The most obvious attraction in Xi’an is the Terracotta Warriors, uncovered only in 1974 by a local villager – Mr. Yang, who you can still meet there. Since then, it has become one of the most visited places in China.
Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (a man heavily pre-occupied by death and his legacy) enlisted 700,000 people over 36 years to create his tomb and had the warriors made in order to be buried near him to protect him in the afterlife. His burial complex is also said to contain 48 tombs for his concubines who were buried alive with the emperor upon his death, a fate also reserved for workers, to prevent the location and design of the tomb from becoming public knowledge. The life-sized sculptures of soldiers are remarkable but incredibly, there is even more to see in this former capital of China.
The city wall and its gates also offer an enjoyable sight for tourists. These walls are some of the most ancient structures in China to survive fully intact. You can’t miss taking a leisurely 14 km cycle on the Xi’an City Wall. 14 km sounds like a long way, but it only takes 1.5 hours.
Finally, every visitor should take a trip to the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an. Far from a tourist-oriented centre, this area has housed the Muslim population, both Chinese and foreign, for centuries until today. It’s also good opportunity to try Muslim meals, based on lamb and plenty of chili peppers – which is so different from the traditional Chinese cuisine.
All in all, Xi’an is a fascinating place to visit. And, like most places, there’s more to it than meets the eye if you know where to look.
- Mark Prymier