Xiaoyan Ta
Small Wild Goose Pagoda

Our next stop would be at the Xiaoyan Ta, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, located back in Xi'an. On the way back to Xi'an you could see several tomb mounds where many of China's earliest emperors are buried. They're just large mounds of earth with no visible markings or ornaments, much different than Egypt's pyramids.

The Small Wild Goose Pagoda stands 210 feet high and dates to Tang Dynasty, 652 AD, when Crown Prince Li Zhi built it as a memorial to his mother. Xuanzang, a monk, made a pilgrimage to India in 629 and returned in 645 with many Buddhist scriptures which were at one time stored and translated into Chinese in the pagoda, originally part of a Buddhist temple. Little remains of the original temple complex today. Today the grounds are the home of an active artist community. Strolling the grounds you can view many Chinese art works including sculptures, paintings and scrolls. Anne, of course, found two nice prints for her office wall. Me, I found nothing. I was in search of a tiger scroll but didn't like the rendering of the tiger and preferred to put off my search until later in the trip.

The pagoda through the trees

My niece, Alicia, ringing
the ceremonial bell
(Photo by John)
Courtyard scenes
(Photo below by John)
If you asked me there really wasn't much interesting to see at the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. Five minutes would have been sufficient (in my opinion) to see it and then run, but more time was allotted to allow people to view and purchase the art works. Perhaps I was a bit anxious because our two days in Xi'an were the coldest days of our trip. There was a lot of moisture in the air and it seemed to go right through you and all of the buildings at the pagoda were open to the elements.

Between visiting the terracotta warriors and Great Wild Goose Pagoda we'd had a full day of sightseeing, and we were all tired having arrived the night before after midnight. It would have been nice to have been able to return to the hotel and fall into bed, but that wasn't to be. We were scheduled to have dinner at the Tang Dynasty Cultural Theater and Restaurant. Now, as much as I hated the Chinese opera we attended in Beijing, I loved this evening's entertainment. It was combination of traditional Chinese music, song and dance, and the performance was absolutely wonderful. Very entertaining and enjoyable.

Sorry I took no pictures. I guess you might say I was pictured out and didn't even think to bring the camera and, as the Gods would have it, I missed something special. Our tour escort, Mei, told the restaurant that three of our group were celebrating their birthday. Actually she lied. There were three in the group who shared the same birthday, May 13th, and my sister, Carol, was one of them. I know you're picturing being at some restaurant where they come up and sing or clap or do something otherwise to make you feel stupid, but that wasn't the case. Here they delivered the cake with much fanfare and cut it with a long sword. It was quiet and quite entertaining. I wished I'd brought my camera, but I wasn't alone. John didn't bring his either.

Another interesting thing happened during the evening. One of our travel group had a friend in Xi'an. She was a teacher and had recently come over on a year's exchange program to teach at one of the colleges. She'd been in Xi'an since September, about two months, and was not impressed with it at all. She complained that they hadn't turned the heat on in her building and that food, for the most part, was miserable. She did note that the food she had at the Tang Dynasty Theater was the best she'd had since arriving in China. When asked if she knew then what she knows now would she have volunteered to come to China she responded quickly in the negative.

After the show we returned to the hotel for some much needed rest. The next day had a relatively light schedule, thank goodness, with a quick visit to the Xi'an city wall, lunch and then to the airport for our flight to Guilin.

The inner courtyard showing
the Xi'an city wall

View of the wall and the ever
present city smog

China relied heavily on walls to protect its cities from invading armies. While nothing is left from the original Tang Dynasty walls, 9 miles of wall from the Ming Dynasty survives. These walls are a massive 40 foot thick and thirty to forty foot high. The city (as shown in the photo left and below) has been restoring these walls and the moat outside the walls.

Anne and Alicia
on the wall

Workers repairing the roof
The Smiley Balloons
Don't Leave Home Without Them!

