Pagodas and Museums in Xian

Today was a day of museums, pagodas, and street-walking in South Xi’an. I started at the Shaanxi History Museum, which, although small, has one of the best collections in all of China. And, unlike the massive, unwieldy National Museum in Beijing, you can actually make it through the collection in an easy hour or two. One thing that also makes museums in China efficient and straightforward is that they are always arranged chronologically. You just walk through all of the dynasties, room-by-room. I for one find this nice.

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After Shaanxi, I strolled the streets towards the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, which is maybe 3 or 4 blocks away. I have really come to enjoy just walking and observing what goes on in the streets. You can really get a sense for a place this way, and how people live on a daily basis. Once at the Goose Pagoda, I wandered around the complex, especially admiring its great pagoda. This is the first one I have seen so far in China, and I am learning that the pagoda style mimics what travelers in ancient China saw in India when they themselves traveled. They brought this back, along with Buddhism, which you also see a lot of in Xi’an. This makes sense, since it is best known as being a cultural crossroad.

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Such fitting but forgotten words in our current world…

From the Wild Goose, a long walk brought me back to my hotel, and I took in some great street scenes along the way, especially traffic navigation. It looks and sounds insane and crazy, but there truly is a method to the madness, and is almost hypnotic to watch. It all somehow works out.

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My final stop was the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, and the attached Xi’an Museum. No joke, there really is a Small and Giant Wild Goose Pagoda! And this one, although smaller, I think is the best of two. It is far quainter and quieter, and the museum is great. It has some excellent statues of Buddha that are not sealed off behind glass. You can really get up close and stare.

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So ends my last day in Xi’an, and tomorrow I fly off for the last leg of this trip in Shanghai.

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The Terracotta Warriors

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My first official day in Xi’an started with an early morning out to the most famous sight in this area, and really the whole reason people come: the Terracotta Warriors. It’s actually surprising how this is at least an hour out of town, but the drive, once you leave the city, is nice. Farmland and open fields. It was actually a farmer who found the great horde of warriors back in the 70s by accident.

The Terracotta Warriors themselves are important and cool because the complex is absolutely massive. There’s just thousands and thousands of them in 3 main pits, with each pit itself huge and deep. This was the burial army for China’s first great emperor, Qin Shihuang, who united the country, and started the Great Wall thousands of years ago. This army stands guard, and his mausoleum is nearby.

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What’s also awesome, and is really the main reason I came all the way out to the middle of China, is that nearly every single warrior is unique. With a unique look, stance, job, face, dress, etc. That’s mind-boggling to show all of this individuality that long ago, and then for them to have survived this long, all in their original place. It really is fascinating, and a great feeling to have at least seen all of them, face-to-face.

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My driver and I made it back into Xi’an itself around noon, and I spent the rest of the day exploring this historic city on foot. As I’ve been thinking about it, Xi’an was once a lot like New York City: a huge place where people and cultures mixed, and that sat at the great center of things. During the Tang Dynasty, Xi’an was also a thriving place for the arts. It’s where diverse people and ideas mingled, and where great things happened. And you can see this throughout the city.

The City Walls themselves are pretty cool, and I took a walk along them to get a better sense for the old city. But the brutal heat made a full circuit foolish, and I came down to escape into the shade of Xi’an’s streets.

The best was the Muslim Quarter around the Drum and Bell Towers. This is the first time I have ever seen Chinese Muslims, and it goes to show how diverse this area is, and accepting. The Quarter itself has an absolutely wonderful market that goes on and on for blocks, and it was a nice place to shop and just observe all of things going on. The madness of a market is a great thing, as are the pungent smells.

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The rest of the day was spent cooling down indoors, which is especially easy in my wonderful hotel, the Grand Park. It’s rest next to the wall, and just extremely cozy, comfortable, and with plenty of great food! A perfect sanctuary in the middle of Xi’an.

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