We began our second day in Xi’an by taking a bus to the countryside outside the city to visit the Children’s Village—a center that provides a home for children who’s parents are in prison. During our tour of the facilities, we learned that the children live in dormitories that are meant to feel like a home, and that each child is assigned to a “mom” who is charge of 16 kids total. The children ranged in age from toddlers, to twenty year olds. We ended up playing basketball and other games outside with the children, which was a fun way to connect with them and helped bridge the language barrier. The center is funded almost completely from private donations, mostly from individuals in China. It was interesting to see this kind of foster care model, which felt more like a school or dormitory rather than the smaller foster families that one sees in the United States. After lunch with the kids there, we took a bus back to the city to spend the rest of the day visiting the Greater Wild Goose Pagoda.
The pagoda itself is an ancient building that stands at 7 stories high, and is surrounded by a complex of Buddhist shrines and gardens. There were many statues, and some beautiful reliefs depicting the life of the Buddha. A lot of care was clearly put into the aesthetics of the site, and the design was guided by the Chinese philosophy of Feng shui, which deals with finding balance between architecture and the surrounding environment. After walking around, we got to watch an artist make some traditional Chinese calligraphy, and learned about how the characters in the written language evolved over time. This mix of old and new, of temples and gardens next to massive apartment blocks, leads to some strange but interesting surroundings the likes of which I had never seen before coming to China.