The First Lady’s Travel Journal: Seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors in X’ian. Visiting The Xi’an City Wall.


 

By Jueseppi B.

2014-03-24T065636Z_01_PEK20_RTRIDSP_3_CHINA-USA-OBAMA

 

 

 

The First Lady’s Travel Journal: Seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors in X’ian

 

 

Note: This post is part of a series authored by First Lady Michelle Obama to share her visit to China with young people in the U.S. You can read all of the First Lady’s posts at WhiteHouse.gov/First-Lady-China-Trip.

 

This morning we left Beijing and flew for about two hours to Xi’an, a city of more than 7 million people in central China.  If Xi’an were in America, it would be the second-largest city in the country – trailing only New York City – but in China, a nation of more than 1 billion people, Xi’an isn’t even in the top ten.

 

After we arrived at the Xi’an Airport, we traveled to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, an underground army of thousands of life-sized soldiers made from terra cotta clay. These sculptures were hand-made over 2,000 years ago.  They surround the tomb of China’s first emperor, and it’s believed that they were created to protect him in the afterlife.

 

Scientists estimate that there are about 8,000 warriors in three different pits – and many of those warriors remain buried underground.  I actually had a chance to stand face-to-face with some of the warriors, and I saw that each one is incredibly unique, complete with its own lifelike facial expressions.  Some have beards and mustaches, and others have weapons like swords or spears.  Each one stands about six feet tall and can weigh more than 600 pounds.  Today, the warriors are primarily an army of gray – the color of the clay – but you can still see tiny remnants of what once was colorfully painted armor and clothing.

 

When you realize how carefully built each soldier is and how detailed their faces and weapons are; and when you learn that each arm, hand, leg and head was created separately, it’s no surprise that scientists believe that it took more than 30 years and 700,000 workers to build this army.

 

Still, perhaps the most amazing thing about the Terra Cotta Warriors is that for two thousand years, they were a complete secret.  The warriors were buried and forgotten until 1974, when a group of farmers found the head of one of the soldiers when they were looking for a good spot to dig a water well.  That led archaeologists to uncover the underground army, which included not only clay soldiers, but also clay horses, wooden and bronze chariots and treasures of jade and gold.  The warriors were broken into pieces and had to be painstakingly pieced back together again.

 

Today, we saw both warriors that had been restored and many that were still in pieces (and we saw several archaeologists down in one of the pits gently unearthing even more warriors).

 

In the years since the Terra Cotta Warriors were discovered, the Chinese government built a museum that has allowed millions of tourists to visit them.  A few of the soldiers have even been exhibited outside of China. In fact, four years ago, 15 of them were shipped to Washington D.C. and put on exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, where visitors could come and see them face to face just like I did today.

 

 

greatwall

 

 

 

The First Lady’s Travel Journal: Visiting the Xi’an City Wall

 

 

Note: This post is part of a series authored by First Lady Michelle Obama to share her visit to China with young people in the U.S. You can read all of the First Lady’s posts at WhiteHouse.gov/First-Lady-China-Trip.

 

After seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors outside of Xi’an, we returned to the city to view the Xi’an City Wall.

 

The Xi’an City Wall is the oldest and largest surviving wall of its kind in China.  It’s a 40-foot tall rectangle that stretches for 8.5 miles.  At its base, the Wall is 50 or 60 feet wide.  At the top, it’s about 40 feet wide – wide enough for Xi’an residents and tourists to run, walk, or ride a bike around (it takes about four hours to walk the entire distance at a leisurely pace).  From the wall you can see the ancient Bell Tower, a beautiful building which marks the center of the ancient city.

 

Xi’an was once China’s capital city, and even after the capital was relocated, the city remained an important military stronghold for centuries.  Just like the Great Wall, the Xi’an City Wall was originally built for defense, with watchtowers and even a deep moat and drawbridges.  Parts of the wall date back to the seventh century, and the wall we know today was completed in the 14th century.  Since then, it has been refurbished three times – roughly once every two hundred years – in the late 1500s, the late 1700s and, most recently, in 1983.

 

Our visit began with a breathtaking display of drumming and music by performers dressed in colorful traditional costumes, and we were presented with a passport to the Wall (which is sort of like getting the key to a city — it’s a ceremonial honor that conveys respect and appreciation).  Then, as we walked along the Wall, we were treated to the following wonderful experiences:

 

  • Kids from a local kite flying club showed us how to fly kites they had made themselves.
  • Another group of students from a local school did a double dutch jump rope demonstration (and I couldn’t resist — I kicked off my heels and joined them…but I only did single rope jumping).
  • A young man demonstrated his ability to solve a Rubiks cube in about 15 seconds flat (I still have no idea how he did it!).
  • Two other young men showed off their skills doing something that looked like hackey sack where they were kicking around little bean bags with feathers attached (I gave it my best shot, but I couldn’t hold a candle to these guys).
  • A paper cutting artist showed off her amazing skills — she even made paper cutouts of me and my family!
  • We saw another performance by drummers and folk dancers — and they did a lovely dance number for us (and my daughters and I joined in for some dancing at the end).

