PSYCHOLOGISTS AND CLAY WARRIORS IN XIAN, CHINA JULY 2004
Xian, China is famous for the thousands of life-size terracotta clay warriors that were found buried near the tomb of the first emperor of China. I flew there to attend an international psychology conference, after spending two weeks exploring South Korea. I described what I learned in South Korea in separate journal, and will describe my experiences in Xian in this journal. As usual, the best part of the trip was meeting other people!
ARRIVAL IN XIAN
When I arrived in Xian, I was met by two students who were volunteering for the psychology conference, who took me and another professor to our hotels. I knew the other professor from a previous international conference! That confirmed my expectation that I would see many people that I knew at the conference as well as meet new friends.
The conference was a meeting of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology. There were 400 professors and students from 50 countries all over the world, including 100 from China. I already knew some of them since I had previously attended two conferences of the IACCP, one in Bellingham, Washington, the original location of the organization's Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, and the other in Winchester, England. I met many more in Xian, and it was cool since all of them are interested in meeting people and learning about other cultures.
I presented a poster on perceptions of prejudice. The data were collected using the Multiple Identities Questionnaire that I developed six years ago and have been giving to my Introductory Psychology students. The questionnaire explores various aspects of many identities, including national, ethnic, religious, social class, geographic, gender, sexuality, family, occupation, age, disability, and political identities. Instead of asking respondents to check one ethnic identity, it asks the extent to which they consider themselves a member of each of six ethnic categories, on a scale from 0 to 8. This allows them to say that they are half this, and a quarter that, or one-eight something else. Half of my students don't fit just one category, and when they use more than one it often totals more than 8/8! For example, a woman might say she is 100% Latina since she embraces her Mexican heritage, but her grandmother was Native American so she is also one-quarter that, and her great-grandfather was French Canadian so she is one-eight something else, in addition to being 100% culturally Latina.
I had asked my students the extent to which they felt that others were prejudiced against them based on each of their identities. I found that perceptions of ethnic prejudice (among both minorities and whites) were highly correlated with perceptions of social class prejudice. This makes sense because many stereotypes about minorities make assumptions about social class.
When three farmers were digging a well in 1974, they discovered an underground chamber containing more than 6000 life-size terracotta warriors in battle formation. A second chamber was subsequently found to contain 1000 warriors along with clay horses and chariots, and a third chamber had 68 warriors arranged in a manner to suggest that it was the battle headquarters. The warriors are remarkable because each has a different face, apparently representing actual soldiers. Each of the chambers is now covered by a large building to protect the sites, and some of the clay soldiers remain buried to protect them since exposure to the air rapidly degrades the paint.
The clay army was ordered built by Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC), who conquered the other six states in China in 221 BC to become the first emperor of all of China. The dynasty name Qin was previously spelled Chin, which is the source of the name China. Incidentally, the Chinese characters for China mean Middle Kingdom, or central country. Like other groups, the ancient Chinese felt that their country was the center of the universe.
More than 700,000 prisoners were forced to build the clay warriors and tombs over a period of 39 years, starting when Qin ascended the throne when he was 13 years old. The emperor's tomb is about a mile from the warriors, along with 39 decoy tombs apparently built to fool grave robbers. Some of the workers who built his tomb were buried with him to keep his location secret. There also was a chamber with the remains of horses that were sacrificed.
OTHER SITES AROUND XIAN
Various ancient cities around Xian served as the capital of eleven subsequent Chinese dynasties. The Chinese characters for Xian mean West and Peace. In comparison, the characters for Beijing mean North Capital, Nanjing means South Capital, and the Chinese characters for Tokyo, Japan, mean East Capital.
I arrived in Xian two days before the conference began so I could do some sightseeing. I was guided by a colleague from Xian who had taught Chinese at Whittier College last year while she was on sabbatical. The evening that I arrived she and her husband showed me around the main square of Xian, which surrounds the Bell Tower. Unfortunately, the Bell Tower was being repaired so it was covered by scaffolding. There are several large department stores around the square, which reflect the tremendous economic growth in China. There were many photos of models in the department stores, and interestingly the majority were Western instead of Chinese. China looks to the west as being modern while retaining its own cultural identity.
The next day my colleague and I went on the Western Tour, which was only available with a Chinese tour guide at that time, but my colleague translated summaries for me. We visited the Xianyang Museum which has small terracotta warriors from tombs of the Han dynasty, and the Qian tomb which was the burial ground of the only female emperor in Chinese history. We also visited other sites including the beautiful Famen Temple which has four of the Buddha's finger bones.
The following day we walked on a portion of the wall that surrounds the original city, which is now the downtown area of a city of six million people. We saw the Forest of Stelae, which contains over 1000 ancient stone slabs inscribed with Chinese characters. I explored the Shaanxi (province) history museum, which has beautiful ancient bronze artifacts and pottery. And I climbed the Big Goose Pagoda. Then I went to the opening ceremony of the conference.
During the conference there was no time for sightseeing. The conference began each day with interesting lectures at 8 AM, which meant that I had to catch the shuttle bus to the university from my hotel at 7:30. To have time for breakfast I had to get up at 6:30 AM. The conference usually lasted until 9:30 PM, which meant that I only had time to go out for a drink with others from the conference before going to bed at midnight. I never did get a chance to go out late to a disco in Xian like I usually do when I travel!
The last day of the conference everyone went to see the Terracotta Warriors Museum together. After we returned in the afternoon, I had some time to explore more of Xian on my own. I visited the grounds of the Small Goose Pagoda, which was near my hotel, then took a taxi to the Palace of Eight Immortals which is a Daoist Temple. To explore the street life, I walked west from there to the eastern city wall. Along the way I discovered a flea market for "antiques" and a covered market selling produce and meat. Just inside the wall I found some stalls selling old metal parts, then a little farther saw small shops selling expensive clothes.
I walked all the way to the main square, then just beyond it to the Great Mosque. I had seen Chinese mosques before in Inner Mongolia, and knew that their architecture was more Chinese than Muslim, unlike mosques I had seen in Egypt and Turkey. But this one was especially beautiful with curved tile roofs and blue paint on the wooden rafters. I explored the narrow alleyways around the mosque in the Muslim area which is the oldest part of the city. After walking a couple of miles west of the mosque, I was tired and it was getting dark, so I rode a bicycle cab back to the main square. In Xian there were more cars and fewer bicycles than I had seen in other Chinese cities in the past, but there were still bicycle cabs especially in the Muslim area. After a wonderful fish dinner I took a taxi back to the hotel to get some sleep before flying back to Los Angeles the next day. Fortunately taxis only cost about one dollar in Xian!
To get back home I took an hour bus ride to the airport, an hour and a half flight from Xian to Beijing, an hour and a half flight from Beijing to Seoul, then an eleven hour flight from Seoul to Los Angeles, and a car ride an hour from the airport to Whittier. So I was exhausted when I got home!