We said goodbye to Beijing, drove to the airport and boarded our flight to Xi'an. Our arrival on April 6th coincided with Qingming, or Grave Sweeping day. While driving to our hotel in the dark, we saw people gathered around little fires on the street corners. Our guide explained these were offerings to ancestors and consisted of fake money and luxury items made of paper. The Chinese believe a happy ancestor is a helpful ancestor. If a family can't actually travel to their grave sites, these offerings on street corners (selected for their good feng shui) will still appease the ancestors.
Morning found us at the Terracotta Warriors. It was fascinating to peek into Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum where thousands of soldiers, horses and generals stood at attention. When they were found in 1974 they were all broken because thousands of years before, the First Emperor's tomb was raided and burned by his successor, Xiang Yu. But they have been restored and beautifully housed in a wonderful museum complex.
In the afternoon we visited the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, where we lit incense with lots of Chinese tourists. If asked, 95% of the Chinese will tell you they have no religion, but it doesn't hurt to cover all your bases, eh? In fact, we heard a lot about superstition and feng shui on this trip.
One could also buy a wooden prayer card, write your wish or prayer on it and hang it on this board next to the big gold Buddha. One wish we saw again and again in China was for world peace. I'm sure it was written somewhere on this board. We also sat with the laughing Buddha for a while enjoying this peaceful garden and listening to the birds.
Our third day we visited the Shaanxi History Museum where we saw fabulous examples of bronze and pottery figures, gorgeous glazed vases and dishes, and beautiful calligraphy and coins. After the museum we had Hot Pot for lunch. What fun that was. Each diner has a little pot of broth heated by Sterno with which they cook their own food. The meats are thin slivers so they cook rapidly. The veggies were beautifully fresh and the dipping sauces were fabulous.
We also visited the Great Mosque while in Xi'an. It was built during the Tang Dynasty about 2700 years ago. Islam was brought to China via the Silk Road and is still practiced here. The street market surrounding the Mosque was particularly interesting for its street foods.
I have no idea what all those great looking, great smelling foods were because we'd been warned not to eat street food and we were still full from lunch. That afternoon we again boarded a plane for our next stop: Guilin.