July 12, 2012
This recent family reunion was special to me since I met my second to youngest brother’s daughter and her family for the first time. (My brother died unexpectedly at age 50 in 2005.) They drove here from Colorado, where they’ve recently moved. They lived most of their lives in Nome, Alaska. These are my brother’s grandchildren aged 10, 7 and 5, who don’t like candy, and refuse most sweets. They are unfamiliar with foods like artichokes, avocados; had never tasted lemons and limes. They ask if the fruit they are eating is a peach or an apricot. They had never eaten cherries and were amazed to find out that they are not all red as they are pictured in books. Insects we find normal everyday nuisances amaze them. In Nome they mostly hunt and fish and augment their diet from “The Safeway”. They are staying with me until the 27th of July and I’ve been showing them around the Motherlode.
Our first stop was Calaveras Big Trees State Park. A huge pine tree had fallen through the kiosk and they were doing business outside under a canopy while the kiosk is under repair. (A photo of a photo) The incident happened about six weeks ago. Before we went, I teased the kids and asked them to trace in the dirt the circumference of the biggest tree they had ever seen.
Their parents were as stunned to see the trees as the kids were who didn’t know what to expect.
The giants never fail to awe. They are sequoia giganteum and are the biggest trees on earth though not the tallest. Sequoia sempirvirens, the “coast redwood” grows a bit slimmer and taller.
Trying to count the rings would take all day, but the kids did learn that the biggest stump in the grove is over 1,200 years old. A hunter in the 1800′s discovered the big trees and went back to his camp and described them to the rest of the logging crew cutting timbers for the mines. They laughed at him and thought he was telling stories. He couldn’t get them to come out and see for themselves. So the next day of hunting, he came back to camp and said he killed a huge bear and needed help to haul it in. When they got up a couple of horses to carry the bear, they were introduced to the big trees and felt the same kind of awe we all do on a first visit.
They never fail to amaze and I’ve seen them many, many times.
To be able to walk through the hollowed core of a big tree is a pretty trippy experience.
After walking the grove, we drove down to the river picnic grounds and ate our lunch and went swimming. The way the kids described it was, “This is the best water I’ve ever seen.” All enjoyed the great beauty of the park.
And, they are so right. Great beauty just fifteen miles from where I live. I’m glad to have visitors to inspire me to enjoy these massive giants that were here before Christ, and were alive when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Nome you may or may not know is quite flat, drab and featureless until the snows fall. Where they live in Colorado is also quite flat and desert-like, although driving through the state in the mountains, is to experience grand forests and scenic views. They have much to see and learn about this great country, as I do. It’s why I travel.
August 20, 2011
China’s Terra Cotta Army is considered the eighth wonder of the world. And, rightly so. Isn’t this an amazing culture?
The Terra Cotta Soldiers face east and remain in the pit from which they came, standing at attention row by row. The building covering the pit is leaking slightly and is inadequate for preserving the soldiers, a problem the Chinese government has recognized and is addressing.
Point and shoot cameras cannot reach the fine details from such an immense area. Light is dim and only natural light is allowed into the building. When found, the soldiers were painted to look like they were alive. The atmosphere has destroyed the color leaving them a dull reddish color. Even so, we will have a good look at the soldiers. But first a bit of history.
This picture of a picture shows what they looked like before they were fully removed from the ground. The armor looks like bronze or leather, but it is jade. Pit #1 is the largest with 6000 figures of infantry, the first discovery in 1974. Pit #2 holds 2000 Calvary and archers and horses. Each soldier’s face and body are an exact replica of a real human. No two are the same. Pit # 3 was a command center full of dignitaries or politicians. Pit #4 holds the middle army, bronze chariots ½ size, and horse-drawn equipment wagons.
I was surprised to learn that in 1991 they discovered two nearby tomb mounds, the graves of a Ching Dynasty emperor and empress buried in separate tombs. They now know there are 73 of these tomb mounds in the area of the soldiers. A few of them have been opened, examined and buried back again. The rest will not be opened until they have the proper technology to care for these treasures. The technology to protect them still does not exist. The financial costs are enormous but there is wisdom in waiting.
During the intervening years, much has been learned about the Xian area (pronounced shy-ann), the soldiers, and the history of the Ching (also spelled Quing) Dynasty. Xian is in Shanxi Province which is considered the Cradle of Chinese Civilization.
