China Diary:
Ancient Capitals

[Returning to Shanghai] [Spring Festival] [Chinese New Year] [Fulbright Mid-Year Conference] [Back to School] [Back Online] [Into the Heartland] [Ancient Capitals] [Judeo-Christian Holidays] [From Albany to Zurich] [Yellow Mountain] [Loose Ends] [Hello, Debbie ... Goodbye, Debbie] [Southern Capital] [Tropical Tour] [Unwinding] [Farewell Banquets] [Winding Down] [Good Bye, Shanghai]

Mar. 25: Beijing – Pat, who attended college with me, is visiting for a couple of weeks. Debbie and I go to Beijing for our evening airport rendezvous. After checking in at the hotel, we wander the street markets and purchase some souvenirs before stopping for some dinner.

Mar. 26: Great Wall and Ming Tombs – Pat and Debbie take the day tour, but having been to the wall I decide to stay and get caught up on work. Besides, I have a pretty bad sniffle and prefer to stay in today. The two make it back just after 5:00, and after hanging around a while we get some Beijing duck for dinner. They head for the Beijing Opera, and when they are done we meet and go to one of the local pubs.

Mar. 27: Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City – Pat and Debbie again tour a couple of places I have been to, so I continue to stay in and get some work done. Elizabeth, a fellow Fulbrighter teaching in Beijing, meets us for lunch. We then leave to catch our flight to Xi’an. A cabby brings us to the wrong hotel, and after some spirited debate we finally agree on the price. Another taxi takes us to the right place. After settling in, we meet Maurice at 8:00 p.m. by the drum tower, and then head off for some Muslim dinner. We end the evening at a local disco, but once at the hotel decide to sing some karaoke for a while before going to sleep.

Mar. 28: Army Terracotta Warriors – "To see the recent ten years of China, go to Shenzhen; to see the past one-hundred years of China, go to Shanghai; to see the past five-hundred years of’China, go to Beijing; and if you want to see the past two thousand years of this country, you have to go to Xi’an". Chinese civilization began millennia ago along the flat stretch of the fertile Yellow River flood plain (the unpredictably "China’s Sorrow") and every early Chinese dynasty had its capital and most of its major cities in this region. At the eastern terminus of the silk route lies Xi’an ("Westerly Peace"), the former capital of the ruthless Emperor Qin who first united China in 221 BC. (He also standardized the currency and written script, and gives China its name.) It was considered one of the greatest cities of its day and at one time became the largest city in Asia, perhaps the world. Only when the Mongols invaded in 1127 and made Beijing its capital did the Han Chinese flee the Yellow River valleys and set up its court in the south. Jackie, the assistant hotel manager, arranges for a taxi for the day, and accompanies us to the underground army terracotta warriors and horses which might be the major archaeological discovery of this century but is certainly one of China’s most popular tourist attractions. This was discovered in 1974 and has since uncovered thousands of greater-than-life-size soldiers and horses with bronze weapons in battle formation. Naturally our next stop is to a large mound which the army terracotta warriors were supposed to guard. Buried beneath but yet to be excavated is Qin’s Tomb along with palaces filled with precious stones and jewelry. We then drive over to the Huaqing Pool, a natural hot springs where emperors went to relax with their concubines. (It is also where Chiang Kai-shek was caught in 1936 and forced to end his civil war with the communists.) The final visit is to the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, devoted largely to the history of the silk road and known for its Forest of Stone Tablets, the heaviest collection of books in the world. We get to rest in our room, then do dinner of dumplings and a show of Tang Dynasty dancing.

Mar. 29: Xi’an – We begin at the Big Goose Pagoda where the Buddhist Monk Xuan Zang translated the Indian Sanskrit sutras. After a brief breakfast stop, we climb the old city walls and walk on its top for a view of the moat and surrounding city. We walk by the Bell Tower and Drum Tower and, on our way to the Great Mosque (the largest in China), we stroll through the narrow alleys and pick up some souvenirs. We eat lunch at KFC, and Debbie and Pat head back to the hotel while Jackie takes me to the Shaanxi History Museum which exhibits the development of China through its numerous artifacts. That evening, we head home to Shanghai.

[Returning to Shanghai] [Spring Festival] [Chinese New Year] [Fulbright Mid-Year Conference] [Back to School] [Back Online] [Into the Heartland] [Ancient Capitals] [Judeo-Christian Holidays] [From Albany to Zurich] [Yellow Mountain] [Loose Ends] [Hello, Debbie ... Goodbye, Debbie] [Southern Capital] [Tropical Tour] [Unwinding] [Farewell Banquets] [Winding Down] [Good Bye, Shanghai]


Copyright 1999 Paul Miesing. All rights reserved. Please do not use without permission unless in the People’s Republic of China which does not enforce intellectual property rights. Revised on January 17, 2001.