|Wild Goose Pagoda|
Xi'an (she-ANN), which means "to guard peace in the west" is considered to be the "cradle of ancient Chinese Civilization." One of the four oldest cities in China, it served as the capital for eleven dynasties. Xi'an is a mixture of the old and new and is a leading cultural center with more than 30 universities. There is much to see in this ancient city, which was the starting point of the Silk Road and one of the stops on our 2002 tour of China.
At one industrial building, we viewed silk carpets being produced. We’d seen expensive silk carpets at home, but once we saw the complex, labor-intensive process and the time and skill that are needed to make them, we understood the costs.
A huge space with a large loom strung with silk threads served as the carpet center. Four young women sat on a bench in front of it, creating an intricately-patterned silk masterpiece. Working in concert, fingers flying, they tied 300 knots per square inch. Our guide told us that this 6x9' carpet would take one year to finish.
The main highlight of Xi'an was the famous 2,200 year-old Terra Cotta Army. The site was accidentally discovered in 1974 by farmers drilling wells, in search of water.
During the reign of Qin Shi Huang, China's first Emperor, he authorized the building of his mausoleum. To avoid sacrificing live soldiers, whom he needed to guard him and his territory, he chose to construct a full army of terra cotta warriors to be buried with him to guard his tomb in the afterlife. Over the years since its discovery, more than 10,000 warriors and horses have been found. All were broken, but we saw over 1,000 restored (reconstructed) life-sized terra cotta sculptures.
With the excavation and opening of three pits, the warriors have been exposed to air and pollutants. When some of the warriors were found, they still had brightly painted uniforms and flesh-colored faces; however, most of this paint has faded to the color of clay. Archaeologists came to realize that new techniques needed to be developed to help preserve the terra cotta soldiers and other treasures found within the burial site.
Unlike any museum we've ever seen, visitors walk and stand a few feet above, looking down on row upon row of the terra cotta warriors that stand or kneel to face possible intruders. The Chinese took only nine months to build the huge roofs, walls, and walkways surrounding each of the three pits that had been opened.
Archers with hands positioned as if holding their bows; cavalrymen sporting leather hats, short stone armor, and boots; common soldiers, so denoted by their top knots on the right side; officers, wearing flat hats; and generals, wearing 'winged' hats and long coats filled the pits.
Each face was individually carved with great detail and different facial features and expressions. Terra cotta horses and remnants of actual chariots, such as wheels and bronze pieces, were also discovered among the figures.
It was an eerie, overwhelming experience to see and be among these soldiers.
Before bidding farewell to Xi’an, we stopped at the Ancient City wall. The well-preserved wall was re-constructed in the 14th century during the early Ming Dynasty. High above the traffic and the morning activities, we got a bird’s-eye view of Xi’an.
~ xoA ~