What's up in Xining

Xining is neat. It’s ~2 million people, putting it on par with Pittsburgh or Cleveland (metro). So, tiny by Chinese standards. Here’s a mash of thoughts about it and areas or things I liked:

The Tibetan Medicine Museum. I found this way more interesting than the average museum, for two reasons:

1. all these old medical and astronomical charts. When it comes to writing stuff down, Tibet goes big, not home. So they try to codify everything they know about medicine, and it’s 60 volumes, 78 chapters, 60 million words. I mean, and we’re not even getting into their religious stuff. This kind of baffles me - how is the rest of the world not all bowing down to their medical knowledge superiority? I’m assuming, with my casual built-in Western chauvinism, that maybe _some_ of those 60 million words are unnecessary. Like, maybe in Tibetan medicine, conciseness is just not a virtue, so if you write the same thing in chapter 71 that someone else wrote in chapter 32, no worries. More darkly, maybe it’s an academia syndrome, where all those monks had to do something to prove that they’re smart and not wasting time, so they just kept writing. I’m harsh on them because I’ve been frustrated by their religious writings too; if it takes 100 billion words to understand existence and your mind, then might as well give up. Isn’t there a faster track to it? But I digress. It’s neat to see.

┬áThis is one book! It’s about 6 feet across and 2 feet tall.

Tibetan skeletons: even creepier than Western ones

Here’s the 60 volume compilation.

2. The Giant Thangka (Tibetan painting). This thangka, the world’s longest, is literally 600 meters long. They say it contains all the history of Tibet, and as I walked along I was like, ok, first king, second king, etc, 27th king, cool, now here’s Buddha, ok, life of Buddha, ok, … and then I figured they’d get into the Dalai Lamas or something. Nope! Way off the rails! There’s about 400 meters of various deity-looking creatures with names like Abhiyatsangkhavidayachakra who has 28 arms and is stomping on babies while breathing fire. Interspersed with some abstract diagrams that say something like “the deity of universal truth” but look like an intricate Parcheesi board. Remember how Tibetans aren’t known for conciseness? They go big, not home, and I can admire that. (though I’m glad I don’t have to study it!)

Xining is close to the outdoors so you can go to Qinghai Lake or Kanbula or all sorts of other
beautiful spots, that’s cool.

You know how Pittsburgh is 2 or 3 million people and all single-family homes? Xining is all high-rises and mid-rises. Even as a small city. I appreciate that. Still doesn’t feel crowded!

My view

It’s moderately easy to get around. Moderately. It’s got only buses, no subway, and is occasionally really pedestrian-hostile. Like, instead of a crosswalk they’ll have a bridge over the road. Or a terrible mazelike underpass! To say nothing of the cars who do not give a good goddamn. And guess what: traffic’s still bad! But it’s small enough that I can walk to most places I want to go.

Xiadu Dajie. This street is just one after another, cool bar or coffee shop. I could live on this street. (and some days, kinda did.)

Wenhua Jie and nearby, it looks like, north of Dong Dajie, is where more people go out though. It’s funny, bars and cafes are all clustered in bar/cafe areas.

I’m near Mojia Jie, which is I guess a “market street”? But we’re in China, so this doesn’t seem to distinguish it from a lot of other streets. Eh, it’s central anyway.

I’d give more info about the place, but who here is going to Xining, anyway? Eh, hit me up if you are, I’ll dish on where to get a good baozi or the best gin and tonic I’ve ever had (surprisingly enough).

The parks are cool. Central Park has a bunch of people dancing in different ways. Xining’s People’s Park has nothing on Chengdu’s People’s Park: Xining’s is half amusement park and gaudy tchotchke shops.

If you’re around here and you think you hear bombs or gunshots, don’t worry, it’s just someone setting off fireworks to commemorate their new store opening or something. Loud as nuts, though.

Woof, and it’s hot. Mid to high 80s and sunny all week. Drier than Chengdu though.

I feel this trip winding down: I have kinda one last jaunt of traveling: one day in Zhangye, one day in Lanzhou, one day on a train, like half a day in Chengdu, and back to home! It’s nice to alternate some moving fast with some sticking around in the same place. And it’s all easy from here: see a couple tourist sites, eat some Lanzhou beef noodles, run around Chengdu for a day, hop on a dumb flight back. (via Paris. No, that is not the quickest way back. So it goes.)

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