 

As I watched these performances and demonstrations, I was struck by how this wall, which was constructed as a physical blockade, now serves as a symbolic connection between China’s past and present.  There you stand, on top of a wall that’s hundreds of years old – a wall that has withstood war and famine and the rise and fall of dynasties.  Yet when you look down, you realize that below you on both sides lies a city not too different from one you’d see in America – a city full of cars and bustling commercial districts, but also quiet residential areas.

 

It reminded me a little bit of when I met with a class of sixth graders back in the United States – 11 and 12 year olds who visited China last year.  They told me that before they left, they assumed they’d encounter historic palaces and temples everywhere they went, but instead, they found massive cities full of skyscrapers and bright lights.

 

Here at Xi’an, you can’t miss how both sides of China – the ancient and the modern – are intertwined in a city that’s as much a part of China’s past as it is its future.

 

 

A U.S. secret service officer checks a Chinese performer dressed as an ancient warrior as First Lady Michelle Obama visits a nearby city wall in Xi’an, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province

A U.S. secret service officer checks a Chinese performer dressed as an ancient warrior as First Lady Michelle Obama visits a nearby city wall in Xi’an, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province

 

First Lady Obama & Daughters watching performances while they visit the ancient walled city in Xian, Shaanxi Province

First Lady Obama & Daughters watching performances while they visit the ancient walled city in Xian, Shaanxi Province

First Lady Michelle Obama watches performers dance on the City Wall in Xian, in China’s central Shaanxi province, March 24

First Lady Michelle Obama watches performers dance on the City Wall in Xian, in China’s central Shaanxi province, March 24

2014-03-24t103643z_1520421562_gm1ea3o1fl001_rtrmadp_3_china-usa-obama

First Lady Michelle Obama jumps rope with Chinese schoolchildren during her visit to an ancient city wall with her daughters and her mother in Xi’an, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province

First Lady Michelle Obama jumps rope with Chinese schoolchildren during her visit to an ancient city wall with her daughters and her mother in Xi’an, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi province

china-us2

164989c6b229590b4f0f6a7067005d21

First Lady Obama & Daughters at the Terracotta Warriors in China’s central Shaanxi province of Xian

First Lady Obama & Daughters at the Terracotta Warriors in China’s central Shaanxi province of Xian

First Lady Obama at the Terracotta Warriors in China’s central Shaanxi province of Xian

First Lady Obama at the Terracotta Warriors in China’s central Shaanxi province of Xian

 

 

 

Q+A with First Lady Michelle Obama

 

This weekend, Caixin Online published a Q+A with First Lady Michelle Obama about her visit to China from March 19-26, 2014.  View Mrs. Obama’s Q+A in English HERE; view Mrs. Obama’s Q+A in Chinese HERE.

Excerpts below:

Caixin: Why is the main focus of your trip “the power and importance of education,” and in what ways do you think this is particularly relevant to China?

Michelle Obama: I always tell young people that if they get a good education, then they won’t just build a better future for themselves and their families, they’ll help build a better world for us all.

You see, our world is more interconnected than ever before, and the challenges we face – from combating climate change, to expanding economic opportunity, to confronting the spread of nuclear weapons – know no borders. They cannot be solved by any one person or group in any one country, and soon it will fall to our next generation to confront these challenges together. And a good education – one that helps young people understand the world beyond their borders and engage with people from different cultures – will empower young people in China and in the U.S to come together and ensure that our shared future is peaceful and prosperous.

And in order to make those kinds of connections, it’s important to ensure that information and ideas flow freely over the Internet and through the media because that’s how we learn about each other and it’s how we decide which ideas we think are best, by debating them vigorously and deciding for ourselves.

My husband and I know from experience that this can be a messy process – we get plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens – but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world because time and again we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices of all their citizens can be heard.

Your mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, are traveling with you. This represents three different generations of Americans. What kind of message or image do you want to convey to China?

Like many Chinese families, at our house, we have three generations under one roof. When my husband was elected president back in 2008, one of the first things I did was ask my mother to come live with us in the White House and help raise our daughters, and I am grateful every day for her presence in our lives. Our family is the center of our world and there are so many families just like ours all across America. Their hard work and devotion to each other help make our country strong every single day.

