The Terracotta Army or the “Terracotta Warriors and Horses” is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.
The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BCE, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong District, Xi’an, Shaanxi province. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits nearby Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.
The Great Wall
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe. Several walls were being built as early as the 7th century BC; these, later joined together and made bigger and stronger, are collectively referred to as the Great Wall. Especially famous is the wall built in 220–206 BC by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Little of that wall remains. The Great Wall has been rebuilt, maintained, and enhanced over various dynasties; the majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).
Apart from defense, other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.
The Great Wall stretches from Dandong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. A comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded that the Ming walls measure 8,850 km (5,500 mi). This is made up of 6,259 km (3,889 mi) sections of actual wall, 359 km (223 mi) of trenches and 2,232 km (1,387 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers. Another archaeological survey found that the entire wall with all of its branches measures out to be 21,196 km (13,171 mi). Today, the Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history.
Apak Hoja Tomb (The Islamic Mausoleum)
Jiuzhaigou (The Nine Villages Valley)
Inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1992 and a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997, Jiuzhaigou belongs to the category Protected Landscape in the IUCN system of protected area categorization. Covering over 700 square kilometres of magnificent mountain valleys, the area is dotted with traditional Tibetan villages and exhibits a wealth of striking alpine scenery as well as being home to a number of protected species.
The Valley remains one of China’s greatest natural assets; unseen by many western tourists due to its remoteness, limited accessibility and the government’s determination to conserve this pristine area have all contributed to the stunning preservation of this National Park. Settled in the 1300s when a group of Tibetan pilgrims came into the area seeking refuge, the towering mountain range kept them and the area hidden and untouched for over six centuries.
Beneath the snow-capped mountains, the valley floors are embedded with pristine turquoise, green and pink lakes. These lagoons, legend describes, are the broken slivers of the Tibetan goddess Semo’s mirror. The national park is an array of forests, waterfalls and lakes, each with their own character. Five-Colour Pond boasts shades of green and blue, while Five Flower Lake has crystal clear waters through which historic tree trunks can be seen, submerged in the lake bed. The scenery around Long Lake can be compared to that of the Swiss Alps or Canadian Rockies.
Seventeen Arch Bridge
Connecting the eastern shore of Kunming Lake and Nanhu Island in the west, the Seventeen-Arch Bridge was built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799).
There are some thirty bridges in the Summer Palace and this is the largest one, with a length of 150 meters (164 yards) and a width of 8 meters (8.75 yards). It is not only the sole passageway to Nanhu Island, but also an important attraction in the lake area.
The unique scenery is but one of the stunning landscapes in the Summer Palace. With the styles of Lugou Bridge (Marco Polo Bridge) in Beijing and Baodai Bridge in Suzhou, the Seventeen-Arch Bridge looks like a rainbow arching over the water. There are 544 distinctive lions on the columns of the white marble parapets, 59 lions more than those in the Lugou Bridge. On each end of the bridge is a carved bizarre beast which looks like kylin, an auspicious animal in Chinese legends.
With the biggest arch in the midst of the bridge flanked by sixteen others, visitors can count nine arches in different sizes from the middle to each end of the bridge. Number nine was believed to be the biggest yang (anode) number, an auspicious number favored by the emperors. So the bridge has seventeen arches. Including the central arch, there are nine arches from either end of the bridge.
The east end of the bridge is connected with Kuoru Pavilion. and a Bronze Ox just stands off the bridge opposite the pavilion. Beside the pavilion and Bronze Ox are the ferryboat wharfs. The beauty of the bridge can be admired while walking along the East Causeway, and even the bank in front of the Long Gallery.
There is an interesting legend connecting to the beauty of this bridge. It goes like this. One day during the construction of the bridge, an old man in shabby clothes came to the busy building site and shouted “Who wants Longmen (Dragon Gate) Stone?” He got no reply as the others took him as a crazy man on seeing his poor appearance. The poor man left with the stone in great disappointment. He stayed under a big tree, and every day, he chiseled the stone as early as when cocks started to crow. One night, it rained heavily, the poor man had to shelter from the rain under the tree when another elderly man saw him and asked him to live at his home. After a year went by, the old man said goodbye to the kind master and left the stone to him as a reward in return.
At the same time, the project of the Seventeen-Arch Bridge was almost finished except for a proper stone to fit the gap in the middle of the bridge. Someone advised the project director to find the man who once sold Longmen Stone. The director found out where the old man once lived. Out of extreme happiness, he found the right stone and gave the master some money to move it away. To everyone’s excitement, the stone was exactly the right one to fit the gap. Suddenly someone realized, “The old man must be the incarnation of Luban (the earliest ancestor of carpenter) who came to help us to build the bridge!”
The beauty of the bridge varies throughout the four seasons, at dawn and dusk, and also from different points of view. You will get a best shot of the Longevity Hill while standing on the bridge. Lions sculptures with different postures and expressions are also perfect images favored by many photographers. The bridge set in willows and undulating waves in windy springs, making the bridge appear to sway like a pearl necklace. In addition, the hill side of Longevity Hill is a good place to see the bridge from afar. Most travelers would like to enter the Summer Palace through the North Palace Gate, East Palace Gate and the Newly-Built Palace Gate (Xinjiangongmen). The last one is the closest to Seventeen-Arch Bridge.