June 10: Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. Today we flew from Guiyang to Chengdu–from here on out, we spent our time in Sichuan (also spelled Szechuan, especially on Chinese food menus). It’s a fairly big city, but cleaner than Beijing and with a lot more traditional-style buildings (as in, they built new buildings to look like old buildings). We visited the Jinsha Site Musuem, which is an archeological dig opened up into a musuem. The site was discovered in 2001, and the government decided to make a musuem housing the artifacts as well as the dig site, so you can see where the objects were found, and how the dig is laid out. Pretty cool. A lot of the artifacts were from the ancient Shu kingdom, which existed in China about 3000 years ago. There were bronze, gold, and jade sculptures and ornaments, all very intricately carved considering the level of technology used to create them. Brass rings A gold mask, put on display the day before we arrived! Kneeling man statue An oversized model of one of the artifacts, christened “the stargate” by our group After leaving the museum, we went to dinner and to the Sichuan opera. Now, what they call ‘opera’ is different from our concept–it involves singing and dancing, but also martial arts, fire breathing, and something called “face changers,” who switch masks in less than a second. This wasn’t actually an opera; it was more like a variety show. There were dancers, a magician, and a very strange comedy act that involved a husband having to balance a candle on his head. I wish I had been able to understand what the wife was saying to make him do that… The grand finale was the fire spitter, a guy in traditional dress, mask included, that would breathe out a 2-3 foot long stream of fire. And of course two “face changers”. If you’ve ever seen people who change outfits really quickly, this is the same idea, only with masks. They don’t even hide their faces, they’re just suddenly wearing a different mask–and I have no idea how it happened! That night, we were staying in a 4-star hotel, much to our collective relief. They even had HBO, so four of us ended up watching The Fugitive (with Chinese subtitles) before finally going to bed.
posted Monday June 2007