ultramarinus – beyond the sea

China: Xian and Jiuzhaigou 2016

DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

Leaving Huanglong behind, our taxi drove northwest into the mountains.  The ride to Jiuzhaigou-Huanglong Airport was roughly an hour long.  The mountainous scenery along the way was pleasant under the sun.  The airport was busy with passengers designated to either Chengdu or Chongqing.  Our flight to Xian only operates during peak tourist season.  It was already dark when we arrived at Xian after the 1.5 hour flight.  Stepping out of the airport, we could immediately tell the difference in the air, from the refreshing highland air of Sichuan to the typical urban smog of a Chinese big city.  It was raining heavily and we decided to take a taxi returning to Hantang House, the guesthouse that we stayed at in the first half of the trip.

Hantang House is a simple guesthouse hidden in an alleyway within walking distance from Xian’s Bell Tower.  Given the affordable price, central location, youth hostel ambience, good selection of international beer and local ice pop, we were quite happy with the stay.  We dropped down our backpacks and walked out to a nearby shopping centre for dinner.  Originally we opted for a popular hotpot restaurant, but eventually gave up when we were told that the wait for a table would be 2.5 hours.  We ended up going to a fish based hotpot restaurant in another shopping centre.  In the next morning, we walked across the alleyway to Xiaohe, a street eatery right outside of our guesthouse.  That was our second and the last opportunity to taste the spicy noodles and local burger made with crispy baked bread.  At the lobby of Hantang House, we said goodbye to the friendly cat which always greeted visitors whenever it was awaken.  We sat around the high wooden table in front of the lobby reception and waited for the American lady whom we would share a taxi to the airport.  Our short trip to Xian and Jiuzhaigou had come to an end.  This concludes our record for this trip.

IMG_7942.JPGThe mountainous terrains near Huanglong reminded us that we were at the southern region of Minshan Mountains.

img_7959Enroute to the Jiuzhai-Huanglong Airport from Huanglong.

dsc_0441Ascending to the sky from Jiuzhaig Huanglong Airport, we could see the a series of snow capped mountains in the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHidden in an alleyway, it took us a little while at our first night to find our way to the front door of Hantang House.

dsc_7256The lobby of Hantang House resembled a pub.

dsc_7258The front desk of Hantang House.

dsc_7769Xiaohe, the local eatery just across the alleyway from Hantang House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal burger with fried egg and mixed vegetables in baked bread.

img_8381Spicy noodles were quite delicious, though we had to causally sit on tiny wooden stools at the sidewalk to finish them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAXiaohe Eatery and its table and stools on the sidewalk.

dsc_7752We said farewell to the cute cat at Hantang House.

dsc_7761The friendly cat in the lobby was part of the hospitality of Hantang House.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 6 – DESCEND FROM FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), China

After the Five Colour Pond, we stopped by a colourful Buddhist temple known as Huanglong Ancient Temple (黃龍古寺).  Outside the temple, we sat down on a bench and took out the sandwiches brought with us from our guesthouse.  It was chilly and we quickly finished our lunch and began our walk downhill.  From about 3600m above sea level at the temple, we followed the designated path and descend to other major sights of Huanglong.  The Five Colour Pond was only the first of many travertine pools in Huanglong.  Next came a series of clusters of turquoise pools including Flamboyant Pond (爭豔池), Azalea Pond (娑蘿映彩池), Mirror Pond (明鏡倒映池), Bonsai Pond (盆景池), etc.  Gentle waterfalls over white calcified terrain and the dense evergreen forests created a picture of visual contrast, while occasional yellow foliage stood out as brushes of vivid highlights.  Our descend to the park entrance took a little over two hours.  We made it just on time, about five minutes before 2pm when our taxi driver would come pick us up for the airport.

Unlike Jiuzhaigou where our experience relied heavily on shuttle buses, Huanglong was primarily a hiking experience.  Visiting Huanglong was a pleasant hike of meandering through the surreal calcite terrains at high altitude.  Huanglong was less crowded and in a way less touristy.  The three days at Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong were physical demanding, but were also highly rewarding.

dsc_0178Huanglong Ancient Temple (黃龍古寺), where we took a lunch break at its forecourt.

dsc_0206Elevated boardwalks provide most of the park trails.

dsc_0214Huanglong Middle Temple (黃龍中寺), another old temple that we passed by during our descend.

dsc_0222Most visitors, including us, ascend to the Five Colour Pond by cable car, then walk down to visit the various sights on our way to the main park entrance.

dsc_0255Flamboyant Pond (爭豔池) was another popular site with surreal turquoise pools.

dsc_0287Gentle waterfalls and the delightful sounds of running water were all over Huanglong.

dsc_0300Azalea Pond (娑蘿映彩池) had a higher concentration of shrubs in the pools.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABonsai Pond (盆景池) was another interesting spot where trees and shrubs grow from the calcite waters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeven Mile Golden Sand (七里金沙) and a golden tree stood out from the mountainous background.

dsc_0309Golden Sand Pavement (金沙鋪地) looked like rolling hills covered with a white and golden carpet.

dsc_0311Close up of crystal clear water.

dsc_0380Mirror like turquoise pools on our way down.

dsc_0407Flying Waterfall on Lotus Platform 蓮台飛瀑, a gentle waterfall flowing on the yellowish calcified landscape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWashing Cave 洗身洞 where local tourists loved to take photos.

dsc_0419Close to the bottom, the boardwalk arrived at the last main attraction, the Guests Welcome Pond (迎賓池).

dsc_0431The main concentration of turquoise pools of Guests Welcome Pond (迎賓池).

dsc_0437We reached the park entrance minutes before 2pm, when our taxi would drop by the roadside to pick us up for the airport.

 

 


DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China

The hired taxi picked us up at our guesthouse at around 6:30am.  Our flight back to Xian was at 4:50pm.  We planned to arrive at Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport at 2:30pm, so giving us half a day to explore Huanglong (黃龍), another World Heritage scenic designation in the region.  Huanglong is famous for its travertine landscape and colourful calcite pools, similar to the ones in Pamukkale of Turkey.  The taxi ride from Jiuzhaigou to Huanglong took almost three hours on well-paved road.  The weather didn’t look too promising.  It was rainy when we arrived at Huanglong visitor centre.   Though our taxi driver was quite optimistic about the weather, saying that a rainy morning down at the entrance would usually turn out fine when we get up the mountains.  We got our admission and cable car tickets, found our way through a long covered walkway and reached the cable car station.

