Xi’an, Terracotta Army

This is the last post of our trip to Xi’an, and the last schedule post of our recent trip to China.

It deals with the most amazing thing I saw this year: the Terracotta Army. It’s often called the Terracotta Warriors, but it is not merely a number of buried soldier-dolls. For reasons I’ll speculate at below, the Terracotta forces are well organized and clearly well-run in their burnt-earth world.

So come with us, and experience that wonder of the world only discovered in the 1970s: the Terracotta Army.

The terracotta army is located outside of Xi’an, and instead of spending a fortune on a taxi we went back to the train station…

Western Peace

… and took a countryside bus for 7 RMB (less than one dollar). Besides seeing no other tourists and plenty of farmers, the sites by the road were pretty interesting too. I’ve mentioned that Xi’an is touristy before — but did you know that it’s also home to an ancient Egyptian civilization?

Once we were in the Terracotta parking lot, we noticed that the Communist party, as the guiding ideology of the monument, erected a giant statue to the Qin Dynasty.

The People’s Mandate of Heaven

Before we entered the park itself we ate at the Hong Kong Star Restaurant, which is just outside the grounds

The experience was bizarre. The service was the same ernest-incompetence that characterizes so much of Chinese entry-level labor (as opposed to the stereotypically American attitude of surly indifference), and they stole from us through a fake receipt. But the “pizza italiante,” when it finally came, was delicious. One of the best I have ever had.

The entry gate reminded me of the exterior of Mount Rushmore

Once we were inside the gate there was still a long way to go

The interpretive museum in the distance

View from the steps of the museum

We stepped into Pit 1, and at first could only see other tourists. What was the big deal?

Oh. This:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

I suddenly realized, looking at the scope and enormity of the pit, that the Qin Emperor planned on invading heaven. The Terracotta Army is no honor guard or collection of trusty friends-and-relatives. Rather, it is a spawling Grand Army in at least four pits with hierarchical leadership, Imperial look-alike sedans, and all the rest. The Emperor was prepared for both conventional resistance and assassination attempts from the forces of Heaven. And he planned to win.

Don’t mess with the Army

Hard to see, but part of the Army’s roof complex

A section of another pit

Finally, though, admist this grandeur there was goofiness too.

Who can resist dressing up as the warriors of ancient days and putting on a big smile? Especially after such a trip as ours!

Xi’an, a tdaxp travelogue
Prologue, The Last Express
Old Town
Terracotta Army
Xi’an Technological University
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Epilogue, “I’m —-ing tired

The Wary Student, Introduction: In Search Of…

Last year, tdaxp hosted SummerBlog ’06. Back-to-back for more than a month, four different series explored different parts of our world. Redefining the Gap critically examined the theories of Thomas P.M. Barnett, while Coming Anarchy looked at the genius of that weblog. Perspectives and Peers examined a theory of rational development, and finally Variations of the OODA Loop wondered if perhaps rational decision-making was maladaptive.

This year, an equivalent amount of work went into one project, which in turned merged two others: my examination at Wary Guerrillas and proposal to go in search of wary students.

This series, The Wary Student will examine how cognitive load impacts altruism. But this isn’t your grandmother’s “altruism.” Rather, cooperative behavior can be kind (helping another), cool (rejecting a bad deal), or downright vindictive (digging into your reserves to punish a cheater).

The results may surprise you.

The Wary Student, a tdaxp research project
1. Abstract
2. Cognitive Load
3. Cooperative Behavior
4. Method
5. The Experiments
6. Hypotheses
7. Main-Effect Results
8. Interaction-Effect Results
9. Discussion
10. Future Research
11. Bibliography

John Kerry and/or Bob Shrum slam John Edwards

Shrum, R. 2007. Kerry’s regrets about John Edwards. Time. May 30, 2007. Available online: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1626498-2,00.html.

