Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More from Xi'an

As I mentioned in my last post, Xi'an has a large Muslim population. Most people who visit the Muslim quarter come to sample the unique cuisine of these people. But most of it is non-vegetarian so we weren't interested. We tried some fried sweets - like a doughnut filled with dried fruit. It was much more to our taste than the traditional Chinese sweets which are not very sweet. We also found a lot of nuts and dried fruits among the stalls and bought a sampler - which turned out to be dried fruit paste - like fruit leather. The dried persimmons were delicious.
The Muslim quarter is very colorful.
In addition to the dried fruits, nuts and foods, there are stall selling the usual tourist tchotchkes.
The quarter comes to life in the evening, and to facilitate action after dark there are lights hanging from the trees. We had to go to a sound-and-light show so we left right at dusk.
You can see the lights hanging from the trees. I wasn't sure how the photo would come out at dusk so I took it while there was still light.

Our guide took us all the way across town to check-in and get some rest before dinner. This was a bad move. We were caught in traffic going and coming and ended up getting to our dinner/show late. We had tickets to a show that had music and dance from the Tang dynasty along with a dumpling dinner. They promised us vegetarian dumplings and they delivered. Dinner was delicious but we had to eat it in 20 mins before the show started due to our traffic woes.

I took some movies and stills of the shows but I won't bore you with all of them. The staging was colorful and there was variety in the music and dance. This one is from an energetic masked dance to drive away evil spirits.
One of the musical numbers...
And one of the more flowing, graceful dances...
The sleeves of the dancers' costumes were long and they used them like scarves in the dancing. It was a pleasure to watch and admire the skill with which they made them flow like ribbons.

I also learned why every place (temple, palace, etc.) has a drum and a bell tower. The bell was rung in the am to tell people it was time to go to work and the drum was rung at the end of the day. Xi'an still has its city walls, moat and all. The walls are surrounded by a park now so people can enjoy the open space. They also light them at night.
These were shot from a moving car so I apologize for the blurry photos. But I wanted to give you an idea of how wonderful they look at night.

One of the things I liked about Xi'an is that even their new buildings retain a hint of the Tang dynasty architecture. It gives the city a sense of place, even when the Tang roofs are over a Starbucks.
We were visiting the Wild Goose Pagoda. The area around the Pagoda is one of the newer and more expensive residential areas in Xi'an. And lots of open space.
This is the plaza in front of the Pagoda. Chinese cities have lots of places like this for people to come out and exercise in the morning or hang out in the evening.
The Pagoda was built to house documents brought from India by a Buddhist monk who traveled there to learn the teachings of the Buddha from the place of his birth. The monk lived and taught here for many years after he returned. We didn't go up to the top of the Pagoda as we were running out of time. We wandered through the complex. I didn't take photos inside the various shrines as they are still places of worship and it can be misunderstood.

But I did take a photo of a gorgeous mural describing the life of the Buddha. The mural is completely done in jade of various colors.
After the Pagoda, we went to the city walls. The roads in Xi'an go in and out of the city walls. There are 16 openings now, I believe. We went through one of them and parked. I took this photo to show scale.
This is the gate we came through with its Arrow tower. The Arrow towers were for protection as archers could fire arrows from them. The courtyard here is a trap. If invaders came through the outer wall, it could be shut behind them and then they would be at the mercy of the archers from the tower and the walls on all 4 sides. Sneaky, eh?

This is view through the gate to show how thick the walls are.
Looking down from the top of the wall...
One of the popular things to do is to rent a bike and ride around on the wall. The entire perimeter is 8 miles long.
Look at the haze. Day 2 was not as nice and clear as day 1. The pollution level was higher than the previous day.

The Arrow tower is beautifully decorated.
There are also guard posts along the walls. I believe they are spaced exactly the distance an arrow can be fired apart. You can see one in the photo below. Apparently one can also ride a bus around the wall!
We walked some distance and then came back as we had to head to the airport. With the traffic problems we had had the day before, we didn't want to cut it too close. And it was a good thing we got there early.

My husband's ticket had my passport number on it. We stood in the check-in line and got to the check-in counter before we discovered this. So we had to go and stand in the ticket counter line to get the ticket re-issued with the correct passport number. Then we had to go back to the check-in line to check-in. The person manning that counter insisted we go back to the ticket counter to get the boarding pass stamped so we went back to the ticket counter. Fortunately there was no line there then because the lady there said we didn't need any stamps. We got through security without any issues after that and got home without incident. But all that standing in line took time and it was a good thing we had time.

I wouldn't mind going back to Xi'an to spend more time in the Muslim quarter and to ride a bike around the city walls.

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