Several minutes of cable car ride took us up to about 3400m above sea level, where our Huanglong hike began.  There was light rain and fog.  Occasionally as the fog moved, we would get a faint view of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.  The air was chilly but moist and refreshing.  Mountain moss was all over from ground to branches.  We followed the signs pointing towards the famous Five Colour Pond (五彩池), which was about half an hour of gentle uphill hike from the cable car station.  We hoped the rain would stop and fog would be lifted by the time we reached the pond.  We reached the main viewing platform of the Five Colour Pond at almost 3600m above sea level.  The rain had stopped but it was still a little foggy.  We stayed on the platform for a while.  After 10 minutes standing on the platform, the fog began to clear.  As we continued to walk along the Five Colour Pond, the sky get brighter and the air warmer.  At last we could see the true colour of the Five Colour Pond under decent sunlight.  Under the morning sun the turquoise and yellow pools of the Five Colour Pond formed a spectacular gradient of tones.  The Five Colour Pond was the highest point in Huanglong at about 3600m.  From there onward it would be a gradual descend for us to walk back down to the visitor centre at the mountain foot.  _A145916.JPGWith tickets in hands, we followed the long covered walkway to the cable car station.

dsc_9896Huanglong was rainy and cold when we arrived at the upper cable car station.

dsc_9911Much of the surrounding evergreen forest was covered by the fog,

dsc_9918After few minutes into the hike we could see the Five Colour Pond from afar.

dsc_9941Snow-capped mountains were in all four directions

dsc_9976Looking down the valley we could see the Huanglong Middle Temple.

dsc_9981Looking uphill we could see the travertine landscape and colourful pools.

dsc_9995Highland trees were changing their colour to autumn foliage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was still foggy as we approached the Five Colour Pond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClose up of the Five Colour Pond.

dsc_0041View of the Five Colour Pond as seen from the main deck.

dsc_0107Five Colour Pond and the main viewing deck.

dsc_0112The colours get brighter when the fog was lifted.

dsc_0133Overview of the Five Colour Pond.

dsc_0162Five Colour Pond under the sun.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 

 


DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

From Nuorilang, we walked northwards to Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝), wanting to check out the sights that we had yet covered the day before.  The first lake we came upon was Rhinoceros Lake (犀牛海).  Despite the name, no rhinoceros could be seen.  The name only refers to a Tibetan legend when a sick old man and his rhinoceros came to this lake, healed by drinking the water and eventually stayed at the lake forever after.  We continued to walk northwards along the shore until reaching another small lake, the Tiger Lake (老虎海).  We had no idea where the name of Tiger Lake came from.  However, there was a spot at Tiger Lake where stripe-like reflection of a row of shrubs did kind of resemble tiger stripes in an abstract way.  Further downstream we passed a point where the tranquil water of Tiger Lake flowed over a sloped shoal, and soon turned into a series of small waterfalls.  We found ourselves standing before an open shoal where trees and shrubs grew out of the shallow water.  In a distance across the road we could see the buildings and Tibetan flags of Shuzheng Village (樹正寨).  On the shoal, a few timber buildings supported on stilts over the moving water captured our attention.  Accessible via timber bridges, one of these houses also contained a traditional watermill underneath the house.

Overlooking Shuzheng Lake Cluster (樹正群海), a series of turquoise lakes separated by tree-lined natural dikes, Shuzheng Village (樹正寨) is the largest village in Jiuzhaigou.  After walking up a sloped path, we entered the village through a large archway which said “Jiuzhaigou Ethnic Cultural Village” (九寨溝民俗文化村).  We didn’t stay long in the touristy village where many traditional Tibetan houses had been converted into souvenir shops catered for domestic visitors.  The emergence of mass tourism seemed completely transformed the former Tibetan community into a shadow of its past.  A few minutes walk from the village entrance, we arrived at a colourful building, a temple of some sort.  In front of the temple, we saw two large Tibetan mastiffs confined in a small cage.  The dogs were barking and jumping up against the cage, desperately wanting to get out while their owners were nowhere to be seen.  It was a cruel sight to watch.  We quietly turned back and left the disappointing Shuzheng Village.  It was already past 5pm, and the park would close its doors soon.  We hopped on a shuttle bus for the main gate.

After years of imagination and expectations, and one-and-a-half day of real experience in Jiuzhaigou gave us scenes after scenes of remarkable scenery, a few occasions of serenity in the early morning and a decent sense of autumn from the vivid palette of nature, but also some moments of disappointments from seeing how mass tourism had made its impact upon the landscape of this once a natural paradise.

dsc_9723Like the other lakes, Rhinoceros Lake was full of fallen branches and trunks in its turquoise water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAncient tree trunks in turquoise water is one of the main features of Jiuzhaigou.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInteresting reflection of shrubs at Tiger Lake.

dsc_9761The peaceful water of Tiger Lake enters the vegetated shoal of Shuzheng.

dsc_9802Steps of waterfalls and the stilt structures near Shuzheng Village.

dsc_9820There was an old watermill under one of the stilted house over the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe watermill is used for grinding inside the house.

dsc_9831View of Shuzheng Lake Cluster as seen from the entrance of Shuzheng Village.

dsc_9836Entrance of Shuzheng Village lies across the street from the lookout of Shuzheng Lake Cluster.

dsc_9839The entrance archway of Shuzheng Ethnic Cultural Village.

dsc_9840Most of the houses were converted into souvenir shops.

dsc_9843The colourful temple at the back of the village.

dsc_9852Dried maize under the eaves of the temple at Shuzheng Village.

dsc_9849Seeing the anxious massive Tibetan mastiffs confined in a small cage was a depressing scene.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe quietly left the village under the colourful Tibetan flags.

dsc_9860A row of colourful flags and white Buddhist stupas mark the entrance of Shuzheng Village.

dsc_9871On our way out of the park, our bus passed by the Bonsai Shoal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way back to guesthouse, we rewarded ourselves with a bowl of local spicy tofu.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 

 

 


DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

In the morning we had visited part of Rize Valley (日則溝).  In the afternoon we would move on to Zechawa (則查窪溝).  Nuorilang (諾日朗) is the junction point where visitors may switch shuttle buses between the two valleys.  From Nuorilang Waterfall we followed the park signage to the right bus stop for Zechawa.  In order to reach the bus stop we had to walk through a large complex full of souvenir stalls.  The buses shuttled visitors all the way to Long Lake (長海) at the end of Zechawa Valley.   The journey took roughly 20 minutes.  We got off at Long Lake at around 2pm.  Hungry and tired, we sat down on a step at the viewing platform of Long Lake.  At 3,150m, Long Lake is one of the high point in Jiuzhaigou.  Being the largest and deepest, Long Lake is a scenic glacial lake with no obvious water outlets.  Local legends also painted the lake with a mystic touch of monster stories.  Sitting in front of an ancient pine, we had a quick snack break.

