Sunday May 29, 2016

Long before we got to Xi’an (pronounced ‘Shee-arn’) we knew it was gonna be a whopper-stopper. I mean, back in the day it was China’s ancient capital, where the famous trading route – the ‘Silk Road’ – used to start. This legendary city grew to become a melting pot of cultures and religions, as well as home to emperors, courtesans, poets, monks, merchants and warriors. And, even though its glory days ended in the early 10th century, many elements of Old Xi’an are still present:

  • like the narrow, weathered alleyways of the Muslim Quarter … which we explored, after trekking through yet another fascinating food-&-souvenir market
  • like the massive encircling Ming-era walls (complete with moat and watchtowers) … which we ogled, then scaled, then walked around on top of
  • like the fabled Wild Goose Pagoda, an active Buddhist temple… which we didn’t climb, thank goodness (well, give us a break – it was raining!)
  • like the 8th Wonder of the Ancient World, the Buried Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang … truly one of the most incredible sights you could ever lay eyes on: 8000-plus Terracotta Warriors, standing rank upon rank, armed and ready for battle – with war-horses and chariots close at hand!

Speaking of emperors, 496 of them ruled throughout China’s never-ending history, 75 of them from Xi’an. Emperor Qin (pronounced ‘Chin’) was probably the most famous (he unified the previously-warring states in 221 BC, then, more than 2000 years ago, ordered construction of the Great Wall) … and perhaps the most brutal (when his massive tomb was finished, he had his hard workers and happy concubines buried alive with those fearsome terracotta warriors, to make sure the place stayed a secret).

It’s a much longer story, of course, and our heads were spinning as we left the area. (If you give your Mad Midlife friends half a chance, they’ll bore you senseless with the details – and your head will be spinning, too!) But don’t worry: we unwound that same evening at a stunningly colourful Tang Dynasty Show! And (you ain’t gonna believe this, but …) we V.I.P. Kiwis actually got ON STAGE with the performers at the end of the show!

Just feast your eyes on the pix …

STILL TO COME: Last but not least, we reach Beijing – yet another glittering, glamorous, ultra modern Chinese city … bulging at the seams with 23 million people plus a mind-boggling past: the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, and (you’ve been waiting for this – right?) the Great Wall of China! So stay tuned …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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