drum Tower located within walking distance was in 1380 during the reign of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and was renovated twice in 1699 and 1740 in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The intersting part of the design of the Drum Tower is that it is was built without any nails. The Drum Tower was used three times a day to notify the towns people. The first was at sun rise when the gates to the town would be opened. Next was at sun down to close the gates and the last was at midnight.

Terracotta Warriors
Originally uploaded by jimwink

The next day we set out for the Terracotta Warriors at 7 in the morning. The museum opened at 8:30 and I wanted to try to beat as much of the crowd as possible. We got very lucky and arrived early and was able to get some great pictures.
The story of the First Emperor is so fascinating. I had the opportunity to watch a special on T.V. about a month before our trip and learn about the life of the first Emperor and the amazing story behind why he wanted to build the life size army. Here is a more detailed look at his life on Wiki.

Also if you get a chance, watch the Discovery Channel special that I saw called 'The First Emperor: The man who made China'

Here is a short summary of his accomplishments. He is known as the first emperor uniting warring states into a single country which became what we know as China. Soon after, he established a system of weights & measurements, a common currency and a single written language. He also built the first version of the Great Wall and a national road system. As he became older he became more fearful of death. He felt that the people he conquered would come back to haunt him which lead him to order an army which could protect him in the afterlife, the terracotta army. He also wanted immortality, which his alchemists tried to give him, by feeding him mercury. They thought that mercury had special powers so it was mixed into other foods to make it digestible. This however just added to his fear and delusions.