Day 2 – April 8th
Today was another busy day; we began with a ride to the old city (Xi’an is a large city – and the oldest in China - of approximately 8 million people (about the same population as Manhattan)) with a newer, more modern section and an older area situated within the city walls. Xi’an’s city walls are the oldest original city walls in China still standing – many have been demolished to make room for expanding cities and new building construction. The city is also surrounded by a moat outside the wall. When we entered the old city we were treated by a performance reenacting a celebration of their guards and listened to the music of beating drums. We rode our bikes for approximately 13 kilometers – the length of the wall. My bike was old and rickety – I can’t help but think I was getting a very ‘real’ experience with this one – and I’m sure I will be very sore tomorrow!
Next we visited the Shaanxi History Museum – filled with artifacts and art dating well into the 13th to 11th century B.C. you couldn’t help compare the rich history of China with the rather brief, history of the United States. Reading about all the dynasties, how could you ever determine which single period in time was most significant? What criteria would you use (and why)?
On to lunch and a traditional hotpot meal. Mmmmmmmm it was very good – we made our own dipping sauces and that was the secret to the taste. Mine included wild Chinese green onions, wild garlic, chicken powder, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Everything was delicious – the vegetables, the mutton, the crab, the noodles…
In the evening we attended the Shaanxi Grand Opera House and watched song and dance performances from the Tang-Dynasty. We ate dumplings – over 20 different kinds: pork, ham, chicken, duck, fish, scallop, shrimp, tomato, almond, lotus paste, mushroom, seafood, steamed, fried, and boiled! Plus baby dumpling soup, and a wonderful array of Asian appetizers.
The city itself almost attacks the senses – fireworks going off in the middle of the street, a continual discordance of honking horns, the call to AM prayer, bright colors splashed across architecture reflective of the Han Dynasty, red and orange globes, smells of spices and local food venders – smoke. Traffic everywhere. And cherry blossoms, gardens, and new construction all blooming (or booming) in stark contrast to dirt shacks and run-down apartments. Yet, you can’t help but be sucked by it all, drawing on the energy it creates!