We rented a taxi van for the day at the Xi’an airport, along with a Danish couple we met there, to take us directly to the terracotta statues before going to Xian proper. We had only a day here, and wanted to make the most of it.
The rows of warriors were truly staggering in scope. Apparently some 600 sites have been discovered, according to the guide we hired. Qín Shǐhuáng líng, the man who united China in 221 BCE, believed his soul would return to the clay, so he created not just legions of soldiers to serve him in the afterlife, but an entire army infrastructure, including a command and control center and camp followers. I was reminded of Ozymandius’ two-fold message, and of the Pharoahs. But he scale here is more vast.
But the driver turned out to be another Fez… he drove us not to our hotel afterward, but detoured to a silk factory… so we could get him a commission. Then he futzed around taking us to our hotels, with the end result that M and I were too late to see the museum we’d planned on. We raised a little Cain, and he relented and took us to another site, the Big Goose Pagoda, and got us a guide there. I was thrilled to find there a shrine to the monk Xuánzàng, the real-life inspiration behind the novel I’m reading, Monkey (an abridged version of Journey to the West, I found out).
We also missed walking on the wall of Xi’an. But we did get to see the very cool Muslim quarter and the bizarre Chinese mosque there. The streets of the bazaar outside were so much like Morocco that we’d have found it hard to believe we were in China. What an odd confluence of events.