Saturday 23rd June last day in Xi’an- Simon

I have been here 5 days , one of the oldest cities in China and once its capital. Today our last full day of sight seeing and we are going to visit the the City Walls , The Shaanxi Museum and finish off with the Mosque in the small Muslim Quarter. Nick has been laid low by a very debilitating virus . Susan, Karen and Christina are now part of the team. Qin An, Richard and Christina’s friend from way back is joining us for the day.

The Old City is surrounded by a 14 km city defence about 15 metres high. Qin An remembers climbing its near vertical wall as a child and playing with his friends on the unrestored mud summit.

Xi'an's City wall


Just outside the perimeter a phalanx of high rise flats and business blocks compete for the local Brutalism award ( ref Bishkek)

Xian Brutalism

On to the Shaanxi . This museum would be one of the wonders of the world if you cut the numbers of visitors down by a factor of about 4. but in fairness it is good to see throngs of Chinese school kids having a day out and enjoying the exhibits even if it is to take pictures of each other in front of an exhibit which has been beautifully presented in a well lit glass case and has a date tag of 13 cent BC.

Sarah our guide for the two days had been great but we are an unruly lot and she has trouble shepherding us through the rooms.

The Shaanxi has some important exhibits of early man

1.3 million years old

But the most impressive exhibits have been the bronze cauldrons cast 1000 BC at least. They must have used charcoal, bellows, great big crucibles and ceramic temperature resistant moulds to produce these three legged monster cauldrons weighing at 150 kg.

Not only that, the Chinese has developed Chromium plating at this time and were able to adhere protective layers of chromium onto metal less than two microns thick.

The Chinese written language has morphed considerably from 1200 BC to the present day but our guide Sarah could recognise some of the characters from the Sang Bowl inscriptions



There was one particularly fetching goblet which if tipped too far back for an over greedy gulp would result in a painful pinching of ones nostrils!

The only unfortunate part of our Xi’an sight seeing fest was our bus driver who managed to combine gross ineptitude with rudeness and sullenness. He didn’t get off to a good start yesterday by suddenly shooting off the main road to the warriors into a military camp just before a police roadblock . When asked the reason for the diversion he explained that his coach didn’t have the necessary papers to enter the Terracotta Warriors international UNESCO Site. Bit of pity since that was exactly what we had hired him for. . Richard who works and lives in China did not feel that getting arrested in a Chinese air force base without the appropriate clearance should be part of his retirement adventure holiday , and therefore made a formal complaint (and got some money knocked off the contract.)

Mr driver continued to be difficult all day , dropping us miles from our chosen sites and intimidating Sarah our guide.

Eventually he dropped us off in the Asian quarter where we combined a bit of hilarious retail therapy and a visit to the beautiful and undamaged (by the Cultural Revolution) Mosque. We bought a number of fake brand name T shirts and I managed to get two counterfeit Rolex wrists watches for 28 quid the pair. Dave says they will be taken off me at Heathrow- is this true?

The Mosque tucked in behind the Asian market was beautiful and quiet. A fusion of Chinese ancient architecture and Muslim prayer spaces.

The structures of these ancient Chinese buildings are often fabricated in wood and tiles alone. The joists and pillars all linked though a series of key way connections ( Doulongs)that locks them together. No nails or binding materials are used.

multiple dugoungs

7 days ago we visited the Manchung Temples and their key ways and pillars withstood the earthquake 4 years ago, not only were the key ways enabling the building to sway and retain their integrity but the juniper trees surrounding the temples have interlocking roots that reduced the fixatropic movement of the hill on which they stood and the site, despite being near the epicentre, was undamaged.

The prayer space was peaceful and carpeted in lines of blue prayers carpets.

A number of tall pines with camo bark protected the squares from the sun.

camo tree

Back on the road tomorrow. I am now riding a bike back to Beijing and Susan and Karen are in the van. Here a Terracotta biker


Motorbiking warrior

All the best



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