Monday, August 15, 2011

The Far West Quarter (Vegetarians Be Warned)

I resigned myself to eating wheat on my trip to Xi'an. Many of the most famous dishes involve bread...and lamb. While in Xi'an, I found myself going back and back to the Muslim Quarter--a sort of China town for people from the Far West of China. The streets were bustling even though it was the beginning of Ramadan.  You could find a lamb or mutton butcher every few steps on one street. There were hundreds of thousands of dates and walnuts for sale and pomegranates, too, oh my!

I believe that this boy had just emerged from behind the statue where he took a pee and then he came around and payed homage to his outdoor toilet. It is not uncommon to see grown men standing and women squatting in a "discreet" place on the street.

Flies? What flies?!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Great Discovery of 1974

I got to see the farmer (or peasant, as they call him here) who discovered the Terracotta Warriors in 1974 when he was digging a well. This carefully preserved collection of terracotta sculptures depicts the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor to unify China. The figurines were buried with the emperor in 210-209 BC and their purpose was to help guard his empire in his afterlife.

"The figures vary in height, according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits." (

Richard and I paid 150RMB for our own guide and I paid the same amount for a bracelet made of pink jade for my sweetheart. Pink jade is local to the area and very beautiful.

Richard and I.

Each human face is unique.

They are standing in formation, facing the wall, ready to protect the emperor against attack in the after life.

Our guide.

These gentlemen have been brought up out of their pits for restoration work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Greater Wall of China

The fortifications of Xi'an, which is an ancient capital of China, represent one of the oldest and best preserved Chinese city walls. Construction of the first city wall of Chang'an (the old name of the city) began in 194 BCE and lasted for four years. That wall measured 25.7 km in length, 12–16 m in thickness at the base. The area within the wall was ca. 36 km². The existing wall was started by the Ming Dynasty in 1370 AD. It encircles a much smaller city of 14 km². The wall measures 13.7 km in circumference, 12 m in height, and 15–18 m in thickness at the base.

"It boasts the most complete city wall to have survived through China's long history. The wall was built of earth, rammed layer upon layer during the early time. The base layer was made of earth, quick lime, and glutinous rice extract, tempered together. This made the wall extremely strong and firm and later, the wall was totally enclosed with bricks. Located at the four corners of the wall were watchtowers. The one at the south-western corner is round, probably after the imperial city wall of the Tang Dynasty, but the other three are square-shaped. On top of the watchtowers, the corner rampart, higher and larger than the ordinary ramparts, shows the strategic importance of corners of the city wall." (Source)

Richard and I biked a bit more than three quarters of the way around and then walked the rest of the way. It was very hot and muggy, as you can tell from the grey tone of the pictures.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beard off!

My friend Jason challenged me to a "beard off" and when I got back from Xi'an, I found that his Army of One had been shaving right straight along. He got the last laugh. This is what I looked like yesterday:

But now my beard is: OFF!

My Knee is on Fire and other Tales

Before my thirty-hour train ride to Xi'an, I got an adjustment from a local Chinese medicine practitioner. This involved lighting my back on fire and then forty minutes of a leaden, warm herbal compress laid upon my belly followed by some chiropractics. My neck is better than it has been in years and I am happy with the overall result so yesterday I went back to treat my knee and my belly.

They lit my knee on fire! I will go again today for more fire treatment and more acupuncture. I will take ten days of herbal remedy for my belly, as well, which means that I am done traveling.

Hua Shan: The Holy Mountain

Mount Hua or Hua Shan is the most beautiful place I have been in China, with The Bund in Shanghai a close second. They could not be more different despite the fact that both are overrun with humanity.

The bus windows rattled deafeningly while we traversed the switchbacks up and down from the cable cars that would bring us half way up the "Most Precipitous Mountain Under Heaven." A thick fog wrapped the mountain for most of the day.

No idea who these nice people are, but I was amused to notice that one of the revolutionaries appears to be shooting her in the head.

When the wait to get down is more than two hours and the wait to get up at 11AM was close to an hour, one has to wonder if hopping the fence to get in front of nobody is a rational decision.

This gentleman and his friend announced to me and the other three people in our cable car that they were members of the Chinese Olympic Committee with responsibility for judo, wrestling and weight-lifting.

Red ribbons and locks adorn the holy mountain as a way of making a wish for loved ones.

It is said that bottled water has about 1000 times the carbon footprint of tap water. Certainly it deserves a shrine for its huge impact on the world.


Not the lower sign's text!

"Bring up your dead!" We passed remarkable old men with twenty foot lengths of ribar perched on their shoulder making their way up the narrow paths.

There are many Taoist shrines on the five peaks, each with an attendant monk who periodically clangs a bell.

Noodle making in altitude.

Yes, it rained and, yes, I bought a disposable poncho because being cold all day was not my idea of fun.

Nothing too remarkable about this sign. There were ones that said "No striding" which means the same thing on this mountain as it does in the subway systems in China--don't hop the fence or you might die.

Mount Washington is not nearly as cool. Sorry, folks. I expect that comment to generate some discussion back home, but the weather station here and the slightly higher peak make this a winner in Coolest Meteorological Sites.

I saw very little litter except one person tossing an empty plastic bottle off a thousand foot precipice. They have done a very tasteful job of trying to stay ahead of it.

With all due respect, I wonder if the sign-makers really knew what ecotope meant. See

The line to get off the mountain by cable car was very, very, very long.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

아버지의 이름으로 or 在父亲的姓名

In Shenyang, on Sunday, my sweetheart and I went to Mass for my first time since coming to the Middle Kingdom and her first time ever. I have mixed feelings about the affair. It was sweltering hot. We showed up at 11AM for the 11:30AM English Mass and a rather unfriendly Chinese woman chased us away, telling us to come back at 2pm. She must have thought I was Korean (though I did not tell her my last name), because the 2PM Mass was for Koreans and neither my fluent Chinese girlfriend nor this fluent English speaker understood a single spoken word. Nevertheless, the order of the mass is such that I could follow most of it.

They counted out the right number of the hosts by having those taking communion raise their hands prior to the Mass.We held hands during the Lord's Prayer, which was sung, and bowed to one another during the passing of the peace.

The Sacred Heart Cathedral of Shenyang is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China. It is commonly called Nanguan Catholic Church. The bishop of Shenyang Diocese resides here. In 2006 the Vatican agreed to Paul Pei (Pei Jun Min) being installed as the Bishop of Shenyang.

There were five or six couples there in formal, Western-style wedding garb for photographs despite the wet weather. I posed as a bride here: