Weekend in Xi'an

2009-06-29China travel Guide


Last week I spontaneously decided to make a trip to Xi’an. On Friday night my flight took off and it lasted about 100minutes until I arrived at Xi’an airport. I took the airport express bus, which directly takes off in front of the exit. It costs 25RMB per person and transports you into the city center (to Melody Hotel next to the Bell Tower). After checking in I had a good sleep and got up the next morning.
At 8.30 I met my local guide Lee in the lobby of the hotel. In a private air-conditioned car we then headed to Banpo Village. It is the first museum at the prehistoric site, and was built at the base of the excavations of the Banpo site. Since 1958 it is open to the public. The Banpo Site is a typical Neolithic matriarchal community of the Yangshao Culture dating back about 6,000 years. At that time, the Banpo people used tools made primarily of wood and stone. Women, the crucial labor force, were responsible for making pottery, spinning, and raising the family, while men went fishing. The archeological excavations showed the structures of the former buildings and gave me an idea of how people used to live that long ago. Especially the importance of women and children was stunning. When children died, they were buried next to the houses of their families.
The next stop was the fabric where nowadays terracotta warriors in any size are imitated and sold to travelers. However I would not recommend buying them there, because in front of the museum of the terracotta army you get them a lot cheaper and with a better possibility to bargain with the sellers.
After another 20minutes drive we arrived at the Museum of the Terracotta Army. It is made up of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures, dating from 210 BCE, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi'an near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The figures vary in height (183–195 cm - 6ft–6ft 5in), according to their role, the tallest being the generals. The figures include strong warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Especially the first hall with the excavated warriors is amazing. It is huge and the warriors are “perfectly” made. My guide told me that each warrior is a unique fabrication. About 700,000 builders have been involved in the construction of the pits and warriors. In my opinion it deserves the entitlement of the “8th wonder of the world”.
After lunch we paid a visit to Huaqing Hot Springs. They are situated at the northern foot of Mt. Lishan in Lintong County, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Xian City, and are famous for both its dainty spring scenery and the romantic love story of Emperor Xuanzong (685-762) and his concubine Yang Guifei in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The palace has a history of 3,000 years and the hot springs a history of 6,000 years. We walked through the different bathing houses and saw two of the three springs, where 43degress Celsius warm water flows up from the ground.
Finally we drove to Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist Pagoda located in southern Xi'an. It was built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty and originally had five stories, although the structure was rebuilt in 704 during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian and its exterior brick facade renovated during the Ming Dynasty. One of the pagoda's many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang. Nowadays there are still 200 monks living in the temple, which is few compared to the 2000 they have been hundreds of years ago. The temple is very new; the only old and original building on the area is the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. It is possible to climb it up after paying an entrance fee, but we did not do that. However we surrounded it. Looking at it from “behind” you can see that it is not straight anymore which apparently is caused by underground water. I enjoyed the atmosphere there, with monks sitting around, trees and (apart from tourists walking around) silence.
At 4pm I was brought back to the hotel, the tour was finished. As it still was early I decided to pay a visit to the Bell Tower and so I used the underground way to reach it in the middle of a roundabout. First I surrounded it once and then climbed up to the top of it. The view was great, because you can see the four streets leading to the roundabout, each one stretching out into another direction.
Afterwards I decided to go for a coffee at Starbucks, where I met two German girls by chance, who were traveling china. Together we headed to the Muslim street where we had dinner at one of the BBQ places. The street was very crowded, sellers offered their food and souvenirs, people bargained, delicious smells followed each other and dried fruits were shining in various colors.
Finally we made a walk to the southern gate of the City Wall. When visiting Xi’an a walk on the wall is a must-do, and we did not want to miss it. On the top of the wall we finally decided to take a rickshaw for half an hour. We were driven into the direction of the west gate and made several stops to take pictures.
It was half past eight when we came back to the South Gate and we immediately took a taxi to Big Wild Goose Pagoda. There we attended a water and light show which took place at the huge fountains in front of the pagoda. The whole place was crowded by Chinese people and it was difficult to see anything. After some time many people were running though the fountains and enjoying the cooling effect of the water.
Absolutely tired I fell into my bed at 11pm and had a good sleep. The next morning it was heavily raining and so I spent the last hours before driving to the airport at the Starbucks, having breakfast there and enjoying some good coffee.