- We were here: 2 days at the beginning of October 2018.
- Number of days needed: 2. If you are going on a day trip to Mount Hua, then 3. If you are a fan of archeology, you probably need a week.
- My score: 3/5. No doubt it is a city worthy of a visit, but I am not sure if I would repeat it, and certainly not in the next few years, I explain below why.
Xi’an (西安) is the most important city in the history of China. Qin Shin Huang, the first emperor, the architect of the unification in 221 BC, established his capital at Xianyang (which is barely 20 km northwest of Xi’an and today is part of its metropolitan area) since not only it was only the capital of Qin State, of which he was already king before conquering the rest of the country, but was located at the center of the new and unified China. For 1100 years it would continue to be the capital of the empire, which explains its incomparable cultural and archaeological heritage:
- Before his death he would build more than 300 palaces and his mausoleum city, no less than 98 sq/km large (one third larger than all Manhattan or the same size as Barcelona), discovered by chance in 1974 by farmers digging a well, finding the world-famous Terracotta Army that keeps it. More than 8,000 soldiers have been discovered by now, only a few hundred of them have been reconstructed, and most remain buried. Each one is unique and different from all the others, they were painted the same colors as the real army at the time, with terracotta horses, authentic weapons, chariots and everything they could need to help their emperor to rule after death. It is one of the great archeological treasures of humanity. The tomb of the emperor has recently been discovered, but even the experts have not dared to enter, they fear that been exposed to the environment will quickly damage the interior paintings.
- Little power lasted to Qin dynasty after the death of the great leader. The struggles for the government led near to destruction of Xianyang and the full development of the neighbor city, Chang’an, current Xi’an. Proof of its bonanza is that in the year 202 BC the construction of what has been the largest palaces complex in the history of humanity began, Weiyang Palace, almost 7 times larger than the Forbidden City being 1600 years older, today only the base remains. 8 years later the walls of the city and a walled city (called Imperial) within Chang’an where the emperor and all who were related to him lived began to be built. Those of the city had an extension 8 times greater than the current walls that, although built in the fourteenth century, are in the same place where they were those of the ancient imperial city, the best preserved and restored in China. They measure 14 km long and 14 meters wide, and are a tourist attraction; It is very pleasant to stroll on their upper part on foot or by bicycle.
- Other interesting architectural points are the Big Goose Pagoda, from the 7th century, in front of which a water and sound show is projected daily in the second largest fountain in Asia after that of Dubai, and Bell and Drum Towers, also built in the 14th century. For the scholars, there is material to stay here many more days; They include Emperor Jingdi’s Tomb, Shaanxi History Museum or Xi’an Museum, among others.
- A totally different attraction is the lively Muslim Quarter, full of food stalls.
- And if we like sacred mountains, half hour away by high-speed train is Mount Hua, one of the 5 Great Mountains of China, although in case of visiting it is more advisable to spend the night in the area than a day trip.
Xi’an has plenty of ingredients to be a mandatory stop on every trip to this country. It is up to each one to decide whether to go now, or to plan the trip for later. In my case, the slowness about the works in the Terracotta Army is what leads me not to repeat it in the near future. When there are many more soldiers standing and the emperor’s tomb is open to the public, please call me. I just hope I have not died of old age.
WHAT TO SEE
- TERRACOTTA ARMY WARRIORS
- XI’AN WALLS BY BIKE
- DRUM AND BELL TOWERS AND MUSLIM QUARTER
- BIG GOOSE PAGODA AND LIGHT AND SOUND FOUNTAIN SHOW
- WHEN TO GO
- GETTING THERE BY TRAIN AND BUS
- GETTING AROUND
- WHERE TO EAT AND SLEEP
- DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES