Xian and the Terracotta Warriors
Xian ("she-on") is the jumping off city for one of China's best known attractions, the Terracotta Warriors, 20 miles east, easily reached by city bus for $.65. Before venturing off you find Xian has its own charms, ignoring the three block visibility found in all Chinese cities burning coal to generate electricity. The old city wall has been completely restored, red carpet at the north gate. Brightly dressed Chinese maidens in ancient costumes pose with any and all tourists. Besides the great seafood (1000 miles from the sea!) the other attraction of Xian is the thousand year old Great Mosque in the Muslim quarter. The Mosque is wood, built in Chinese style with courtyards and inner courtyards and inner inner courtyards. Photogenic.
Pulling yourself away from the city you head east and right away notice the Chinese buy Terracotta Warrior entry tickets separately from you, at greatly reduced prices, while your ticket costs over $8, the usual differential in China. You also learn public bathrooms are to be avoided except by those flirting with asphyxiation and that Chinese souvenir hawkers are the noisiest on the planet, screeching "HELLO" at all western tourists at the top of their lungs. You put a forefinger to the lips, incredibly and effectively shushing them. They fall into shocked silence at the temerity of some tourists.
You've run the gauntlet necessary to reach the Terracotta Warriors, watching the intro film shown in the round, 360 degrees, telling you what the Warriors are all about in noisy living color. First, 8000 Warriors stand in formation, full-size, and every face is individual. None are alike. Second, they were commissioned by the first emperor of China, the guy who unified the country 2200 years ago, Emperor Qin ("Chin") from whom comes the name China, the real father of his country, the main man 2100 years before Chairman Mao. The Warriors were mostly destroyed by Genghis Khan. You are impressed, especially when the intimidating uniformed guards ignore clicking cameras. Amazing because you'd heard cameras were forbidden. After an hour of gawking and snapping you decline to buy a full sized Terracotta Warrior replica from the energetic hawkers because it'd cost a fortune to ship it back home. A missed opportunity for an inimitable conversation piece.