Posts Tagged ‘Bell tower’

Xian – ancient city of central China

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Relaxing after a 90 minute aromatherapy massageThe apartment hotel where I stayed with Thorbjørn in Beijing was a bit of a  step up from where I’ve stayed earlier. I had my own bedroom with a queen size bed, and my own bathroom. In the basement there was a gym, a swimming pool, a steam bath and a sauna, and also a spa that offered massage and aromatherapy at a discount for guests at the hotel. One night I figured I’d go check it out. I spent an hour in the pool/sauna/steam bath, before I had a 90 minute aromatherapeutic massage… I didn’t know an hour and a half could pass that quickly! I actually think I fell asleep there for a while…
The remaining days I stayed there, I went to the pool and sauna every night. 😉 It is most definitely the best way of winding down after a long day of walking around in one of the world’s most polluted cities!

                               On Saturday night I got on the train to Xian. In 11 hours, I went 1200 kilometers headed southeast into central China. Xian is quite different from Beijing. For one, it’s much smaller, only around 5 million inhabitants. If Beijing can be compared to New York, then Xian is probably more like Rome. True, Beijing has a lot of historic sites, but when you’re moving around town, you don’t really notice them, because they’re all walled in. Xian on the other hand, has the historic buildings right here in the centre for all to see. I am in a youth hostel right on the central square, and out the window I can see the old Bell tower and Drum tower. They used to ring the bell at dawn, and bang the drum at dusk. Up to about the 10th century, Xian was the most important city in what is now China. It is the beginning and end of the Silk Road, and as such has had a lot of contact with the rest of the world. One of the museums here has a tablet with a Christian (Nestorian) inscription, dated 781 AD. The muslim community is thriving, and today I visited the Hui (Chinese Muslim) quarter in the city. For                                about a hundred meters down one of the narrow streets, every single shop that wasn’t a muslim restaurant was a Halal butcher! The Great Mosque was also fascinating. All outward appearances are that of a Buddhist temple, down to the Spirit Wall at the entrance, that is meant to keep out the evil influences. The Minaret looked like a Pagoda, it had the typical Chinese arches and architecture, and there were Chinese symbols on big tablets over the arches, just like in a Buddhist temple. The first hint that it wasn’t Buddhist, however, lies in the fact that it didn’t point North<->South, instead it pointed west, towards Mecca. Also there were inscriptions in Arabic mixed in with the Chinese. In the main Prayer hall were the familiar rows of muslim prayer carpets, but the dead give away, however, were the bearded men walking around with their little round hats, sitting in side rooms reading Quran, and kneeling in prayer on some of the mats. They weren’t Arabic, however, so their beards weren’t the full, shiny beards of Arabs, but the thin, stringy beards of the Chinese!:D

Tomorrow I’m planning to go see the sight that this city is definitely most famous for; the terracotta warriors! The first unifier of China, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, is buried with thousands of life size terracotta footsoldiers, officers and even horses! Some claim he was afraid of the spirits of his vanquished enemies, waiting for him in death, but most archaeologists agree
that he simply expected his rule to continue in the afterlife, and he wanted to have as great an army there as he’d had in this life… Like real soldiers, they are lined up in ALMOST (but not quite) the the same position, and like real soldiers, not two have the same facial features! Their weapons were real, and therefore are mostly gone after 2000 years, and some of the horses had real chariots, which have also all but rotted away. More on that later.

I’ve unearthed a couple of American CS’ers that want to do the same tour as me, at the same time, in Tibet. They’d found out that the rule against travellers of different nationalities travelling in a group together is no longer in effect, so maybe we can split the cost of car and guide, so the trip won’t cost an arm and a leg, only a few fingers and toes from each of us…