In addition, as you noted, the focus of my trip is the power of education and the importance of students from different cultures engaging with each other and learning from each other. And as I’ve learned more about China and its people, I’ve been struck by the tremendous value that Chinese families place on schooling, with parents often making great sacrifices to ensure that their children can get a good education. The story of these families very much mirrors my own family’s story. My parents didn’t attend university, but they worked tremendously hard and saved every penny so that my brother and I could have that chance. And today, my husband and I are working hard to ensure that every child in America has the same opportunity we did to complete their education and fulfill their potential.

So in my family’s experience, I hope the people of China see a reflection of the commitment we all share to leave something better for our next generation and to give our children and grandchildren opportunities we never dreamed of for ourselves.

What have the four of you done to prepare for your trip?

I have received a number of briefings by China experts, and I’ve been reading about Chinese culture with a particular focus on learning about the Chinese education system. I also had the unique opportunity to visit the Yu Ying School, a public school near the White House. Yu Ying is one of a number of Chinese immersion schools across America where students learn Chinese. I met with sixth graders there – kids who are 11 and 12 years old – and they did a presentation for me about their recent trip to China. They were bursting with excitement, eager to tell me about the places they visited, the foods they ate and the families they stayed with. I also attended a Chinese class composed of three and four year olds, and I have to tell you, it was incredibly moving to see these tiny American children learning about another culture and speaking another language. They even taught me a few key phrases for my trip.

Leading up to the trip, my office also reached out to PBS and Discovery, two educational media outlets in America, to establish a platform to share my trip with children across America. During my time in China, I’ll be sharing my experiences via Twitter and Instagram, and I’ll be posting a daily travel blog complete with photos and videos. I’ll be answering questions from students across America, and I’ll be sharing the stories of the Chinese students I meet along with interesting facts about China’s history and culture.

You were unable to meet with Peng Liyuan, President Xi Jinping’s wife, last year in California, but I believe you two have kept in touch. Might you be able to speak to what you two have discussed?

Madame Peng and I have a number of things in common. We have both worked hard to balance our roles as mothers and professionals, and we both have the great honor of representing our countries when we travel, showcasing the unique cultures and history of the United States and China all around the world. We have also both chosen to work on issues we care about, and Madame Peng’s commitment to improving public health in her country and around the world is truly inspiring.

A certain American TV series about Washington politics is a big hit among Chinese viewers, and many of those viewers are getting their primary impression of the president and first lady from said series. What is the real American first lady’s life like?

I hate to disappoint people, but real life in the White House is nothing like what you see in that television show. In real life, everyone in the White House – my husband and I and every member of our extraordinary staff – is there for one reason: because we love our country and want to serve it. And that’s what we focus on every day: how to give more Americans a chance to fulfill their dreams, to get a good education, get a good job to support their families, and so much more. 

You’ve been first lady for six years now, and have successfully led projects like the White House Kitchen Garden and Let’s Move! for solving childhood obesity. What have you learned from these experiences about the power of the first lady’s role?

I’ve learned that as first lady, I have the opportunity to bring attention to vitally important issues that affect so many people in my country. And I’ve learned that there are so many committed individuals, organizations and businesses that are eager to step up and help if we just ask. For example, through our initiative to combat childhood obesity, schools, businesses and non-profit organizations are working hard every day to provide children with healthier food and more opportunities to exercise.

I have also learned the power of my story and my husband’s story to inspire young people who come from very humble backgrounds like ours. Education has been a key focus of my husband’s administration, and in support of his efforts, I recently launched a new initiative to inspire more young people to pursue their education beyond high school. And when I talk to young people, I often use our stories as an example, and I tell them that it doesn’t matter where they’re from, or what they look like, or how much money their parents have, if they commit to their education and work as hard as they can, there is no limit to what they can achieve. 

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave at the end of your time as first lady?

I very much hope that when my time as first lady ends, America’s children will be leading healthier lives and our young people will have more opportunities to get a good education and fulfill their potential.

I also hope that I will have left a legacy of truly making the White House “the people’s house.” My husband and I have worked hard to open up the White House to as many Americans as possible, particularly those who have never had a chance to visit before. We’ve hosted all kinds of cultural and artistic events, and we always make a special effort to invite young people to participate, particularly young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

 

First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia and Sasha visit the Great Wall of China. March 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia and Sasha visit the Great Wall of China. March 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

 

Untitled

 

cropped-b4peace-header

obamabottomheader

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
About these ads

4 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for what you are doing! Loved this one, both sections. I so admire this First Lady, I do believe she is my favorite of my lifetime. What a truly spectacular woman.

Reply At Your Own Risk

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 172,899 other followers

%d bloggers like this: