Over a period of more than 2,000 years, Xi’an was the capital of thirteen Chinese governments.  During the Tang dynasty, it was the first stop on the Silk Road.  With a population of 7 million, Xi’an is an important industrial and manufacturing center as well as a major tourist destination and historical city.

Wild Goose Pagoda

Wild Goose Pagoda

The Pagoda of the Great Wild Goose, located near the center of Xi’an, was built 1,300 years ago to store Sanskrit Buddhist classics and relics that the Chinese monk Xuan Zhang brought from India.  Although this Buddhist temple was closed for remodeling, we viewed some of the other buildings in the temple complex, noting the ornate marble dragon downspouts and the colorful roof architecture of the Foresight Palace and Hall of the God of Wealth.  A stone on the grounds had this piece of wisdom in both Chinese and English:

A flower is an entire world
And a leaf is a ray of enlightenment.

Buddhist exhortations for living life can be found on wall posters in the entry way to the gift shop.  Here are some of the aphorisms from these posters:

Living a simple life

Maturity cares not about the past;
wisdom does not doubt the present;
an open-mind does not worry about the future.

Living a carefree life

The meaning of life lies in constant learning and dedication;
helping others leads to self-growth.

A bright person is not necessarily wise;
a dull person not necessarily foolish.
Wisdom is not the same as knowledge;
it lies in how you treat others and handle yourself.
The meaning of life lies in constant learning and dedication;
helping others leads to self-growth.

Uplifting character

Kindness and compassion have no enemies;
wisdom engenders no vexations.

Maintain a relaxed body and mind,
and meet and greet with a smile.

Relaxation enhances physical and mental health,
and a smiling face promotes friendship.

Living life in peace

Our value depends not on how long we live,
but on how much we contribute.

As the past has faded into misty memories,
and the future remains a dream unrealized,
seizing the present is most important.

Enjoying work

All the ups and downs of life are nourishing experiences for our growth.
Deal with matters with wisdom, and care for people with compassion.

Building a pure land

Change your mind-set, and you will see the world differently;
there is no absolute good or bad in this world.

Building good interpersonal relationships requires communication.
When communication fails, try compromise.
And if attempts at compromise fail, then forgive and tolerate.

Spiritual growth

When the mind is not open and clear, suffering occurs;
when the mind is open and clear, suffering turns to happiness.

With even-mindedness and a peaceful disposition, life will be happy.

Before lunch we stopped at a lacquer ware manufacturer where a guide explained the labor intensive process involved in applying from 30-80 coats of lacquer to an item.  This results in a bright luster which is resistant to water and other processes.  The shop displayed exquisite screens, cabinets, tables, and many other items.  We purchased a small box as a memento of this craft and our visit to China.

Terra-Cotta Warriors

Terra-Cotta Warriors

In March of 1974 local farmers digging a well in the countryside east of Xi’an discovered pottery fragments and bronze weapons later identified as the Terra-Cotta Warriors.  It is estimated that this army numbering about 8,000 was buried near China’s first Emperor’s tomb to defend him in the afterlife.  Qin became Emperor by conquering the six neighboring states to unify China for the first time.  Although reviled for his tyranny, Qinshihuangdi is admired for standardizing a common script, establishing uniform measurement and monetary systems, codifying the legal system and replacing hereditary rulers with a centrally appointed administrative system, encouraging agricultural reforms and constructing many roads, and supervising the construction of a defense fortification along the northern frontier, the first Great Wall.  Even today one is left awestruck by the ingenuity of the Warriors’ design.  Chinese craftsmen, using coiled earth, constructed hollow heads, arms, legs, and bodies and placing them on solid legs to make free-standing statues that stand six feet tall and weigh more than 600 pounds.  Details such as eyes, mouth, and nose were carved into the clay while it was still pliable.  Additional pieces such as ears, beard, and armor were modeled separately and attached before the whole figure was fired at a high temperature.  In 1987, Emperor Qin’s Terra-cotta Museum was recognized as a world-class cultural heritage site by UNESCO.  The Museum consists of Pit No. 1 which opened in 1979 and displays 1,087 terra-cotta warriors in a huge arch-domed structure; Pit No. 2, opened in 1994, contains specialized military forces such as archers, war chariots, and cavalrymen; Pit No. 3, opened in 1989, is the smallest of the pits and considered the command center of the entire army; and the Multiple Exhibition Building displays two sets of bronze chariots and horses.  The circle vision hall has a 20 minute film using a 360 degree screen that tells the story of the reign of Emperor Qin and the construction and subsequent destruction of his terra-cotta army.  This building has a gift shop with replica terra-cotta warriors ranging in size from miniature to full-size.  The farmer who discovered this site was available to autograph the book The Qin Dynasty Terra-Cotta Army of Dreams.  Seeing the terra-cotta warriors is special, and in this way Emperor Qin has attained a form of immortality.

Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show

Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show

One of our favorite dinners was the dumpling dinner in Xi’an.  Dumplings resembling the shape of the contents such as a duck were a delight to the eye as well as the taste buds.  Following dinner we enjoyed the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show, a spectacle of color, culture, music, and dance.

Before leaving Xi’an we visited the Yongning (south gate) of the most complete surviving Chinese city wall.  It is about 8.5 miles in circumference with 98 ramparts and many more sentry extensions distanced so that archers might shoot anyone daring to climb the wall.  The wide expanse atop the wall is now a great place for a walk.

At the Xi’an airport silhouette artist Bin Wang, using scissors and a two inch square of black paper, took less than two minutes to caricature my head complete with mustache and glasses.