After we savoured some pork jerky and bread, once again we followed the park signage for the next destination, the famous Five Colour Lake (五彩池).  The only boardwalk heading to the Five Colour Lake was packed with tourists all heading the same direction.  It became more crowded when we reached the Five Colour Lake, where people spontaneously stopped to take photos of the ultra turquoise water of Five Colour Lake whenever they wished.  Compared to the lakes at Rize Valley, the Five Colour Lake was relatively tiny, making it impossible to walk on the boardwalk leisurely to absorb the atmosphere.  There wasn’t much to explore at the Five Colour Lake, except its water had the deepest turquoise and blue colours found nowhere else.  After the lake, we hopped on a shuttle bus back to Nuorilang.  In the remaining time of the day, we decided to check out the part of Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝) that we hadn’t visit the day before.

dsc_9574At Nuorilang,  we hopped on a shuttle bus heading to Long Lake at Zechawa Valley.

dsc_9578Surrounded by pine and cedar forests and snow-capped mountains, Long Lake is the deepest and largest lake in Jiuzhaigou.

dsc_9586Long Lake is also home to legends of lake monsters.

dsc_9590The strangely looking ancient pine is the centerpiece at the lookout of Long Lake.

dsc_9605We walked as part of the crowd to the Five Colour Lake.

dsc_9618Because of its small size and fame, the Five Colour Lake was the most crowded sight we had encountered at Jiuzhaigou.

dsc_9629Leaving the crowd out of the picture, the deep turquoise water of Five Colour Lake was very impressive.

dsc_9671Apart from the blue water, there wasn’t much else to check out at Five Colour Lake.

dsc_9673Spectators could only view the lake from one side of the water.

dsc_9684Looking back at Five Colour Lake from the end of the raised boardwalk.

dsc_9687There was a visitor pavilion near the shuttle bus stop.  This kind of establishments could be found at a number of spots throughout the park.

dsc_9686After Five Colour Lake, we took the shuttle bus back to Nuorilang.

dsc_9694On our way, we passed by the Seasonal Lakes, a series of three small lakes famous for their fluctuating water level at different times of the year.

dsc_9708As we approached Nuorilang, we passed by Zechawa Village, a Tibetan village turned tourist stop for souvenirs and cultural display.  We didn’t bother to get off.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

Just a short walk from the incredible Five Flower Lake came the next highlight of Jiuzhaigou, the Pearl Shoals Waterfall (珍珠灘瀑布).  We approached the falls from its upper level, where shallow water flowed on a vast area of rocky shoals.  We followed the path to a 40m cliff where the Pearl Shoals Waterfall finally revealed its side to us.  A large group of spectators concentrated on the stair adjacent to the fall.  We slowly walked down to the bottom of the fall to admire its 160m length.  The water flow wasn’t thundering, but the sheer scale of the waterfall was impressive and could be enjoy from a number of viewpoints.  Matched perfectly with the surrounding landscape, Pearl Shoals Waterfall looked surprisingly peaceful despite its scale.

We followed the stream water of Pearl Shoals Waterfall eastwards to another tranquil water body, Mirror Lake (鏡海).  The turquoise water and autumn foliage at Mirror Lake provided a peaceful break from the excitement of Pearl Shoals Waterfall.  A brief sun break gave us a moment of warmth as we leisurely stroll along the lake.  The distant snow-capped mountain finally revealed itself behind the clouds.  Under the sun, the colours of the autumn foliage appeared more vividly, casting colourful reflections on the lake surface.  We walked the full length of Mirror Lake from west to east, crossed the road where shuttle buses ran, and walked down a stair to another prominent waterfall, the Nuorilang Waterfall (諾日朗瀑布).  Roughly 32m in length, “Nuorilang” in Tibetan means “grand and magnificent”.   It was already 1:30pm when we reached Nuorilanf Waterfall.  We didn’t stay for long at Nuorilang and decided to embark on the journey up the other section of the Park, Zechawa Valley at the left branch of the “Y”.

dsc_9253Shallow water ran over the rocky shoals, like a plain of flowing water.

dsc_9268Shrubs and rocks dotted over Pearl Shoals.

dsc_9266The water gradually ran down the shoal to the cliff edge and eventually became the Pearl Shoals Waterfall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPearl Shoals Waterfall as seen from the stair adjacent to the falls.

dsc_9321The sky was clearing up and we could see the snow mountains beyond the waterfall.

dsc_9342At the base of Pearl Shoal Waterfall, water streamed down the rocky landscape into a series of small waterfalls.

dsc_9350Watching hundreds of small streams running down the cliff of Pearl Shoals was a pleasant experience despite the crowds around us.

dsc_9352Looking back to the Pearl Shoals Waterfall as we slowly walked across the shore.

dsc_9387All streams of the waterfall running down the cliff converged into a small river flowing away.

dsc_9415As we walked away from the main Pearl Shoals Waterfall, series of small waterfalls continued to run down the cliff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASilence returned as we left Pearl Shoals Waterfall behind and reached the Mirror Lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun finally came out and we could enjoy some moments of warmth.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite the autumn foliage hadn’t reach its peak, we still enjoyed taking photos of the occasional red and yellow leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJiuzhaigou National Park is actually surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  Brief moments of sun breaks allowed us to have a few glimpses of the magnificent peaks.

dsc_9481It was a delightful walk along Mirror Lake under the sun.

dsc_9491It wasn’t long until we reached the end of the boardwalk along Mirror Lake.

dsc_9553Not far from Mirror Lake, we arrived at another feature waterfall in Jiuzhaigou, Nuorilang Waterfall.

dsc_9557The myriad small streams down the cliff of Nuorilang formed a perfect setting for a atmospheric landscape painting.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

The next day, we woke up before sunrise.  Knowing that the national park would become crowded soon after opening its doors, we opted to arrive at the park’s gate right at its opening time at 7am.  Our guesthouse offered us shuttle service to the park.  When we arrived at the ticket office at 7am, the queuing scene was already quite hectic.  However, we did manage to get our tickets and boarded on one of the shuttle buses to enter the park.  The three main valleys of Jiuzhaigou can be seen as the three branches that form a “Y”.  The bottom branch is known as Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝), starting from the park entrance at the bottom and ends at Nuorilang (諾日朗), where the park branches into two directions, left to Zechawa Valley (則查洼溝) and right to Rize Valley (日則溝).  We knew we wouldn’t have time to see everything in a single day, so we had decided to start the day at Arrow Bamboo Lake (箭竹海) in the middle of Rize Valley, skipping the virgin forests and a few lakes at the deepest end of the park.

