Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We Visited China - Xian

Xi'an is the capital of the Shaanxi province, and a sub – provincial city in the People’s Republic of China. One of the oldest cities in China, with more than 3,100 years of history, Xi'an is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. The Lantian Man was discovered in 1963 in Lantian County, 50 km southeast of Xi'an, and dates back at least 500,000 years.

Xian – 15 April 2011

Helen, our guide in Xian received us at the airport and took us straight to the ‘New World Hotel’ actually a misnomer – it’s a beautiful old time hotel, very elegantly decorated and instantly radiates warmth and welcome. After resting for a while, Helen took us to a Chinese restaurant for an authentic Chinese lunch for the first time. A lot of people were apprehensive in the beginning but once there, they enjoyed the lunch thoroughly. Both vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes were well prepared, tasty and enjoyable. If you have an open mind and are prepared to keep all gastronomical prejudices away for a while – I assure, you will enjoy the meal – just say ‘Let me try’.

Xian is a really pretty city and extremely clean as well. Almost all the roads have numerous flower beds, making the city very attractive. It is different from Beijing, in a sense; the people are more warm and friendly.

After lunch we went to see the ‘City Wall’. The fortifications of Xi'an, which is an ancient capital of China, represent one of the oldest and best preserved Chinese city walls. Construction of the first city wall of Chang'an began in 194 BC and lasted for four years. The existing wall was started by the Ming Dynasty in 1370.

Since the ancient weapons did not have the power to break through a wall, the only way for an enemy to enter the city, was by attacking the gate of the city wall. This is why complicated gate structures were built within the wall. In Xian, the city wall includes four gates and they are respectively named as Changle (meaning eternal joy) in the East, Anding (harmony & peace) in the West, Yongning (eternal peace) in the South and Anyuan (forever harmony) in the North. The South gate, Yongning, is the most beautifully decorated one. It is very near the Bell Tower, in the centre of the city.

After the extension, the wall now stands 12 meters (40 feet) tall, 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) wide at the top and 15-18 meters (50-60 feet) thick at the bottom. It covers 13.7 kilometres (8.5 miles) in length with a deep moat surrounding it. Every 120 meters, there is a rampart which extends out from the main wall. All together, there are 98 ramparts on the wall, which were built to defend against the enemy climbing up the wall. Each rampart has a sentry building, in which the soldiers could protect the entire wall without exposing themselves to the enemy. Besides, the distance between every two ramparts is just within the range of an arrow shot from either side, so that they could shoot the enemy, who wanted to attack the city, from the side.

Figure 1 - In front of the hotel

Figure 2 - Distant view of the City Wall and the ‘Bell Tower’

Figure 3 - Flower Beds

Figure 4 - Closer view of the Bell Tower

Figure 5 - Flower bed around the Bell Tower

Figure 6 - Sunshine Green Theatre and Restaurant

Figure 7 - At the restaurant with the reception party dressed in Tang Dynasty costume

Figure 8 - At the lunch table

Figure 9 - Dore and Sunder with Helen

Figure 10 - At the entrance - Notice the width of the wall

Figure 11 – Inside view

Figure 12 - Structure converted into a museum

Figure 13 - The big bell

Figure 14 - Ancient weapons on the wall

Figure 15 - Helen at work

Figure 16 - Our gang at work

Figure 17 - Kites in spring

Figure 18 - Top of the wall – Incredible 40 to 46 feet wide

After a quick visit to a silk factory and a bit of shopping in the fake market we reached Delhi Durbar for dinner. We were greeted by Mr Raju Garu from Vizag and treated to a lovely dinner. All along Helen took keen interest in showing us around and explaining the details. She came across as an educated girl, with a lot of go. Whether she was echoing instructions from Beijing or doing it on own, I am not sure – she sure did convey “Uncle SAM -I will get you one day”

Xian – 16 April 2011

Figure 19 - On the way to the Terracotta Warriors

Figure 20 - A round about

Our next place of visit was the famous ‘Terracotta Warriors’. The Terracotta Warriors represent only a small portion of the six thousand strong underground army buried in front of the Emperor Qinshihuang's tomb (r. 221-207 BC) to defend him in the afterlife. 700,000 forced labourers were sacrificed to construct his tomb which was begun as soon as he ascended the throne. All workers and childless concubines were interred with him to safeguard its secrets. The figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by a local farmer in Lintong District, of Xian Shaanxi province, near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The farmer poses for photographs with local visitors in the shopping complex.

The clay figures vary in height, according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 6,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.