I can’t imagine a more personal attack than this:

Kerry talked with several potential picks, including Gephardt and Edwards. He was comfortable after his conversations with Gephardt, but even queasier about Edwards after they met. Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he’d never told anyone else—that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he’d do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade’s ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the same exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before—and with the same preface, that he’d never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn’t pick Edwards unless he met with him again. When they did, Kerry tried to get a better personal feel for his potential number two; as rivals for national office since 2000, shortly after Edwards had entered the Senate, the two men hadn’t spent a lot of time together. Kerry also wanted a specific reassurance. He asked Edwards for a commitment that if he was chosen and the ticket lost, Edwards wouldn’t run against him in 2008. Edwards agreed “absolutely,” as Kerry recalled him saying. If Kerry had shared this at the time, I would have told him what I did later: it was naive to think he could rely on a promise like that. Unlike Joe Lieberman, who’d been plucked from relative obscurity by Gore, Edwards had made his own mark in the primaries. He was ambitious—and if he saw his chance the next time, he was likely to go for it.

Depending on who is lying, either John Kerry, John Edwards, or Bob Shrum seems to be one of the worst human beings in the world.

A Medical No-Fly List?

Responding to the case of Andrew Speaker — the carrier of drug-resistant TB who flew on an intercontinental jet and potentially infected fellow passengers from all over the world, Cecilia writes:

The Atlanta lawyer who went to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon despite knowing he had drug-resistant tuberculosis and having been told not to travel is a selfish idiot. I’m sure having to postpone his wedding and honeymoon would have been a hassle, but now a lot of people might be infected, including his wife! TB is a serious illness, it’s not something minor like a cold from which people recover after a few days. People could die as a result of his actions.

It’s hard to disagree. We have an (admittedly faulty) TSA No-Fly list for potential terrorists, so a Medical No-Fly list is the next logical step in protecting ourselves. Indeed, the attacks of 9/11 may end up making it easier to institute such a No-Fly list because the political fight to keep certain individuals from flying has already been won.

As has been said before:

Rule #1: Super-empowered individuals may rule vertical scenarios, but nation-states still rule horizontal scenarios.

In other words: individuals are able to do great damage in a short amount of time. But countries do great good over long periods of time.

Osama bin Laden and Andrew Speaker are both super-empowered individuals who exploited the modern world to achive their goals, and ended creating outrage. Yet by exposing problems to solutions, they end up making the system more safe and secure than it was before.

Xi’an, Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Our final day in Xi’an was hectic. We began with a tour of Xian Technological University and ended being rather, well tired. In between we ate at the semi-formal Pizza Hut in in the Old Town we visited previously.

Not Pizza Hut, but close to it

Between the college and the ‘hut was saw one of the sights Xi’an is known for: the Great Wild Goose Pagoda.

Gateway to 大雁塔

Come on in to the pagoda and and her Temple of Maternal Grace!

Our taxi driver let us off at the other side of the street from the Plaza in front of the pagoda and temple, so the first order of business was crossing the road.

We did this in the normal way: run to the middle of the road when that traffic was low, wait in the middle of the road while traffic on both sides is high, and run again when traffic on the other side is row. Using this technique, I was nearly run over by a bus earlier in the trip. However, when I had to use this strategy to enjoy the beech of the Pearl Ocean I kind of got used to it, so the adventure was not so heart-pounding as before.

Once on the other side, though, the pedestrian mall was big and spacy

Squint (or click) to spot the KFC

We made our way across the mall, slowly approaching the tower.

Would it prettier if the haze was fog and not smog

The atmosphere was happy. Xi’an is a touristy city, so plenty of visitors (mostly from other parts of China, but some laowai — mostly Europeans) were enjoying themselves.

The walk was long, and it turns out that the cab driver could have dropped us off at the front gate…

… but I’m glad he didn’t. The small adventures along the way (such as thinking a pay-restroom attendant was trying to bargain down from a 5 RMB price for the building’s services, instead of merely charging me the standard 5 jiao fee)

Plus, finally seeing the inside of the pagoda and temple was a real kick:

Sadly, I have only one more temple picture in this series: a somewhat dull shot of a sideview:

Then my camera ran out of battery. This is too bad, as the amazing scenes had just begun. Several beautiful temple-rooms featured buddhas in a variety of styles, and these buddhas were in active use (being prayed to by older-middle-aged women, mostly). Much of the art had a “Catholic-y” style, including a statue that from a distance looked like Mary in a grotto. Additionally, there was an interesting description of the various types of buddhas (Pure Land, Zen, etc) — which would have been way more useful to be if it was in English.