The bus ride to our destination Arrow Bamboo Lake took a little over half an hour.  When we reached Arrow Bamboo Lake, time was still early and we could still enjoy the serenity of the misty morning.  The water was perfectly still as if a huge mirror.  No wonder Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (張藝謀) chose this lake for a poetic duel scene in his epic martial art wuxia drama Hero.  It wasn’t raining but the air was wet and chilly from yesterday’s rain.  Some trees had already changed to autumn colours but we knew we were about one week too early to admire the peak autumn foliage of Jiuzhaigou.  Beyond Arrow Bamboo Lake we reached Arrow Bamboo Falls (箭竹海瀑布).  The boardwalk structure allowed us to have a close encounter with the waterfalls.  Onward on our journey we reached Panda Lake (熊貓海), another mirror-like turquoise lake.  Named after old stories about how wild giant pandas loved to come down for a drink, the endangered Chinese icon hadn’t shown up at Panda Lake for many years.  Hidden beyond Panda Lake was another spectacular waterfall, the Panda Lake Falls (熊貓海瀑布).  Then we continued our hike towards one of the park’s centerpieces, the Five Flower Lake (五花海).  With its turquoise water, and vivid autumn colours from the surroundings,  the picturesque Five Flower Lake was truly the highlight of Jiuzhaigou.  The trail led us to circle around the colourful lake, bringing us from one end of the lake to the opposite end where a large viewing platform was erected.  Visitors gathered in large number on the platform to take pictures.

dsc_8602Misty mountains over Alpine evergreen forests near Arrow Bamboo Lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tranquil water of Arrow Bamboo Lake acted like a mirror.

dsc_8653Beyond the mist revealed the snow-capped mountains.

dsc_8628The mist began to lift a little as we walked along the lake shore on designated boardwalk.

dsc_8683Beyond the lake we reached the peaceful Arrow Bamboo Falls.

dsc_8703Jiuzhaigou is famous for its uncounted number of waterfalls.

dsc_8724The Arrow Bamboo Falls was one of the smaller waterfalls that we encountered during the day, but its close proximity to the boardwalk allowed us to have a close encounter, as if we were embraced by the moving water.

dsc_8735Then the boardwalk continued to extend along Rize Valley.

dsc_8827Next came Panda Lake, which according to official descriptions, was once a popular drinking spot for wild giant pandas.

dsc_8837Today, it attracts buses after buses of tourists and zero panda.

dsc_8847Visitors gathered at the Panda Lake Falls.

dsc_8945Further down the path we reached one of the biggest highlights in the park, the Five Flower Lake.

dsc_8987The multi-coloured water of Five Flower Lake plus the reflection of autumn leaves was a painting of sheer beauty.

dsc_9006Around the lake, there were a number of lookout decks for visitors to enjoy the view.

dsc_9057Walking along the lake shore, no matter in which direction, the Five Flower Lake still looked magnificent.

dsc_9098There was a larger viewing platform at the end of Five Flower Lake, where visitors gathered to take photos.  Costumes of native ethnic groups could be rented for photo taking.

dsc_9111The sky got a little brighter as we moved on from Five Flower Lake.

dsc_9165The yellow foliage reflected on the turquoise water was incredible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFallen tree trunks, some of which could date back to hundreds and thousands of years, could be seen in many Jiuzhaigou lakes.

dsc_9223We were a week or so too early for the peak autumn foliage.  At certain spots we could still witness a sense of fall at the Five Flower Lake.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 


DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China

An hour-long morning flight brought us from the ancient Chinese capital Xian to the southern part of Minshan Mountains (岷山), a transitional area where the flat Sichuan Basin meets with the Tibetan Plateau.  Geologically it is right on the vaultline between the Yangtze Plate and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plate, and is therefore prone to earthquakes.  Ecologically it is the habitat for the endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys and giant pandas.  For travelers, it is an famous destination for two of China’s scenic attractions: Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝) and Huanglong (黃龍).  At 8:15am, we landed at the Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, a highland airport (about 3400m above sea level) opened in 2003 to serve the constantly growing demand of tourism.  We hopped on a minibus outside the airport for Jiuzhaigou.  The bus ride took a little over an hour, traveling through villages, mountain passes, and valleys.  Just as suspected, the minibus dropped everyone off at a village parking lot some 10 minutes of drive away from Pengfeng Village (彭豐村), where the main gate of Jiuzhaigou National Park and our guesthouse were located.  A bunch of taxi drivers came over as if hawks saw their preys.  Despite the rain, we pushed away the drivers and attempted to find our own way to Pengfeng.  We walked into the adjacent village (don’t even know the name) and asked around.  We eventually flagged down a car whose driver (a guesthouse owner) was willing to drive us to Pengfeng for a small fee.  By the time we reached our guesthouse Friendship Hostel in Pengfeng, it was almost noon.

It didn’t took us long to refresh ourselves and began our afternoon adventure into Jiuzhaigou National Park.  It was a 20 minute from our guesthouse to the park entrance.  It was rainy and chilly and hardly visitors were entering the park this late in the day.  We bought the admission ticket excluding the shuttle bus fare as we wanted to do some hiking in the area close to the park entrance, while leaving most of the park highlights for the next day.  It was a slippery hike in a wet afternoon, but we had the trail pretty much all by ourselves.  Our plan was to walk as far as we could and get a taste of the park.  Along the Shuzheng River, in the remaining time of the day before the park closed, we covered the lower half of Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝).  Despite the rain, we had some tranquil moments on the trail until reaching the area between Bonsai Shoals (盆景灘) and Sparking Lake (火花海), where apart from the magnificent turquoise lakes and scenic waterfalls, we also had our first experience of the horrific tourist crowds, which unfortunately, was also what Jiuzhaigou is well known for in recent years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinding through valleys and passes, the airport bus passed by a kitschy welcome sign of Jiuzhaigou in the middle of nowhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASnow was already present at mountain passes on our way to Jiuzhaigou.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt noon, we finally reached Friendship Hostel at Pengfeng Village.  We chose to stay at Pengfeng because of its walkable distance from the park entrance.  Despite simple, the guesthouse had a causal and welcoming atmosphere.

dsc_8348We reached the visitor centre and ticket office of Jiuzhaigou National Park at about 1pm.  It was rainy and chilly and we were a little tired from the early morning flight, but our hearts were excited.

dsc_8349The trail along Shuzheng River was mostly consisted of boardwalk paths.

dsc_8374The hike was wet and sometimes slippery, but we felt like we were the only visitors for the first two hours.

dsc_8389Out of the nine Tibetan villages in Jiuzhaigou, seven are still populated.  Closest to the park entrance, Heye Village (荷葉寨) is also one of the biggest.  As we approached Heye, the rain began to recede.

dsc_8397Heye Village (荷葉寨) was the first village we encountered.  Houses in Heye were still decorated in Tibetan style.

dsc_8408Village houses of Heye Villag (荷葉寨).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Heye Village, we continued to walk along Shuzheng River until reaching an area with a number of small lakes, including Bonzai Shoals (盆景灘), Reeds Lake (蘆葦海), Double Dragon Lake (雙龍海), Sparkling Lake (火花海), and Sleeping Dragon Lake (臥龍海).  Despite the gloomy weather, we had our first glimpses of Jiuzhaigou’s crystal clear turquoise water.

dsc_8427Water plants were clearly visible in the crystal water.

dsc_8458At Reeds Lake (蘆葦海), the reeds can grow as tall as human height.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADrying reeds on racks near Reeds Lake (蘆葦海).

dsc_8465Winding boardwalk along Reeds Lake (蘆葦海).

dsc_8484A Tibetan roadside shrine with colourful prayer flags.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABird enthusiast taking photos of an eagle with a professional telephoto lens.

dsc_8513With water coming from two opposite ridges, one of the highlights of our day was Sparkling Lake Waterfalls (火花海瀑布).

dsc_8558Looking down the turquoise water of Sleeping Dragon Lake (臥龍海) from the zigzag boardwalk on the higher ridge.

