|C H I N A
|Xian--land of the Terra Cotta warriors and Cinderella. What is Cinderella doing in
Xian, you ask? She was our delightful guide, accompanied by the equally talented
driver, Mr.Gow. Cinderella is a good example of the free-enterprise/entrepreneur fervor
that has hit China. She hopes to quit being a tour guide as soon as her new Amway
business is booming. She focuses on cosmetic products but also does a brisk business
in cleaning products. As with Miracle in Beijing, we were constantly struck by the
limits of her knowledge. The results of a closed society in terms of information and
access to the rest of the world and controlled press were very evident. As with many
people with whom we spoke, they truly believe that China is more advanced than other
societies; they have no apparent problems with the political structure of China and lack
any sense of how that deviates from the free world.
As with Miracle, Cinderella, and later Kathy, talked about the religious freedom and
toleration in China, but had no concept of God or religious belief of any kind.
Cinderella asked if we were Christians and then wanted to know if we believed in God
and what that meant. She believes that there is total freedom of press in China now.
She spoke disparingly of the cultural revolution but believes that everything has become
OK in recent years. Again, what is amazing is the lack of awareness or knowledge
of the issues of 1989--except that things got better after that.
Before talking about the warriors, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda and the wonderful dinners, I need to share the
experience of driving in Xian. Having always thought that Naples represented the epitome of harrowing traffic and
roadway habits, I found that it is kindergarten compared to the chaos of Xian and most of China.
|First, there are millions and millions of bicycles in China; in fact, there are multiple millions in each city. They travel
in packs so that they can safely assault intersections as cars, trucks, taxis and vans ignore signals, begin left turns 10
feet back from the intersection, squeeze in and pass within a bare inch of each other, suddenly travel down the
on-coming traffic lane and somehow maneuver in seemingly impossible ways. I completely lack the creativity and
vocabulary to adequately describe the surrealness of this. Cars, pedestrians, bicycles, carts, buses, large trucks
compete for any space. Ken finally figured out the unwritten rule seems to be that if you can get there first, then it is
yours. Everyone seems to recognize and flow with this--no signs of road rage.
Pedestrians weave in and out of traffic, walking immediately--like inches-- in front or in back of moving vehicles.
Pedicabs, bicycles, peddle carts piled high with anything ranging from stacks of cardboard to televisions, motorcycles
and stick soldiers (men with poles on their shoulders with huge loads on either end of the poles) wend their ways with
focused determination between trucks spewing smoke and fumes and other four wheeled vehicles. In spite of not
being fearful people and having traveled extensively, the three of us found ourselves making decisions about where to
go and what restaurants to find based on whether or not we would need to cross a street. In the midst of all of this,
drivers are cool, unfazed and arrive at their determined destination unscathed and not having eliminated anyone or
|Now--Xian. We arrived at night, hungry and tired. Cinderella recommended a wonderful noodle restaurant. The only
problem being that the menu was in Mandarin. So she took us there, ordered several different noodle dishes, gave
instructions to the waitresses as to what we wanted to drink and told us what to do if we wanted more. Then she left
and we were on our own. We loved it! The food was incredibly simple and good--Xian is known for noodles and
dumplings. The waitresses took good care of us, seeming to enjoy having the rare, brave tourists to focus their
attentions on. The total cost for the three of us, including drinks and tea, was $7.
As we walked back to the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel, we were fascinated by the street scene. Under an overpass
were 50-100 people line dancing. Further down in an empty lot, we watched graceful ballroom dancing. Loud
speakers were somehow wired in and music filled the air. Just as
people join together in the open air for morning Tai Chi exercise,
dancing in the evening is a favorite activity and pastime. We saw
the same things, in the same places the next evening. China is a
Arriving at the terra cotta warriors location, we found ourselves in
themidst of a thriving vendors market. All of the wares were
predictable-warrior replicas, vases, etc.--except for the fur market.
Hanging fromwooden racks were full pelts, heads, tails and legs still
attached. Fox-from Russia, the vendors proclaimed. But, these fox
suspiciouslyresembled cats and dogs, which a closer look revealed
them to be.Wonder if tourist really buy them?
|The entrance to the warriors was impressive. Large, flower decorated grounds
with statues and trees. There are three pits, each housed in very elaborate,
large, sophisticated buildingsâ€”to protect the terra cotta from environmental
pollution. Once in the building, amazement sets in as actually seeing the
magnitude both in numbers and size of warriors and the exquisite detail of each
one is awesome. Row after row of marching warriors, common soldiers,
generals, archers, horses, etc. Over the centuries, all of the figures were
destroyed either by invading armies or natural disasters so that when they were
found they were in varying degrees of pieces. Through painstaking work
hundreds have been restored but the vast majority has not beenâ€”in fact,
there are many more still buried than have been unearthed. The elderly farmer
who in 1979 discovered the first signs of this wonder sits patiently in the
museum signing pictorial books about the archeological treasures and historical
significance of the find.
|We also visited the Big Wild Goose
Pagoda, the ancient city walls, the
16th century Moslem Mosque and the
colorful, vibrant Moslem quarter with
its vendor stalls. In the evening we had
another great dinner--this time at
Xian's famous Da Fa Chang Dumpling
Restaurant. You have no idea what a
dumpling can be until you eat them in
Xian! What a treat it was! We had 18
varieties but there are many, many
more than that.
If it were not for the warriors (and
maybe the noodles and dumplings), a
trip to Xian should be avoided. The
pollution in this city is horrendous!
There is no sky to see, breathing is
difficult, eyes and throats burn as soon
|as you step off the plane, visibility is
close to zero and picture taking is
almost impossible. The sights other
than the warriors are not worth the
pain and suffering--particularly since
they are outside where the pollution
makes them almost invisible. It is a
very depressing environment. I spent
time in the van watching faces. For the
most part they expressed little joy or
laughter--few smiles. People just sort
of stared with vacant eyes and set lips
as they walked along--intent on
whatever their purpose or destination
was. This city is proof of the value of
modern environmental controls, laws
|OFF TO TIBET