Friday, April 4, 2008

Jingdi's Tomb

As the weather in Xi’an has become warmer, we have begun venturing out more frequently for siteseeing. At this point I’m already getting emotional about all the wonderful places that we just won’t have time to visit. We love traveling, but we can only push the kids so far, and there’s still work and school. They always seem to get in the way.

The Terracotta Warriors are about 45 minutes outside of Xi’an and are quite incredible, we’ve been there a couple of times and a guide book will explain them better than I. But what we recently discovered is that the Terracotta are really not the most impressive historical site around Xi’an – it’s Emperor Jingdi’s tomb, locally known as Han Yangling. This tomb reveals more about daily life than martial preoccupations (a total contrast to the Terracotta Site) as Emperor Jingdi was influenced by Taoism and thus more focused on improving the daily life of his subjects rather than waging war. What a concept. His tomb is filled with anatomically correct, miniature terracotta figures, all without arms. The figures were originally built with moveable wooden arms that disintegrated over time, and clothed in silk cloth that met the same fate as the arms. The site has only been open for two years, so it is wonderfully under-visited compared to its more famous cousin – the Terracotta Warriors. Not a small draw since in overpopulated China we feel as if we’re elbow to elbow with people virtually all the time. I've included a few pictures of the tomb/museum.

Regarding Xi’an’s historical sites, there is so much more to uncover. Surrounding the city (and other places in China as well) are countless burial mounds . . including the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang himself (the man who unified China and had the Terracotta Warriors constructed to protect him in his afterlife). Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is very close to the site of the Terracotta Warriors, yet remains largely unexcavated. Burial mounds look like small hills and are literally buried treasure. Here's a picture of me and the boys standing in front of one near Jingdi's tomb - the entire site of his tomb is enormous and they've only dug in a few specific areas. I can’t quite understand why more archaeological digging is not going on (or even grave robbing, for that matter), yet each time I ask a tour guide or a local this question I receive a variety of befuddling answers. They’ll say that they want to leav

e some things for their future generations to discover, or that archaeologists can’t figure out how to excavate the artificacts without the figures losing their colour when exposed to air. The first answer seems absurd, and the latter answer has been floating around China for decades according to Yoni, and also seems rather absurd since some of the Terracotta that I’ve seen have colour, and I just can’t believe that modern science couldn’t have figured this one out yet. Especially since they’ve found a way to keep all of the terracotta figures at Jingdi’s tomb under glass in a carefully monitored environment.

I’m also including a picture of a panda from a place called “Louguantai” about 1.5 hours outside of Xi’an. There’s a famous panda preserve in

Chengdu that we’ve been told is a world class wildlife preservation site. We hope to visit if we can squeeze it in, but not sure we’ll manage it. Anyway, I didn’t want to leave China without seeing some pandas, so we decided to try Louguantai. We were a little reticent as I will never forget a zoo that Yoni, Tal and I visited in Nanking in 1999. The conditions were deplorable. No other word for it. We have specifically avoided the local zoo in Xi’an due to those strong memories. Anyway, this panda preserve in Louguantai was recommended by a German friend, so we decided to give it a try. It was really just a glorified zoo, and, although it was better than the Nanking zoo, still very disturbing. I won’t be going to another zoo in China. That’s a promise.

Last is a picture of me and Tal riding horses up a mountain – I think those are cherry trees we’re passing, but I could be mistaken. The mountains are just amazing this time of year – everything is flowering. Even our somewhat grubby campus is looking pretty.