Thursday, April 29, 2010

Xian Diary Day 7 Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

We continue with our China series today, see all posts on our China trip here.

For our third day in Xian, we planned to see the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, the Musical Fountain and the Great Mosque. There is so much stuff I would like to share I am splitting this day into a couple of posts, today we will cover the first 2 venues.

On the internet, fellow travellers highly recommended the Musical Fountain which was located in the North Square of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. They had greatly enjoyed the free half hour show and strongly advised others to arrive at least 20 minutes early to get best seats. The first performance of the day starts at noon, see the show timetable here, it's close to the end of the page. Breakfast took longer than expected so we arrived at 11:50 AM and found the place virtually tourist free. We thought perhaps it was Monday and everyone had better things to do but we also noticed the fountain was dry. After half an hour we stumbled upon a sign in Mandarin that said repairs were under way during the time of our visit!

Although we were disappointed we noted the area was popular with locals, it was a lovely afternoon to spend with loved ones. Below the waterless fountain surrounded with mothers and children, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in the distant.
We slowly made our way towards the pagoda, the pathways were decorated with intricately carved pattern such as this. The red sweater team, a grandma and her grandson who wore a traditional haircut for boys like the ones I saw in Chinese paintings.
The children at the square were adorably dressed, this one sported hand made shoes, they looked like cats with yellow ears and golden whiskers.
Closer to the pagoda, the sculpture wall encompassing the square with carved reliefs depicting the journey of Buddha. Appropriately themed, the pagoda is an ancient structure built in 652 and a holy place for Buddhists.
Souvenir carts lined the streets along the walls of the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. In the warm afternoon sun, the locals sought cool shade under the trees. A husband napped on the park's bench while his wife finished a sewing project.
A stylishly dressed mother picked through her bag of lunch items while her daughter ate a Chinese bun. I envied those mustard colored shoes!
An elderly woman weaved through the customers at the souvenir stalls, her face looked interesting, her cheeks looked so smooth, we wondered about her age.
Roof decorations on the buildings near the pagoda, they looked similar to the ones at the Forbidden City on this post. These were unglazed, in its natural state I think it gave the structure a time-honored appeal.
A close-up of the roof top accents, they reminded me of the clay designs in Bali, Indonesia.
A shot of the brightly colored souvenirs we left behind, I had found similar ones of the Chinese zodiac animals in Vancouver Chinatown. We took our time wandering through the square we ran behind our schedule so we decided to skip the pagoda and headed onto our next venue. Day 7 in Xian to be continued next week!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Highlights

A small collection to highlight the season of Spring. A pair of silhouettes, soft willow branches and last year's seeds stood still for a split second in the gentle breeze.

A poorly pruned stump observed the unfurling shoots across the street, natural sculptures in their native setting.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Xian Journal Day 6 Terracotta Army Part 2 of 2

Good morning Thursday! We are escaping to China today as we continue on Day 6 of our trip to see the Terracotta Army, see all previous posts here.

The bus dropped us off at a quiet corner of the parking lot, we noted its location for the ride back. On the way to the entrance, a couple of panhandlers asked for money, we shook our heads and kept walking. Fellow travellers advised others to give no money as many more would follow. Our ticket cost 90 RMB each ($13 Canadian), this is the highest entrance fee out of all the tourist venues we visited.

A friend who was originally from Xian said the government had made great construction efforts to enhance the area. Pictured below is Pit number 1, the biggest of 3 pits where they housed the Terracotta Army. The ladies on the left were 2 of several tour guides for hire. Many local and foreign tourists came by the bus loads, the guides were hired soon after.
The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers who were digging a well. The army was built to help Emperor Qin Shi Huang rule his empire in the after life.

I first heard of the army in the mid 1980's, China had loaned Singapore a few replicas. My dad took me to see the soldiers and a horse carriage, we were 2 of many who lined up for almost 2 hours for a short 10 minute stay before we were ushered away. The tiny exhibit I remembered more than 30 years ago was of no comparison to the actual site I visited. Rows and rows of statues, we were glad we had set aside the whole day for this venue.
There were numerous visitors at the front of the pit, we had to wait for our turn to take pictures. Some folks refused to step aside, others pushed around so some pictures were blurred. We exercised some patience and persistence, finally we got our chance.

A closer shot of the warriors, their right hands wrapped around invisible spears. The original weapons were stolen by robbers shortly after the army was created.
We then noticed there was less people on the sides, so we moved away from the crowd. Pit number 1 was the most crowded of the 3 pits. The Terracotta Army was also the busiest site we visited in China. From this angle, I could feel the attentiveness of the troops.
The zoom lens we had purchased just one month before our trip came into good use. I spent over an hour walking up and down the aisles capturing close-ups of the men and horses. The animals looked strong and healthy, the warriors well-trained and ready to fight.
The different head gear identified the soldier's rank.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang specified each figure was to be made different, from what I could see this is true. Some troopers had their hair in braids, I noticed each one was unique. Even how the collars draped around the necks were distinct, no two of their armors were alike, it was as if they were custom made for each man.
A final close-up, the detail on the hair was very impressive, a fine display of great craftsmanship. When the army was unearthed, the figures were brightly colored, which soon faded. I could still see a hint of yellow on the collar of the second figure.
At the rear of the pit, various baskets were used to sort out the shards from the buried finds. In the background several horses with no tails stood amongst incomplete soldiers, all waited for the day they would be whole once again. Too bad we were there on a Sunday, it would be nice to see how the work was done.
Nearby more unfinished soldiers, some cracks were filled in.
The digging continued at all the pits, the workers unearthed countless pieces of pottery, hours of restorative work to follow.
The blue pillows helped to cushion the workers' knees. It has been thirty-three years after the first discovery of the Terracotta Army, looks like there will be many more years until the task is complete.
At Pit number 2, a cavalry man held the reins of his war horse behind glass. This was very similar to the replica I saw in Singapore. I never thought I would one day stand next to this historical figure and spend an entire day exploring his fellow warriors. Visiting Xian just to see the Terracotta Army would be worthwhile, but there is more in store as we shall see next week!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Nature Mobile

