Monday, June 22, 2015

Conquering the Holy Mountain

Last year, I had one of the most amazing and unforgettable adventures of my entire life. I'm so excited to finally write about my favorite experience in China (and maybe my life)...climbing Mount Hua Shan! 

Mount Hua is one of the Five Great Mountains of China, known to be the imperial pilgrimage destination for Chinese emperors throughout history. The mountain's five peaks are associated with Buddhism and Taoism, located in the Shaanxi province of China. We woke up on an early morning and caught a bus to to the city of Huayin:

We decided to take the cable cars up to the top, which turned out to be one of the most terrifying experiences of our lives. We started the journey, but they stopped the entire cable car line halfway through because it was so windy. We were left hanging in a car 3,000 feet in the air swaying wildly around in the wind. It was only supposed to be a 15 minute ride in the cable car, but we ended up suspended in the wind for almost 1.5 hours...

The cable cars dropped us at almost the top of the mountain, where the views were breathtaking and the air was fresh and chilly.

We had now reached the point where most tourists visited...but we couldn't stop there. Being the thrill-seekers we are, we had to reach the absolute tip of Mount Hua, and there was only one way forward...
How does one climb 90 degree stairs...?

Just your average selfie before you purchase gloves for 2 kuai to protect yourself from the coldest you've ever been in your life and face the possibility of imminent death...
 Here we go!! Attempting what the internet calls one of the most dangerous hikes in the world (well, at least Buzzfeed does):

Finally, a picture to celebrate our conquering of Mount Hua, plank-walk and all. There are rumored to be tea houses at the top of one of the peaks, but we found a small, secluded temple when we reached the top. We were so aware of every single breath, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for our lives, all the privileges we have, and to have shared this once-in-a-lifetime experience with each other...

Hope you enjoyed this post - please send your comments and feedback my way!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Magic Treehouse Moment

Considered by many as the 8th Wonder of the World, the Terracotta Warriors depict a collection of armies and horses built by Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China. Terracotta (literally, baked earth) is a type of clay used to create ceramics and pottery. The First Emperor of China recreated every single one of his soldiers as life-size terracotta sculptures, to be buried with him as protection in the afterlife. 

Needless to say, the sheer size of his army is impressive, but the truly unique aspect of this collection is that no two sculptures are the same, just as no two people can be the same. The detailing of every single soldier in his army and the horses, chariots, and garnishments are truly one-of-a-kind. The terracotta warriors were buried with the emperor in 200 BCE, but discovered by a group of farmers in 1974, while digging for a well. This revolutionary discovery led to the opening of three large pits (and more undiscovered pits) that are now open to the public for viewing in Xi'an, China. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to visit the warriors and witness the legacy of Emperor Qin.

Pit 1, the largest of the three pits, houses more than 6,000 warriors and 50 chariots. You can see the crowds of people lined along the borders of the pit, trying to catch a good view...

Imagine breaking a clay vase and trying to piece it back together as a whole. Now imagine finding millions of pieces of clay and building it back into a life-size warrior. Now imagine doing that for 10,000 warriors...

The picture below shows what the pits look like when they are discovered. All the sculptures are shattered into tiny pieces for thousands of kilometers. More pits are being discovered everyday, revealing that Emperor Qin was buried with more than just his army - he recreated terracotta versions of his entertainers as well, including dancers, acrobats, and concubines to join him in the afterlife. Archaeologists are spending their entire lives piecing together the greatest historic discovery of our time... 

Each of the pieces are labeled and organized as they are rebuilt. The below picture shows the work-in-progress of some unfinished warriors. 

The below "Kneeling Archer" is a special piece in the Army collection, sometimes traveling to the world's most renowned exhibitions.

Last, but not least - we met the farmer who initially found the Terracotta Army by accident! He wrote a book about his journey and how this discovery has changed his life. We were lucky to attend his book signing!
Heading back after an exciting day with the Terracotta Warriors! 

I'll be wrapping up on China soon so look out for my next posts!