India's Hidden KingdomExplore India's stunningly picturesque Himachal Pradesh on this overland journey by way of Spiti to the heart of Ladakh
Murray wrote in his blog about Iran – Qazvin in particular – Its probably another of those spots to keep ‘mum’ about in case a horde of 21st century invaders rolls up in a fleet 48 seat coaches. Well no one kept ‘mum’ about Xian, We were one of a huge fleet of buses heading out on the motorway to the Terra Cotta Warriors – Chinese tourists have arrived en masse, bolstering the numbers of Western tourists who have been coming here since the Buried Army was discovered by a farmer in the 1970’s.
Xian – Ancient Chang An (Heavenly Peace), one time centre of Chinese civilisation, capital of the Tang dynasty and the largest city in the world during the peak period of silk road trade. The city has an intact wall and a history that encompasses over 1000 years and twelve Imperial dynasties. It also has the fabulous buried army of terracotta warriors.
The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses are the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century. In 246BC, when he ascended to the throne at the age of 13, Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, commenced work on his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. The Warriors are located in three huge vaults. We also visited the Museum where the most spectacular exhibits are the half size models of two bronze chariots with horse and coachman.
We’ve visited many mosques on our journey across Central Asia so it was fitting to conclude our journey with a visit to the Great Mosque of Xian. This is the oldest and one of the most renowned mosques in the country, founded in 742. It is still used by Chinese Muslims (mainly the Hui people) as a place of worship and apart from the Dungan Mosque in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, it is unlike any of the mosques we have visited, as it is Chinese in its architectural style, and except for some Arabic lettering and decorations, the mosque has neither domes nor traditional-style minarets.
Surrounding the Mosque is the Muslim Quarter – a popular food street and a bazaar lined with a huge number of small shops selling every possible souvenir you might want. Quite a few items made it into our bags, filling up the few spare niches for the journey home!
The monk Xuanzang (602-64) carried the Buddhist sutras and texts from India, these are now housed in the Wild Goose Pagoda that was built to house the sutras. The Pagoda design was based on the stupas he had seen on his travels in India.
So like the Buddhist monk Xuanzang who concluded his travels from India in Xian, we too have finished our journey.