Written by Karen Mak
The first thing we saw when we arrived in Xi’an is the Ancient City Wall. You can’t miss it. It is the big wall in the centre of the city that divides it up into the inner and outer parts. It was beautifully lighted up at night which made the entire sculpture look magnificent.
Through delivering my landmark presentation, I learned that when the city wall was first built in the Tang dynasty and later enlarged by the first Emperor in the Ming dynasty, it was first built with earth, lime, and glutinous rice extracts. Soldiers would use it to hide from enemies yet be able to attack them by firing arrows through the battlements and protective parapets. Because of its grandeur and history, the Shanxi government often holds its greeting ceremonies at the South Wall. The wall been restored three times since its construction and every year, people will partake in marathons, lantern fairs, kite festivals, and bike riding on the actual city wall. In fact, biking is what we did. 😀
Eighteen of us rented a bike for 40 RMB. It had been a while since I last rode a bike, but it’s true what they say: Once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. It felt amazing to be peddling away on the bumpy stones of the city wall. We were literally riding on history! Each of the stones also had various signatures and inscriptions that visitors had left behind. This was truly a remarkable way to experience the city wall. It was extra nice to feel the cool breeze especially since we had been baking in hot, humid, and sweaty weather since we landed in China. Seeing the high rise and city buildings in the distance and the ancient wall and monuments in the immediate vicinity was a spectacular contrast. Soft Chinese music playing from the speaker box along the walls further enhanced the experience. When we all gathered as a group afterwards, we all agreed it was much preferred to ride on a rainy day than on a sunny and humid day.
We had a dumplings feast for dinner. It included unlimited rounds of dumplings. Each basket contained dumplings that were shaped into different animals such as goldfish and duck. One of them looked like a butt too. >:)
After dinner, we were given a choice to go back to the hotel (and then to go shopping) or to watch a show. Being the musical/live performance nut that I am, I opted for the live show. I was a bit disappointed that it was only an hour and the performances were only dancing choreographed with songs and not plate-balancing acts/interesting feats. One of them involved a young Chinese man playing a unique trumpet and ‘chirping’ every so often in a really loud and high-pitched voice. I thought he was faking it at first since the loud background music covered up his trumpeting, but at the end of his performance, he did it with the music turned off and it sounded legit. It was the weirdest performance I’ve ever seen. To end off the night, we rode the subway to get back to the hotel. The Xi’an subway system has two lines, is very neat, spacious and clean, and basically everything that the TTC in Toronto should be. The only crazy thing is that in order to get through the subway gates, you need to put your personal belongings through an x-ray machine, much like the ones at the airport. It seemed really silly to me to have that in a subway station.
All in all, it was a fantastic day. We had started off with the Terra Cotta Museum where I was in awe of what our ancestors had built, ate a delicious lunch of Shanxi knife-cut noodles, glazed upon artifacts and artwork from the past at Xi’an Museum, rode bicycles on the Ancient City Wall in the rain, ate a variety of animal-shaped dumplings, and watched a Chinese cultural show.