Xi’an: A City of Modern Skyscrapers & Ancient Underground Tombs

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In the underground burial complex of Emperor Jing di.

Today was pretty much a travel day – flying from Beijing to Xi’an on a China Eastern Airbus.  I’ve been able to take off my jacket for the first time; it’s warm here, but not much humidity.

Tomorrow we are going to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors, but we began our visit in this former capital with a stop at the little-visited Han Yangling Museum.

This modern facility houses the results of 30+ years of excavation in and around the massive burial sites of the Han Dynasty Emperor Ling Di and his empress. The underground mausoleum complex features a portion of the 81 burial pits surrounding the central mound (there were another 8,000 satellite tombs in the surrounding area).  Representations include miniatures of tools, weapons, food preparation utensils, animals and people that would be important to the afterlife of the Emperor.

The really unique feature of this museum is the transparent glass floors covering the exposed pits – so you are literally walking on top of the site.  It’s a very dark place and gave me a bit of vertigo since it feels like you are standing on air.  It’s hard to see in general and impossible to see my camera dials, and even more difficult to get shots that do justice to the site.

Xi’an is a big city with more than 8 million residents and what must be hundreds of multi-story (as in 20+ floors) high rise apartment buildings.  It’s dusty and hazy and our hotel, the Shangri-La, seems like an oasis.

Since this is a short post, let me just comment on a few other things about China.  First and foremost, the Chinese people are very friendly, welcoming and seem pleased to have us here. The working-class folks we are meeting are generally attractive and well-educated and would blend in the U.S. with no problem.  The streets are very clean and we see the maintenance trucks washing them down daily.   In our hotels, we have no problem with access to English language TV including CNN and ESPN – so we did get to see the Masters and are keeping up with the news out of Boston. The English language Chinese newspaper, China Daily has a nice general news roundup. We have good, free wi-fi in the hotels and the iPhone with both Verizon and Viber (free app) work well; calls sound like they are from next door.  We just don’t have access to social media.

Tips of the day: 1. Chinese airlines actually serve food on short flights and Chinese airports sell lots of snacks and 2. Never plan to drive here, in fact, you may not even want to look out the window when in any moving vehicle. 

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