The first site was excavated in 1974. Although much of the site had been looted soon after it was built, archaeologists discovered 6,000 pottery figures. This oblong shaped site is 689 feet long, 197 feet wide. The trenches that contain the soldiers are 14.8 to 21.3 feet deep. The actual bodies of the soldiers were formed out of terra cotta clay. Each soldier was baked in a kiln. The positioning of the soldiers in the oblong shape shows an actual battle formation of the troops. These warriors were dressed and ready for battle. They carried spears and various other combat weapons. Each warrior is wearing an army uniform which distinguishes the soldier's rank. The soldier's uniforms were painted either red or green. They also wore either brown or black armour. Different types of warriors include archers, infantrymen, and among these soldiers are six chariots. What is fascinating is that each soldier has a distinct facial expression. Even the horses found at this site have different poses. Both the hands and the heads of the soldiers are detachable. These pieces of the body were carefully crafted and painted separately. The purpose of this was to provide the soldier with individuality and uniqueness. This also shows the quality of Chinese art during this time. These soldiers were made to be naturalistic. The height of the normal soldiers ranges from 5 ft. 8 in. to 6 ft. 2.5 in. Those that rode the chariots were 6 ft. 2.5 in. The commanders were the tallest out of all the soldiers. They stood 6 ft. 5 in. Clearly height represented the importance of the officer.

The second excavation occurred in May of 1976. This pit contains 1,400 warriors with horses. It is 64,000 square feet in area. Pit number two differs greatly from the first pit. The battle formation was square.

The third pit was discovered in 1980. This pit is the smallest out of the three discovered. It contains only one chariot, six warriors, and a small amount of weapons. This room is thought to be a group of special commanders. A fourth pit was also discovered. This room is bare. This room is probably empty because the workers did not complete the warriors in time for Qin's death (From Records)

Figure 21 - Statue of Emperor Qin ShiHuang at the entrance to Pit 1

Figure 22 - Details

As you enter the hangar like structure, you are suddenly transformed into a different era – the sheer size and the presence of hundreds of warriors is breathtaking. The visual effect is something out of the ordinary and unexpected. Momentarily you stand frozen - not knowing what to say. Really, an extraordinary sight.

As you examine the warriors closely, one realises that they are all unique.

Figure 23 - The Grand View

Figure 24 - Warriors in relation to ground level

Figure 25 - Warriors at the rear

Figure 26 - Notice the uniqueness

Figure 27 – Horses

Figure 28 - Some more warriors

Figure 29 - Prior to restoration

Figure 30 - Various enclosures

Figure 31 – Thrilled

Figure 32 - Another view

Figure 33 - Helen on the way out

Figure 34 - The Drive

Figure 35 - In spite of the surging mass of humanity

Figure 36 - Sand model of the area. The mound is where the Emperor was laid to rest. The warriors were towards the North.(Top of the table)

Figure 37 - Photo op

Figure 38 - The General

Figure 39 - Jai as a warrior

Figure 40 - Another brave warrior

Figure 41 - A replica of the chariot for sale

Figure 42 - Even the tree is made to grow straight!

Figure 43 - Intricate Jade work found at the site

Figure 44 - Way out

Figure 45 - Navin going for a bite

Our next place of visit was to the ‘Giant Wild Goose Pagoda’.

Figure 46 - In the garden

The Pagoda was originally built in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it functioned to collect Buddhist materials that were taken from India by the hierarch Xuanzang. The entire structure was repaired, rebuilt, additions made due to variety of reasons, including an earthquake till 1644. The entire structure leans very perceptibly (several degrees) to the west as a result of the 1556 earthquake.

Figure 47 - The Pagoda

Figure 48 - Surrounding area

Figure 49 - One more enclosure

Figure 50 - From a different angle

Figure 51 - The Wandering Monks

Figure 52 - A Stupa

Figure 53 - The Stupa with the Lion

In China, the lion  has been used as a symbol of power and grandeur. It is even believed to offer protection from evil spirits. That’s why imposing statues of lions were placed at the gates of imperial palaces, official residences, temples and tombs.The lions are always created in pairs, with the male holding the world in his hand and the female with holding a cub. 

Figure 54 - The Bell in the Da Cien temple

Figure 55 - An ancient tree

Figure 56 - Prayer area and incense burning

Figure 57 - The Buddha

Figure 58 - Grand view of the tree

Figure 59 - Hall of Mahavira - Statue of Sakhyamuni

Figure 60 - Part of the garden

Figure 61 - Garden area

Figure 62 - Prayer hall

Figure 63 - Another view

Figure 64 - Unable to come to terms with their cleanliness in spite of the population

Figure 65 - Entrance to the museum

Figure 66 – Details

Figure 67 - On the road

Figure 68 - Busy evening scene

Figure 69 - On the way to Delhi Durbar

Figure 70 - Distant view

Figure 71 - The now familiar flower beds

Figure 72 - Outside Delhi Durbar

Figure 73 - The pavement

Figure 74 - Typical Chinese restaurant

Figure 75 - Prassu and Preet - A quiet moment together on their 40 Wedding Anniversary

Prassu and I go back a long way. We have known each other for the last 45 years. When he got married to Preet, a beautiful girl from Fiji, in Chennai, I was there. So to be together again on their 40th WA meant a lot to me. We cut a cake in the restaurant and generally made merry. In fact all the friends in the group know each other for more than 40 years. Sunder is known to me the longest – I remember swimming with him in Maratha Hostel when I was 11 years old. That makes it 1960.I met Dore and Lalitamma through Sunder after the 1971 war and since then we have been close. Kats, Chats and Nair are course mates since 1967. Travelling with very close friends is great fun.

Figure 76 – Happy to be here!

That was the end of our visit to Xian – a wonderful city.

No comments:

Post a Comment