I just got back from a short trip to Xian where the 7000 terra cotta soldiers were found in 1974. I took a train from Nanjing at 4:00 pm and slept overnight arriving in Xian at 9:20 am. I had a soft sleeper which is a room with 4 beds and a private door. For the first 5 hours of the trip there was a lung doctor in my room who spoke English quite well and we had a nice talk. We he got off I got three more roomies none of whom spoke English. We just waved and said “Knee How.” I was on the lower bunk and the guy above me snored like a cannon. I put in my earplugs. This part of the train was quite noisy also. My other two roomies were two girls. A quite beautiful young girl was across from me and she seemed very comfortable and confident. The other girl was a little older and looked like she was a nervous wreck. I am not sure if it was the train, strangers in the room or the big tall white guy. She sat in the hall until we all went to bed and then she seemed fine.
When I walked out of the train station at 9:20 am in Xian there was a tall handsome man holding a sign with my name on it. Wow, what a great feeling that was to see. His name was Raphael and he would be my tour guide for the day and he said he was there to take me see the 8th wonder of the world, the Terra Cotta warrior site about an hour outside the city. As we got closer he pointed out a small hill where the first emperor of Qin dynasty was buried. He said they think the entire area could be surrounded by clay soldiers build to protect him in his afterlife. Little did Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi know “Walter” and 5000 other people were coming today. We entered Site 1 which is this gigantic building that houses over 7000 clay warriors. It is hard to explain how big it is. I think it overwhelms you and you don’t know how to react. You don’t even know where to begin to take a picture so you just take them from everywhere. I felt like I was disappointed in some way but I could not pinpoint why. At first I was thinking I was so excited about seeing them that when I saw them there was a little bit of a letdown. You are not right next to them but above them looking down. You are fairly close but I wanted to be closer. That might be the tactile clay artist in me; either that or the head cold was keeping me in a fog. I don’t want to sound disappointed because it was incredible to see. Afterwards Raphael knowing I was a ceramic artist asked if I wanted to visit a clay factory that was making life-size statures today. We went there and it was if I enjoyed that more than seeing the actual 2200 year old statues. Go figure? That was really special and they even invited me to some fresh local tea and before I left gave me a 12 inch tall clay warrior as a gift. I had just bought one at the historical site for $20.00 from an illegal scalper. Now I have two? Anybody needs small clay general for $20.00 bucks?
After this we went back to Xian, a town of 11 million people, and I walked the fortress wall for an hour. The tall fortress wall makes a complete square 10 kilometers long. You can ride a bike all the way around it or take a rickshaw. If Linda was here I thought we could take the rickshaw so I decided to just walk some of it. I wish I would have had the time to walk the entire way around. That is the hiker, adventurer, and goal oriented person I am, wanting to say, “I did it.” Next we drove a short distance to a large mosque. Our driver just drove right up on the sidewalk like it was his parking place. They park anywhere and everywhere in China. If this was Bluefield College I could give out 3000 illegal parking tickets today.
Muslims have been in Xian for 1200 years. The mosque was pretty cool to see and right outside it was what Lynn said “is the largest outdoor market she has ever seen.” It was quite large and had all kinds of tourist gifts with every attendant saying in English, “I give you best price”, “You want polo shirt”, “Casio (seeing my watch), I have Casio watch for you”. I finally broke down and bought 3 packs of ten postcards for 15 Yuan. The asking price for 1 pack initially was 20 Yuan until I waved goodbye. To be honest I hate this because when you really want something you don’t even know what a fair price is. You either got a great deal or just got swindled.
There was also a food market there with all kinds of exotic food. My guide said they even had goat penis, I said yuck! I did buy some bread, dates, Muslin candy, and 2 fried persimmon wads. I call them wads because I don’t know what else to call them. Basically it looked like a small round salmon patty but orange. Next was back to the train station to catch the 9:00 pm train back to Nanjing. The train trip back in the hard sleeper was another unique experience that I will have to tell you about some other time. In China, Walterrrr.