China 1999

Written by Al Wong (Write to me)

This is my experience in Beijing, China in the Summer of 1999. If you came to this webpage first, it's better if you start from the beginning of the story.

Wednesday, July 21st
Tang Dynasty Day

I call today Tang Dynasty Day because we went to several tombs, museums and temples all having to do with that period!

I didn't quite understand some of the things our tour guide, Huang xiao jie, said so I will try to reconstruct as much as possible. Sorry if I misquote something. Also, my time is pretty limited tonight as I have to pack my things. We're leaving for Beijing tomorrow.

Today's activities include:

  • Qian Ling Tomb. It took over 2 hours to get here from the hotel. We had to go through muddy dirt roads to get there. Qian Ling was the first and only woman who declared herself as an Emperor of China.

    [Qian Ling Tomb Walkway] [Stone Guard] This tomb was reminiscent of the Ming Tombs with the stone animals and statues guarding the walkway into the tomb. This tomb has not been excavated yet. I took a closeup picture of one of the more well preserved statues along the walkway.

    There were several small vendor stalls manned by local farmers. I think a lot of the jade was probably glass or plastic because of the extremely cheap prices. I did get a cool looking, handmade, tiger pillow very inexpensively here without bargaining.

  • Lunch. Before our bus drove away, we were approached by another tour group. They were from another province in China. Their bus had broken down and they needed a ride. They were going to the same restaurant as us and it was a five minute ride. Could we give them a lift?

    Of course, we said yes. This group didn't smile or say hello when they boarded our bus. They also didn't say thank you when they disembarked. So much for my previous comments about the Chinese being polite people.

    We had lunch at a local restaurant. This area's cuisine had three specialties:

    1. Helmet Pancake. An very hard type of bread made from flour, salt and water. This bread can keep for a long time. It looked like trail food to me. I liked it.
    2. Dou Fu. Your average bean curd.
    3. Noodles We had the noodle soup. It was good but I didn't think there was anything special with it.

  • Qian Ling Museum. This museum was right next door to the restaurant. It showed more information about the tomb we just saw earlier this morning.

  • Yong Tai Tomb. This was an excavated tomb. You have to walk down an incline as the tomb itself is underground. There were Tang Dynasty paintings on the wall and roof that were typical of the period. Yong Tai was a princess of China.

    The tomb chamber itself supposedly had a representation of the stars of the Milky Way on its ceiling giving proof of this period's advanced knowledge of astronomy. There was a picture of a three legged bird that represented the Sun and a picture of a rabbit that represented the Moon. The pictures were in very bad shape.

    The fine details of the tomb itself was hard to see because the lighting was bad (too dark). Everything was takened out of the tomb and placed in a nearby museum.

  • Yong Tai Museum. This museum showed artifacts that were inside the Yong Tai tomb but were takened out and placed here. There was also a duplicate of the tomb with one side cut out so you can see what was inscribed on the inside as well as the outside.

    [Fa Men Si Temple]

  • Fa Men Si Temple. This Buddhist temple supposedly has one of the finger bones of the founder of the Buddhist religion. There are also 2-3 shadow finger bones. I am not sure what a shadow bone is but they are not the originals.

    This temple was much more impressive. There were gold plated tiles galore and many gold artifacts here.

    [Old Silk Road Site] The drive back to the hotel took about 3 hours! During this time we drove by the site marking beginning of the Old Silk Road. There is a long sandstone statue of camels and merchants traveling on the Silk Road. I wished the driver had stopped on this site as I wanted to take a picture. This site is just as important historically as any other.

    During one of the long bus rides. It was suggested we sing to each other. The tour guide and two of the Chinese teachers sang a song (This was the first time I've ever heard the Chinese folk song, Mo li hwa, sung by the way). Then the microphone was handed to me. I figured, what the hell. Someone has to hold the American end up. So I gave them Pink Pajamas. I think it went over very well.

  • Later That Night. I ended up in a local disco with some college students! Learned a lot about what the young people do in Xi'an. Also, I am beginning to notice differences in Xi'an Mandarin and Beijing Mandarin. I surprise myself because I can now distinguish the dialects!

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Last updated : November 8, 1999
Copyright 1999 Al Wong, Los Angeles, California, USA
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