While in Xi’an another couple joined Carol and me to take an evening walk to see a water show next to the Large Wild Goose Pagoda (as apposed to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda which we also toured). We got there early enough to find a reasonable viewing spot and fended off incursion by locals who proceeded to venture out between the fountain jets to photograph and be photographed. For a nation of so many who have lived under regimentation for so many years they do not seem to accept that any regulation applies to them.
This is mostly about tourism highlights. Xi’an is where one goes to see the Terracotta Army created by the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Once again it is impossible to do this massive enterprise justice with a handheld camera. Pit one, containing mostly foot soldiers extends over 300 meters and half that side to side. The estimate is that there are over 6000 individual soldiers in all. Each with a different face and each with appropriate armament for location in the order of battle and for his class. Most have been broken by rebels, tomb robbers, and nature by earthquake. The second pit had archers and other high ranking soldiers. Many fewer have been restored, but several horses and remains of chariots can be seen. Pit 3 contains General officers and their body guards, also 4 horses.
On to Chengdu. The main reason for visiting this medium sized city of 14,000,000 is to see pandas. See them we did. The Chengdu Panda Reserve is a glorious zoological park devoted to breeding and rearing pandas. It also is a major tourist draw. We have not seen any other American tourists since leaving Beijing in part I suspect because it is past the peak tourist season. There are plenty of Asians wherever we go, many Chinese and certainly Japanese as well. It was great to see many pandas of all ages playing, eating and sleeping at every turn. There also is a group of Red Pandas, actually more closely related to raccoon than to Giant Pandas.
I skipped over our home stay in Dong Han. We drove out of Xi’an about 50 kilometers to a farm village that has been redeveloped in recent years with most of the farmers moving into brand new homes in a new village adjacent to the old and very near their fields. The 11 of us were divided up to go to the different homes. Our hostess was Tsin Ting. Her home had two spare bedrooms and a separate bath on the 2nd floor to accommodate OAT stays. There are 70 homes in the village that are approved by some government entity to host visitors and they rotate the honor and presumably the extra money. Carol helped in the kitchen, which was semi detached from the main house by an enclosed breezeway. She learned a new pastry rolling technique as well. After dinner we all met the village women in the square for dancing, this is their nightly exercise. Carol danced every Chinese dance and the Hokey Pokey and was complimented by the women. After breakfast we toured an artist’s studio, the village is well known for the farmer artists. During the Cultural Revolution several artists were sent to this village for reeducation and they educated some farmers in return.
These are a hardy people. The temperature was in the low 60’s and their doors stood open and windows too. The only heat we saw was an electric blanket and a heat pump which we turned on as we entered the bedroom. Set to 78 (26 C) it kept the chill off. Our hostess did not seem to notice the cool, nor did the other villagers. The dance exercise was outdoors and everything else was too. Other than the slabs in the rail car these were the hardest beds yet. The Chinese like hard beds as every hotel bed is at least as hard as any futon I’ve ever sat on.
Key questions we raised were who works the farms and who owns the land and buildings. The villagers working through their representatives in the village government hire workers who own heavy farming equipment to work the fields. They also agree on whether to plant corn or wheat. They then go about whatever other work they may choose to do. Some drive cabs, some are artists and some teach. The farm land belongs to the farmers and they can pass it on to their family. If the village decides to make other use of the land they will be compensated for its loss. The land under their houses is given to them for their use to build a house. They pay construction themselves and they get to select from 5 designs for exterior and floor plan and they design the interior decor.
There have been many amusing translations on signs and we have collected some of them. In the airport I saw a sign that said “FIRE ALARM VICE STATION” Needless to say I had to ask Michael what that meant, where is the vice? His response has left me giggling, “oh like vice president.” Clearly English is a confusing language when one word can have such different meanings and we don’t even notice.