dsc_8541Small waterfalls at both sides of the boardwalk from one lake down to another were virtually everywhere in the Sparkling Lake (火花海) area.

dsc_8591It was almost 7pm when we returned to Pengfeng Village.  We opted for a recently established restaurant of Chongqing cuisine for dinner and retired to our guesthouse after a brief visit to a small grocery shop.  As we hoped for a good rest in a rather cold night, all we could wish was some fine weather in the next morning.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China

We chose the historical city wall to end our visit of Xian.  Constructed upon an earlier imperial fortification network of the Tang Dynasty, the First Emperor of Ming Dynasty, Hongwu (洪武), erected the 14km city wall in the 14th century.  Today, this Ming city wall has become one of the most well preserved of its kind in China.  Our taxi dropped us off at the West Gate, also known as Andingmen (安定門).  There was a belt of public park running along the city wall where the locals engaged in all kinds of activities from dancing to playing badminton.  After walking around the area for several minutes we finally found the ticket office and the stair going up to the city wall.  Up on the wall we reached another network of public space where people strolled and cycled.  Against the background of the cloudy sky and charcoal grey bricks, rows of crimson lanterns began to lit up as we walked towards the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).  It turned out to be less than an hour of leisure stroll.  Our two friends opted for cycling to complete the journey, while we chose to take our time to walk, take photos, and watch the city below gradually lit up.

dsc_8153Our taxi dropped us off at Andingmen (安定門).

dsc_8167Dusk had fallen upon Xian as we began our walk from Andingmen (安定門).

dsc_8180Signage on Xian city wall.

dsc_8191Xian city wall is a popular for cyclists.

dsc_8207Vivid lighting and red lanterns turned the city wall into a focal point of Xian at night.

dsc_8216Atmospheric dining in traditional houses seemed common along the city wall.

dsc_8243It was interesting to watch the busy street scenes as we walked.

dsc_8263Traditional architectural style is still commonly used for restaurants and hotels in Xian.

dsc_8268After slightly less than an hour of walk, we finally reached the archery tower of the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8281Archery Tower of the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門)

dsc_8290Man played with his kid in front of the flood light of the Archery Tower .

dsc_8313The South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門) is perfectly aligned with the Bell Tower.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8319Closer up of the Archery Tower of the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8307Descending down the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8331The South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

dsc_8333Looking back at the Archery Tower from the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked through the South Gate Yongningmen (永寧門) to enter the city centre.  We ended up having a fast food dinner and finished the day early.  We needed time to pack our stuff and get ready for our morning flight the next day to Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟).

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 

 


DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China

As the eastern terminus of the former Silk Road, Changan (now Xian) of the Tang Dynasty was a melting pot of different cultures and religions.  A number of Middle Eastern and Central Asian religions entered China during that time, some of which had survived and remained strong even today.  Dated back to many centuries, Xian’s Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque revealed an interesting cultural fusion that is not commonly seen in other parts of China.  Xian’s Great Mosque is the largest mosque in China.  The buildings in the traditional courtyard complex were mainly constructed in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644).  Earlier religious complexes, Tanmingsi and Huihui Wanshansi, were established on the same site dated as far back as the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).  

Our taxi dropped us off at one end of the Muslim Quarter, where we began our brief meandering through the crowded Muslim market streets and alleyways before reaching the Great Mosque.  From the first glance, the mosque looked very similar to a traditional Chinese courtyard complex, consisting of houses, pavilions, pagodas, gardens, and courtyards.  We took our time to wander around the courtyards.  As we looked closely at the building decorations, we could find Islam functions and design elements incorporated in the traditional Chinese architecture, with the most obvious being the Arabic inscriptions on walls.  The entire complex faces west towards Mecca.  Artefacts related to Chinese Islam were on displayed in some of the buildings that were open to visitors.  However, the largest prayer hall at the far end of the complex was restricted for Muslims only.  We could only peek through the doors to have a glimpse of the colourful carpets and delicate wooden screens in the hall, where worshipers would have prayers sessions.  It was interesting to see the fusion of Islam and Chinese design elements combined into one single complex. Before sunset, we left the Great Mosque behind for our last designation in Xian, the Ming city walls.

dsc_8016We entered the Muslim Quarter from the main market street.

dsc_8023There is still a significant population of Muslims in Xian.

dsc_8039Cars, motorcycles, and people packed the main market street.

dsc_8042 The market street of Xian’s Muslim Quarter is a good place for people watching.

dsc_8050An awfully tall steamer in front of a local eatery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA street vendor put different topping on a local dessert called “jing gao” which is a steamed glutinous rice cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wonton vendor managing her charcoal stove.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALamb skewers vendors could be seen everywhere.

dsc_8138The entrance gate of Xian’s Great Mosque.

dsc_8069The interior of an old study room looks very much like a traditional Chinese house, but all the paintings and calligraphy on displayed were Islam related.

dsc_8074Islamic components were incorporated in the Chinese architecture.

dsc_8089The mosque complex is made up of a series of courtyards.

dsc_8098“Examining the Heart Tower” in the third courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe main prayer hall at the far end of the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARichly decorated pendant lamps at the veranda of the main prayer hall.

dsc_8117Peeking inside the main prayer hall.

dsc_8121Wooden clock and timber screens of the main prayer hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeaving the Great Mosque behind, we exited the Muslim Quarter from another end of the market street.

DSC_8143.JPGIt was approaching supper time when we left the Muslim Quarter, and the food vendors were all geared up for their night of business.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM (陝西歷史博物館), Xian, China

Back from the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum, we continued our historical journey at the provincial history museum of Shaanxi.  There was a long queue at the gate for people to collect the free admission tickets (4000 daily).  We skipped the wait by buying a ticket to the special exhibition of “Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty”, which we wouldn’t want to miss anyway.  We entered the museum building which was designed to mimic the traditional architecture of the Tang Dynasty.

We started our visit with the special exhibition of Tang treasures unearthed from Hejia Village (何家村) of Xian.  Known as the Hejia Village Hoard (何家村唐代窖藏), the 1000+ treasures ranged from gold and silver wares, coins, jade items, agate wares, crystals, etc.  These treasures were carefully stored in clay pots roughly 65cm tall, hidden underground sometime after AD 732 during the An–Shi Rebellion (安史之亂) when Tang China was engulfed in a nasty civil war.  As the east terminus of the Silk Road, the treasures of Changan (now Xian) revealed the degree of cultural exchanges in the Chinese capital during Tang, when goldsmiths and silversmiths from Central Asia such as the Sassanian Empire (now Iraq and Iran) came to Changan and brought with them the world’s most advanced metal crafting skills.  The treasures from the hoard were mainly made domestically with a mixture of techniques and styles from both within China and other places along the Silk Road.  It was an impressive collection and indeed, a very fortunate case for Chinese archaeology that these items could survive the Cultural Revolution when the collection was first unearthed.

