March 25, 2008

Resident and Tourist Part 2

Xi'an Soldiers
Classes were canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week and it didn't take more than a few minutes for my roommates and I to decide to travel together. Our destination was Xi'an, the home of the famous Terracotta Warriors. With limited time, and even more limited money, we put together the cheapest and fastest trip possible. We left Beijing Monday afternoon at 5pm, on a 13 hour overnight train that put us in Xi'an at 6am. The train ride was eventful- Diana and I played rounds of Speed, we befriended a great young woman, and I spent the remainder of the evening talking to a Chinese professor who's top bunk sleeper bed was directly across from mine. Our conversation ended when an old Chinese woman reprimanded us in slurred Mandarin and told us to fall asleep. We silently laughed, but immediately obeyed her. The elders rule this country- respect!
Some local friends picked us up from the train station and took us to their home for showers, breakfast, and lots of coffee. By 9am, we were on the road- bound for the warrior's archaeological site. The area was split up into 4 different discovery sites, each with specific significance. The most impressive were the layers of soldiers protecting the Emperor's Tomb. They stood with weapons and chariots prepared to symbolically defend their leader in the afterlife.
The highlight of the 2 hours walking around looking at human and horse pottery was when I (with a great concerned face) told Diana that I accidentally dropped our giant China Lonely Planet book into the tomb and broke a clay soldier. Amazingly funny, I got a video of her reaction. Seriously though, the Warriors were interesting, but I couldn't help but think of dozens of ways to improve the museum. I think Chinese museums have more of a "look from a distance" approach. There is no interaction/experience component, no video component, just poorly translated informational posters. I've learned to visit a Chinese museum after I've studied the contents beforehand.
After the Terracotta Warriors we explored the vibrant Muslim Quarters for the reminder of the afternoon and then made our way to the train station for another 13 hours on the train back to Beijing. As I climbed onto my hard-sleeper bunk that night, I definitely didn't need a Chinese grandma to tell me to go to bed.

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