Goodbye Xi' an; Hello Beijing
Friday in Xi' an included a visit to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (remember, we saw the little one Thursday afternoon) and a trip to the archeological activity where the Chinese government continues to excavate the site where some local farmers discovered some pottery fragments and ancient bronze weapons while digging a well.
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was begun by a Buddhist monk named Xuanzang who travelled to India about 1500 years ago and was one of the leading figures in solidifying the place of Buddhism in the Chinese culture. He named the temple to commemorate a myth he learned in India. He was a scholar who translated many Buddhist writings from their original Sanskrit into Chinese. The Pagoda, which has a pronounced lean which can be seen in the first photo below, was built in 652. The second photograph is of a statue of the monk Xuanzang with the pagoda in the background. By the way, both of these shots are vertical and are truncated in the square thumbnails in the blog.
The first emperor to unify China under a central government was Qin (pronounced Ching) Shihuang. He became King of Qin in 247 B.C. at age 13. By 221 B.C. and age 39, Qin had unified China (in a not so very peaceful process) under his rule. He almost immediately ordered two things: the connection of a series of provincial walls into the 7,000 mile long Great Wall of China and the creation of a terracotta army of more than 7,000 ceramic soldiers, a host of horses, chariots, etc. The army's purpose was to guard his eventual tomb and give him a fighting force in the afterlife. This army is what the local farmers discovered. In the gift shop, I bought a book about the terracotta army and had it signed by Zang Xingman, one of the farmers who made the discovery.
The photos below are part of the figures in pit one and of one of the carriages intended to transport the Emperor's spirit. This chariot was on loan to the Kentucky Horse Park a few years ago as part of an exhibit about the significant role of the horse in China.
Then we were off on a late afternoon flight to Beijing, China's 18-million population capitol city. It was dark and very cold when we arrived, went straight to our hotel and to bed.
We left at 8 a.m. this (Saturday) morning to see the Great Wall of China, specifically the Mutianyu segment, which is one of three to which the public had access. It was in extremely mountainous terrain and it was impossible not to think of the Herculanean effort and feat of engineering this wonder of the world required. Below are a section of the wall we traversed and a photo of our EKU band of wall-walkers taken by another visitor from Australia.
After leaving the wall, we rode back into Beijing to visit the Yonghegong Lamasery, the city's largest Buddhist Temple. The sprawling complex began its existence as the home of the crown prince Yinzhen who later became Emperor Yongzheng and moved into the Forbidden City. He subsequently converted his former home into a Buddhist Temple, specifically a Lamasery to serve the Dalai Sect. The Dalai Lama has a reserved seat in one of the buildings in the facility. Below is an interesting feature of two of the buildings.
From there, we went to the Temple of Heaven, one of four major temples in Beijing. If the building below looks familiar, you have most likely been to Beijing or Epcot.
Our evening closed with dinner and a show at the Beijing Night Show in an ornate theater about 20 minutes from our hotel.
Tomorrow is our last full day in China. We will spend it sightseeing and it will likely be after our return on Monday before I can return to finish the blog on this trip. Tomorrow evening we will have dinner with some more of our graduates in China and MA Xin from Laioning University of Technology, a long time institutional partner. I think I probably need a few days to let the almost overwhelming pace and experiences of this trip to sink in before I reflect on it with you. One thing I know in both my heart and my head is that this visit to China is going to pay a number of dividends for Eastern Kentucky University.