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Xi’an on a citytrip

NETHERLANDS | Monday, 4 April 2011 | Views [996]

Xi’an: home to China’s famous Army of Terracotta Horses and Warriors

Xi’an, a Chinese city with 4 million inhabitants, is the capital of the Shaanxi province. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it even was the capital of China. At that time, the city was named Chang’an, which means ‘Heavenly Peace’. Xi’an acted as the capital city of ten dynasties for over a thousand years. Nowadays, it is worldwide known for its Army of Terracotta Horses and Warriors, which is acclaimed as the 8th wonder and is listed on the UNESCO world cultural heritage list. 

If you are in China and want to visit Xi’an, you can schedule 3 to 4 days for a citytrip. It’s enough to see the most important and interesting sites. A few of them are mentioned in this article.

Bell tower 
The bell-tower is located in the city centre. This tower is built back in 1384 during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). It has a big bell on the roof which was used to communicate with the citizens: it told the time. The tower also has a temple, where Chinese musicians play beautiful traditional music for tourists.

Ancient defensive wall
The ancient city defensive wall is surrounding the old city. This impressive and renovated wall is also built during the Ming Dynasty. On top, you’re overlooking Xi’an city centre. It’s possible to rent a push-bike for a few pounds: a nice way to see the entire wall. Walking entirely is not recommended: the wall is too long and in some places there is not much to see. If you don’t feel like walking or cycling: you can take one of the electric cars with driver.

Muslim quarter
Xi’an was connected with Europe and Central Asia through the famous silk route. Islam and Buddhism arrived in China through this merchandise route and Islam especially became popular in Xi’an. Back then, thousands of foreign merchants populated the city.

Xi’an offers great food. From noodle soups and hot-pot (chinese specialty) to lamb and one of the local specialties: the basket-steamed dumplings.

A great place for food in the city centre is the muslim quarter. This quarter, with its handicraft shops, muslim restaurants and the oldest and largest muslim mosque in China, is best visited in the afternoon. At that time the vivid and hectic streets are at their busiest, and you can have dinner in one of the many cheap muslim restaurants or street stalls.

Army of Horses and Warriors

Army of Terracotta Horses and Warriors
Like many Chinese cities nowadays, Xi’an is a modern city with lots of old influences. However, this city has something that is unique and found nowhere else in the world: the Army of Terracotta Horses and warriors. A highlight of a visit to the city, and for many people the reason to go to Xi’an in the first place. 8000 soldiers are guarding the tomb of the great emperor Qin Shi Huang.

China believed in afterlife, just like Egypt. When the emperor died, he was buried in a tomb. And believing in afterlife, you bring everything you own to the grave. Because he was a Chinese emperor, this happened ‘feng-shui’ style (a 3000 year old Chinese philosophy, which learns how the environment can influence good luck). The tomb should be protected from every angle. The mountains and the river formed naturel barriers, but there was no protection in front of it.

That is why workers had to make an estimated number of 8000 of each of the figures from his empire out of clay, from warriors to generals and horses. They were all placed in front of the tomb. This way the emperor was forever protected from danger.

In 1974, a farmer discovered a part of the army when digging a well. From that moment on, the tomb was exposed bit by bit. 

Being one of China’s highlights, the Army of Terracotta Horses and Warriors is very touristic and therefore rather busy. The museum handles 10.000 Chinese and 5.000 foreign tourists a day, 365 days a year. You’ll notice this less once you’re inside and it remains an absolute must see when you’re in China!

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