Luoyang to Xi’An
Writing this on the plane to Beijing from Xi’An. Only about 45 minutes of flight time, between takeoff and landing…
We got up at the usual bright early time of 0630, and were down for breakfast by 0725. Breakfast was, again, a multicourse meal. Phew! 0800, and it was time to get on the bus.
After a short drive into the edge of Luoyang, we stopped, seemingly in the middle of a more rural residential neighborhood. We walked about a block, and then we arrived at a hole in the ground. Quite a large hole. It was about 10mx10m square, and inside it were various caves. It turns out that people live there. A family has been living there from generation to generation, even as the city grew around it. It was very strange. You could sit there and look down on these people living their lives. There was an old woman of 96 years who had lived there all her life. This has become quite the tourist attraction, and the old woman collects 2 RMB per person to allow you down to visit her home area. That’s about $0.25 CDN. Sure… Down we went. It was interesting. The walls of the pit were plastered with an adobe mud cement, and there were about 4 different caves, each one a room in the “house”. There was also a “storage hole” within the complex, which I think you’d have to be pretty small to get into. You got lowered down by a rope, and got your goods, and then came back up again… Scary. The kitchen was small, and they use compressed coal to cook with. It appears to be quite clean, as I didn’t see any serious soot. The old lady herself would pose for pictures in her bedroom, which was well equipped with a small DVD/TV combo. Apparently the 2 RMB fee has been paying off. Good for her. We spent about 30 minutes at the cave dwelling, and then it was off to see the oldest Buddhist temple in China – The White Horse Temple.
View of the Cave dwelling from above:
The temple was cool. There was a horse statue there that was 1400 years old. This temple was the first one built, when buddhism was first brought to China. We had a good tour of the temple, and there were a lot of opportunities for photos. There were many worshippers at the temple, and they would go from one temple to the next, offering incense, and praying. The furthest room was the library, where the original texts were stored. It was beginning to get a bit overwhelming trying to remember all the monk names, as well as the different Buddhas at this point.
Buddhas in the main temple:
Horse in front of temple:
From the temple, we began our long journey to Xi’An. two hours into the trip, we were at Sanmen gorge, where we had planned to see the dam. Apparently heightened security concerns mean that the dam is no longer visitable. Instead, we went to a museum holding the tomb of an ancient noble from the Guo and Zhou eras. Stuff here was over 4000 years old. Each tomb had been found with different numbers of food and drink containers, depending on your status. Also, many jade articles were found, with some elaborate diagrams, considering how long ago in time this was. Also in the tombs were entire horse carcasses and chariot remains. Again, the belief that in the afterlife the dead would need these articles. The jade was interesting. There was a belief that if all the body openings were covered with jade, then the body would be preserved from decaying. They had made ornate jade masks to cover the face, and and entire layout of jade, which would have been woven into fabric to cover the deceased body. Unfortunately – no photos allowed 😦
Train passing by cave dwellings (note the terracing for the farmland):
Back onto the bus for a 2.5 hour drive to Xi’An. The drive was a fascinating view into the rural life of the Chinese, as well as a great insight to their highway system. As we drove along, you could see small clusters of about 10 homes, surrounded by farmland. It would appear that the 10 homes formed a small community of farmers. This is in stark contrast to North American farming, where one home has acres of land between it and the next. I learned later, that the farms are owned by the government, but the farmers can work the land as they see fit. If they make a profit, then they will be taxed, but they will be able to keep some money. Fair enough.
As Xi’An is located on the Yellow River Plateau, we skirted the Yellow river a couple of times, and you could really see the awesome power and size of this river. There was a rail bridge at one point that seemed to be over a kilometre long, just to cross the river. Impressive. The views were stunning, but unfortunately with the dust, and haze in the air, it limited the visibility somewhat. Throughout the trip I have been plagued by the haze. It’s almost impossible to shoot good pictures of landscapes, as they disappear into the haze so quickly. As we approached Xi’An we were able to see Hua San, one of the holy mountains in China. It was a massive ridge, and given the flat, undulating nature of everything around, it was all the more impressive.
Approaching Xi’An from Luoyang, you could tell that the air was more moist, as there was snow on the ground, and waterways appeared to hold more water than the dry arid environment from which we came.
Communist slogan on a toll booth – remarkable for the lack of these things:
We arrived in Xi’An, just in time to see the sun set. Due to high amount of dust in the air, it was bright red fireball, settling onto the city. A great welcome to China’s ancient capital.
Our first stop in the city was dinner. Again – sumptuous 12 dish dinner. We were whisked off to the hotel where we were to stay for the next two nights, and had 20 minutes to settle in before we were headed out to see a show of classical dances and music from the Tang dynasty. Again, being low season, the show was not going to be held in a large auditorium, but rather a small raised stage in a restaurant. Odd, but more intimate. There were many tourists here. Im guesing it’s te place that all the tours take their customers. The show was elaborate, and the dancers excellent. There were women dancers dancing the “silk dance”, and male dancers doing various percussion and dance routines. The whole show was very good, and my vantage point afforded some excellent photo opportunities.
Home from the show, it was back to the hotel room, to transfer pictures, and write some more. The usual yadda yadda. Bed at 0130. A bit late.
More pics at http://www.fotothing.com/dragonspeed