...which represents impressions, opinions and possibly insights gained during a twenty day
tour which selectively dipped into a very large and complex society.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

July 13: The Terra Cotta Army

Today in a sense is "the big day." We are seeing the famous Terra Cotta Army, one of the most impressive archeological discoveries of modern time. I realize that doing any photographic justice to this display, especially without a tripod is impossible. Yet the compulsion to shoot away along with thousands of other tourists, some of whom have in fact brought tripods, is irresistible. In a sense taking pictures of the Terra Cotta Army is redundant. One can buy any one of a dozen of books which pictorially document this remarkable discovery. The desire, to which I succumb, is, of course, to show and tell: I was there.

This failure to even begin to capture the phenomenon forces me to reflect on the functions of tourism and especially tourism in a police state like China. There are thousands of tourists all around us. They come from all over the world, but mostly from China and the United States. The vast majority, especially the Americans, who could not possibly negotiate this country on their own, are being managed by tour companies that are, wittingly or not, tools of a totalitarian regime. For China, American tourists are big business. They are also an important instrument of propaganda. So far on this journey (and on the rest of this trip) we have seen the sights that the government wants us to see. By Chinese standards we have been treated remarkably well. The hotels we stay at are luxurious. And in the lobby we are provided with an English speaking newspaper, the China Daily, which, gives us vivid accounts of the "Al Qaeda sponsored terrorists" in Urumqi who are disrupting the peace and forcing a benevolent government to kill them. I remind myself that I did not come to China just to be a tourist but to see for myself this so-called "communist country" which produces so much of the stuff we consume and in the process has become our ally in global pollution. Viewing the Terra Cotta Army is great. But seeing little bits of this behemoth, unfiltered, is even more interesting.

July 13 (Cont.): Dinner and night club
After seeing the Terra Cotta army we returned to Xian Garden, our very lovely hotel. At dinner time we were driven by bus to a large restaurant for what was simply described in the OAT literature as "cultural show and dinner." This was an understatement. The diner was very good and the show was a lot of fun. One thing I have learned on this trip is that the Chinese love colorful spectacles. (They do provide us with most of our fireworks). We were almost as well seated as we were the night of the opera and I was able to take many photos. This is just a small sample. The music was also interesting and the trumpet player was quite amusing. As the last picture indicates we were on what I like to think is the great tourist route. The "student ambassadors" were a touring group of young Americans. Our paths would cross again.



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