On June 14, we began the day by visiting the Ancient City wall of Xi’an. After breakfast Ann took us to the south gate of Xian’s Ancient City Wall. This city wall was first built in the Tang Dynasty and enlarged during the Ming Dynasty. We were driven into an inner wall plaza where we climbed an enormous set of stairs up the top of the wall. We noticed the guard in official Tang warrior uniform standing in the portico entrance. Even though it was early in the morning, the heat of the day had already set in. We had become so used to the damp cold of Weihai, that a day with temperatures in the 90’s (F) seemed very hot to us – so resting on the benches on the city wall top was a necessity. From the top of the city wall we could see out over Xi’an in all directions. Buildings near the city wall are by code to be only as high as the city wall thus affording a view of the old and new parts of the Xi’an. The formidable wall was designed to hold invaders at bay for a long time with moats and inner plazas designed to trap any invaders in a disadvantageous position. We viewed inner city Xi’an at one side plaza on top of the huge city wall; and the outer city on the other side of the plaza. To provide an arsenal of weaponry, a large artillery house was built on top of the plaza at each gate. This two story building was enormous with multiple large rooms designed to serve as an arsenal and office space for the commanders. In recent times the moat and outer wall have been turned into a beautiful city park. The city wall serves as a canvas for the lovely garden landscapes all along the wall.
Deb and Ann at Artillery Tower
Top of Wall View of city park from Wall
View of Moat from Wall Artillery Tower
View of top of wall from third floor of Artillery Tower, Right: man in guard costume
Later that morning, we toured the Xi’an Forest of Stone Tablets. Keeping records of all the activity of the various dynasties, the poetry and music written during the eras, and the philosophical teachings has been done on stele, large rock monuments engraved with hundreds of thousands of Chinese characters that indelibly record everything the scribes wrote. A large number of these stele (3000) are located in an 11th century Confucian temple near the Xi’an City Wall south gate called the Forest of Stone Steles. Among the stele are the Analects of Confucius, poetry from the Tang dynasty, and portraits of important persons in China’s history. It is a library of Chinese art, calligraphy, history, culture, and teachings dating from 200BC to the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911. We were so enthralled with the calligraphy aspect that we bought a set of writing brushes and ink sticks.
Entrance to the Stone Tablet Forest Information Plaque
Examples of Stele
Examples of Stele
Horse Hitching Posts Statue of Guan Ping (died 219 C.E.)
Li Xiaochai Stone Coffin Painting in the museum
Since Xi’an is at the eastern most end of the Silk Road, a large Muslim population resides in Xian. The Muslim mosque is “one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China” (Wikipedia) built during the Tang dynasty about 750 AD. This architecture of the mosque blends traditional Chinese design with traditional Muslim design. After visiting the mosque we walked through the Muslim quarter to souvenir shop and to buy some preserved fruit candies.
Mosque Entry Gate Mosque Courtyard
Pavalion in the Mosque courtyard The Mosque
Muslim Quarter shop street Buying Horn combs
On the final evening of our stay in Xi’an was devoted to treating ourselves to a hot pot dinner at a restaurant right next door to our hotel. We were the only non-Chinese in the restaurant and we soon became the excitement of both the customers and the wait staff! Through sign language and our limited Chinese, we helped them understand that we wanted a hot pot with a spicy sauce and one with a non-spicy sauce and that we wanted mutton and beef. We then had to go select our vegetables and make up our own dipping sauce – all of which took some effort on both sides to communicate and understand. By this time the wait staff had rounded up some customers who knew some English and this helped in the communication process. This was another instance where we realized how very important it is to learn Chinese. The food was wonderful, the wait staff were so helpful, and we had a fantastically fun time.
Our visit to Xi’an ended with a traditional Chinese foot massage, which we have come to enjoy.
We will continue this entry in 23d!