| 25 January – 04 February 2020 is Chinese New Year. Happy New Year to all of our Chinese friends! This time of year is great for planning a trip to Xi’an, a very cosmopolitan city.
Xi’an has a long history of being a meeting place between cultures. It is the start of the Silk Road and thus had visitors from all over the old world. The city has hosted Nestorian
The Terracotta Warriors are Xi’an’s most famous residents
Xi’an was the capital of the Emperor Qin who ruled 221-206 BCE. Qin unified the kingdoms and gave his name to the modern country “China”. He ordered a huge mausoleum to be built even though he believed that he would live forever. The impressive Terracotta Army was built at his command. His mausoleum is buried beneath an enormous pyramid shaped mountain and is rumoured to have vast riches as well as a model of China with its rivers and lakes replaced by liquid mercury. The tomb has never been explored and has been the source of curiosity and legends.
The Emperor Qin’s Tomb has never been opened!
The emperor Liu Bang liberated the peoples from the tyrant Qin and then proceeded to build Weiyang Palace, the largest palace every built. The impressive ruins of this once imposing edifice cover 4.8 square kilometres (1200 acres)! In 582 AD, after a period of war and unrest, the Emperor Sui rebuilt Xi’an within a space of 84 square kilometres (32 square miles) making it the largest city on the earth for centuries.
Here’s a pro-tip: the area around Xi’an offers outstanding natural beauty. If you have time, please visit Mount Li. The 1302 meter mountain is a holy site revered for its serene vistas.
Xi’an is huge with over 12.9 Million people in the metropolitan area. Despite this, the city has a cosy and intimate feel and is one of the best walking cities in all of China. There is a huge amount to explore but I recommend the following “must-see” sights:
- Terracotta Army of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang – this is, of course, one of the most famous sites in the world. The excavations are on-going and their scale is impressive!
- Giant Wild Goose Pagoda – built in 652 AD to house important Buddhist texts, this beautiful pagoda and its partner, the Little Wild Goose Pagoda are elegant examples of traditional building techniques.
- Muslim Quarter – this portion of town is still home to more than 50,000 Muslims who have been in Xi’an for centuries.
- City Wall – the impressive Ming and Tang dynasty walls are intact and colossal.
- Textile Town – this is the arts district of Xi’an and is famous for its galleries and workshops.
- Shaanxi History Museum – this modern facility has an impressive 370,000 artefacts from throughout the history of China.
- Stele Forest – holds important historical records carved onto stele and housed in a former Confucian Temple.
Here’s a pro-tip: Most visitors to Xi’an are eligible for a 144 hour (6 day) visa on arrival. If you will be visiting China for a longer period or want to see multiple locations, you can apply on-line for a Chinese visa.
Reaching Xi’an is relatively simple from most places around the world. The Xi’an Xianyang International Airport is a modern facility that is efficient and convenient. There is a good metro augmented by bus services. Taxis are plentiful and most taxi drivers speak passable English. There is an extensive bicycle sharing service in Xi’an and the electric bicycle is perhaps the very best way to explore the ancient city.
Hotels in Xi’an are impressive, comfortable and an excellent value. I enjoy the Sofitel Legend People’s Grand Hotel. This art deco facility was originally built in 1953 and has been renovated to a very high standard with incredible service. The W Xi’an is an architecturally modern gem that makes a statement about “New China”. The moderately priced Crowne Plaza Hotel Xi’an is in the tallest building in the city and offers impressive vistas throughout the region. All of the hotels offer high standards of hospitality, clean food service and all amenities you would expect.
Food in Xi’an is incredibly diverse reflecting the cosmopolitan history of the city. Excellent examples of variety include Lanzhou Muslim Traditional Beef Stretched Noodles in the
Lanzhou Beef Noodles are a tasty treat!
When you want to relax after a long day of exploring this incredible city, I recommend some excellent bars! Park Qin in central Xi’an is the only Terracotta Warrior themed bar in China. Near Wall Bar and Xi’an Brewery is, as you might suspect, near the city walls and is a great microbrewery. Cinnamon Pink is a hidden entrance speak-easy that is hard to find but well worth the hunt on Eastside Road, 200 meters inside of Hanguang Men.
Here’s a final pro-tip: if your idea of relaxation is active, you can join a Kung Fu school for as little time as a few weeks. Wushu is the modern form of Kung Fu and there are several schools that offer inexpensive resident programmes for any age and ability students.
A Shaolin Monk resting on the job!
Shopping is also great in Xi’an. You can shop for fashions in high-end western style malls or for impressive souvenirs in the arts district. I recommend you bring home Terracotta Warrior replicas still made in the traditional way. Xi’an has beautiful tri-coloured glazed pottery and porcelain and its carved jade is a beautiful addition to your home.