Xi’an (西安市) is the capital city of the Shaanxi (陝西省) province that is relatively centrally located in China. The name of this famous city means “Western Peace”. The 4.000.000 million metropolia gained worldwide recognition through the rediscovery of the famous Terracotta Army. This accidental find by a farmer is one of the largest burial structures in the world and is located around 36 kilometers Northeast of Xi’An. The ancient city was the first capital city of the Chinese Empire under the leadership of the Qin dynasty. But Xi’An is not only worth a visit because of the thousands of warriors; the city also marks the beginning of the legendary Silk Road, which has actually become more relevant today than ever before. Thus, Xi’an has become a melting pot of Chinese culture, but also of Muslim culture (e.g. the Uyghurs) and much more peoples of Central Asia.
Attractions worth visiting
The gigantic city wall of Xi’an (西安城墙 Xī‘ān chéngqiáng), with an extent of 13.6 kilometers, is the largest city wall in the whole of China. In the past, the wall had four large gates in every direction, which were opened by a signal of the Bell Tower in the morning and were closed in the evening through a signal of the Drum Tower. Both towers are the still well-preserved landmarks of the city. In more recent years, the wall has suffered quite some debris, but one can still take a walk along it and go round the old town of Xi’an. It is also possible to rent bikes on the wall so that a tour around the city doesn’t take hours. Be advised that bike salesmen only accept cash as a deposit, so you should carry enough with you.
With an age of over 1250 years, the Great Mosque in Xi’an (西安大清真寺 Xi’an Da Qingzhensi) is one of the oldest and also one of the most famous mosques in China. The Great Mosque is located in the predominantly Muslim part of the old town and is encircled by an oriental-looking Bazaar. It provides visitors with a place to rest and escape the hectic hustle of the city and a visit can be combined with a stroll through the Bazaar, where one can buy souvenirs. Bargaining is a must!
The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔 Dàyàn Tǎ) and Small Wild Goose Pagoda (小雁塔Xiǎoyàn Tǎ) envelop the visitor in an aura of traditional Buddhist time and atmosphere. Both towers are surrounded by large beautiful gardens and both can be visited. When the air is clear and clean, you can enjoy a marvelous view over Xi’an. The Giant Pagoda is 64 meters high and the Small Pagoda is 43 meters high. The latter used to be higher but because of an earthquake, the two top floors collapsed, shrinking the tower to its present day height.
Food and Beverages
The Muslim quarter of the old town is to both, the locals as well as tourists, a food paradise. When it gets cooler in the evening, you meet with friends and let yourself be enchanted by the oriental scents and dishes.
The following dishes should definitely be tasted:
- Yangrou Paomo (羊肉泡馍Yángròu pàomó) is a savory lamb stew, but what is so special about it is, that guests are being involved in the preparation process. You will be handed a soup bowl with a very solid Pita lying in it. The task is now, to crumble the Pita into pieces as small as possible. After finishing this task, the soup bowl is brought into the kitchen where lamb broth is poured over the Pita crumbs and glass noodles and lamb pieces are added. This stew is quite thick and heavy, which is why two people can easily share one bowl. Paomo is often eaten with pickled garlic and chili sauce, which can – on a hot summer day – make you break out in sweat.
- Roujiamo (肉夹馍ròujīamó) is the Chinese version of a Hamburger or Sandwich, which has been mentioned centuries before Christ. Roujiamo is a cheap and very tasty snack between meals. It consists of a kind of Pita bread, filled with meat and a lot of herbs and spices.
- Chuan’r (串儿) are very delicious lamb skewers that are cooked over an open fire and can be found almost everywhere in the Muslim quarter. The barbecue scent can be smelled several streets away.
- Pomegranate Juice (石榴汁Shíliú zhī) can be found at every corner and is a very refreshing drink. It is recommended to buy the juice where the pomegranates are freshly-squeezed because at times it can happen that you will get a very sweet juice from a box.