I’m back! Feeling stimulated and inspired (though tired) after getting away from it all and letting the wanderlust take over for 11 days.
3 August 2015
After months of talking about it our most anticipated trip of the year was at long last here. My good friend May, her daughter Emma and I made our way to the airport before dawn and took the first flight at 6:30am from Kota Kinabalu to Hong Kong for a transit flight to Xi’an, China for the first stop of our trip.
Our excitement however, was dampened considerably by a 3.5-hour delay in Hong Kong with 2.5 hours at the airport and then 1 whole hour on the plane which made us who were already tired due to lack of sleep with the early morning flight simply exhausted.
We got in to Xi’an after nightfall and it was 10 o’clock before we arrived at the hotel. Regretfully we missed the pre-arranged dinner by our host Mr Deng but not for Betty, May’s sister who took an earlier flight from HK after flying in from Gold Coast, Australia where she resides. Our gracious host of course did not let us go without food and he managed to get the restaurant next to the hotel to stay open and cook us a sumptuous meal.
The tiredness coupled with my first taste of the strong distilled spirit from fermented sorghum, the “gaoliang jiu” helped me fall asleep almost within minutes after my head hit the pillow.
4 August 2015
The main aim of our two days/one night very short trip to Xi’an was to see the world renowned Qin Dynasty terracotta army (兵馬俑) but the plan had to be changed when our host insisted that it simply would not be enough time for us to do the tour and then come back for a lunch that he was going to host us before we head to the airport for our next destination. So with that we obliged and changed our itinerary to the recommended Han Yang Ling (漢陽陵) instead.
A brief intro:
Yang Ling (陽陵), located in the Wei Cheng district of the City of Xian Yang, Shaan Xi Province (陕西省咸阳市渭城区), on the northern bank of the Wei River and about 20 km north of Xi’an, is the tomb of Emperor Jin Di (景帝, 188BC—141BC), named Liu Qi (劉啟), the fourth Emperor of the Western Han Dynasty and his consort Empress Wang.
During Jin Di’s 17-year reign, he practised the philosophy of Yellow Emperor and Laozi, i.e. Taoism, with the main doctrine being to follow the natural principles and live in harmony with nature. He reduced taxation, alleviated criminal penalty, promoted peaceful relationship with the Huns in the north through intermarriage and boosted agricultural development after the turmoil at the end of the Qin Dynasty. (黃老之術 – 早期道家思想的一種，後來變為道教的開端。老子之門人，託言黃帝，主張清靜、無為，與民休息而不擾民，天下安寧而治。秦始皇以來，濫耗民力，使用酷刑，以致百姓反叛、國家滅亡。故漢高祖(劉邦) 即位以後，就奉行黄老的道家思想。漢惠帝、呂后、漢文帝、漢景帝這些天子后妃，基本上都是以黃老之術執政的奉行者。)
Emperor Jin Di, together with his father Emperor Wen Di (文帝), named Liu Heng (劉恆) ushered in a flourished golden era of harmony and prosperity in the early feudal society, which was later regarded as “the Great Reign of Wen and Jin” (文景之治) that solidified the power of a clan that reigned for more than 4 centuries.
With the first discovery of the convicts’ tombs as early as 1972 which led to the beginning of the excavation of Yang Ling with the co-operation of Xian Yang airport and road construction (that is why Yang Ling is very close to Xian Yang airport) and after more than 30 years of archaeological explorations, it is discovered that the Yang Ling consists of the Emperor’s and Empress’ burial gardens, southern and northern burial pits, ritual architectures, satellite tomb gardens, Yang Ling town and the afore-mentioned convicts’ tombs etc.
The Emperor’s tomb is surrounded by 81 beam-like burial pits extended from the central mound. Objects unearthed include clay figurines of armoured warriors with weapons, officials, eunuchs, palace maids and dancers, countless clay animals, jades and huge varieties of utensils and tools made of clay, iron and bronze for various uses.
Chinese emperors all held the belief of afterlife and hence the vast burial site with thousands of everyday items, food, army and servants for an assumed continuation of life on earth.
The Han Yang Ling is the most intact royal mausoleum and also bears the most important tangible evidence of ancient royal burial customs as well as civilisation of the Western Han Dynasty.
The clay figurines (陶俑) are small in sizes and are only around 60 cm in height in average which are very much different from the life-sized Qin terracotta warriors. The relaxed and happy facial expressions of these toy-like figurines are also very different from the serious and fierce-looking Qin warriors.
The figurines had wooden movable arms but have since rotten over the centuries including the clothes they had on and that is why they are all naked!
Though Han Yang Ling is lesser known to the outside world which has resulted in having lesser noisy tourists around, it is no less impressive than the Qin terracotta army. We were amazed at the sheer size of it though what we saw was only a fraction of the actual tomb. We mavelled at the enormous amount of ancient relics unearthed, a more than two-thousand year old royal burial custom and a civilisation that was long gone.
(Due to time constraint we had to forgo a visit to the museum nearby. Not being able to visit the Qin terracotta army gives us a reason to come back to Xi’an in the future…)
(Our journey continued and our next destination — distant Xinjiang. The 6 parts of our journey starts here)