An old friend wanted a mobile for the baby's room but could not find one she liked so I offered to make her one. I have never made a mobile before, I saw many that looked interesting, still I wanted my first mobile to be unique and from the heart. I thought what can I give her, all the way from Canada to Finland, a friend of almost 30 years. My inspiration came from the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, I am so proud we showed Canada's land and sea, the nature I had come to love while living in Canada.

Done on heavy weight water color paper, the shapes were first lightly penciled and then colored in. They were cut out with a sharp knife and edges painted with acrylic paint for strength. On the other side, poems of nature composed and written by me. Grommets were hammered in and fishing line tied to wires to construct a balanced network of a nature scene. I had the pleasure of enjoying it for a couple of days in the hallway before shipping it away, it has now arrived with best wishes to accompany the little one in his very own room.

Monday, April 19, 2010

By The Library

A peek through the glass at the library, a fine showcase of new books. At the upper levels, a permanent collection with an interesting variety of foreign DVDs. The surrounding apartment high rise, a clear view of the sky or the entanglement of new spring growth reflected on the office window across.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Seashore Daydream

It's been a busy week, I'm so glad it's Friday! :) But I'm pretty sure I have to work this weekend. :( Oh well... dreams of the beach to the rescue. I envision secluded shorelines with soft green water, gentle waves rolling on the sandy shore, splashing against the rocks. I am soaking up the warm sun, I can smell the saltiness of sea breeze, ahhh....

May you have a lovely weekend with glorious sunshine wherever you are!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Xian Journal Day 6 Terracotta Army Part 1

Hello Midweek! Our China series travel to... the Terracotta Army, see all China posts here. There is quite a few things we saw on this day I am splitting it up into 2 posts.

At 6:30 in the morning we were awakened by loud disco music. Suspicious of the guests across the hall, I reached for the phone to report this considerably rude incident when David opened the curtains to find the public square alive with locals. Groups of people had gathered to exercise, there was tai chi, dancing with fans or handkerchiefs, aerobics, etc. As we watched we ate a breakfast of Chinese buns and planned to head down for a closer look later that week.
Our only agenda for the day was to visit the Terracotta Army. The hotel staff directed us to take 2 buses, one to the Xian Railway Station and another to the army. At the train station we searched for number 306 located in the south east corner of the parking lot. We turned too soon and ended up in a residential area. People approached us and offered to take us to see the Terracotta Army but we ignored them. On the internet, fellow travellers cautioned against 'shopping tours' where visitors eventually get to see the army but only after hours of souvenir stops. It took 2 kind strangers to direct us the right way before we found the bus pictured below.
The correct bus indicated departure and arrival points and all stops in between by the door.
Along the way, the bus circled the biggest flower basket we ever saw.
By the road, fruit stands such as this selling farm produce. We discovered each Chinese region has their specialty produce, for Xian pomegranates come into season in October.
The bus picked up more visitors at a parking lot, where a whole row of pomegranate stands were in the process of setting up.
Drying corn on the side of the road, just like we saw in documentaries about China.
A construction site, it seemed bricks were taken from an old wall and reused to build the new one at the front.
A PetroChina gas station, we wondered how much gas were in China.
Later on in our trip we managed to capture some gas prices. The sign said 4.45 RMB per litre, about 64 cents Canadian. At that time in Vancouver (October 2007), gas prices were around $1 a litre, the Chinese paid less for their gas.
One of several souvenir shops along the way, when we saw them we got excited as we knew the army was close by.
On the bus the ticket seller announced 3 main stops: Huaqing Hot Springs, Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum and Terracotta Army. She persuaded us into stopping at Huaqing Hot Springs for a look so we did... to find per entrance fee 70 RMB! We also noted it was very crowded at this famous but very small site, thus headed back to the bus stop where thankfully in 5 minutes the next bus came.

The first bus ticket cost 6 RMB, the second cost 3 RMB, in total less than 10 RMB per adult was spent. This worked out to $1.50 Canadian, we discovered traveling by bus to tourist spots was very reasonable in China. This little girl was with her grandfather on the same bus, they smiled and chatted with each other on the way. They stopped at the Terracotta Army but did not enter the site, instead wandered away hand in hand as she hopped along. For locals, bus rides could be an enjoyable trip in itself.
Part 2 of Terracotta Army will be continued next week!