Located in north-western China in the Shaanxi province, Xian is one of China’s most historic and ancient cities, famous today for being the gateway to one of the world’s most celebrated archaeological wonders, the awesome Terracotta Warriors. Xian is not situated on the Yangtze River itself but Chongqing is and it’s from here that you can take a short flight to the city and witness the warriors for yourself. This compelling clay assemblage is a representation of the actual army and imperial court of China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang and is undoubtedly Xian’s biggest draw but there are a number of historic attractions to enjoy within the city itself.
It’s not at all surprising that the focus of your time in Xian will be a trip to see the awesome Terracotta warriors. Essentially a giant mausoleum, the warriors are even more incredible when you consider that large numbers of them are yet to be unearthed. Built to stand guard over the emperor during his journey into the afterlife, they’ve certainly stood the test of time and are a truly incredible sight. A significant section of this vast site is open to the public, so there’s plenty to see with special viewing areas, though you can only use cameras in certain specially designated places. You can’t actually walk between the rows of warriors as they stand guard in inexorable duty, but the site is designed to offer you optimum viewing of the army.
The city walls and fortifications of Xian are possibly the biggest attraction to be found within, or to be exact, slightly outside of the city itself and are in fact one of best preserved city walls in the whole of China. The existing walls date back to around 1370 and have a circumference of over eight miles, so there’s certainly plenty to see. They’re nearly 60 feet thick and almost 40 feet high too, which should give you some idea of just what an imposing sight they are.
The huge Bell Tower is another tourist site which literally cannot be missed, built not long after the walls in 1384 and one of the best examples of its kind in China. The bell itself has a much longer history however, being cast way back in 711 under the Tang Dynasty and is over eight feet tall and was traditionally struck to mark the start of the day. There are numerous stories and legends surrounding the tower and its origins, making it a truly enigmatic attraction. The Drum Tower is very much the Bell Tower’s companion piece, dating back to 1380 and built during the early Ming Dynasty. Not surprisingly, it’s a huge drum and not a bell which is the sonic focus of this structure and traditionally it was beaten at sunset to denote the day’s end.
Another popular attraction is the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda built all the way back in 652 under the Tang Dynasty. It’s been rebuilt and renovated over the years by successive dynasties and was constructed with the prime purpose of storing the city’s collection of Buddha statues, brought to China from India by noted traveller Xuanzang and it still houses some of those treasures today.
Owing to its long history, Xian is also a great city in which to sample local snacks, such as the fabled Crumbled Flatbread in Mutton Stew and Cold Noodles, which do taste better than they sound! The Antique Market meanwhile, is the perfect place to find your own Terracotta replicas, as well as a wealth of local handicrafts.