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Shaanxi Travel Guide

Updated on September 26, 2014

As the center of the Qin dynasty, Shaanxi’s diversity of archaeological sites makes it an exciting destination to visit in China for all types of travelers. Shaanxi, roughly pronounced as “shan-shee”, is loaded with extraordinary archaeological sites throughout the province. The cities may not look like the top most modern cities of China since the preference of this province is to keep the relics and architectures intact as much possible. It retains the history of China not only of the ancient time, but also reminds about the days of China in the ninth century. For centuries, Shaanxi is an important province for Chinese administration, politics and economy. This is one of the few places of China from where the nation’s agriculture originated. It has a vast fertile land to produce food and economical crops for the nation. The province was the crossroads of major trade routes of China and the main gateway to the outside world. Like these facts, Shaanxi is the spotlight of Chinese civilization and history. Visitors can have access to many rare sites and destination in Shaanxi from where China has stepped ahead and reached to this millennium with excellence in civilization, culture and economy. The adjacent province of Shaanxi is named almost similarly, Shanxi, this is a separate province, which capital is Taiyuan where Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi. So, travelers should be aware about the difference of these two provinces.

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Temple of Yandi in Baoji, Shaanxi, China
Temple of Yandi in Baoji, Shaanxi, China | Source

Depending on geographical position and climate, Shaanxi is divided into three regions - Shanbei (north Shaanxi), Guanzhong (the central Shaanxi pain) and Shannan (south Shaanxi).

Shanbei or the northern Shaanxi is located on to the north of the Beishan Mountains, mainly consists of the Loess Plateau and Maowusu Desert. Besides ancient historical relics, Shanbei is also famous for Chinese revolution lead by Mao Zedong as it boasts many valuable revolutionary relics such as the Former Offices of the CCP Central Committee –Yangjialing. Popular cities of northern Shaanxi are Yulin and Yan’an. Winter is very chilly in northern Shaanxi and the difference in temperature between day and night is big. Summer and early autumn are the best time to travel northern Shaanxi when the weather is moderate and agreeable.

Guanzhong or the central Shaanxi is located to the south of the Beishan Mountains and north of the Qinling Mountains. The region’s fertile plain area is formed by Weihe river, one of the mother rivers of Shaanxi. Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, which is called the “living history museum” is located in central Shaanxi. Xi’an is the northern starting point of the famous Silk Road, a road connecting China and the outside world in ancient times. Because of its flat and fertile land and rich source of water, central Shaanxi is an important area of producing wheat and corn in north China. Shaanxi has a temperate climate influenced by the East Asian monsoon. Spring and autumn are the best time to visit the central Shaanxi.

Covered by mountains, valleys and plains, Shannan or the south Shaanxi has spectacular natural beauty such as Nangong Mountain National Forest Park, Zhashui Cave and Yinghu Lake. This is also an important birthplace of the Han nationality, established by Han dynasty. Hanzhong, Shangluo, Ankang are the major cities of south Shaanxi.

Shaanxi Top Cities

Cities of Shaanxi are significant for different historical events such as Xi’an, one of the ancient capitals of China; Yan'an, the center of the Chinese revolution in 1937; Yulin, garrison town of Ming dynasty. Hanzhong, Baoji, Tongchuan, Xi’anyang is the other cities in Shaanxi that bear the unique heritage of ancient China.

Xi’an

Xi'an is the first of China's four great ancient capitals. The city has played a very important role in Chinese history. Currently this is the capital city of Shaanxi province. Xi’an is the starting point of ancient Silk Road. Xi’an was influencing the outside world by not only the great wall, but also the Silk Road where traders from far and near, from foreign to local, brought goods and ideas for sale and took goods and ideas back with them to their native localities and countries. With these historical backgrounds, it is no wonder that there are numerous historical ruins, museums and cultural relics to be found in Xi’an. Today the city has an enjoyable cosmopolitan lifestyle and worth visiting it’s unique historical sites such as the famous terracotta warriors and many others in and around the city. Xi’an is a world famous tourist city nowadays. Visitors from all over the world and all walks of life, travel Xi’an in order to broaden their knowledge about Chinese civilization and history.

Xi’an Attractions:

Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses: The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses are the most noteworthy archeological discovery of the 20th century. These unique artifacts are more than 2,000 years old and believed to be associated with the Qin Dynasty.

Xian Guerrero terracotta warriors
Xian Guerrero terracotta warriors | Source

There are over 7,000 life size pottery soldiers, horses, chariots and weapons are exhibited in this museum. These life size army and horses are arranged in battle formation. The army has been built as the replica of the imperial guards of that time. The excavation is still continuing since there are more artifacts remain to be found. It was listed as one of the world cultural heritages by UNESCO in 1987. This extraordinary ancient masterpiece has become one of the most famous attractions in Xi’an and so in China. So keep The Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses in your Xi’an travel itinerary.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayan Pagoda): Big Wild Goose Pagoda or the Dayan Pagoda is a well-preserved ancient building and a holy place for Buddhists. The whole area is very picturesque that includes the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the Daci'en Temple and different squares, gardens and other facilities. Enjoy the musical fountain on the north square to make your visit to this pagoda memorable. This simple but appealing piece of architecture attracts numerous travelers every year.

Don’t miss to visit the following places also when you are in Xian:

  • Ancient City Wall
  • Great Mosque
  • Bell Tower
  • Huaqing Hot Springs
  • Huashan Mountain
  • Drum Tower

Yan'an

Yan’an has been a prominent city during the Chinese revolution in 1930s. However, not only the recent past, Yan’an has a history dating back to over 1400 years. It holds the ruins of the Chinese emperors. It also has breathtaking natural beauty around the city such as Hukou Waterfall, Wanhua Mountain and many other wonderful sites. Having a temperate continental monsoon climate, Yan'an is an ideal place for you to visit all year round especially in summer.

Yan’an Attractions:

Baota Hill (Pagoda Hill): This pagoda is situated on the top of a small hill. It is a 44 meter (144 feet) nine storey pagoda and is the icon of Yan’an. From the top floor of the pagoda, you can have a stunning bird’s eye view of Yan’an city and the Loess Plateau scenery.

Pagoda Hill
Pagoda Hill | Source

Hukou Waterfalls (Kettle Spout Falls): The Yellow River is the legendary river of the Chinese nation. In its basin, there is an attraction that visitors should not miss. That is Hukou Waterfalls, the second largest waterfall in China and the largest of the Yellow river. It is often claimed as the only yellow waterfall in the world. This gorgeous, massive waterfall is a must see place when you are in Yan’an.

Besides these, it is also worth visiting the following sites in Yan’an:

  • · Yangjialing Revolutionary Site
  • · Yellow Emperor Mausoleum Scenic Area
  • · Date Garden - site of the CCP Secretariat

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