Xian – Terracotta Warriors

The Terracotta Warriors!  This is the highlight of Xian.  It is on some people’s bucket list that they’d fly into Xian from other parts of China (usually Beijing/Shanghai) for the day just to see the Terracotta Warriors.  The warriors are burial soldiers accompanying Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇, the first emperor of China in 220 BC.  There are reportedly 8,000 warriors, and only 2,000 have been unearthed.  They’ve held off excavating the rest as they’re trying to figure out how to preserve the colors once the ceramic is exposed to oxygen.  Apparently, the oxidation process destroys the pigments within minutes after the terracotta are unearthed.

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There are 3 pits, and the first pit is the largest…

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What’s amazing is that no infantryman has the exact same features.  If you look closely, they all look distinct.  We joked that the one on the bottom right looks like dad.

Each figure stands at 6 feet tall, and the generals are even taller.

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The terracotta warriors were discovered in 1974 when farmers were digging wells due to the drought.  One of them came upon some ceramic pieces during the digging process.  Some believe that had he dug further north of the site the terracotta would have never been discovered.

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The work is not complete, as they are still working at putting the pieces together.  Apparently the warring factions back in the days had looted and smashed the burial figures when they came upon the site.

Pits 2 and 3 weren’t quite as impressive in terms of size, but they did exhibit the standing/crouching archers, as wells as the mid/high ranking officers.

Check out the details on the sole…

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Chariots…

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If one can only visit China once in his/her lifetime, this would be it.  The sheer size and craftsmanship from more than 2000 years ago is mind boggling.  If this doesn’t impress, then nothing will.

Xian – Sights

Xian is rich in history – not only did it serve as the capital for numerous dynasties, it was also the starting point of the silk road, making it an interesting city to visit due to all its foreign influences.  Any Chinese history buff would love spending time here, but even non-history buffs like us could appreciate the richness of this city.

On the way to our first sightseeing, we saw tons of high rises on the outskirts of Xian proper.  Some were in the process of being built, and most seemed unoccupied.  Our tour guide told us that half of the buildings are in fact empty.

The government just keeps building to promote growth regardless of demand.  I suspect Xian can accommodate all the homeless in California with its empty buildings.

The following is just a collage of places we visited during the day…

Qianling Mausoleum where Wu Zetian 武則天 is buried.

My very first two hump camel!

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Tang Dynasty (618-907) SanCai “three coloured” glazed burial wares…

Famen Temple

 

 

When we got back to the city of Xian, we had our tour guide drop us off at the South gate of the city wall so that we could explore the city on our own.

This ancient city wall is completely intact, and one can bike atop the wall and complete the loop in 1.5 to 2 hours.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time (a recurring theme on this trip) so we just walked around and enjoyed the city night scene from atop the wall..

The next stop was the Muslin Quarter for some night market eats.  On our way there we got a chance to ogle at the beautiful bell tower.

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I must say the city is definitely very photogenic at night.

 

The Muslim quarter was teeming with people.  Rule of thumb – if you see a line in front of a food stall, you make sure you get in on that line no matter how intimidating that line looks.

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China is slowly becoming a cashless society.  Everywhere you see are QR codes.  Just scan the code with your Alipay app on your phone, and money is deducted directly from your bank account to pay for that pomegranate juice.

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These guys leave no meat behind on that lamb carcass.  They put vultures to shame…

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Here’s a collage of the food offerings at the night market…

I wish we could have spent more time checking out the night market, but in consideration for the 2 elderly parents we had to call it a night.

The next day was the big day – the Terracotta Warriors…

China – Food

November – our annual pilgrimage to see the parents.  Since mom and dad had decided that they would no longer be flying to the US to see us due to the long, tiring flights (more on that later) 2 years ago, we had been making the trip out to Taiwan every Thanksgiving to spend time with them.  Personally, if it were not for them, I don’t think I would ever visit Taiwan.  It is grey, small, and there isn’t really much to see.  One saving grace was the food, until this trip to China.

I never thought much about Chinese food, because what you get in the US is really ‘bastardized’ Chinese food – it never appealed to me.  So I always fell back on Taiwanese comfort food.  Luckily in Southern California you have your pick of decent Taiwanese food, especially my favorite Taiwanese beef noodle soup.  However, after our trip to China, my opinion of Taiwanese and Chinese food has drastically changed.  The worst food in China is better than any food in Taiwan!  Beef noodle soup?  Go to Lanzhou!  That’s where you get good beef noodle soup.  The broth is clear, yet heavenly tasty, and the noodle has a bite to it – not al dente.  It’s O-M-G!  They even hand make their own noodles in the airport noodle shop.

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I don’t even want Taiwanese beef noodle soup anymore.  Just thinking about how I can possibly get my hands on Lanzhou beef noodle soup without flying to China is depressing!

Every province in China has its own specialty.  Sichuan is of course known for spicy food and their hot pot.  Chongqing is spicy savory, and Chengdu is spicy numb (literally, your mouth goes numb).  Spicy numb is not really my cup of tea, but the rest of the food was awesome.  For a Chinese, I’m an anomaly.  I don’t particularly care for rice.  When we go out to eat I’ll only eat a spoonful of rice if at all.  However, when we were in Chengdu I actually had 2 servings of rice per meal because the dishes were so good.

All the dishes were made out of very simple ingredients, but the taste was off the charts.

Not only was the food good, it was cheap!

For 5 people, this fish-based hot pot dinner cost a total of $30 US.  In the US, it would run $15 or more per person.  They gave you unlimited free ingredients to add to the stock, but by the time we were done with the fish inside the pot, we really had no more room for anything else.

In Xian, food was much more tame in comparison.  But the variety of food was eye popping.  Walking through the Muslim Quarter was a feast for the eyes.

The lamb kebab was my favorite, and they have their own wide “biang biang” noodles they’ve even made up a character for.

When people used to tell me that Chinese food is the best in the world, I never believed them until now.  I never thought I’d ever say this, but I would go back to visit China just for the food, and I would definitely make a side trip to Lanzhou for the beef noodle soup.  Yum!