Category Archives: Beijing 2007

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

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


I’m currently in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, waiting for the United Express flight home. The trip went well, and involved time travel (arriving in the US before we departed from China — timezones are sweet!).

The plane shook more than any I was one — a steward next to me loudly called “down” and the he and the stewardesses were on the floor, attempting to prevent liquids (or themselves) from tumbling over.

I was frisked both in Beijing and Chicago. In China all wand-wavers are female, while in the United States the frisker is the same sex as the friskee.

Also, unlike at the beginning of my trip, I am now waiting in a domestic as opposed to international section of the airport. Not only is this wing less crowded, electrical outlets are plentiful and actually powered. My laptop loves it!

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

Wedding in Tianjin

Yesterday I had the pleasure of returning to Tianjin to attend a wedding.

The wedding was great, and included everything you wouldn’t expect, from a caravan of red cars to the Imperial March.

Red is a lucky color in China, so it was definitely a “red letter day.” The families had contracted with a service to drive us from Beijing to Tianjin (about a 90 minute jaunt) in a line of red cars.


The drivers were a ton of fun — to kill time they cooperated to repeatedly cut-off a car which had cut us off

Turned out to be a cop!

And using the CB radios to communicate in…. unorthodox ways

Not his radio

The ceremony itself was quite nice, and one of the fellow guests mentioned that Chinese weddings are increasingly emphasized by their western counterpart. The exclusive use of American music (with Celine Dion at a particularly important part) was notable, though I’ve never heard the Star Wars Imperial March used as a wedding march before.

All hail Palpatine!

All hail Celine!

The wedding reception was held in the same building as the couple’s new apartment, which they proudly showed off. This was the highlight of the day: their freakin’ sweet HDTV.

A great day! We were driven back to Xizhimen on a chartered bus

And then took a taxi back. The weather was beautiful, and the sky was clear.

Thanks for the wonderful day!

Goofy Beijing

Is this merely the worst example of Chinglish I’ve ever seen — or the beginning of an epic poem?

At a Yoshinoya-DQ

The second floors sweep medium
The pause do business
Submit a comment below to finish the verse!

About an hour before that, a sign my friend Rob in Texas would enjoy:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

And last (this one for Aaron, who predicted this event daily while we worked together):

My first car accident!

A thrilling 5 mph smash

China’s a fascinating country, even when not swimming in the Pearl Ocean or snagging a first-class train ticket.

Canton, From Chuhai to Peking

The worst thing about Canton

Is leaving. How can one not miss the beauty, sun, warmth, cleanliness, liveliness, and happiness of China’s most prosperous province?

On the last day we took a drive and went for a swim, but first…

Early morning rising, and exploring the area around the hotel.

But no open coffee shops!

Once we were both up, it was down for breakfast:

But no grand staircase!

Finally, the drive. We asked the taxi driver to take us to Zhuhai’s sculpture of the goddess who became human for true love.. Somewhat anticlimactically, it was a mile away, and completely inaccessible. Oh well.

Nice view, though

We drove around, but there was much beauty but little new. One area had a whole lot of little traditional boats, but the taxi drove by them too fast… The region is hilly, and for part of the way the Pearl Ocean was to one side and the green flowery hillside was to the other:

We had the morning to kill before we needed to be back at the airport, so one last dive in the water:

On my very last swim I took the digital camera in as far as I dared. The scene was actually a lot bluer than this. (Blame me, I guess). Still, a neat shot:


But at last, it was time to say good bye to the beach…

Our (rented) beach camp

… and head home. Back to crowded Beijing. The bus from the airport let us off near a supermarket. It was rush hour, and we figured nearly everything was better than a two hour stuck-in-traffic commute home (as after our visit to the Arts District).

Jumping, over a gate, into traffic

A crowded bus

Still, the final day was not melancholy. Amidst all the people and vehicles we saw pack animals brining goods to market.

Seller of Watermelons

The day was extremely windy, and apparently the previous day featured rain. Thus everything was in place for the most gorgeous sunset I have ever seen in Beijing. As the light grew dimmer and dimmer


The city grew more and more beautiful

Eventually the day ended. A perfect trip grew to a close.

I hope you enjoyed it!

Canton, a tdaxp travelogue
1. Peking to Chungshan
2. Yatsen City
3. Chunshan to Chuhai
4. Pearl Ocean
5. Chuhai to Peking

Canton, in the City of the Pearl Ocean

Our last full day in Canton.

Zhuhai (Pearl Ocean — the meeting point between the Pearl River Delta and the South China Sea) is gorgeous. Our hotel spot was gorgeous. A trip back would be gorgeous.

The beach:

But wait until you check the view from the room…

Looking Left

Looking right

We — I should say I — found out to my peril that low tide is in the afternoon and high tide is in the morning. My initial swim went badly — I actually cut myself on a submerged walk — and until I re-swam the next morning I was left confused about what was going on. Heh. So fairs the South Dakotan in the Pacific.

We went for an amazing jetski ride, which is beyond words and far too dangerous for photos. But trust me, it was fun.

I also had Macau Beer for the first time, which was quite good and (like virtually everything else) better than Tsingtao.

Hands off my Macau!

Then as late afternoon came around, we retreated for tea time. Or quite sophisicated espresso-and-South-China-Morning-Post time…


… which was all the more pleasurable because virtually every other guest at the hotel was there for “FourthShift Exchange Asia,” some HR software convention, and where much too busy learning about SQL and business rules to be at tea. So it was us alone! On the top floor! Fun!

Slowly the perfect day ended. After the sun went down we went out to the beach again (a brave experience because it’s across a busy highway). Some final photos:

Canton, a tdaxp travelogue
1. Peking to Chungshan
2. Yatsen City
3. Chunshan to Chuhai
4. Pearl Ocean
5. Chuhai to Peking