Xi’an, May 14, 2013
I was totally thrilled to make this trip to Xi’an, the capital city in thirteen Chinese dynasties which in total lasted over 1100 years. This is where the much broadcasted Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses were found. These sculptures depict the armies of Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇), the first emperor of China. The figures, dating from 210BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers in Lin Tong district, Xi’an, near the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Such rich and worthy history!
The first impression of Xi’an, however, was that of a dark, suffocating, care-slacking kind of feeling from the airport to the hotel. The airport itself was dark and gloomy, kinda like you are on your last life in a warrior computer game. It took us more than an hour from the airport to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, supposedly the landmark of the city as the the driver put it since it is the tallest building in Xi’an. Along the way, greyish redish run-down residential buildings line up in odd orders. The whole thing paints a saddened, tragic mood to the city skyline. I wondered if I was in the right city, the glorious ancient city of China; the past unseen, the future unknown, the present perplexing….
Xi’an reminds me of Cairo and Bucharest. Like Cairo, it’s a heritage city with thousands of years of history which can really make you stop, put aside all the earthly monkey thoughts to simply appreciate the glory of past civilizations. However, Cairo seems to be trapped in the glory of the past without any forward direction into the future while Xi’an marches forward at the light-year speed without a single nostalgic expression of the much admired by-gone era. Like Bucharest, Xi’an hosts some of the most amazing architectural structures with thousands of years of history, but one would never understand how these gorgeous masterpieces could be disgracefully placed amidst the skinny, miserable-looking, multi-storey residential boxes. The past and the present host an awkward relationship though they somehow learn to co-exist.
Another day dawns upon Xi’an as I leave this city with mixed emotions of belonging to the past yet failing to fit into the now of this historical city. The future is unknown. All I know is that my future depends upon my mindful living in the present. Just like the ancient people of Xi’an created today’s amazing Xi’an for us to admire, from the bottom of my heart, I pray that the people of Xi’an shall be mindful of their present to help Xi’an live on as the cultural heartbeat of China.