Anyway, I'd really been looking forward to Xi'An. I wasted a year telling myself I'd go and finally reasoned with myself that a 20 hour train ride back to Zhuzhou was worth it. Any memories should outlast a 20 hour train.I was on major nerd mode thinking about everything in the area: Wu Zetian's intact tomb (the sole woman in all of Chinese history to actually take on the title of Emperor for herself and currently subject of an expensive drama starring Fan Bing Bing), Qin ShiHuangDi sealed up under a hill with his mercury rivers and supposed model empire (tomb to be opened in 20 years, not sure what they'll do about the mercury), Ming dynasty walls, the Muslim quarter and its beautiful mosque (so different from what I've seen in Turkey or Morocco), and the endless supply of lamb. The Tang dynasty is at times referred to as a golden age of Chinese arts and culture, something tourism certainly tried to capitalize on with Tang dynasty shows and trinkets all around, but I spent more time dreaming on than shopping. This was the city that Kyoto, the old capital of Japan, was based upon, where the Qin emperor who gave his name to China was buried, where Yang Guifei distracted the emperor from his duties, a key point on the silk road, a city with Ming dynasty walls and a subway system. I only had a few days before running back to Zhuzhou. I hated that I couldn't do it all, but I wasted a year trying to find an entire free week to see it all and I would have kicked myself for not going after two years.
After making the obligatory stop to the terra cotta warriors, I paid a visit to the Big Goose Pagoda where Tripitaka translated the things he brought back from the West. "Journey to the West" was one of the books we read during my freshman year of college, though it was the Arthur Waley translation titled "Monkey". I loved digging through the notes and understanding what conventions Wu Cheng En was making fun of. It seemed fitting that I had come to Xi'An during the year of the monkey, though the pagoda and surrounding temple had little about monkeys. It was really about the scrolls and Tripitaka/Xuan Zang's journey. I also couldn't help thinking about the previous year when Modi paid a visit. The ties with Xuan Zang going to India and coming back to China were obvious enough, but I've also heard rumors that Modi's hometown is somewhere near where Tripitaka visited.
Xi'An ultimately seemed like a place where a lot of things I'd seen or picked up on or read about came together and I sorely wish I'd had more than 4 days at the end of break to take things in. Perhaps I will go back someday and visit Wu Zetian's tomb and the springs where Yang Guifei is said to have ruined the emperor and weakened the Tang dynasty. So many powers, so many stories. With the conclusion of my spring festival travels, I resolved that the next round should help me finish off the capitals seeing as thus far I've made my way to Beijing, Nanjing, and Xi'An. Hangzhou and Luoyang stand out as the next big places, and thankfully for me, Henan province where Luoyang is located is also home to Shaolin Temple and Kaifeng (a little pocket of Jewish history in China). Go north (and west)!