Sunday, December 29, 2013

China 2009: Xi'an - Wild Goose Pagoda and Tang Dynasty Show

The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a place for Buddhist worship, initially built in the Tang Dynasty in 652AD.  If you climb to the top of the 7 storeys, you can see beautiful panoramic views of the city of Xi'an.  The Pagoda is built on vast grounds that contain many gardens, sculptures and fountains.  Ancient lore describes how the pagoda got its name–a non-vegetarian Buddhist sect prayed for meat, causing a wild goose to suddenly fall from the sky.  The monks took this as a sign that they needed to be more pious and became vegetarian, building the pagoda in the spot where the goose fell.  Hearing this story, I found it strange that the monks did not think that they were being rewarded, as their prayers were answered?

Throughout the site, special tribute is paid to the monk Xuanzang, who traveled throughout China and India in search of sacred Buddhist writings, documents and relics.  His travels have inspired a famous novel called "Journey To The West".  Legends say that just prior to his birth, Xuanzang's mother saw images in her dreams of him as a baby standing on a lotus leaf and that he was destined to bring Buddism to China.  Images on beautiful relief sculptures depict these stories.  Our traveling companion generated quite the excitement from the locals around town because his shaved head resembled that of their beloved monk.

At night, there is a musical fountain show, in the same vein as the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  Colourfully lit streams of water dance in the air, accompanied by orchestrated music.

We did not get a chance to watch a show at the Xi'an Grand Theatre, but we did enjoy viewing the sculptures of the Terracotta musicians mounted in the front of the building.  I wonder if there are actually Terracotta musicians to be found in the burial sites that are still awaiting excavation.

We did get to attend the Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show which performs Chang'an music and dances from the Tang Dynasty.  We started with a feast of different types of dumplings, followed by soup and more delicacies.  Through trial and error, we confirmed that China is not the place to drink wine, as the "Great Wall Red" wine could only be described as "nasty".  However the Tsing Tao beer (which we can also get in Canada) was fine.

Following dinner, we were treated to cultural dances featuring women in vibrant costumes with long flowing sleeves, and men dressed as warriors, dignitaries or acrobats.  Musicians played songs on various ancient Chinese instruments.  Prior to the show, we had the opportunity to take photos with some of the performers.  These women were either wearing very very high heels, or they were the tallest Chinese women I've ever met, as they towered over me.  However they were also the most miserable looking, as they presented forced smiles while their photos were taken.

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