June 15, 2010

Day 7 to 12: Xi’an

As my 7th day in China turned to dusk, I left the shadows of the Great Mosque and the chaotic sounds from the lively Muslim Market that sprawled through its narrow side streets. The density was intense with the layers of activity. Tourists, hawking vendors, three-wheeled motor surreys, and the roaring motorcycles were becoming tiresome.

I soon retreated to the peaceful gardens of the thousand-year-old Big Wild Goose Pagoda located near my hotel. To my delight, while I was wandering the grounds, I came upon a small green alcove where a monk from the Da Ci’en Temple was tending to his pet grasshoppers, which he kept in small jars. These captive insects were each busy munching on a single soybean as the monk tenderly fed them special food from a tiny toothpick. It was a timeless quintessential moment.

Monk with Grasshopper, Xi’an

 Terracotta Warriors Found, Xi’an

Tourists from around the world fly in for one day to see the famous Terracotta Warriors, the discovery by three farmers in 1974 that has changed Xi’an forever. But for me, it’s the romance of Buddhist monk Xuanzang , the intrepid traveler.  His epic journey to India opened relations with China, when in 629, He left Xi’an to bring back a comprehensive understanding of Buddhism. His journey marks the beginning of the Silk Road and I am following in his path today, retracing his footsteps in Xinjiang Province. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda was built to house the thousands of sutras and manuscripts Xuanzang carried with him on his return to Xi’an 17 year later.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda Park, Xi’an

Tomorrow is Day 13 and I am off to Jiaguyuan the Western section of the Great Wall and the gateway for the Silk Road travelers from the west entering China.

Mt. Ararat

Marla Mossman

My photo
One woman traveling alone, in search of her religious and cultural heritage.