My Week In: Xi'an
Where China Began...
Xi'an, the city in China that has become known as the birthplace of Chinese history and landmarks. A city older than both Beijing and Shanghai. A city that served as the capital before it was bestowed upon Beijing. Built during the Qin dynasty, the historic city was included as the mid point of my China trip this year and spoiler alert, it was breathtaking. The Terra Cotta Army, The Xi'an City Wall and The Big Wild Goose Pagoda were all highlights I experienced and you will too all through original photos and videos!
Xi'an Qin Structure
The Terra Cotta Army
Now the Terra Cotta Army and Xi'an are rarely mentioned one without the other. This of course is why I asked my tour guide if this could be the first stop for the week as I simply could not wait to see it. My excitement was partly because of the story behind why The Terra Cotta Army was created and how a simple idea of the reigning emperor became China's greatest archaeological discovery. I am getting ahead of myself, you my dear readers need some context. A very sunny Monday morning I was up early and having coffee at the reception of my hotel while waiting for my guide. We drove for a peaceful hour where I was given a history lesson of Xi'an and the beliefs of the emperor Qin.
The emperor although mighty and well protected in his mortal life desired protection in the after life. In his vision for this after life, he asked for his workers to build a great army to be buried with him along with precious jade stones. The perfect combination of protection and longevity. It was in this simple ideal, that The Terra Cotta Army was created. From the second we arrived, I could feel I was somewhere special. In a secluded mountain range was this hidden grand museum and archaeological site. I moved my way through crowds of people to get to the front and before I knew it, there it was. With the size of an airport hanger, I found myself face to face with soldiers, horses, carriages and tradesmen, all statues, all regal and all Terra Cotta. The detail was precise, each warriors face, every weapon and even the armour worn was unique. The feeling I experienced was truly humbling, paying respect to the fallen emperor and his army that to this day, are still projecting him as his final wish.
The Terra Cotta Army in Full View
180 Degree View of the Army
The Xi'an City Wall
After a good nights rest and going through some photos from the previous day at breakfast, my tour guide arrived for the second landmark of the Xi'an trip. As we left the lobby he told me that it was only fifteen minutes away. I stared in disbelief as how could a historical figure be hidden in the heart of the city centre. To my surprise, the figure did not lie in the heart of the city, but instead surrounded the entire city itself-The Xi'an City Wall.
Named as the "Fortifications of Xi'an" and shared between the Qing and Ming Dynasties, this wall served as a military defence system to protect the inhabitants during earlier times in China. Through the years, it has been preserved and stored where needed and has now become a tourist attraction and World Heritage Site. As we arrived just outside the grand entrance, I could not help but imagine how difficult it would have been to try invade ancient Xi'an what with the wall being 12 meters high. After climbing a "few" steps, I had reached the top of the wall and was able to look out at modern Xi'an still under the protection of the emperors that created this. Little did I know my tour guide had planned a surprise for me.
The surprise you ask? A solo bicycle tour around city, but actually cycling on the wall itself! A ticket, bicycle and bottle of water and I was all set. The wall is 14 km in total and for my tour, I covered a quarter of the distance, I would have been able to complete the entire wall, but I kept stopping to take photos and ran out of time. Worth it though. A definite highlight of the Xi'an stop and I would highly recommend it to any world travellers or world cyclists for that matter...
Bicycle Tour View
City Wall Landscape
The Big Wild Goose Pagoda
The last stop on my Xi'an leg was a simply must see recommendation from my tour guide. He explained that every visitor to this city must stop at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda due to the historical significance and cultural meaning. Yes, I'm aware of the name, but it's not what it seems. A pagoda is a Buddhist temple structure. Side note, all this knowledge was taught to me in the car trip there! As we arrived, there was already a queue to the entrance, what was truly humbling was that the majority of people were not tourists, but locals who always make time to see the landmarks and teach their children the history and culture of the city.
As we arrived, the immediate surroundings reminded me of the imperial courtyard I had visited in Beijing, but in the middle of this courtyard stood the Pagoda. Before I climbed the inside steps to the top my tour guide explained why he always recommends the visit. Built during the Tang Dynasty, the Pagoda was constructed to house relics, teachings and statues of Buddhism. What makes this impressive is that these were all collected by the hierarch Xuanzang who traveled from China along the silk route to India. In short, one man single handedly was responsible for bringing the religion to China across his pilgrimage. The 5 story and 60 meters high building stands a symbol to the people of China how one persons deeds is all it takes to effect change and that nothing good comes without sacrifice. This story stayed with me as I climbed up to the observation deck and was moved by the power of the human spirit. Feeling inspired, I asked my tour guide to clear our schedule for day and I walked through the courtyard interacting with the locals and being part of the energy for my last day in Xi'an.
View from Ground Level
View from the Top
The Inevitable Farewell...
Having to say good bye to Xi'an was almost the same as saying good bye to an old friend. Sad because the time has ended, but hopeful because you know it will not be the last. If you are an admirer of history, preservation and the imperial times, Xi'an without a doubt, is the city for you. True escapism at its best. Will I return to the city you ask? Does an emperor design an entire army to protect him? Will the City Wall and Pagoda stand the test of time? Yes-to ALL the above...
Be sure to take a look at my first and last stop in this China trip...
© 2019 Kedan Pentia