Trip to Xi'an and Jaiyuguan, China, March 2010

Cassini RADAR colleague and fellow book-writer Rosaly Lopes from JPL poses in front of Xian's Bell Tower 01_rosalybellIMG_6333 In the Moslem quarter of Xian - note the headgear - among the colorful vendors of streetfood. Good kebabs! There's a large mosque too, although looked to me more like a 'regular' Taoist temple. 02_kebabs No visit to Xian would be complete without seeing the Terracotta Army. Most pictures just show a column a few wide so you can see the detail on individuals, but to me the overall scale - some 8000 warriors - was the most impressive thing 03_ralphterraIMG_6356
Some of the warriors are still being excavated (the site was only discovered in 1975 or so). Note the soot - roof beams above the warriors were burned some time after the site was constructed circa 210 BC. 04_archaeoIMG_6366 I then took a 2hr flight to Jiayuguan in Gansu province, NW China. From the plane I saw, hazily, the magnificent dunes, some up to 500m high, in the Badain Jaran desert. Note the regular spacing of these star dunes, and the lakes between them. 05_bigchinadunes Jiayuguan is on the Silk Road, and marked the Western edge of China. It is also the extreme western end of the Great Wall (this steep section restored for visitors : note the rammed earth construction typical of the desert parts of the wall) 06_wallIMG_6437
The view from the tower at the top, looking across the Hexi Corridor to the Qulian mountains was spectacular. Although I wasnt able to visit, the Jiuquan satellite launch complex is not far from here (so think of Jiayuguan as China's Alamogordo..) 07_quilianIMG_6447 A section of the wall is kept in its original condition, as the First Beacon Tower here, on a cliff (being undercut) over the Beida River 08_firstbeaconIMG_6467 There's a neat replica military camp, with watchtowers to climb up on, command tents, cannon, etc. - even a rope bridge across the river. 09_beaconcampIMG_6460
Jiayuguan Fort is famous and impressive - the perimeter wall is some 700m long. Here you see in the distance the smoke (I saw 3 different colors) from the iron smelters and power stations of Jiayuguan 10_fortIMG_6477 The fort is impressive in size: there is also a good Great Wall Museum. It either is never very busy, or March is not peak season. Very pleasant, sunny with air about freezing. 11_fortIMG_6480 They had a couple of straw dummeies set up, so you could pretend (1 Yuan/1 shot) to be an archer defending the fort against Mongols. Harder than you might think (0 hits/7 shots). Maybe I wasnt correcting for the altitude (1500m) correctly... 12_ralphcantshoot
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