Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Great China Adventure: Xi'an

I know I promised the next blog post would be about the Terracotta Warriors, but I forgot that the itinerary was changed at the last minute. So, in staying true to the actual itinerary of the trip, I will continue on with what we accomplished the following day when we took an overnight train ride through the China countryside from Beijing to the fabulous city of Xi'an.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit China is because it is so very old and full of history. The oldest, most historic city we visited was Xi'an. Our fantastic tour guide, Chang Quay, told us that there is a saying: "If you want the last 500 years of China, go to Shanghai. If you want the last 1000 years, go to Beijing. If you want the last 5,000 years, go to Xi'an."

Xi'an was everything it promised to be. Rich in ancient culture and teeming with historical sites. It is the only major city in the entire country that is still fully surrounded by a city wall, which was still decorated for the country's Lantern Festival. Unfortunately none of the pictures I took of it came out. :( They were all from a moving bus, so yeah, they're not pretty.

However, I have tons of pictures of the famous Wild Goose Pagoda, which is where we went our first day in Xi'an. This structure is over 1300 years old, and has never had any restoration work done to it. Can you even wrap your head around something that old? The U.S. is less than 250 years old. Just this building is more than five times older than our country. Amazing!

Here I am in front of the Wild Goose Pagoda on what was a very gloomy day. It was fitting since we were visiting a holy place. That black tea kettle-looking thing in the background is actually an incense burner.

Here's a better picture of the pagoda without me blocking it. It truly was amazing.

Though a busy tourist attraction, the Wild Goose Pagoda is still a functioning temple. There were several people who came to worship while we were there.

This is inside the temple. We couldn't walk in it, of course, but we could take pictures from the outside. Like so many things I saw in China, photos just do not capture the beauty. All the gold you see here is 100% real. It was absolutely AMAZING! Something you have to see with your own eyes to really appreciate.

This was one of three murals made completely out of jade. No, it's not just green. The jade stone comes in a multitude of colors. The detail of these murals was simply magnificent. Again, you've got to see it in person.

We were extremely lucky during our trip to the pagoda. Not only did we get to see one of the Buddhist monks who lives there, but we got to see the second highest ranking monk. According to our tour guide, this was very rare, indeed.

During our first day in Xi'an we also visited the Shaanxi History Museum, where I got to see actual Ming vases from the Ming dynasty. Unfortunately, those pictures also were not that great. Guess you'll just have to take a trip to China to see them for yourself. :)

I'd be remiss not to mention the devastation of yesterday's earthquake. Even though it was more than 1,000 miles from where we visited, it still affected me more than it would have had I not just visited the country last month. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of China.

Stay tuned for the next installment with amazing pictures of the Terracotta Warriors and the Cave People!