Speaking of Geoscience

29 May: More from Xi’an – 2014 GSA Distinguished International Lecture Tour


The tall Big Goose Pagoda tower is a popular site.

Over the course of three days, I lectured at three different universities in Xi’an, all relatively close and accessible to the city center. Many of the Chinese faculty have opportunities to further their professional experience as visiting scholars at foreign universities and we often swap stories of different places they have been. Xian Shiyou University specializes in petroleum related programs. At Northwest University, I gave 2 lectures plus a Q&A session with an engaging group of students. They liked the primer on how to give good powerpoint presentations and we discussed the application process to U.S. graduate schools. Chang’an University is conveniently located right across the road from the Shaanxi History Museum, which limits visitors to only 4,000 per day. On our tour of the museum, a local guide told us the background innovation stories behind some of the artifacts. That was fascinating.

In the summer evenings, many locals gather by the Big Goose temple grounds for a large light and water fountain show.

The city of Xi’an has many interesting sights, but one highlight was an evening bike ride on top of the 14 m-wide, fortified inner ancient city wall built during the 14th century Ming dynasty.

China is a mix of old and new. Inside the 500 year old massive city walls, there are no huge high rise buildings, which helps preserve the feeling of the old. We biked on top of the wall for the entire 14 km circumference seeing very few other riders or pedestrians, an experience to remember.
A new multi-story shopping mall has a huge, ginormous animated “TV screen” ceiling, where scenes of a tropical ocean were played over our heads, making it seem like we were in the bottom of an enormous aquarium. The scenes change to winter ski scenes, hot airballoons, or watching flying geese overhead etc., and of course the less exciting interspersed ads.

Another highlight was our visit to the Tomb of Han Emperor Jingdi (Han Yangling). An underground museum path with some glass floors led us through and over this ancient burial site where they have excavated “small warriors”, pottery animals, and many artifacts. These are reminiscent of the Terra Cotta warriors, but are scaled down (much like large dolls ~ 30 cm high), and are not as detailed. However, it is still an amazing glimpse of the culture preserved in a royal mausoleum that is much less crowded with visitors.

This mound is the burial site of Emperor Jingdi (Han Yangling).
Emperor Jingdi’s tomb is surrounded by small warriors (shown in the pit) and a variety of animals.
Emperor Jingdi’s tomb is surrounded by small warriors and a variety of animals (here shown in the museum).
After all that tourist fun, one might need a little counseling…

– Margie