Xian, China | Terracotta Army and More
“Terracotta army, terracotta army”, shouted the street hawkers in a maddening frenzy as passengers began to emerge from the train station in Xian, China.
I was tugged, followed & swarmed by tour barkers, all speaking at the same time in incomprehensible Chinglish. Surely, they know what travelers come here for. And by pesking around could mean luring tourists into their traps that are very common in China.
I immediately hopped into the city bus & fled the mob of annoyed faces. It was a sweet win! As soon as I arrived in Jano’s Backpacker Hostel, I immediately forgot the hustle that started my day. It’s rustic, artsy & run by unbelievably gentle people.
This spot by the ancient city wall was my home for 4 days in Xian, China. Being at the heart of everything, it was easy to get to places of interest as it is along major commuter lines. This zone also transforms from being a row of quaint hostels & cafes by daytime into a happening strip at night with alfresco bars punctuating its old cobblestone alleys.
Xian, China: Of imperial antiquity & cultural mélange
Xian is no stranger to world history. In fact, it was the terminus of the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that linked Central Asia to Persia, Arabia, Europe & Africa. It is the homeland of the first imperial dynasty & that being said previews what exciting antiquities await tourists in this vibrant town in Central China.
Here are some of my best picks among the treasure trove of attractions & activities in China’s adored city of the yesteryears.
Terracotta army is a collection of life-sized terracotta sculptures depicting the armored warriors, chariots, cavalry horses & servants of the first emperor Qin Shi Huang. It was buried with him in 210 BCE to protect him in his afterlife.
In 1974, about 8,000 pieces were unearthed in battle formation & are kept for viewing in a museum complex. For its world historical value, it is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The mausoleum & museum are located in Lintong District, about 40 kilometers east of Xian. It can be easily reached on an hour bus ride from the city’s central terminal.
The Muslim Quarter is a huge block of Chinese-Muslim community called the Hui. They are descendants of the old traders from Persia & Arabia that journeyed on the Silk Road.
This famous city block is laden in colored stone pavements & framed by buildings that are modeled from 14th-19th century Ming & Qing dynasty architectural styles. The Beiyuanmen Muslim Market is the heart of attraction where restaurants & food stalls sell delicious & exotic Muslim delicacies.
While it may be the home of the Grand Mosque, the Muslim Quarter is most popularly known as the kitchen of Xian.
The Bell Tower is the city’s landmark roundabout. It was built in 1384 during Ming Dynasty & also contains precious bronze-cast bells from the Tang Dynasty. It was the grandest of its kind & a reminder of the glorious days of Xian. The bell is beaten at sunrise to signal the beginning of a new day.
Along with the Bell Tower, it is the symbol of Xi’an, China built in the 14th century. It houses heritage drums & other religious artifacts from Shaanxi’s imperial past. The drum is beaten at sunset to mark the day’s end. A drum show is also held here every afternoon.
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
A Buddhist temple in Da Ci’en temple complex, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a well-preserved building dating back to 652. It is a repository of ancient Buddha relics & manuscripts.
Old City Wall
The old city wall of Xian is one of the oldest, largest & the most preserved city fortifications in all of China today. It was built in 14th century as a military defense system against invading states. This heritage site is listed among China’s national cultural treasures.
Xian, China is one of the country’s best living museums showcasing various ancient man-made & natural attractions. I love how the new city had grown out of the old, keeping its historical integrity & quaint charm.
There’s so much to find & memories to keep that probably even a month of vacation here won’t be enough to experience everything. It is beautifully littered with small temples, palaces & courtyards. Its mountains sparkle of emerald silhouettes crouched by silver creeks & cascades.
Watching the old folks doing martial arts in the park, my mind began to travel thousands of years back in time. I could picture the grace of the courtesans, the poets & the painters. I could hear the clip clopping of the horse-drawn chariots.
But it was time to zap my imaginings & muscle myself once more with reality—those tour barkers at the train station must’ve been waiting for me already!