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Posts tagged “History

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).

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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 – 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

 


POON CHOI – A Brief Visit of Ping Shan in Yuen Long, Hong Kong

An unexpected opportunity came up.  I found myself tagging along my cousin to participate in a traditional poon choi dinner at the Tang Ancestral Hall in Ping Shan, a rural area between the new towns of Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai.  Poon choi is a traditional dish originated from the villages of the New Territories.  It was believed that poon choi was invented in late Song Dynasty (late 13th century) when villages in the New Territories gathered their best dishes available together in large wooden washbasins to serve the exile Song emperor and his army.  Today, poon choi is often served in large stainless steel or ceramic bowls for everyone to share around the table.  The food served in poon choi varies, but usually it is a combination of seafood and meat.  Throughout the centuries, poon choi has become a signature dish for communal gatherings and celebrations in many parts of the New Territories.

Despite largely renovated in recent years, the original Tang Ancestral Hall in Ping Shan was built over 700 years ago by the Tang Clan.  Today it is still used regularly by the Tang Clan in Ping Shan for rituals and gatherings.  In 1993, the government established the Ping Shan Heritage Trail to promote tourism in the area.  The trail connects a number of historical sights and an interpretation centre housed in the former Ping Shan Police Station.  The Tang Ancestral Hall is one of the star attractions along the trail.  With an entry courtyard, a central hall for reception, and an inner hall to house the ancestral alter, the Tang Ancestral Hall is a typical example of a traditional ancestral hall, which in ancient times functioned as the social nucleus of a clan village.

Before dinner, we had a chance to stroll around the area.  We walked by Tsui Sing Lau, Hong Kong’s only historical pagoda dating back to 600 years ago, an old well that once served the villagers for over two centuries, and the entrance to Sheung Cheung Wai, a walled village constructed more than 200 years ago.  Despite drastically transformed from the heydays, clan villages and walled communities are still common in rural areas of the New Territories.  Many walled villages, like Sheung Cheung Wai in Ping Shan, were once heavily fortified with high walls and deep moats for self-defense against pirates.  Moats were filled and cannons removed, but many wall enclosures survived to the present day.
ImageWith its 700-year history, the Tang Ancestral Hall is the star attraction of Ping Shan.
ImageDining tables were set up at the semi-open central hall of the Tang Ancestral Hall.
ImageWarmed with a portable gas stove throughout the dinner, the poon choi was the centre piece on the dining table.  The wine-marinated chicken and duck soup on the side were equally impressive.
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The Tang Ancestral Hall has been undergoing major renovations in recent years.  Scaffolding has been set up at the inner hall where the ancestral altar is located.
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Many farmlands in Ping Shan and its surroundings have been converted into parking lots and new housing estates, including the new town of Tin Shui Wai.  The land where Tin Shui Wai occupies was mainly marshland a century ago.  Villagers then converted the marshes into rice paddies and fish ponds.  As the economy changed, most rice paddies and fish ponds were abandoned and the government finally stepped in to transform the land into the new town of Tin Shui Wai in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
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ImageThe Tsui Sing Lau pagoda originally contained 7 storeys.  It was used for the worship of the star constellations for academic achievement.
ImageThe 200-year old well
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Sheung Cheung Wai remains as a example of the traditional walled villages in the New Territories.