Saturday, November 8, 2008


Sitting up late in our hostel in Xian trying to get a job application finished. Less than a week now till I will be back in New Zealand (Penny is visiting friends in Darwin for a few days, so is back a bit later). We arrived in Xian on a less than inspiring train ride from Xining along the Yellow River. 2000 years of civilisation sure puts some pressure on the environment, exhausted and ruined soils sift out of ancient terraced hillsides. Motorways and railways cut through hillside and flow down catchments.

Xian is a nice city, the inner part at least, plenty of interesting street food (allowing a lovely progressive dinner tonight as we walked across town), a bustling Islamic market, bright neon lights and interesting older style architecture including a vast square town wall.

Today we visited "the eighth wonder of the world". The Terracotta Army. Catch bus 206 from near the railway station to get there. The Terracotta warriors themselves were only rediscovered in 1974. They stand in giant filled pits some distance from the mausoleum of one of China's Ch'in dynasty Emperors. (Ch'in being the word that China is derived from). The lines of soldiers stand in narrow tiled corriders between thick walls of packed earth. The walls over the centuries have carried the weight of giant timber beams lined with matts then covered with soil. The beams can still be seen where they have sagged and slowly turned to stone.

I couldn't help thinking about the circumstances that may have lost such a treasure from the historical record for so long a time. Were the terracotta warriors covered over when the great Emperor die, or did work continue under some passionate collector until the House of Ch'in fell soon after. As the great unwashed rose to tear down the Empire, how were the terracotta warriors protected or hidden, or why weren't they looted and broken further? What human tragedys were played out in the defense of this, the greatest army of earth? Tomorrow (or today really) we plan to visit Hua Shan, the most deadly 'mountain hiking' route in the world. We will see. Its quite apt really, we have visited one of the holy mountains of Tibetan Buddhism (Kawa Karpo), one of the sacred mountain of Chinese Buddhism (Emei Shan) and now we will visit one of the five mountains of Taoism. One last natural scenic adventure for us in China. (update: we delayed Hua Shan a day to focus on job applications and other organisational tasks, we can't wait for a bit of exercise and scenery!)


Ross said...

Excellent reading... I got busy for a while and fell behind. I think I have to save some of these posts for later when I can spend more time on it. And I need a map.

Good choice for your trip... a greater sense of discovery than doing some standard route in Nepal. Lonely Planet is a curse and a blessing.

Happy travels onwards


Jamie said...

Hey Ross,

Yeah China has been awesome, especially out west (although I have a soft spot for big chinese cities as well), its a bit wierd to be heading home so soon, but lots of adventures to be had there too!

Take care aye, see you sometime soon in true blue NZ...its going to be like entering the twilight zone back there!

Bob McKerrow said...
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Bob McKerrow said...

Xian is one of those places I have read so much about as it seems to be a key starting place for many such as Thubron when they start out on the Silk Road.

Fancy you seeing the marvellous terracotta army. I am green with envy. I enjoy your uncluttered postings and your clear outlook of things and landscapes.

Hurrah ! I will be in Ch Ch on Thursday. My mobile number is : 021 1545632. Give us a call or SMS when you are down my way.

Happy finish to your great journey.

Jamie said...

Hey Bob,

I wish my view of things was clear! Its as murky as the smog over eastern china which we flew over today!

Hope the operation goes smoothly!