We then moved on to the museum’s permanent collections.  We quickly walked through the prehistoric exhibits, and focused on the bronze items from the Shang Dynasty 商朝 (1600-1046 BC) and Zhou Dynasty 周朝 (1046-256 BC), Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty 秦朝 (221-206 BC), treasures of the Han Dynasty 漢朝 (206 BC- AD 290), and more artefacts from the Tang Dynasty 唐朝 (AD 618-907).  In this post we have included selected photos of the magnificent artefacts from the Shaanxi History Museum.

dsc_7874The Main exhibition hall of Shaanxi History Museum was inspired by Tang architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmall gold dragons (赤金走龍), Hejia Village Hoard.

dsc_7878Gilt Silver Plate with Double Foxes in Shape of Double Peaches (鎏金雙狐紋雙桃形銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard, is inspired by Persian influences in style and technique, combined local references of good fortune: peaches and foxes (foxes and a few other animals were also considered a reference to good fortune in Tang China).

dsc_7879Gilt Silver Plate with Phoneix (鎏金鳳鳥紋六曲銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard

dsc_7882Silver Vessel in Form of Nomadic Leather Flask Depicting a Dancing Horse  (舞馬銜杯仿皮囊式銀壺), Hejia Village Hoard.  Another piece of silver ware reflected the influences from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia.

dsc_7902Gold Bowl with Design of Lotus and Mandarin Ducks (鴛鴦蓮瓣紋金碗), Hejia Village Hoard.  A golden bowl for wine.

dsc_7904Agate Cup with Beast Head (獸首瑪瑙杯), Hejia Village Hoard.  A rare piece of Tang treasure with influences from Persia.

dsc_7915Bronze blades and masks for rituals, Late Shang Dynasty (13th-11th Century BC)

dsc_7918Bronze Bianzhong (編鐘) of Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC), an ancient music instrument.

dsc_7928Terracotta Warriors of First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

dsc_7945The Kneeling Archer, Terracotta Warriors of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

dsc_7946Gilded Incense Burner, Han Dynasty (206 BC- AD 290), depicting a fantasy mountain supported by dragons.  The incense smoke would leak from the gaps like mountain mist.

dsc_7962Oil Lamp depicting a goose with a fish in its mouth, Han Dyansty (206 BC- AD 290).  The smoke from burning the oil would go through the goose’s neck to its body, which was filled with water.

dsc_7973Gilded Bronze Dragon with iron core, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_7976Tri-coloured Watermelon, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).  A selection of these terracotta figures revealed the impressive hair, makeup and fashion styles of the Tang Dynasty, which changed every few years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_7987Terracotta figures of the Chinese Zodiac, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_8000Funeral Procession of the Prince Qinjian from the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644).

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM (漢陽陵), Xian, China

In the morning, we hired a taxi to head north of Xian.  Our taxi took the airport highway, passed by a number of new residential developments and coal power plants, and arrived at another popular attraction near Xian, the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum (漢陽陵).  As the capital of 13 dynasties, there are many royal tombs around the area of Xian (formerly known as Changan).  Other than the Mausoleum and his Terracotta Army of the First Qin (秦) Emperor, royal tomb complexes of Han and Tang Emperors are also impressive in scale and significant in historical values.  Belonged to Emperor Jing (漢景帝) of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 9 AD), Han Yang Ling Mausoleum is a major archaeological site to study the Han Dynasty.  There are 86 outer burial pits (22 of which are opened for visitors) around the central mausoleum mount.  Over 50,000 mini terracotta figures were found in the pits along with other valuable artefacts, allowing historians a glimpse what Han China might be like under Emperor Jing.  During his reign in 157 – 141 BC, the Han Dynasty underwent a relatively peaceful period.  Influenced by Taoist beliefs, his policies of non-interference with the people and heavy tax reductions allowed the Han society to rejuvenate itself after years of internal power struggles and civil wars.

After arriving at Han Yang Ling, we walked on the designated boardwalk to have a look at the ruined foundations of the Southern Double Gate Towers (門闕).  The earth foundation structure of the two huge gate towers survived to the present, and is now protected under a huge structure constructed in traditional Chinese style.  The ancient gate towers were gone, but from the interpretative displays and a close look at the remaining foundations, we could imagine the scale of the original structures.  We followed the boardwalk to walk around the mausoleum mount, which had yet been excavated.  Saving the best for the last, we found our way down to the underground museum which brought visitors to have a close encounter with the outer burial pits.  We put on the museum shoe covers and entered the underground world of the tomb.  Inside the museum, we followed a designated route where we could look through the glass floor to the artefacts in the burial pits.  Artefacts seen included mini terracotta human figures, terracotta animals such as pigs, cows, horses, dogs, etc., skeletons of large animals, ancient tea leaves, barley, wooden tools, etc.  It was such a big contrast compared with the Terracotta Army of the First Qin Emperor, who died 69 years before Han Emperor Jing.  The Qin royal tomb was all about presenting the Emperor’s military might and his fear of revenges from his enemies in the underworld.  The Han tomb, on the other hand, was a mausoleum built during a time when China was beginning to enter its first peaceful golden age.  It was a time to celebrate good economy, abundant food, and agricultural advancement.  It was weird to see the thousands of naked arm-less terracotta figures until we realized that their wooden arms and clothing made of fabrics had long perished.

dsc_7774Boardwalk heading to the ruins of the Southern Tower Gate (hidden within the museum constructed as a traditional Chinese building.

dsc_7785Foundation of one of the two Southern Gate Tower.

dsc_7786Looking at the passageway between the foundation of the two Gate Towers.

dsc_7773Stone structure of the burial pit was visible from the plain aboveground.

dsc_7787Boardwalk leading to the foot of the mausoleum mount of Han Emperor Jing.

dsc_7798Walking into the underground museum of Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

dsc_7801A model of the reconstructed Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

dsc_7804Interior of the underground museum.

dsc_7807Looking into the burial pit through the glass.

dsc_7814The burial pits were long and linear with rows of artefacts inside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADesignated route with glass floor in the underground museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStanding above one of the burial pits.

dsc_7821Terracotta livestock and pots in one of the burial pits.

dsc_7835Terracotta human figures at Pit 18.

dsc_7839Partially excavated terracotta figures at Pit 14.

dsc_7844Closer look at the terracotta figures and cows.

dsc_7858Terracotta livestock with pigs, cows, horses, dogs, etc.

DSC_7862.JPGDisplay of the terracotta figures, with the middle one wearing clothing in the Han style.

dsc_7863Thousands of artefacts were unearthed at Han Yang Ling Mausoleum.

