On Friday, November 3rd, Louisa, Maria, Shosho, Lilith, and I departed for Xi’an, in the Shaanxi Province, in Northwestern China for a weekend of history and eating. Alexane, Sarah, and Justus left the day before us because they don’t have Friday classes in law school. They hiked a mountain on Friday, and went up stairs for literally three hours to reach the summit, totally worth it, they said. Meanwhile, the rest of us went about our day in Xiamen, then jumped on a late night plane. Little did we know that you cannot use your phone at all on domestic flights within China, which was annoying since the flight was 3 hours, but since we had a midterm on Monday, Maria and I were productive and studied. When we got off the plane, we headed to the bus counter, to catch a bus into the city center, a 70 km journey. As we got to the front of the line, Maria realized she had lost her passport receipt (what you get when you surrender your passport to get a residence permit). Luckily, we found the passport fairly quickly, and since it was 1 am and we were lazy, we decided to take a taxi to the hostel. Since we were 5, we either had to get 2 taxis, or take an illegal one together. Obviously, we chose to take an illegal taxi together, and we made sure to send the license plate to others, in case it went poorly. We finally arrived at the hostel at 3 am and fell into bed since we had to get up at 8 am the next morning.
Saturday we saw the major site in Xi’an: the Terracotta Army, sometimes referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The warriors are about an hour’s bus ride away from the city center, where we were staying. The bus ride was rather uneventful, and although the stops are only announced in Chinese, it was very obvious where to get off, though getting from the bus to the entrance is slightly confusing, but we made it and paid the half-price entry. Once inside the park, it is still a walk to the pits and the museum, and the signage is poor at best. The first pit we entered was the smallest, and very few warriors were on display. The same was true for the second pit, and we were quite disappointed, leading Justus to muse that “they’re just rocks.” Finally, the third pit we entered was what you see in photos of the Terracotta Army. It was incredible, but there were so many people and you couldn’t get that close to the warriors. Overall, I am definitely glad that I saw the Terracotta Army, but it wasn’t as spectacular in person as I expected it to be. They are definitely worth a visit, since the concept that they were buried for so long and only found fairly recently is absolutely fascinating.
Next, we took the bus back to the city, this time heading to the Muslim Quarter, another must-see in Xi’an. The Muslim Quarter is a large street market, where the minority Muslim population is traditionally located, there even is a Mosque that is beautifully decorated. In the Muslim Quarter we sampled a lot of delicious, traditional food, and shopped around for souvenirs. After food, we headed back to the hostel and stopped to take some pictures of the old buildings with beautiful lights, pictured below. When we returned to the hostel, the eight of us decided to play a game of Cards Against Humanity. This was an eventful game for many reasons. First, only Shosho, Lilith, and I live in countries where English is spoken, so some of the more colloquial cards required explanation. Also, I did not realize how Americentric the game is, for example, one of the black cards was “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of _____.” Lilith explained to the others that ’tis and thee were just old English, at the same time I broke in to the song, ‘America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee),’ which led to more confusion where we eventually chose a different black card. Second, we were joined by a Chinese man who did not understand social cues, who was pretty creepy and required the German speakers to converse in German about the best way to get rid of him, and me (attempting) to explain to Maria in Spanish what some of the more ~provocative~ things he said meant. Lilith finally explained to him that he needed to go, for which I and everyone else will be forever thankful.
On Sunday, we woke up to see the Xi’an City Walls. I thought they were spectacular, the others, being from Europe, were not as impressed as they could see city walls in or near their hometowns. Xi’an was an ancient capital of China, and the walls are some of the oldest in China. Unfortunately, the pollution and smog was the worst I have experienced in China, and you couldn’t see much. It was so bad that I was out of breath from taking the stairs to the top of the wall, and no, Mom and Dad, I am not out of shape, I live in a 6th floor walkup! I finally understand why people wear masks in China! Had there been less pollution, we had more time, and I had two working arms, I would have enjoyed biking around the wall, which makes up about 13 km in total. Finally, we headed to the Big Goose Pagoda before the airport, which was built in the year 652. What was notable about it was that it did not look like a typical pagoda to me, since the roof corners were not curved as they originally are. We didn’t get too close, but it was nice to see some different architecture, even if it was from afar.
Overall, the weekend trip to Xi’an was much worth it, though the Terracotta Warriors were slightly disappointing, the City Walls and food in Muslim Quarter were exceptional.