Saturday, November 7, 2015




First Capital Of China

Many people think that Xian is only the Terracotta Army, and may even disregard this destination when planning a trip to China. And I know it very well, because that happened to us during our first visit. The city is inconveniently located away from more traditional places such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin and Hong Kong situated on the east coast of the country, hindering mobility especially for travelers on a tight budget, like us. The good thing we’ve applied for a two-entry visa, and this time we made sure to get to Xian first.

Very good decision, by the way. Initially we thought Xian would be a huge desert, as it is right in the middle of the country (much like Brasilia, the capital of Brazil). However we were positively surprised by the size and historical significance that the city enjoyed and still enjoys, mainly because it was once the starting point of the Silk Road, connecting the West and the East.

As the first capital of China and having maintained this position for several of the most important dynasties in the history of the country, the city is full of temples, pagodas, ancient towers and a wall that served for its protection back in those days. Of course the Terracotta Army is the highlight of any visit to Xian and one of our favorite attractions in China (more on Terracotta Army here), but the city has much more to offer, and you can easily prolong your stay for four to five days without getting bored.

The Muslim Quarter

Hard to imagine, but there are Muslims in China and quite a few of them. In fact, in Xian there is an entire neighborhood called 'Muslim Quarter' around the Great Mosque. No way would we miss a visit to a mosque in China, and honestly, we could not find any similarity to the one’s at the Middle East. For us, the architecture follows the same guidelines of any Taoist and Buddhist temples in China, except for some inscriptions in Arabic, the prayer hall and the ablution room. The building is very old (17th century) a rare thing to see, as the Chinese love to replace historic buildings with modern copies. Admission is 25 yuan (4 USD), however if you look Arab, you don’t need to pay.

The neighborhood itself is a mess, with people shouting and selling all kinds of fried snacks, skewers, sweets and dried fruits. The streets are packed with tourists at any time of day. The night market can be even more chaotic, as it is added to the equation neon lights and cheap electronic music. It's nice to see once, but get out quick before you get an epileptic seizure.

Walking Tour in Xian

Nothing nicer than simply walking around, observing people in their day to day lives and interactions, the lively street markets, the temples off the beaten path, elderly ladies dancing and children running through the parks. And that's exactly what we did, instead of spending tons of money towards the most traditional attractions like the City Wall (54 yuan), Drum Tower (35 yuan), Bell Tower (30 yuan), Wild Goose Pagoda (30 yuan), and alike. After all, once you walked a city wall - and we have done it twice, not counting the Great Wall of China - you've seen them all. And the beauty is at the exterior of the buildings, which you can see for free.

Speaking of which, surprisingly all museums in China are free, and both the Xian Museum and the History Museum of Shaanxi have excellent exhibits of artifacts over 3,000 years old, including bronze objects, ceramics, sculptures, porcelain, jade, calligraphy, in short, a Chinese regional cultural explosion. As a bonus, the museum is situated in the same park of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, and if you don’t mind to climb the tower, you can enter from behind and visit the complex for free.

Tomb of the Emperor Jing Di

This is the most underrated attraction of Xian, and for that same reason, we couldn’t tell whether we liked the huge display of terracotta figurines, the excavation pits, or the fact that it was so empty that at times it felt like we had the entire complex for us (a real miracle in China!). The tomb of Emperor Jingdi is located about 20 km from the city center, but getting there by public transport is quite complicated and possibly taking up to 3 hours. For those traveling by plane, it is just 20 minutes airport, and an easy stop by taxi.

We decided to book a tour which cost 160 yuan (26 USD) per person, including transportation and entry fees. The first part of the tour are the pits, and different from the Terracotta Army, where you see everything from a distance, here you can walk on top of the excavation, since the platforms are made of glass.

Another peculiarity is that unlike Qin Shi Huang (father of the Terracotta Army), this emperor had more of a 'peace and love' and 'non-interference' approach to manage his empire. Instead of a battalion of soldiers, he buried in his grave over 50,000 figurines of all kinds of domestic animals, courtiers, artists, musicians, jugglers and even female cavalry to accompany him in the next life. The sculptures also made of terracotta, are smaller in size and were dressed in silk costume with movable wooden arms.

If you enjoy history and archaeology be sure to visit the tomb of the emperor Jindgi. Great value for money, as the tour includes entrance to two museums, the excavation site, several artifacts and even a holographic film telling about the life of the Emperor and his Empress. All with English signage’s and explanations.

Check out our visit to Muslim Quarter below:


1 comment:

  1. very nice blog!and nice move you've done.visiting the world is most joyable thing.i really enjoyed to see your memories and amazing pictures specially tomb of emperor di was interesting and new thing and xian is awesome.thanks for sharing.