Monday, 29 February 2016

Terracotta Warriors February 23

We started out day at 8am with a coach ride to the terracotta warriors. Ricky our tour guide proceeded to try to teach us two more chinese words - toilet and thank you. None of us were very successful with the pronunciation of the tones. Ricky explained the Chinese language has 4 different tones and many different dialects. He indicated the word ma can have 4 different meanings dependant on the tone. He indicates Cantonese has 10 tones and he believes it is the most difficult to learn. Ricky also gave us some information on the squat toilets. He said in most places we will be able to find western toilets but not all. He said that the flushing mechanism for the squat toilets are not in standard locations; they may be at the back of the stall or on the side - they will be somewhere but you may need to look for it. He also recommended that we all carry toilet paper as most restrooms do not stock it.

The first empire occured more than 2000 yrs ago. At that time Xi'an area was capital of shin dynasty.  The Emperor ordered his tomb to be built in 246 b.c. when he was only 13 yrs old and this included the terracotta army to protect him in the afterlife. He was a successful warlord and defeated 7 empires by age 27. After the defeat of the surrounding areas he standardized the coins for all 8 empires creating the round coin (round with square circle). The emperor hunted for immortality continuously but was unsuccessful. On method used for immortality at that time, was the ingestion of mercury. It is said the Emperor died of natural causes on a mission. The  prime minister travelling with him felt the death needed to be  kept secret to allow body to be brought home. He ordered the servants to continue to prepare three meals a day to serve to the Emperor and continued to act as if the Emperor was alive. He brought in fish to cover the smell when the body began to decay. When body was back to the home base, the prime minister declared youngest son to be prince which was against tradition as usually the oldest child is heir to family titles. The mother asked oldest son to kill himself which he did. The new prince was cruel. Taxed the people extremely.
After the death of the emperor a civil revolt occurred and all the terracotta warriors were destroyed, smashed in 209 b.c.. They are still in the process of excavating and restoring the warriors. It took over 30 years to built the layout for the warriors to stand and the warriors etc. It was estimated there was 70,000 people tasked to complete this job. The warriors are approximately 6 ft. tall, much taller than the average people at that time. 

The official finding of the terracotta warriors occurred in 1974. The country was experiencing a drought and farmers were attempting to find more water by digging new wells. One farmer found a terracotta hand that was so life-like that he reported it to the officials. The farmer has been given an honorary position at the site and frequents it regularly: he is now 82 yrs old. He also got meet President Clinton during Clinton visit to China.

Three pits are in the process of been excavated.  It is speculated that there are more areas that will be found. Pit one has commoners and warriors. Pit two has warriors.  Pit three appears to be a command center as some of the terracotta warriors are higher ranking warriors.  Given the way the warriors were arranged between walls of clay in battle formation it is speculated that their may be a crystal coffin.  It is believed that once the excavation is completed 80,000 horses warriors, and chariots will have been found. Most of the terracotta pieces that are excavated still have colors on them. Within three months of being exposed to light and air the color fades. No flash photography is allowed in the complex.

A tomb has been found but hasn't been entered as yet. It was determined in 1982 that the mercury content is very high .
5 yrs ago considered entering tomb but concerns that technology may not be able to preserve items. In 1982 found the mercury content is very high. Believed there may be a crystal coffin. Historic records say crossbows and other traps have been set to protect wealth - jewels, jade, pearls, rives of metal, etc. 

Just outside of the terracotta complex we had a lunch at a local home. At least 12 different dishes were served. In this area rice is not grown so local dishes are often served with potatoes, or breads, noodles or dumplings made with corn or wheat. We were served a noodle dish traditional for this area and a flat bread to dip in chilli oil. All dishes were great and the final was apples glazed with carmel. Because it was Niamh's birthday yesterday, turning 21, the second youngest in the group, we also had a birthday cake for her.

We them went to the Muslim market in Xi'an.  This area has the largest population of Muslims in China. A specialty item is a beef in a bun combination that is sold from the street vendors. Ricky recommended that we find food items to take on the train for supper and breakfast. He says food items are sold but they may not meet our tastes.

We then proceeded to board the night train

February 22 - Mutianyu Great Wall of china

At 8am the group met and boarded a coach to Mutianyu which is one area to observe the Great Wall of China. Although their are several locations to do this, Ricky our guide feels this is one of the better areas and because it is farther away from Bejing than some areas, it is less congested. Everyone is dressed warmer with several layers of clothing as it is again below 0°.

On the way to visit the great wall, Ricky provided us with some history and information about China. He also indicated he was going to try to teach us Chinese by teaching us two words a day. I forgot both words before we went an additional block.
Ricky pointed out part of the inner wall in Bejing. He indicate most of it was destroyed in 1960 to build subways. He further indicated that because of the traffic congestion the gov restricts traffic on weekdays.  If your vehicle plate number ends with certain numbers you can't drive a specific day. For example, if your plate ends with number  3 or 9 you can't drive on Thursday, if it ends with 2 or 8 you can't drive on Wednesday, etc. No restrictions are required on the weekends. Bejing has over 6 million vehicles registered.
It is hard to get registration for cars in Bejing - they only allow 20,000 per month and only 5% of people who apply are able to get registration.

In Shanghai they issue 8,000 registrations a month, but they do it by auction, averaging $90,000 yuon per license. Very few people can afford a car.

The Mutianyu Great Wall  was built by General Xuda who served in the early Ming dynasty. Nine different parts of the wall are open to tourists. This part, at Mutianyu is 9 miles long and has 20 towers on this section. The beginning of the wall was built 2,500 yrs ago and was 3,000km long.  Many walls were built near boarders and just 600 yrs ago the pieces of the walls were linked together with the purpose of keeping the Mongolians away.  6800 km of the walls have survived.

After arriving at the wall, Ricky gave us some options. We could walk the 1008 stairs up the wall or we could take the chair lift or cable car up to one of the walls towers. For returning down, we could walk, take chair lift or cable car or toboggan down. I chose to take the cable car up to tower 14 and walk to tower 6 and take the chair lift down. Many of the group took the cable car to 14 and walked up to tower 20 at which they received a metal indicating they walked the great wall. Many people took the toboggan down.

At the community at the bottom of the wall their is a small rock garden. I suspect it would be very beautiful during the summer months. 

The majority of Chinese people are Han ethnicity. There are 55 Chinese minority groups and China has a strong policy to preserve the minority groups. Thus the minority groups are not affected by the one child policy which was implemented in 1978. Han people are affected by one child policy: Ricky is Han. Initially the policy was flexible but for the past 30 years or so it had become strict. Initally if a second child was born, officials used to visit the family everyday for a week to encourage giving up the child, if that didn't work then some of the families valuables were taken, such as a T.V or heirloom. Later penalties for having a second child was 7 times annual wage . 

After the earthquake in 2008 permission could be received to have a second child if a child died or was severly handicapped. If both parents were the only children of their family an application could be made to have a second child but financial savings had to be in place first. In January 2016, a new policy to eliminate the only child rule was enacted. As yet it is unclear how this will happen and if it will only be available to the rich. At the present time 35 million men in China are unable to find wives due to the one-child policy and the unspoken practice of sex selection.

Other random info....women must retire at age 55, men at 60. However there are discussions that the government is reconsidering ages 65 or 67 for both sexes.

After the great Wall we took a 2 hour flight to Xi'an and a coach took us to the Hna Hotel. This hotel barely met my standards. But the beds were clean. As we were driving into Xi'an we could see more fireworks in the distance.