The flight was a little rough and booking it for late in the day was a mistake. I hate checking into hotel late at night. I still had a head cold and needed a good night sleep, but that was not likely as I checked in after midnight. Anyway, up in the morning for breakfast and then to meet my student, Lara a native of this city. I know she had planned a busy day for me.
Xi’an (approximately 8 million residents) is well known for the Terracotta Warriors. These remains from the Qin Dynasty are not actually located in the city but about an hour drive away. The place is an archeologist’s playground and interestingly just a couple of weeks prior to my visit, there was a new find! A 2,200 year old Cross-Bow, said to be in very good condition. Read about it here.
The original discovery was by a group of local farmers back in 1974. I remember reading about it in Smithsonian Magazine or National Geographic when I was a teenager. It was a fascinating story to read about a modern discovery of such an ancient civilization. Now, so many years later, it is even more interesting to see it up close. It is impressive too that the site has expanded to include newer discoveries.
Lara had arranged for a driver to and from the Terracotta Warriors and it made things very easy for us. We arrived just around 10 AM and hooked up with an English speaking guide, Peter.
The weather was quite lovely, a cool spring day with a clear sky. We approached the site and Peter informs that the surrounding hills are home to active gold and jade mining operations.
The hills surrounding the area are not terribly stark but this area reminds me of Front-Range Colorado– the High Plateau– arid grasslands.
Tour guide, Peter was very articulate. A history major with a deep knowledge of the area. He is well studied in its cultural and historic significance. I was very interested to learn how the funding of this place is handled. Any archeological expedition is costly, but something of this magnitude must be an astronomical expense. I am sure much of the actual digging and dusting labor, the really dirty and back-breaking work, is probably attended to by students in this field of study. However, when we consider that this dig has been ongoing for more than 40 years, we must estimate the costs in millions of millions spent to maintain such a vast undertaking. Peter tells me that about a third of the costs for the archeological dig are funded buy ticket sales, a third from government grants and a third from sales of souvenirs.
Lara is a lovely host and her husband, Bryan joined us after he finished work.. Lara studies with me twice weekly and has been doing so for over a year. She frequently engages her business clients in English conversation. Bryan brushes up on his English when he is preparing for IELTS or planning to travel abroad. They’ve each had opportunities to travel internationally for work and pleasure.
On my second day in Xi’an Lara took me to visit the Shaanxi Museum. Another small museum but very rich with history from Prehistoric age through the Zhou, Qin, Han Dynasties, the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern, Sui and Tang Dynasties. Exhibiting more than 370,000 pieces in the collection. The place was a bit crowded with excited teenagers and that made photography extremely difficult.
I was pleased to have the company of life-long residents Bryan and Lara. Very thankful for their guidance. I learned a lot about their city and Shaanxi province.
The region has its own sort of distinct traditions and customs with only little influence from other areas. The city appears to be less hectic than either Beijing or Shanghai Though Xi’an is a city of more than 8 million, (about the size of New York city) it appears to enjoy some buffer. What I saw on the drive to the Terracotta Warriors was mostly farmland.
Air travel from Shanghai to Xi’an was definitely faster than train travel for such a long distance.
After these two days in Xi’an, I boarded a plane for return to Jinan. The time has flown by faster than I could imagine! I must begin preparation for my flight home.
Many thanks to Bryan and Lara for graciously showing me around and sharing some of the history and culture of their native city, Xi’an.