Climbing the stairs to the top
of the wall ... a long way up!

Anne playing with Smiley

See where it ended up!!!

The Smiley Balloons: No we didn't find it flying through the air. No we didn't purchase it from the "dollar people," and no one gave it to us. So where did it come from? We brought it all the way from the States with us, a whole package, along with several other packages of small toys that children would enjoy. If you've viewed all the prior pages you'll note that we enjoy photographing the children in the foreign countries we visit. We learned over the years and trips that we've made that it's a good idea to take an "ice breaker" along with you. This trip we took the balloons, tiny spinning tops and some other toys. Anne actually bought a three pound bag of small candies to take, but I said it was to big and heavy to carry all that way so it stayed home and was given away at Halloween.

When you give the children the toys all you have to do is just stand back and watch their faces light up. From then on you can get some pretty good pictures with great expressions. We made a mistake on this trip though. When we visited the kindergarten in the Beijing hutong we were taken by the children, but there were so many of them. We decided to ask the teacher if it would be OK to give the children some of the toys. She said yes and then took two bags of toys from us for the children. We thought she'd give them to the children with us present, but she didn't. She put them aside to distribute later after we'd gone. I'm sure I missed a bunch of pictures because of that.

Now, about this particular smiley balloon. Anne had been carrying the package in her pocket for days in search of some little children, but none were to be found anywhere. When she saw the miniature terracotta warrior statue on the Xi'an city wall the little girl in her took over and she began to play. We tried to find a home for the balloon in several places, but this was by far the best place for it. The warriors missing head was now present and he was a happy warrior to boot!

Our next stop was another of the "obligated" shopping stops. This time it was to observe how the Chinese lacquerware furniture was made. Of course there was a massive showroom where you could purchase any kind of furniture you wanted right next door too. It's amazing how GCT plans this out. Each city you visit there is a designated shopping stop. In Beijing it was for cloisonné, Shanghai it was silk rugs, Suzhou it was silk bedding and clothing, and here in Xi'an it was lacquerware furniture. We'd learn in Guilin it would be the Chinese scroll paintings and in Hong Kong the jade jewelry factory. We couldn't help but wonder what kind of kickback they received for steering so many customers to these places.

The Chinese lacquerware factory showroom

A piece bought by friends
on the trip. I took the picture
for them so they'd remember
what they purchased.

Again I was lucky ... we didn't purchase any of the lacquerware furniture or odds and ends. Why? We already have our basement finished and decorated in a Chinese motif, including all the furniture, screens and wall hangings we needed. Save some money here, but Alicia didn't. She bought a nice piece similar to the one at left.

Now a word about your purchases being delivered. We had no problem with the cloisonné or silk rug we purchased. The cloisonné was waiting for us when we got home and the silk company actually called me the day after we arrived home to tell me they were shipping the rug and when to expect it. They gave me the tracking number and everything I needed to follow up in case of problems. So, Anne and I had no problems. Unfortunately the chest that Alicia purchased was damaged in transit. Contacting the company has resulted in no action or response from them. We even contacted our tour escort who called the company and still, five months later, not a word from the company. I guess it's the luck of the draw.

While everyone shopped Anne and I snooped around the grounds and took a few pictures.

Anne by a glazed ceramic dragon gate

Dragons carved in

A worker applying
paints to the lacquer
-ware (photo by John)

Part of the Xi'an City Wall

A plaza where we ate

Leaving the lacquerware factory we headed to a large plaza fronted by a park (above right) for lunch. The restaurant specialized in Chinese dumplings, which we've had many times, but never like this. They had dumplings made from just about any kind of vegetable or meat you could think of and each was shaped and colored to represent the filling within. Dumplings barely two inches across in the shapes of chickens, ducks, pigs, squab and many more. It was amazing how the chefs could prepare such little shapes.

