Stop 1: Arrival in Xian
We arrived in Xian at about 7 AM, and hopped off the train tired and stiff but ready for a whole day of sightseeing. (Not that we students really had a say in the matter.)
Stop 2: Xian History Museum
The Xian History Museum covers the history of most of the Shaanxi province since prehistoric times. I was most interested in the metal and ceramic work from the early dynasties. I took a Japanese/Korean art history class at Lewis & Clark last spring, and one of the main messages to take away from the class was that much of early Japanese and Korean art and culture originated in China. I got to see in person the Chinese versions of the huge brass bell sets and celadon-glazed bowls that I had to memorize artist, material, and date lists for in my class last spring.
Stop 3: Korean Lunch
We actually ate at a Korean-style restaurant for lunch – Xian used to be the capital city of China back in the day, and a fair amount of international culture remains from that time. There were also British and Indian joints on the same street. The food was similar to the hot pot we sampled in Beijing, but with a grill instead of boiling soup. Also, Mom – we ordered and ate the elusive bi bim bop, and it was very good!
Stop 4: Big Wild Goose Pagoda
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was built by a certain monk who notably traveled the Silk Road before settling in Xian and creating a place of worship for himself and his followers. It wasn’t as exciting or colorful as any of the temples or imperial buildings we visiting in Beijing, although the height of the many-tiered pagoda was impressive.
Stop 5: Special Dumpling Dinner
Dinner was, again, dumplings – but anyone who thought they were tired of eating dumplings was quickly proved wrong. Each plate came out with exactly enough dumplings for everyone at our table, and they were molded and shaped to represent what was inside. We had green frog shaped dumplings, winged chicken-shaped dumplings, and even little corn shaped dumplings. The hedgehog shape and the sweet bean paste stamped with an elaborate swirling design were my favorites.
Stop 6: Dinner Theater
The dinner theater provided free drinks – I got champagne, which came with a healthy dose of grenadine and watermelon – and featured a number of short skits from various operas and performances. Most impressive was the man who played a set of pipes to sound exactly like the chirping of a bird common in the area around Xian. The orchestra overall was very impressive, with opulent costumes to accompany intense percussion and lilting string melodies.