Day By Day

Sunday, June 14, 2009

China Diary -- Part 10 Xi'an

After lunch we took to the skies headed for Xi'an. Our course took us over the rugged terrain west of Beijing. That's rough country down there and every square inch of land that can be cultivated is. This points up a continuing problem for China. It is a very large country, roughly the size of the United States, but less than a sixth of it is suitable for agriculture and that proportion is declining quickly [here]. In other words, China is perpetually on the brink of a major food crisis and is entirely dependent on imports to feed its 1.3 billion people.

Xi'an, which translates as "Western Peace" is one of the great heritage sites in China. It was capital for eleven dynasties and was the first Chinese city to establish permanent relations with the outside world. It is a small city of approximately eight million people [yes, by Chinese standards New York is a small to medium sized city] and is quite different from today's capital.

For one thing, Beijing has taken great pains to impress on visitors its modern, prosperous aspects. Everything else has been pushed away, out of sight. In Xi'an traditional China is very much on display, as is the poverty of much of the city's population..

Buses took us from the airport to our hotel, then we went out to dinner. After that we had some free time to rest, watch TV, do laundry, and to turn in early enough to get a full night's sleep. Aaaah, leisure -- I had forgotten how good it felt.

In the morning we boarded buses early. There was a lot to see. Our first stop was the ancient city wall which separates the old city from the modern one. You can see the difference in this picture taken from the south gate looking west. To the right is the old city, with its traditional structures, while to the left and in the distance tower the high-rise buildings of modern Xi'an.

Of course, appearances can be deceiving. This looks like an old structure, but our handler told us that it had been built within the past five years.

Like all Chinese cities, Xi'an has a pollution problem.

At one point I wandered away from the group to take pictures of the park below the wall. Suddenly people began to shout at me. I looked up and saw that I had walked onto a movie set. Yes, here there was another film company working on a movie about traditional China. They're everywhere..., they're everywhere!

Love that camera rig.

Some actors in costume on their way to the set.

I would have liked to hang around and watch the film crew work, but we had many things to do and see before we would again have free time.