We took another overnight train to Xi’an, again third class but a little more subdued than last time.
Xi’an was rainy and we arrived shortly after 8am. As soon as we touched down at the hotel we went looking for home comforts in the form of Starbucks, it was well received.
Our guide took us on an orientation walk of the city which in the centre has an intricate drum tower and matching bell tower.
Puma took us to try the local delicacy which is like a pitta filled with pork. It was amazing, Ricky however has been filling up on the dumplings which at 10p a go is so cheap!
Xi'an also has a well known Muslim quarter which is filled with souvenir streets, markets and street food. One of the group bought Americas top wanted playing cards and was playing chase Saddam instead of chase the ace. Beautiful souvenirs are so cheap when you convert the price back to pounds so we were tempted by a few things. We also bought a bag of dried kiwi to try which is nice! Other delights include pigs trotters, and there is also stalls making nougat and peanut crisp.
Dinner was at a local restaurant but as puma is encouraging us to order for ourselves now, Ricky picked a dish with bullfrog. Surprisingly enough no one was keen to share. His policy is if you can get it at home why eat it…! He was sitting next to Richard who tried to order tortoise but was told it was out of season, then chicken feet much to the horror of the group. He eventually ended up with fish but it still came with the head. A great excuse for him and Ricky to try fish eyes…!
We went back to the market at night all lit up. On the way one of the group tried hot coke, like a version of mulled wine. What can't you get in china?
An early start for the terracotta warriors which are an hour outside of Xi’an. Our guide encouraged us to travel on a private bus so he could answer a few of the difficult questions we had presented him with. It is strange to be in a country which is subtly censored to the point where you don’t feel cut off but the citizens obviously know there is restrictions.
China is a communist country ran by a government. He had previously explained that congress sits every 4 years, however there isn’t a voting system. Chairman Mao established the country as peoples republic of china in 1949 but on his death his son wasn’t well enough to take over so a new chairman took power, the current chairman is his son. There is one main party which rule. Close members of the party may be put in power in place of no heir. Our guide talked about a minister who had great diplomatic relations with other countries and was liked by the people, in line for great power, however after pushing too much against the status quo was framed for corruption and imprisoned.
The trade unions are a part of the communist party. The party elect the ministers and parishioners of each area and these people are not a accessible to the people like local government would be. The people get a say in choosing the congress representatives of which there is 60,000 which are weighted around the country to match the population, however these people only have an influence when congress sits once every four years and there isn’t much room for radical thought! He also said being successful in business relies on good relations with the people in power.
The language has evolved from pictures and most symbols have around 30 separate strokes. There is around 14,000 symbols and the average Chinese person will know 6,000. There will also be local words, however pronunciation is even more difficult as where we have inflection in tone, Chinese have four inflections for the same word which mean 4 different things. His example was the word “ma” which with different tones could mean sheep, horse or be used as a welcome or a curse word. He also explained that Cantonese, a language spoken in parts of the south is the same language when written but pronunciation makes it an entirely unrecognisable language from Mandarin.
One child policy
This policy was brought in in 1979 however it was not made law until 1990. This rule is nowhere near as uniform as I had expected or as rumour had led to believe. In the city it is strictly enforced with high penalty for having a second child. The amount depends on the wealth and salary of the family. In the country it is less strictly enforced. Children of the one child policy may be exempt of the rule, as will those who have a disabled child. He briefly mentioned that in some cases families in the countryside who have a girl may be allowed a second chance for a boy. He mentioned that in light of recent labour shortages the future of this policy may be short lived. When we asked about twins he said that you would be considered lucky. We have heard several horror stories to the contrary since being here but I respect him greatly for saying as much as he did!
We arrived at the terracotta warriors, built to protect the tomb of the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, however his tomb is about 2km away from the site. He was significant as the first emperor to unite china under one dynasty and also as the beginnings of building the Great Wall of china. It is considered the 8th wonder of the world.
The warriors are all unique, different expressions, heights, stances as well as different ranks, from archers to generals. There was also horses and chariots. The site took 40 years to construct but was raided shortly after his death by peasant revolt. Fire made the roof collapse and destroyed the chariots, and many of the warriors were stormed. The site is now a mix of restored warriors, partially restored warriors, some still in a mass grave. There are three pits, the second has been re covered over as they are working on ways to allow the colour to remain. There are only a few places where you can see the warriors true vibrant colours. The site was discovered in 1976, with more discoveries as recent at 2006.
The site was impressive, chilling and astonishing at the great arrogance of the emperor who believed this army would guide him into power in the afterlife. Also the great technology used to create this feat was incredible. There were two bronze chariots which had been restored. Our guide explained that the technology needed to create this was recent to modern nations. Also the weapons that the warriors carried were protected with Chromium to prevent wear. This was thought to be discovered by the Germans in 1937 however was used here 2,200 years ago!
After lunch we were invited into a tea house for tasting of some teas in a traditional tea ceremony. They use loose tea when making tea and we tried jasmine tea, ginseng, lychee black tea and a type of green tea called Dragon Well. They make it in a little tea cup, strain into a tea pot, warm all the tiny tea cups and then pour it round, drinking in very small quantities. They have ceramic objects, different animals for each of the Chinese years (goat, rat, dragon) which they use to test the temperature of the water by pouring it over the object and watching it change colour. Our favourite was lychee black tea, a sweet tea.
Following an early start we took the bus outside of the city to the wild goose pagoda, a temple complex with a Buddhist pagoda which housed Buddhist antiquities from India. It was a wet morning but the pagoda was a beautiful and peaceful. Getting back into the city was a little more adventurous as we tried to explain our destination to the driver!
Xi'an is a walled city, it has a 14km stretch of wall around the city. We climbed up to the wall on the east gate and hired bikes, Ricky and I on a tandem! The wall is wide and gives a great view of the town. We cycled about 9km round to the north gate before we were exhausted, tandems are hard work!!
We got a very rickety old rickshaw to take us to our hotel. It was a 20minute ride, £2! The engine sounded like it was going to give out at any moment and he often veered in front of buses in his pursuit of getting us home!
Next up we are off to the Yangtze River for a few days on a boat!