Now, about the Chinese and what they eat. One of our local tour guides aptly described the Chinese psyche on eating. They said, "We eat anything with four legs except the table, and anything that flies except the airplane." This dumpling restaurant offered proof of that. Laid out in the center of the room was a table of exotic foods, like a bull's penis to mention just one, that could be purchased by the diners. I'm happy to report we were served only the normal fare and none of these exotic delicacies.

Now a word about poverty in China. In our previous trips to China crossing the border at Macau we saw many people who were absolutely destitute. It was explained at the time that many were citizens of other provinces who had come to try and escape across the border to freedom in Macau and Hong Kong. Being citizens of other provinces they did not have citizenship papers making them eligible for work and, therefore, became beggars to support themselves. Having seen this I expected to see more poverty as we traveled through China, but that wasn't the case. It's obvious that, for the average Chinese, the standard of living is much lower than in the States, but there wasn't much evidence of what I'd call poverty. It was also rare to see beggars in the streets as we'd seen before. The only place I remember seeing beggars during the entire trip was after we lunched at the dumpling restaurant and went to board our bus. We were inundated by beggars and dollar people. Many of the beggars were mothers carrying horribly deformed children and, as you walked by, they would thrust the babies into your view. You couldn't help but feel terrible seeing such unfortunate beings. We were told by the tour guide that there were public assistance programs for such people.

With our tummies full we boarded the bus and headed to the airport for our flight to Guilin, our last stop in Mainland China before heading to Hong Kong. Join us on the next page for pictures of our cruise down the Li River and of its magnificent limestone peaks ...
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Welcome to our China 2001 Photo Album
Planning and Getting there: Grand Circle Tours and Northwest Airlines
Beijing : Arriving in Beijing | Tiananmen Square | The Imperial (Forbidden) Palace (1) | The Imperial Palace (2) | The Nine Sons of the Dragon
The Imperial Palace Garden | The Summer Palace | Summer Palace (2) | Summer Palace (3) | Summer Palace (4) | Local Beijing Market
Local Beijing Market (2) | Hutong | Bell Tower | Hutong Family, Dinner and the Opera | Cloisonné Factory | Ming Tombs | Ming Tombs (2)
Great Wall of China at Ba Da Ling | Temple of Heaven
Shanghai : Arriving Shanghai | Yuyuan Garden | Yuyuan Garden (2) | The Temple of the Jade Buddha | The Bund | Day Excursion to Suzhou
Silk Process | The Administrator's Garden of Suzhou | Shanghai Museum of Art
Cruising the Yangtze River : Yangtze Cruise, Day 1 | Yangtze Cruise, Day 2 | The Xiling and Wu Gorge | The Lesser Three Gorges
The Lesser Three Gorges (2) | The Qutang Gorge | Wanxian | The Last Day of Cruising | Regal China Cruise Lines
Chongqing : Chongqing
Xi'an : Xi'an and Emperor Qin's Terracotta Warriors | Emperor's Qin's Terracotta Warriors (2) | Great Wild Goose Pagoda and Xi'an City Wall
Quilin : The Limestone Peaks of the Li River | The Limestone Peaks of the Li River (2) | Guilin and the Childrens Park | Children's Park (2) and Reed Flute Cave
The Hotels: Hotels, rail and air travel in China
Hong Kong : Victoria Peak, Repulse Bay and Aberdeen Fishing Village | Hong Kong at Sunset | Hong Kong Bird & Flower Market
| New Territories Fishing Village | Hong Kong Farewell Dinner
Bangkok : Jim Thompson House and Golden Buddha | The Flower Market | The Food Vendors | Grand Palace | Mystical Figures | Brightly Painted Masks on Mystical Figures
Golden Mystical Figures | Buildings of the Grand Palace | Lunching at the Shangri La Hotel | Loy Nava Rice Barge Cruise | Ayutthaya, Ancient Capital of Siam
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol and the Reclining Buddha | Bang Pa In, The Summer Palace |

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