‘Would you like a beer, Ma’am?’ was almost certainly NOT what the boy was asking the lady I assume to be his mother.

I took this photo strolling along the streets of Xi’an back in 1991. The families of these store owners seemed to live on the street. As I recall it was relatively hot and there was no air conditioning.

The street appeared to be where everything happened. I even saw parents holding their infants over the gutter so they could go to the bathroom!

In this photo, a beer seller’s supply sits out on the street gently stewing away in the heat. Rather than use crates, the cases are simply strung together. Judging by the dirt on the bottom layer of bottles they’ve been there for a while.

Best I could tell, commerce here was a 24/7 activity. It may have slowed down at certain times of the day or night but I don’t believe it ever came to a full stop.

Like any lager beer, ice cold it was tolerable, warm it was positively awful. But, as in Europe in the middle ages, in many places it was safer to drink warm beer than tap water.

I always found it curious how many travelers would insist on bottled water, pour it into a glass and then add ice made from tap water to chill it down. It may not appear sophisticated but in many places it’s safest to drink from the bottle and forgo the ice, even if the water’s warm!

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‘Pssst, Wanna buy a fox fur?’ is what I imagined the boy emerging from behind the row of fox pelts (at least, I think they are fox pelts) was asking the boy in blue striding down the street.

Today, I would be able to show the photo on the back of my DSLR to my tour guide and ask about the scene. Back when I took this photo I was shooting film and the moment was gone so I never got to confirm exactly what animal pelts were on display here.

I wonder if the pelts have a grading system, like diamonds. Do the white furs command a higher price or are the patterned ones more rare?

Suffice to say, the boy had a lot for sale.

I wonder what the three scratch-like marks are on the back of the boy in blue. I wonder what the other two boys were doing earlier in the day for their lower legs to be so dirty and where the one boy got the coat hanger from and what he’s doing with it, hidden from my view by the paper.

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The expression, ‘Say Cheese’ is guaranteed to bring you all sorts of forced expressions but rarely a genuine smile. Thankfully, I never learned any form of Chinese so I was unable to ask today’s subject to, ‘Say Cheese’, which now makes me wonder what the Chinese expression for ‘Say Cheese’ actually is.

This man was reacting after I’d taken the photo of what I assume to be his friend as they were both sitting on the kerb together, waiting for something. I doubt they were waiting for a passing dentist, it looks way too late for that.

It’s not actually a toothless smile but it’s not far off. My assumption is that the others all rotted away but maybe something else happened in his life.

Shooting on film, I had nothing to show these two guys at the time. Today I’d be able to show them the preview on the LCD.

Color first today with black and white version below.

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Today’s photo is of a man waiting in Xi’an. I’ve no idea what he was waiting for, most likely transport of some sort.

That’s one of the curious things about traveling, there’s and awful lot of waiting involved in going somewhere.

If I recall correctly, I was also waiting when I took this photo. It falls into sequence after my Small Wild Goose Pagoda photos and before my Terracotta Warrior photos, so my best guess is I was waiting for our morning transport to see the Warriors.

I’ve no idea how old this man is – I had no way of conversing with him, though by gesturing I received his permission for the photo. I’d wager he’s a lot younger than he looks.

Black and White first, color version below.

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Which building in China has withstood over 70 earthquakes? That would be the Small Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, built in 707 A.D.

I find the Small Wild Goose Pagoda to be much prettier than the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, which is actually 50 years older and has been modified over the centuries, most recently in 1964. By contrast the Small Wild Goose Pagoda remains unrepaired from the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake.

That earthquake took 2m (6 ft) off the top of the structure which now tops out at 43 m (141 ft). The 1556 Shaanxi earthquake is the deadliest earthquake on record, killing 830,000 people!

The builders set the tower on a hemispherical base of packed earth. This allows the pressure to be divided evenly and protects the structure, enabling it to survive all those earthquakes.

I like the curved shape of this pagoda. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a brutish, angular, construction. At the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, the height of each storey diminishes which results in the gentle curve towards the top.

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