Remnants of history are often sacrificed in the name of progress. Today we were lucky to touch a piece of living history that dates back to the Ming dynasty and co-exists with modern life. The Xi’An wall loomed large as we bravely set off on the wall, armed with bicycles, water bottles and towels. Some people bunched in teams and tackled the wall on tandem bikes, and some sped off on bright red and yellow single bikes.
The midday heat beat down on us as we crossed from north to west gate, stopping to admire the juxtaposition of ancient and modern city life. The day grew hotter, reaching about 37 degrees Celsius as we peddled on, catching a glimpse of the bell tower along the South Gate and the sweeping high rises in the downtown core. The wall represented the best form of progress: treasuring a past for its glory, while looking upon the promise of tomorrow.
Next, we visited the famous Terracotta Warriors. The great number and vast array of characteristics each warrior had signified how important the afterlife was to people of power at the time. While the site that exposed hundreds of warriors was overwhelmingly extraordinary, the warriors themselves had a weakness to Xi’An humid air. The soldiers’ painted colors would curl in seconds and within four minutes, it would flake off. Therefore, unlike Pit 1, Pit 2 and 3 were unexcavated and we could only see the rolling roofs because of this risk. Another interesting aspect was the restoration efforts in place to recover our history. As much of the site cannot be exposed, what was already exposed was being restored.
When we explored and looked upon the excavation, we wondered: what were the workers thinking when they made life-size warriors of their own friends? How did it feel to be making these daunting figures every day? How many lives were lost?
It is scary to know that their lives would have been sacrificed to follow the emperor into his afterlife when he died, but that they were saved and replaced by Terracotta warriors because, at the time, the Qin dynasty was in war so the emperor needed them as labourers and soldiers.
That night, we headed over to the Bell Tower and wandered the street of the Muslim Market where scorpions and cicadas were the norm! Along with souvenir stores, there were different kinds of street food and art. You were able to get caricatures, engraved wooden combs, light up floral headbands or bunny ears, and Henna. There were even brand stores such as Uniqlo, Muji, Miniso and Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Once we saw a Haagen-Dazs, we quickly ran into the store. Amongst the six of us, we tried Yuzu Citrus and Cream and Apricot Kernel Panna Cotta. We highly recommend trying it!
The street was busy left, right and centre with vendors calling out prices for their goods. After tonight, we got pretty good at bargaining. But once 11:45pm hit, the vendors began their shut down procedure. They were very efficient and super fast. The street cleared and transformed from bright and colourfully lit, to dark and empty in a matter of 15 minutes! However, as we headed back to the hotel, we saw street performers singing and strumming their hearts out to small crowds. The culture and life of the city was refreshing. It was definitely a night to remember!