Have you ever found yourself in a city you never knew existed? And here it is. Eight million souls living their lives. Building their businesses. Nurturing their families. And caring for a massive archeological site that is part of their cultural heritage. It was new to me when we arrived in the summer of 2007.
Xi’an or 西安 means Western Peace and is pronounced with an SH sound at the start, so /shee-on/ (Wikipedia, Xi’an). People have been living in the area for more than 500,000 years, but perhaps the most interesting period, especially for our visit, was the time of the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC). Qin (pronounced /chin/) was ruled by Qin Shi Huang. He acceded to the throne at 13 years of age and by 38 he had conquered the so-called Warring States and became the first emperor of a united China in 221 B.C.E.
Qin Shi Huang was obsessed with death. He took enormous efforts to avoid this reality and achieve immortality. In some respects, he was successful. Here we are, still remembering him 2,227 years after his death. One of the primary reasons he is remembered is the nature of his tomb. They began construction immediately upon his accession. It is reputed to be a massive version of the capitol city. For reasons that I have not been able to learn, the location or existence of the tomb became lost to time. Archaeologists believe that the main mausoleum is undamaged by looters. They are not, however, comfortable opening the site yet. They are waiting until technology advances enough to ensure the site survives when it is exposed to air.
In 1974, Yang Zhifa, his five brothers and a neighbor, were working to dig a well in the area when they discovered a terracotta head and a bronze arrowhead. Yang Zhifa immediately informed authorities who began the archeological work we see today. On a happy note, Yang himself was rewarded, relocated, and later given a job signing books in the museum gift shop. (Wikipedia, Yang Zifa).
After walking in the rain a good bit as we explored the site of the Qin tomb, we returned to Xi’an where we explored the market and found some excellent food. Well, Patrick was not a fan, but the rest of us enjoyed it. The city is beautiful with monuments that have stood intact from the Ming dynasty. These include the Bell Tower and the city wall.
The next day we took a long walk around the city. This became a famous walk when Corinne, pausing to take in the beautiful view across the interior of the city, said, “You know what this city needs?”
“No, Corinne. What does this city need?”
“A P.F. Changs.”
It was so calculated in its ridiculousness, and yet cut through with some of our challenges in finding well prepared food, that we fell out laughing. We are still chuckling about it today.
- Wikipedia contributors, “Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mausoleum_of_the_First_Qin_Emperor&oldid=999462491 (accessed March 21, 2021).
- Wikipedia contributors, “Qin Shi Huang,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Qin_Shi_Huang&oldid=1012862803 (accessed March 21, 2021).
- Wikipedia contributors, “Terracotta Army,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Terracotta_Army&oldid=1012080530 (accessed March 20, 2021).
- Wikipedia contributors, “Xi’an,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Xi%27an&oldid=1011785010 (accessed March 20, 2021).
- Wikipedia contributors, “Yang Zhifa,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yang_Zhifa&oldid=1002841321 (accessed March 21, 2021).