The tomb of the Qin Huang Emperor guarded by the vast Terracotta Army of thousands of life-sized solders, each individually crafted is a truly amazing site and historical discovery. It attracts fifty thousand visitors a day. We had our own guide which was really nice, compared to the large groups trailing a guide with a raised umbrella or flag.
The Terracotta figures include individually crafted generals, medium ranking officers, common soldiers, archers, horses, chariots, and of, course the emperor.
Xian is an historic Chinese city and, in earlier times, was the capital. We climbed on the original inner city wall with its four gates in the North, South, East and West, plus the turrets for the archers to defend the city.
We walked and walked, including the ancient and historical Muslim Quarter. We visited the Xi’an Great Mosque which was set up in 742 AD in the Tang Dynasty. The Muslims arrived in China with the earliest silk traders and settled, often inter-marrying. Now the Chinese Muslims look physically Chinese and are a proud and relatively prosperous minority in the modern Chinese Republic.
Xian is really bustling with hundreds of thousands of young people in the streets, shops and restaurants. The young seemed quite prosperous, all with their I-Phones and designer clothes (even if they are often copies), but we are constantly reminded that the vast majority of the population, especially in the countryside in China, are very, very poor. It is also extremely hard for the aspiring middles classes, especially young couples after the birth of their child. Remember, in China, only one child is allowed, otherwise a high tax penalty is payable – certain minorities, like the Muslims are exempted. In the early days, the one child policy was draconian – those who broke the rules often lost their jobs and economic livelihood.
Like most of China, we see extreme wealth with luxury cars and shops for the small minority that can afford it. However, for the vast majority of ordinary people life is unbelievably hard by Western standards. We heard a number of individual stories of young people making a success of their lives, despite enormous odds, fighting economic challenges, often with physical hardship, like sleeping on hard floors or shortage of food. In Beijing, for example, we were frequently reminded of the constant competition for jobs, with somebody waiting in the wings if a job-holder fails or falters. On the other hand, the vast majority of the wealth in China is owned by:
- Some five hundred families out of population of 1.3 billion people, and
- The State
Although the People Republic of China (PRC) traces it’s roots back to 1947, in many respects China only started its present expansionary path in 1978, when it opened up to the World. Whilst there are still enormous challenges and for many, hardships in China, the rate of change is truly staggering by Western standards.