A Taste of China: Xi’an Sights

by spiceaholic on December 5, 2010

Now on to the next stop of our China tour: Xi’an!

Xi’an (pronounced shee an), located in Shaanxi province, is one of the oldest cities in China and is considered one of the “Four Great Ancient Capitals” of China.  Its more recent claim to fame is that it is where the famed Terracotta Warrior Army was discovered.

Since China is so huge, we had to fly between cities.  Our flight to Xi’an was mid-morning, so we had to check out of our Shanghai hotel pretty early that morning.  The airport would have taken about an hour to get to by bus, but we were going to take the Maglev train to the airport.  A Maglev train works by magnetic levitation, hence the name.  Apparently the Shanghai train is the first commercial high-speed maglev train in the world!  The speed can top out at more than 250 miles per hour, although our trip was probably half that.  All I know is that it took us about 7.5 minutes to get to the airport! I like it!

IMG_1614

This guy was everywhere in Shanghai, figured it’d be a good transition pic! 🙂

IMG_1641

IMG_1612

There’s our train!

Our flight to Xi’an wasn’t long, about 90 minutes, and after a stop for lunch we were ready to hit up the first stop on that day’s itinerary: the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda. We were set loose to wander around near the pagoda and some of the halls and gardens surrounding it.

IMG_1051

IMG_1064

IMG_1068

IMG_1069

IMG_1077

IMG_1079

IMG_1083

IMG_1084

IMG_1087

IMG_1093

IMG_1098

IMG_1099

IMG_1105

IMG_1112

IMG_1114

IMG_1115

IMG_1119

IMG_1120

IMG_1121

IMG_1126

IMG_1127

IMG_1128

IMG_1129

IMG_1132

We headed off to the Shaanxi Provincial Museum after that, but we were pretty tired by then so when they set us loose in there we made a quick circuit of the inside and went outside to rest and enjoy the weather.

IMG_1139

We had that night free, but we decided to go in on the optional dinner and show that night. I’ll talk more about the dinner in the Xi’an eats post, but it had plenty of dumplings in it! The show was set in the Tang dynasty and was full of music and dances from the period. I totally confess to dozing off during a lot of it. I did manage to take pics at the beginning of most of the acts though!

IMG_1178

IMG_1182

IMG_1183

IMG_1185

IMG_1189

IMG_1191

IMG_1198

IMG_1214

IMG_1217

IMG_1218

Definitely a long and eventful first day in Xi’an!

The famed Terracotta Warrior Army was the focus of our second day in Xi’an. On our way to the museum, we stopped at a factory where they make the reproductions of the warriors for sale, along with some other ceramic items.

IMG_1225

Is terracotta a good look for me?

IMG_1238

IMG_1253

My Chinese zodiac sign — I was born in the year of the Monkey.

At last we arrived at the Terracotta Warrior Army Museum. Not only were the actual figures on display, but excavations were still taking place. When the Terracotta Warrior Army exhibition came to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, I was able to see it, but to see where it all happened is quite a different thing.

Can you imagine that beyond this . . .

IMG_1267

. . . was all this?

IMG_1269

IMG_1270

IMG_1271

IMG_1273

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this lady’s hair!

IMG_1283

IMG_1322

Do you think he meant to match their headwear?

IMG_1323

IMG_1324

The last part of the museum was more like a museum, where we could see some of the figures up close.

IMG_1336

haha the archer

Think I make a convincing terracotta archer?  I couldn’t resist when I saw there was a terracotta warrior photo studio!

This was a little creepy . . . these were some marionettes that were created for some event a while back.

IMG_1357

We convinced someone to take a group shot of us outside the museum. As we posed, random people would stop and start taking pictures of our group!

IMG_1359

After lunch, we headed back towards Xi’an, stopping at the City Gate which surrounds it. Part of the group stayed behind to rent bikes and bike the 8 miles around the city. We had other plans, so after walking around we took the bus back to the hotel.

IMG_1374

IMG_1376

I think this said “Welcome to Xi’an City Wall.”

IMG_1380

IMG_1382

IMG_1383

IMG_1385

IMG_1387

IMG_1390

IMG_1391

When I was doing my pre-trip research, I saw that Xi’an was on the eastern point of the ancient Silk Road, which connected Asia, the Middle East, parts of Africa, and Europe, resulting in much commercial, technological, and cultural exchange. As a result of this exchange, there is a sizeable Muslim minority in Western China. I have been fascinated with learning more about this, so when I read there was a Muslim quarter in Xi’an, I really wanted to visit it. Mr. Spice and I are not very observant, but it’s such an integral part of the culture we grew up with, so I feel its pull now and again.

Our hotel was centrally located in Xi’an, and we had a map that showed us street names and marked were many of the sights in the city were, so we decided to walk to find the Muslim quarter and the Great Mosque of Xi’an.

As we walked throughout the city, we discovered that the street names didn’t always quite match up to what was on the map, most likely because of translation. No matter, we decided, since we knew the general direction we were going.  We found the Muslim quarter, but had some trouble finding the Great Mosque.  After almost giving up, I spotted a small sign pointing the way and we eventually found it.

The Great Mosque of Xi’an is one of the oldest mosques in China and is unique in that it has completely Chinese architecture.  The only apparent nod to tradition is the Arabic lettering and decorations.

IMG_1402

IMG_1406

IMG_1407

IMG_1410

IMG_1413

IMG_1415

While we were walking around, the adhan (call to prayer) sounded, so I covered my head out of respect. As I listened to the words in Arabic, I thought that it was ironic that though I neither speak nor understand Arabic, since it is the language of the Qur’an, it is still more familiar to me than the Chinese we were seeing and hearing just a few minutes ago.

IMG_1422

IMG_1427

IMG_1431

IMG_1434

After taking some furtive shots of the prayer hall, we decided to head out since it was getting dark. I wish I’d taken some more street pictures in the Muslim quarter, but we were starting to feel a bit uneasy since we were so obviously foreigners and it was getting dark and we were very close to getting lost in a city where we didn’t speak the language. Much of it is narrow streets and not very well lit, except for this bit:

IMG_1448

We did end up finding our restaurant, but you’ll have to read about it in the Xi’an eats post! We also made it back to the hotel, but not after getting lost!

Here’s a shot of the City Wall lit up at night:

IMG_1153

Stay tuned to see what we ate in Xi’an!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rhonda December 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Terra Cotta is definitly a good look for you 🙂 Thanks for sharing your journeys, I probably will never make it myself, at least I can do it vicariously through your blog.

Theresa December 6, 2010 at 10:31 am

Gorgeous pictures. Thanks for posting! The terra cotta army is amazing in its scale, even in pictures. And I think you would make a great archer!

Very cool that you guys were able to find a mosque. I liked your observation about how it still felt more familiar than the Chinese language you’d been hearing/seeing so much of. Arabic while in China, so unique.

spiceaholic December 7, 2010 at 9:11 am

@Rhonda — thank you! I’m happy to share our trip with everyone! I think the terracotta look is growing on me. 🙂

@Theresa – It was definitely an interesting realization as it was happening!

Priyanka December 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

China was never in my list of places to visit (it is the top ranking places to visit in my husbands list), but looking at all your pictures I think I am a convert now. Can’t wait for the food recap!

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: