Formerly known as Cháng’an, Xi’an is one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. Famous mainly for its important archaeological findings, such as the terracotta warriors and horses, people flock to this modern city to witness and learn about China’s moving history.
Close to the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China, some farmers made one of history’s most incredible discoveries in 1974, while trying to drill a water well. The terracotta army consists of over 8,000 individual figures, most of them being soldiers. They were once painted, but nowadays only very few statues still contain traces of color. What is most astonishing is that each figure was made to be unique; the soldiers’ faces all differ from one another. They range in size from 1.83 to 1.95 m according to their position in the army. Their purpose was to protect the emperor and help him rule another empire in the afterlife.
So far, thousands of statues have already been unearthed, but it is assumed that more than half of them still remain buried. The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor attracts thousands of people a day and was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Although most people only come to Xi’an to visit the world-famous terracotta army, there are plenty of other things to see and do. Xi’an supposedly boasts the world’s most complete city wall. If you don’t want to spend the three hours it takes to walk the loop, it is also possible to ride a bike across. In the Muslim Quarter, you can visit the Drum Tower, as well as the Grand Mosque which features an impressive architectural blend of Islamic and Chinese styles and is known for being China’s first mosque. Around the Great Mosque, the Bazaar Area is a great place for buying souvenirs or local folk art. Another famous landmark is the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, which sometimes has a pleasant music and water show, as well as the Little Wild Goose Pagoda and the Bell Tower, located in the exact center of the city.
Apart from the spectacular Terracotta Army, there are a few other points of interests outside of Xi’an. The Tomb of Emperor Jingdi is particularly interesting for its 50,000 miniature terracotta figures. The Banpo Village Ruins display 6,000-year-old pottery making areas, as well as some ancient tools and a burial ground. If you haven’t seen enough Mausoleums, there are also the Mao Ling and Qian Ling Mausoleums, located just outside of the city.
The best time to visit Xi’an is during spring and autumn, when temperatures are mild or even warm and it only rains occasionally. Winters are cold and dry, whereas the summers are quite hot. The rainy season lasts from June through September, though it is also possible to travel to Xi’an during this period.
© Salsa-Trips, Rico Jochen Anderer