After a hectic trip in Beijing, we packed our bags and headed to the railway station for our next destination Xi’an. This was the first time we were travelling by a bullet train. The journey from Beijing to Xi’an was around 6 hours. I slept throughout my journey as the train sped across the landscapes at 186 miles per hour. We reached Xi’an in the evening and checked in at Tianyu Gloria Grand Hotel.
WILD GOOSE PAGODA : Xi’an is one of the oldest cities in China. The name is derived from two Chinese characters which means “Western Peace”. The city is the starting point of the silk road and home to the Terracotta Warriors. We passed the ancient city wall of Xi’an before heading to the Wild Goose Pagoda. The ancient city wall was built in 14th century and is 14 km in length. The top of the wall is a walkway where people leisurely walk or ride bicycles overlooking the city.
The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a spectacular sight to watch in the evening. The Buddhist temple was built by Emperor Gaozong of Tang dynasty. Originally the pagoda had 5 levels later further 5 levels were added on top of it out of which 3 got destroyed during an earthquake. At present the pagoda stands tall with seven stories, 64 meters in height slightly tilted from the vertical in a sprawling rectangular space. The Pagoda holds sutras and figurines of Buddha, brought to China from India by Xuanzang. The bronze statue of Xuanzang stands tall facing the Pagoda. Xuanzang was a monk who wanted to understand the original Buddhist teachings as he thought that the translations of Buddhist scriptures in China were poor. So he decided to travel to India to learn and translate Indian Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Chinese. The famous tale of Journey to The West was inspired by his journey.
The legend of how the name Wild Goose Pagoda came in to existence is fascinating. According to the ancient belief, there were two streams of Buddhism- one of them ate meat. When there was no meat in the town to eat, a monk saw flock of geese flying overhead. He prayed to Buddha to give some meat to eat. Immediately the lead goose fell on the ground with broken wings. The monks were shocked to see this and it made them realize the importance of Bodhisattva. They believed that this was the condemnation of eating of meat and they changed their ways. They build the pagoda on the place where the goose fell and named it Wild Goose Pagoda.
People gather in front of the complex and have dance shows and tai chi practices till late night. The whole place comes alive with various sounds and music. They also have a light and water show in front of the pagoda. I personally felt the fountain show average having seen better versions of the same in other parts of the world.
TERRACOTTA WARRIORS : People fly across from all over the world and come to this ancient city of China to see the mighty Terracotta Warriors. Where do you go when you die? Is there a Paradise or a rebirth or a hell with dungeons based on karma? The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang was not sure on after life and hence decided that a large army with weapons, cavalry and forces should accompany him after death. This way he thought he would be protected from the unknown. To satisfy their leader’s wish, the people created an army of nearly 8000 soldiers made of clay. The discovery of Terracotta Warriors happened in 1974 when farmers started digging a well and they found vast underground chambers surrounding the Emperor’s tomb and containing life size clay soldiers ready for the battle. Emperor Qin Shi Huang was an ambitious and ruthless king. His 36 years of reign saw many historical accomplishments like unifying seven warring kingdoms to one China, Great Wall of China, Universal system of weights and measures and single standardized writing script for all of China. He was also obsessed with immortality. In the first year of his reign he began the construction of an underground chamber filled with artifacts, monuments, jewels, infantry, archers, generals and cavalry to accompany him after life. The Terracotta Warriors still stands in an accurate formation as they used to stand in the battlefield. There are 4 pits in total and pit 1 is the largest excavation pit of the Terracotta army. Pit 1 has more than 6000 pottery warriors, pit 2 has around 130 war chariots and the third pit houses the high command. The fourth pit is empty which suggests that the project was left unfinished during his death. The warriors stand according to their rank holding different weapons. Based on the hairstyle it became easy to differentiate the rank of the soldier. Double knots hairstyle depicted Generals, Single Knot in the middle is officer, Single Knot on the Side is the soldier and Kneeling one is the bowman. Each of the warriors had distinct expressions, unique ears and faces to resemble to the real world army. The brilliant thing to notice in this is the craftsmanship of the people who built this army for the king. Today the researchers compared each of the faces of the excavated army and were amused to see that each of them had distinctive unique appearances.
In ancient China, burial custom is taken very seriously. People always designed and prepared their burial coffins and sites before they die. They paid much attention to built their coffins. But when Emperor Qin Shi Huang decided to hire large number of workers just to satisfy his quest for immortality and after life to create such a massive army, I wonder whether those skilled workers got a chance to think about their after life ?
Having visited the Terracotta Warriors, we then went to their factory outlet where the lady explained us how they created souvenirs of each size. We purchased small size warriors of each rank as a remembrance to this wonderful trip and headed towards airport for our flight to Chongqing.
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