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Xian Introduction

English Name: Xi'an, Hsian, Sian
Chinese Name: 西安 (xī ān)
Alias: Chang'an
Location: Guanzhong Plain, Shaanxi Province, Northwest China (34°16′N, 108°54′E)
Postal Code: 710000 - 710090
Area Code: 029

If China were a tree, Beijing would be the crown while Xian would be its deep roots. As a saying goes: "Go to Shanghai and you will find a 100-year-old China; go to Beijing and you will find a 1000-year-old China; go to Xian and then you will find a 3000-year-old China." Xian, the cradle of China, is, by any means, on your China travel list.

Historically known as Chang'an, it was home to the ruling house of 13 dynasties, notably, the Qin (221 BC – 207 BC), Han (206 BC – 220 AD), Sui (581 AD – 618 AD) and Tang (618AD – 908AD) Dynasties. The Emperor Qin Shihuang united China for the first time and left Xi'an and the world one of the most extraordinary archeological finds in history - the Terracotta Warriors, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. The city reached its peak in the Tang dynasty, boasting 2 million taxable inhabitants and the largest, most cosmopolitan, settlement in the world during the reign of Xuanzong (712 AD – 756 AD).

xian terracotta warriors xian terracotta warriors

Together with Athens, Cairo and Rome, Xian is among the four major ancient civilization capitals of the world. Xian is on the natural westward land route out of China into Central Asia, the starting point and terminus of the Silk Road, which brought the city material wealth as well as religious and cultural melting for over a thousand years.

Surviving monuments open a window to this ancient city. The short-lived totalitarian state of Qin Shihuang is mirrored in the awe-inspiring massed terra-cotta armies of the Terracotta Warriors. The influence of Buddhism is clear from the Wild Goose Pagoda, a chamber for the translation of the Buddhist scriptures by then widely renowned Master Xuan Zang, who returned to China in 645 after 15 years of travel across India and central Asia. Evidence of the flourishing trade along the Silk Routes may be found in the Shaanxi History Museum and Famen Temple. Another reminder of the enduring legacy of the Silk Road is the Great Mosque of Xi'an, presenting a strong Muslim minority, whose faith remains unchanged although their architecture is a mixture of Chinese design and western Islamic tradition.

Today, despite the searing summer heat and freezing winters, Xian is a joy to visit. The central city is pleasantly compact and its grid layout within the city wall makes it easy to navigate. The Bell Tower is the geographical center of Xian, from which four main business streets radiating, North Avenue, South Avenue, West Avenue and East Avenue. With many universities around, Xiao Zhai is popular with youth and students and thus is one of the busiest commercial areas. The ancient streets of Shuyuanmen and Luomashi commercial area are two must-visit places. Actually, sightseeing in and around Xian can keep even the most energetic visitors busy for a week or two.

The cuisine of Xian is not among the eight great cuisines of China, but it enjoys enormous popularity. If you visit one of the local cuisine restaurants and taste local favorites like Yang Rou Pao mo, you will find out why. After dinner, you can either enjoy a traditional form of entertainment, like the Qin Opera and the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show, or indulge in modern bars and karaoke places.

Feel like shopping? Just go for traditional arts and crafts, folk handicrafts or replicas of antiquities. Xian is famous for good imitations of arts and crafts of the Qin and Tang dynasties, such as tri-colored glazed pottery and imitations of ancient bronze ware. Beyond that, tourists can also find replica Qin Dynasty embroidery, artistic porcelain ware, jade, carvings, paper cuttings, and paintings by the farmers of Huxian County which features strong Chinese traditions and local characteristics.

Locals are easygoing, yet shake their heads in regret that their ancestors "fell behind" their richer cousins in Beijing. However, tens of thousands of worldwide visitors, together with plenty of upscale new malls full of well-dressed shoppers, tell you that Xian is not that far behind.

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