Xian was the first capitol of China during the Ching Dynasty, the first of the thirteen dynasties. The first emperor, Ching Shu Wandi ruled in year 221 before Christ. He unified China. His dynasty only lasted until 206 B.C. He was a tyrant. He burned 250 Confucius Scholars alive. There is a mausoleum to honor them.
The second was the Hun Dynasty.
It was a slave society, a feudal society. When the Hun Emperor was 13 years old, he started to build his tomb. It took 37 years. It was the largest tomb in the world. He died at age 50 in 210 B.C. The Emperors threw their concubines into the tombs and buried them alive so they could not reveal the site of their burial.
The visit to Xian was as gratifying as the Great Wall. The public views four pits, but the Imax movie explaining it all, and the well done museum make this an unforgettable visit. And now a funny story.
In the gift shop, we actually got up close to soldier replicas. In the gift shop, we met the farmer who discovered the first pit on his land. He signs books for tourists who buy them, his official job since he can’t farm his land. He can no longer be photographed because the millions of flashes from cameras have damaged his eyes.
When it was known that President Clinton would visit Xian, the farmer was taught a bit of English to greet them. He learned enough English to say, “How are you?” He was coached that the Clintons will likely say, fine, thank you, and he should answer, I’m fine too. But, Clinton said, “Hello!” And the farmer said ‘Who are you instead of How are you? Clinton answered “I’m Hillary Clinton’s husband.” And the farmer said, “Me too.”
The Chinese feel warmly about the Clintons because they visited Xian first instead of Beijing or Shanghai.
These replicas can be purchased and shipped home. These soldiers also come with a replica of the weapons they held in their hands if you want to buy them.
August 16, 2011
Yesterday, our goal was to move to Leavenworth on the east side of the Cascades. A change of plans came as Jim studied the book and called Ford dealerships to learn all he could about transmissions. He settled on one of two transmission shops. The fix has waylaid us until we can get the Bronco repaired. I’m returning to my China Journal and pictures.
We left the restaurant and enjoyed the street scenes as we walked to our bus. This cute family was mobbed by we tourists. The wooden stroller is unusual to us and the boy in the middle with a bamboo backpack as well. Remember that you can click on any of these pictures to make them larger and see better detail.
I’ve seen pictures of the Great Wall and thought of it as a smooth brick-like roadway. Up close, it is anything but smooth. Rugged, overpowering, stupendous, jagged, uneven, crooked, weathered. The section we visited is from 1400 A.D. The wall was started in 200 B.C. We are told the Chinese archeologists just discovered 500 kilometers more of rammed earth wall base previously unknown.
The soldiers/laborers who built it had varying skill. This rough,crooked stairway leads to one of the “guardhouses” that were built at regular intervals along the miles of wall. I had no idea the wall was manned. I thought just the height and steepness of it kept out intruders. The wall in various forms stretches over 5,000 miles.
The camera cannot take in the unbelievable reality of this wall undulating up and down the surrounding mountains for as far as the eye can see. It graces every mountain crest on China’s Mongolian border.
Numerous gates and exits allowed the soldiers and their families to go for water, tend their gardens, and hunt for food and gather wood. The guardhouses where they lived had very little privacy, no toilet or washing facilities, no doors and no windows, only openings that allowed the cold air to enter. Life in the guardhouses only sheltered them from rain and snow. Many stations were miles and miles from civilization.
Only some sections of the wall are maintained. In places, the bricks have fallen, have heaved and cracked or become overgrown with vegetation. The cost of maintaining the wall is enormous and thus neglected. Here we see the drainage system that carries water away from the walkway.
On the Chinese side of the wall are remnants of fruit trees and gardens. The fruit trees have self seeded. On the enemy side of the wall, soldiers kept all vegetation cleared for 30 feet out from the wall so no enemy could approach unseen.
Seeing the Great Wall was worth the whole trip. We walked about a mile from one station to another and another. We met a couple with two children, all burdened with backpacks. They camped and walked the great wall for two weeks and saw many exciting sections that we on tours cannot see during our limited visit. I had no idea that camping on the great wall was an option.
Visiting the Great Wall was an emotional and unforgettable experience for me. Wikipedia has more precise information about the great wall.