Weekend September 18 & 19, 2010

Thought for the day: Consider blessed even Sunday teachers in the park who can attract such eager, willing learners.

Team 187 soaked up more Chinese history and neighborhood life in Xian. On Saturday, Marcella, Maggie, Wally and I visited the Western Han imperial tombs on the outskirts of the city, while Claudia re-visited Xingqinggong Park.

Only about 10 of the 81 Han Yangling tombs have been extensively excavated. Jing Di (aka Liu Qi) was enthroned in 157 BC at age 32 and ruled 17 years. Although he and his father Emperor Wen subscribed to the Taoist principle of “doing nothing” (go with the flow) their reigns were considered a golden age. Jing crushed a rebellion of 7 kingdoms.

Jing is the Rodney Dangerfield of emperors — no respect. The Qin terra cotta warriors get all the tourists, but the Western Han anatomically correct figures and artifacts are extraordinary in their own right. Han tiny figures should not be brushed off as Barbie dolls. The hologram film was superb. Amazingly, we had the other exhibition hall all to ourselves. Some ceramic vessels looked as modern as any we see today on worksites. The soldier figures included female troops on horseback. Western Han loved their pork — lots of little piggy figures. For 28 years of Jing tomb building, the heavy lifting was done, again, by forced criminals.

On the way to and from the museum, our trusty driver Carravagio briefed us on high rise building economics. In exchange for farmers’ land to build, say, 100 apartments, the farmer gets to live in one apartment and collect rent on perhaps three other units. Near a forest of new high rises, we saw the grand new railway station rising skyward.

Later, Wally, Maggie and Claudia reported good pickings at a jade factory. On the bus ride to dinner, Wally’s pocket was picked. We ate a savory meal at the Xian Hotel restaurant where reportedly Zhou En Lai and friends in December 1936 met to resolve the impasse from Chiang Kai Shek’s capture in the Xian Incident.

Afterwards, at the mobbed Muslim market, enterprising vendors with giant white barrel telescopes mounted on three-wheelers were charging 10Y for customers to look at the harvest moon. At a silk shop, Marcella checked the labels and found all the merchandise was polyester.

On Sunday, Marcella and I learned from the corner bullwhip slingers that the practice dates back to the Qin dynasty when they used whip cracking instead of firecrackers to salute the emperor. At Xingqinggong Park we were charmed to see how locals gladly devoted their Sunday leisure to outdoor practice under the direction of a teacher or leader, be it choral singing, hard tai ji, Chinese opera, belly dancing, ballroom, line dancing, knitting or whatever.

At dinner, the hotel kitchen lost, not misplaced, our order, but the meal once it arrived was tasty. Our team offered to perform surgery with a dull dinner knife on a US doctor who has been giving Baoli the runaround about volunteering.

– Tony

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