May 17 Pingyao
Having woke from the overnight train to an industrial view…
A small town (by China standards) and a lavish local funeral and the staggering Army of Terracotta Warriors.
…and my bunkmates in the four bedded soft-sleeper compartment.
The man on the left is actually a soldier(!) in the Department of Propaganda(!!), really, I have his card, and he told me he is coming to Hollywood in November to pitch a war movie his group recently finished.
The man on the right is from Germany here for a month to stay with his Chinese girlfriend, the woman in the middle. Due to the visa particulars of both countries it is quite complicated for them to be together and hence there was much billing and cooing and coochie-cooing. Bearing in mind that they communicate in a language foreign to both of them, that being English, they did a lot of gazing too.
Lastly I had dinner at my hotel, a local specialty noodle dish. In this area they use various wheats much more than rice and it’s all been pretty dang tasty.
This dish however, is the first thing I’ve eaten that I’ve never even imagined.
I thought it would be fried apple which it was, sort of. You take something like Karo Syrup, cook it down good and sticky and then pour the syrup over the cut-up apples and cook up the whole bit until the apples are boiling hot inside the sticky coating. Then to eat it you dip each bite in the water provided in the other bowl, to harden the syrup and cool the apple. Yikes.
Then this guy drove me out and back to the historic compound of buildings, actually the home of a prominent merchant family dynasty, where the film Raise The Red Lantern was set.
The whole process took more than three hours. It was pretty cool except that on all the big walls they had hung framed posters from the movie, which was waaay too much, and then that it cost $30 was too much too.
Of course in the Grand Scheme of Things, it costs me $30 to take a taxi to the airport, but considering what I have been spending for things here it just bugged.
So I was hanging around chomping on whatever it was I had bought last to eat (and Please don’t be hoping for any trinkets since you do know me, and buying food is as much shoping as I can manage!) and I could hear an approaching commotion. Camera at the ready, around the corner came this car followed by a caravan of cars all with that red ribbon tied around the mirror.
At last, a good clear shot of the toileting of young children in China. And yes, they just do it about anywhere. I have not noticed the parents carrying plastic bags like we do when we walk the dog… So Angela, shall I be bringing home some of these for my grandbaby?
They get that squating technique down early. The hotels and large restaurants do have western style toilets but don’t count on finding one when you need it. Better practice squatting before you come to China!
Here’s where I had dinner, in a well-known restaurant featuring another local specialty. It was packed and I was the absolutely only person who looked anything like me…
First you get this bowl with two very thick very very dense disks of bread and it is your job to pick away at these disks until your bowl is full of little itty bitty bits. The staff had their eye on me and if my bits got too big they would glance at my bowl and warmly raise an eyebrow at me. It was funny.
This guy was my neighbor and apparently he got tired of the picking because at one point he started eating his bread whereupon the woman he was with slapped his hand and helped him finish the picking.
When you are done with the bread they take away your bowl and bring it back full of the most aromatic mutton soup you can imagine to soak into the bread, with huge chunks of very tender mutton, some noodles added, and pickled garlic and chilies on the side so you can season it to your own taste.
It was deeee-lish and so much I couldn’t begin to finish. It cost 20 yuan, about $2.50.
May 20 Xi’an and The Army of Terra Cotta Warriors
A shot from an overpass in Xi’an where I was re-aquainted with the fact that many before me have written Sci-Fi best sellers exploiting the fact that breathable air will become our most valued asset and people will eventually pay about Anything to get it.
I took the morning to ride public transportation to the History Museum, then to the Terracotta Warriors and back.
The overriding principle of Chinese public transportation is that there is always room for one more. And in fact from my many forrays into public transportation it is true, there always IS (and cheerfully I might add) room for one more.
Following are about one tenth of the pictures I took at the Terracotta Warriors site so just be grateful…
Pit 1, the first and most dramatic site. It is a real wow-zer even though you know what to expect, still, the scale is quite magnificent and it’s true that the soldiers are life size, 5’11” tall on average. You just don’t get that Life Size from the posters.
The magistry of the whole concept is entirely remarkable but also each individual warrior has an individually handmade unique head. There are many body types repeated representing different tasks like archer or swordsmen or general, but each head is unique.
They say the heads represent the great diversity of the Chinese empire and that actually the craftsmen used the men on the project as models.
And more. The soldiers were originally brightly colored with blue coats, black hair, red decorations, etc.. This is the near exact status in which they were uncovered.
Also on the site is Pit 2 and Pit 3, not as impressive as Pit 1, but they are continuing to reveal more. At one point they had to cover-up again whole sections of warriors, chariots, and horses because they were not ready yet to protect what they had found.
In Xi’an a local entertainment was hoping to expand into the English speaking market so our hostel got free tickets and transportation, as a test case. I ran into many of this gang from Beijing and The Great Wall, Pingyao and to here, from time to time, and it is fun, and friendly, and interesting.
Actually, it’s way waaay fun!