 

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 2 – BELL TOWER, Xian, China

After the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, we taxied back to the city centre of Xian.  Before dinner, we decided to pay the beautiful Bell Tower a proper visit.  Situated at the heart of a roundabout, the Bell Tower could only be accessed via an underground passage.  We paid the admission and climbed the stair up to the podium deck of the building.  Ornate architectural carving, including the magnificent window screens, were well restored.  Since construction in 1384 during the Ming Dynasty, the Bell Tower had been restored a number of times.  The tower was damaged in the Second World War, and since then five restorations had taken place to restore the building into its former glory.  Originally built to house the bells to announce time for the city, Xian’s Bell Tower had also performed multiple functions throughout history: stage for public announcement, military beacon, temporary prison, and even the first ever film cinema in Xian.  We stayed on the podium deck for quite some time to admire the architecture and the urban scenery at all four directions, until we were urged by hunger to leave for a dumpling dinner nearby at a traditional restaurant called De Fa Chang (德發長).

dsc_7638Bell Tower in the centre of the roundabout with Drum Tower in the background.

dsc_7646Close up of the colourful timber architectural elements of the Bell Tower.

dsc_7650Across the street from the roundabout stands the equally important Drum Tower.

dsc_7661The Bell Tower and roundabout in 1960.

dsc_7664The beam and purlin system that supports the big roof of Bell Tower.

dsc_7668Close up of the beams and purlins.

dsc_7665Walking out to the deck of the upper level.

dsc_7705A smaller version of the famous Jingyun Bell (cast in AD711 during Tang Dynasty) was on display on the Bell Tower.

dsc_7708Stair back down to the base of the Bell Tower.

dsc_7736Bell and Drum Tower Square adjacent to the Bell Tower roundabout.

dsc_7743The Drum Tower as seen from the Bell and Drum Tower Square.

dsc_7750Dumpling dinner at De Fa Chang Restaurant.


DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China

After we finished with the Terracotta Army, we exited the site via a designated route through lanes after lanes of souvenir shops, restaurants and theme-park like tourist traps.  Prominent national treasures have once again fallen victims to mass tourism and consumerism in today’s highly commercialized China.  At the parking lot, we took one of the many buses returning to Xian Railway Station.  At the station, we had a late noodle lunch at one of the basic eateries right next to the station plaza.  After a forgettable bowl of noodles, we flagged down a taxi and headed south to our next place to visit, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔).

Xian, formerly known as Changan (長安), was the national capital during the Qin and Han Dynasties, as well as the Tang Dynasty during China’s golden age.  Other than artefacts in the museums, not many traces of Tang Dynasty remained in the city, except two well-known pagodas that had dominated the city’s skyline for over a millennium, namely the Big Wild Goose and Small Wild Goose Pagoda.  The original Big Goose Pagoda and the entire Ci En Buddhist Temple complex (慈恩寺) were built in the Tang Dynasty at AD 652.  The complex was built to store the relics and Buddhist texts that Buddhist monk Xuanzang (玄奘) brought back from India.  Xuanzang, the famous traveler, translator and Buddhist master who inspired Ming author Wu Cheng En (吳承恩) on writing the epic novel Journey to the West (西遊記), left Tang China for India in AD 629 and returned to Changan in AD 645.  Not only did Xuanzang enhanced his Buddhist studies from a number of famous Indian masters, he also wrote a magnificent travelogue that depicted his 16-year journey throughout Central Asia, brought back hundreds of Sanskrit texts on Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism, and returned with many sarira relics.  At the original Ci En Temple, Xuanzang spent the remaining 19 years of his life translating the Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Chinese.  His translation efforts helped to spread and consolidate Buddhism in East Asia.

The original rammed earth pagoda built in Xuanzang’s time collapsed a few decades after it was built.  The Tang Dynasty rebuilt a taller pagoda in AD 704.  The top three levels couldn’t withstand an earthquake in 1556 and reduced to the present height of 64m.  It was a little crowded up the wooden stair inside the pagoda.  Scaffolding was up at the lower two levels, reminding us that the Big Wild Goose Pagoda had gone through a series of extensive repair works, one during the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644) and one in 1964.  Apart from the pagoda, other buildings in the complex of Da Ci En Temple (大慈恩寺) couldn’t survive.  The buildings that we visited nowadays dated back to the Qing Dyansty (AD 1644-1912), and occupied roughly one seventh the area of the original Tang complex.

After seeing the pagoda, we walked across the street to the nearby Westin Hotel.  Designed by the emerging architectural office in Shanghai, Neri & Hu Design and Research Office, the design of the Westin Hotel revealed a clever interplay of contrasting colours and variation of materials to express a minimalist interpretation of traditional Chinese architecture.

dsc_7493The Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Da Ci En Temple.

dsc_7503Golden Buddha at the main hall of Da Ci En Temple.

dsc_7506Outside the main hall of Da Ci En Temple.

dsc_7512Worshiper outside of another prayer hall at Ci En Temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Big Wild Goose Pagoda from below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView of public plaza and urban axis from the top of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

dsc_7527View of traditional architecture below the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

dsc_7529Staircase inside the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

dsc_7535Urban parks surrounded the Big Wild Goose Pagoda from all four sides.

dsc_7539Statue of Xuanzang in front of Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

dsc_7540A museum attached to the Westin Hotel designed by Neri & Hu Design and Research Office.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAtrium inside the Westin Hotel.

dsc_7548A interior courtyard at the Westin Hotel.

dsc_7552Reception lobby of the Westin Hotel.

dsc_7559By the time we left the Westin Hotel flood lights had already lit up at the pagoda.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY (秦始皇陵兵馬俑), near Xian, China

In the morning, we headed to the main railway station of Xian.  At the station’s  east plaza, there were a number of municipal buses designated for major tourist attractions near the city.  We hopped onto one of the several buses heading to the Terracotta Army (兵馬俑).  The bus ride took roughly an hour to arrive at the parking lot, which was about 15 minutes of walk from the gate of the archaeological site.  On our way to the gate, we passed by an alleyway full of vendors.  An elderly woman selling baby woolen shoes beautifully handcrafted in traditional styles caught our attention.  From the ticket hall it was another 15-minute meandering through a park until reaching the main site, where four exhibition halls housed the most important archaeological discovery in China in the 20th century.  We started from Pit 1, the biggest and most impressive exhibition hall where about 2000 terracotta warriors were on display in rows of excavated ditches.  There were over 6000 warriors in this pit alone.  It was unbelievable that no two warriors have the same face.  At Pit 3 a number of high ranked terracotta generals were unearthed, prompting archaeologists to believe that it was the vault for the commanders.  However the pit had been partially damaged.  We then moved on to Pit 2 that offer close-up encounter with different types of warriors: archers, infantry, chariots, troopers, etc.  The extraordinary details of the warrior’s hairstyles and armour were captivating, leaving us plenty of clues to piece together an impression of what being one of the thousands of warriors protecting the mighty First Qin Emperor (秦始皇)might be like 2200 years ago.  Before leaving, we dared not to miss the “Qin Shi Huang Emperor Tomb Artefact Exhibition Hall”, in which two bronze chariots and horses unearthed near the mausoleum were on display.