And all that is only the stuff in the Temple of Maternal Grace — the Big Wild Goose pagoda itself featured supposed footprints of a monk who brought Buddhist scriptures back from India, interesting stone-etchings, a truly amazing view, and lots of friendly people.

The Big Wild Goose pagoda was my last sight-seeing in Xi’an. If you have two hours in Xi’an to spend one day, take a taxi and enjoy the Pagoda. It’s worth it.

Xi’an, a tdaxp travelogue
Prologue, The Last Express
Old Town
Terracotta Army
Xi’an Technological University
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Epilogue, “I’m —-ing tired

Xian, Xi’an Technological University

Welcome back to my travelogue of Western Peace, the ancient capital of China.

I enjoy college. I enjoy studying in university, and I enjoy visiting them. So I’ve chronicles SFASU in Texas, IPFW in Indiana, and Peking U in China. So now trip to Xi’an would be complete without visiting a great college in that neck of the world: Xi’an Technlogical University.

Formerly Xi’an Institute of Technology

Check in at the guardhouse…

and come on in!

Polluted sky but green courtyard

Tree lined sidewalks with University buildings

Students walk to lunch

No vending machines, but fresh fruit instead

Public chalkboards gave important messages.

In one, the Communist Youth League urged members to remember the May 4th Movement. The 5-4-1919 protests were against the Beijing-based ROC (“Beiyang”) government and the Versailles peace treaties.

While the KMT would eventually defeat the Beiyang regime, the day has been coopted into a Communist celebration on the mainland.

The campus movie theatre is a former church

The campus bookstore has both periodicals and textbooks

Xi’an, a tdaxp travelogue
Prologue, The Last Express
Old Town
Terracotta Army
Xi’an Technological University
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Epilogue, “I’m —-ing tired

Open Thread VI

The fifth open thread broke records at tdaxp, to become the most popular user-generated post in tdaxp history (with 42 comments).

And believe it or not
Now there’s something goozy and good about whatever we got
And it’s getting better…

Xi’an, Old Town

The Bell Tower, one of the most beautiful street scenes I’ve seen in China, is in the Old Town of Xi’an (Western Peace)

Xi’an is considered to be a premier tourist destination in China’s middle-west. Because the Communist Party did not purposefully destroy the old town during Mao Zedong’s tenure (unlike in Beijing, where only remnants survive), the Old Town is a sight to see. It is well cared for, with the ancient towers and modern landscaping existing peacefully side-by-side

Either the Bell or Drum Tower

Enjoy the sights of old Xi’an…

Be a foreign photographer

… come with us!

Like Zhongshan, Xi’an’s Old Town is a very pedestrian-friendly city


Traffic is busy as always, but an underground sidewalk system allows visiters to travel between one shopping or historic area and other without danger or the hot sun…

… unlike the Old City Walls, which are (by design) huge:

You can rent a bicycle on the wall if you want to bike it, but we attempted to merely walk to the next gate — and then turned, back, as the Wall is huge. Still, even our little section gave us great views of the Old Town…

… as well as the park and new town that lie on the other side

Still, this is China, so the class divide was always clear. While children of the privileged enjoy geeky roleplaying games of wizardry and magic…

… about a block away, the workers live in their houses

As the sun set there was more and more shade

Drum Tower

While the following advice is probably foolish

At that, a prince at the court spoke up and said: “I have heard well of these Muslims. They are straightforward and true, gracious and loyal. Throw open the pass, let communications be unhindered… and by so doing encourage peace. I beseech you to issue a decree and to send an ambassador across the western frontiers to the… Muslims, asking him to send a sage to deal with the evils that threaten, that the country may be at peace!”

It’s nonetheless true that China has a long history of contact with the Muslim World. The defeat of the Empire by the Muslims at Talas River (751) created a Sino-Islamic frontier which allowed the two civilizations to later trade culture and ideas. One of the things that China imported was food, including shishkabobs and other meaty products.

Our Islamic Diner

After our great food, we left Old Town

Taking a final shot of a night scene as we left


The next day would be even more amazing… then, we would see the Terracotta Army

Xi’an, a tdaxp travelogue
Prologue, The Last Express
Old Town
Terracotta Army
Xi’an Technological University
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Epilogue, “I’m —-ing tired