The Xi’an City Wall is one of the oldest and largest surviving wall of its kind in China. First built in the Ming dynasty, the city wall has been a landmark of the city for nearly 800 years. Riding a bike or walking on the wall is probably one of the best ways to embrace this ancient and modern city: At one moment, you just learn about this smart idea of creating a “barbican” (瓮城) with the double-gate system to protect the “city” (which is inside the city wall) against attacks from the outside enemy, and then you will see nowadays the concrete jungle spreads way outwards the “city”; at another moment, you find that people in different ages are very much enjoying themselves in the calligraphy, painting and antique market at the foot of the city wall, and then you start to wonder whether hundreds of years ago, people at that time have also experienced such lively lives in then one of the largest international city of the world.
This is the first time that I stepped onto the land of Northwest China. The destination is Xi’an, Shanxi, one of the oldest cities in China that is famous for being the capital for 13 dynasties in ancient China. This is really a historic city — walking on the street, you can’t keep thinking of that thousands of years ago, this is the center of the world. Of course one of the must-go sites in Xi’an is the Terracotta Warriors and Horses (秦兵馬俑) in the suburb, which is thought to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. Thousands of life-size soldiers and horses are buried underground with Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇), the first Emperor of China, and they were only discovered in 1974 by local farmers. There is a saying that in the Terracotta army, “a thousand soldier have a thousand faces” (千人千面) — they are so realistic such that you can understand whether a soldier comes from North China or South China, what’s the official rank of the soldier in the army, etc. simply from looking at them. And it’s said that these sculptures are originally painted with colors! How gorgeous that would be!
Almost four hundred years ago, 102 English pilgrims came across the Atlantic and sailed to Plymouth on the continent of America with the famous ship Mayflower. The original ship doesn’t exist any more — nowadays, a full-scale reproduction sits in the Plymouth harbor quietly for tourists to visit. I guess everybody will be stunned by its size: how can 102 people live in such a small ship for such a long time! At such kind of moments, you really have to appreciate the courage and determination of these ancestors.
I was a little surprised to know that original manuscripts of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the three “cornerstone” documents in the history of the United States, were still well preserved after nearly three hundred years. And here is where they are, the National Archive. Among all museums in the area of National Mall, this is the only place where you can find a queue every single day. Maybe this is the value of history: while we respecting our history, it enlightens our future.
Streetcars are just like telegraphs or kerosene lamps — they are symbols of history. Indeed, I can hardly remember any city which still has streetcars as a part of the public transportation system nowadays. Yet, New Orleans is one of them. There are four streetcar lines currently operating in New Orleans, and one of them, namely the St. Charles Avenue Line, is said to be the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world. Sometimes I can see young boys or girls run along the streetcar rails, which reminds me of the cable car heading to the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. I guess this is the magic power of time: memories are refreshed with similar scenes, and histories are revisited with legacies from the past.