We have learnt about the Terracotta Army since early childhood in Hong Kong from books and school.  We had seen an amazing traveling exhibition of the warriors at London’s British Museum back in 2008, but none could compare with seeing the real excavation site of the army.  Discovered in 1974 by a well-digging farmer, the Terracotta Army belongs to the outer part of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.  Famous as a cruel tyrant, the First Qin Emperor was also widely recognized for his contributions on unifying China, not only militarily, but also the language, culture, economy and measurement units.  Built between BC 208 to 256, the mausoleum construction began in the first year of his throne when the First Qin Emperor was 13 years old.  The 8000+ terracotta warriors unearthed revealed the high level of sculpting skills and artistic craftsmanship of the Qin Dynasty, as well as the selfish personality of the First Qin Emperor.  Legend had it that the First Qin Emperor had huge fear of mortality.  Not only he sent out travelers to look for the medicine of immortality, he also commissioned a build a terracotta army to safeguard his tomb from his uncounted enemies in the Afterlife.  Ancient texts also described the exquisite construction of the mausoleum, including river streams filled with mercury so they would never dried up.  Before the actual digging of the mausoleum may take place one day in the future, our generation could only imagine the exquisite of the emperor’s underground mausoleum from ancient depictions and archaeological studies of the excavated terracotta army.

dsc_7267Like many railway stations in the country, Xian Railway Station is a huge building.

dsc_7273The old woman making traditional woolen shoes near the parking lot of the Terracotta Army.

dsc_7288Aisles of the Terracotta Army in Pit One.

dsc_7286No visitors were allowed to go down to the aisles, except archaeologists and occasional VIP.

dsc_7307Looking at the warriors, it was hard to imagine all of them were once fully coloured.

dsc_7342Built in 1976, the huge building covering Pit One felt like a railway station.

dsc_7349The terracotta warriors seemed like they were queuing for a train, but in fact, the warriors were facing eastwards and battle-ready to guard the Emperor’s tomb from enemies of the east, namely the six nations that Qin had conquered before unifying China into a single nation.

dsc_7353A number of the terracotta warriors were in different stages of conservation.

dsc_7361Terracotta warriors and horses at Pit 2.

dsc_7437Overview of Pit 2.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScattered pieces of warriors and artefacts at Pit 2.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhotographs of the coloured warriors during excavation.

dsc_7394Several terracotta warriors were displayed in glass boxes at Pit 3.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll of them had different hairstyles, dresses, postures, and faces.

dsc_7407Terracotta statue of an high ranked official.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABelly of the high ranked official.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArcher without the bow.  Some of the weaponry were also on display.

dsc_7414Cavalry and his beautifully carved horse.

dsc_7421The details of the horse’s headpiece was magnificent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACloseup of a warrior’s head showing unique hairstyle of that time.

dsc_7460Two bronze chariots were discovered near the mausoleum.  They are roughly half the size of the real objects.  The chariots were unearthed in 1980 and took archaeologists years to put back together the broken pieces.  These chariots are one of the fifty or so designated artefacts that can never leave the country.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 


DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China

In Mid-October, we had the opportunity to reunite with two of our travel buddies for a short trip to China.  It was the week after the week-long Chinese National Holiday.  We had a simple travel plan consisted of two distinct parts: Xian (西安) for history and Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝) for natural scenery.  Xian, historically known as Changan (長安), was the ancient capital of China for 13 different dynasties, spanning a total period of over 1200 years, including the golden age of Han and Tang Dynasty.  The ruins of ancient royal palaces and tombs, such as the magnificent Terra-cotta Warriors of the First Qin Emperor, revealed the former glory of ancient China.  Jiuzhaigou, on the other hand, has been renowned for its out-of-this-world alpine scenery.  It is located at the north of Sichuan Province (四川) where the plains of Eastern and Central China begins to give way to the Tibetan and Qinghai Plateau.

After a minor delay, we flew out of Hong Kong in a Saturday afternoon.  It was already dusk by the time we landed at Xian Xianyang Interational Airport.  We took an airport bus into the city, and taxied the rest of the way to our hostel south of Xincheung Square (新城廣場).  Our taxi passed by the well-preserved Ming city wall and the brightly lit historical Bell Tower.  After getting off, it took us a while to find the alleyway where our hostel was located.  We were delighted to find our hostel room clean and comfortable.  After checking in, we headed out immediately to grab a quick dinner.  According to guidebook, an old famous restaurant of Shaanxi Muslim food called Lao Sun Jia (老孫家) was just five minutes of walk from our hostel.  We found our way to the restaurant at the fourth floor of a retail centre.  It was about 21:00 and there was only one table of guests finishing off their beer and noodles.  We sat down and ordered the popular paomo (泡饃), or crumbled flatbread in either mutton or beef stew. 

After dinner, we wanted to checked out the beautiful Bell Tower (鐘樓) right at the historical heart of Xian.  It was another five minute of walk from the restaurant.  The tower was already close for the day, but we could still admire the historical architecture across the street from the tower’s roundabout.  This handsome piece of traditional architecture was an icon of Xian.  In the old days since the 14th century, the tower’s main function was to mark the moment of dawn with its bells.  A few blocks away, we noticed another historical building prominently lit up.  It was the Drum Tower (鼓樓), the building that originally housed 28 drums to mark the day’s end at dusk.  Around the corner from the Drum Tower, we entered a busy pedestrian streets packed with snack vendors.  We had entered Beiyuanmen (北院門) Street, the core of Xian’s Muslim Quarter.  It was almost 10pm but the street was still busy with visitors.  There were a number of vendors selling barbecue lamb kebabs, mutton or beef sandwiches, local pomegranate juices, traditional sweets, nuts, persimmon cakes, and many other kinds of desserts.  After the filling meal of paomo, we gave it a pass for the street food.  We slowly walked back to our hostel, hoping to get some good rest.  In the next morning we would exit Xian and head eastwards to the foot of Lishan Mountains to check out the most popular tourist attraction of Xian: the First Qin Emperor’s Terra-cotta Warriors.

dsc_7127Mutton paomo (泡饃) at Lao Sun Jia Restaurant (老孫家).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeef paomo (泡饃) at Lao Sun Jia Restaurant (老孫家).

dsc_7131Heading towards the icon of Xian, the Bell Tower (鐘樓).

dsc_7152The Bell Tower stands at the centre of a large roundabout.

dsc_7166The 14th century structure is lit up with atmospheric lighting.

dsc_7186The Drum Tower at a distance, and in front, the public square between Bell Tower and Drum Tower.  The square is flanked by local restaurants, a department store, and a Starbucks.

dsc_7204Signage at the Drum Tower.

dsc_7208The mighty Drum Tower near the entrance to the Muslim Quarter.

dsc_7220Street vendor of lamb kebabs at the Muslim Quarter.  There were terrifying lamb skeletons hanging in front of each kebab store.

dsc_7227Beiyuanmen (北院門) Street, the main pedestrian street at the Muslim Quarter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVendor selling regional pomegranate juice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARose cake, another kind of local dessert.

dsc_7229Kebab stores were the most popular.

dsc_7235Muslim beef sandwiches.

dsc_7244Vendor handling of sweet being heated up.

dsc_7245Persimmon cakes and a friendly smile.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China