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Xian Travel Guide

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Indeed, the city has housed more dynasties and emperors than any other in the country and once stood shoulder to shoulder with Rome and Constantinople for the impressive title of ‘greatest city in the world’. In the modern day, Xi’an is most prominently associated with it’s famous 2000yr old Army of Terracotta Warriors. Uncovered in 1974 by a group of unsuspecting peasants digging a well, this 6000 strong force of eternally watchful guardsmen has been termed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. Built to guard the tyrannical Emperor Qinshihuang (r. 221-207 BC) in the afterlife, it is thought that there are still at least another 2000 warriors still to expose. The craftsmanship of the statues is absolutely mind blowing with no two figures having the same facial features or expression. There are 210 crossbow and longbow bearers, 35 horse-drawn chariots, armoured soldiers with a whole host of handheld weapons, all facing east and all ready for battle. Over 10,000 pieces of original contemporary weaponry have been excavated from the site and it is assumed that the statues originally held these authentic weapons. Emperor Qinshihuang obviously didn’t want to risk any half measures, especially when you consider that 700,000 forced labourers were sacrificed to build this tomb, which was begun as soon as the Emperor ascended the throne. Spreading out over an area of 14,000 square metres, the Army of Terracotta Warriors is as important a site to see in China as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Prices may well have increased in recent years, but it more than worth the cost.

Xi’an is full of sights both inside and outside of it’s impressively preserved city walls. To the east of the city are the ruins of the Banpo culture where visitors can see the remains of the large Neolithic village where, six to seven thousand years ago, a society built thatched wooden houses, made intricately decorated pots and lived off the land as the beginnings of sedentary farming spread across the globe. To the south of the city, there are a number of beautiful, well-preserved Buddhist temples plus the famous Great Wild Goose Pagoda and the Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda. Now, 1000yrs old and built in the Tang dynasty, these amazingly preserved masterpieces of Chinese classical architecture provide a superb view from the top across the whole of Xi’an. To the north of is the mausoleum district with twenty-seven mausoleums of past Han and Tang emperors not to mention members of their royal family. To the southeast of the city is there is the Provincial Museum of Shaanxi containing it’s most famous exhibit, the “Forest of Tablet Stones” – over 1000 priceless steles produced from the Han dynasty onwards plus countless fascinating ancient Chinese artefacts.

Within the city walls, there is a curious mix of both Chinese and Islamic culture, and one of the major sights in the Islamic quarter marked out by the Drum Tower, is the magnificent Great Mosque. There is plenty to see in the city, from the gigantic Bell Tower right in the centre of the city to the Xi’an Art Academy. It’s well worth visiting one of the silk factories where tourists can observe the production of scarves, embroidered panels and silk rugs – it’s something you just have to do given that this is where the celebrated Silk Road started. Fantastic food is abundant, especially the local delicacy jiaozi, a form of little dumpling with different fillings. With plenty of bazaars and markets, Xi’an has a traditional hustle and bustle that goes hand in hand with it’s deep-se ated cultural roots. If you want to understand China, this is the place to visit as Xi’an is where it all began.

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