As a capital of the country for over a thousand years, Xi'an is one of the oldest cities in China. It is most famously known for the Terra Cotta warriors, eight thousand Terra Cotta statues that stand guard over the tomb of the first emperor of China, ruler of the Qin dynasty (211-206 BCE). These statues (deemed by some as the 8th wonder of the world) include detailed, well-preserved, and varied sets of warriors, animals, and weapons. The warriors are all said to have distinct facial features, no two look alike, and a rumor abounds that for each of the statues, one live warrior was sacrificed. This is a fairly recent archaeological find as the statues were discovered just 35 years ago by well-digging farmers.
Other recommended places to visit include the Hua Qing pools, neatly constructed within an ancient palace to bring in water from nearby hot springs. Also, most interesting to me is Famen Si, the Doorway Temple. Originally constructed in 200 CE, this Buddhist temple has been rebuilt many times with the most recent taking place in 1981 after the building collapsed. It was then that underneath a sealed crypt was found containing a variety of artifacts and supposedly four sacred finger bones of the ancient Buddha. The Pagoda that stands today is an amazing piece of architecture and the temple complex also includes a museum detailing the story of the finger bones (http://www.asontheriver.com/sites/msdag/journal detail.asp?JournalID=9).
Although this city has remnants of centuries long past, it has adopted some modern fixtures and practices. There are three Starbucks within a block of each other downtown. Shopping is also a major attraction and the markets are known for their leather goods, fashion accessories, and cosmetics. Some of the best international brands are also offered in the new world class malls.
Obviously, there are many other reasons to visit Xi'an, but these are a few of the destinations that stand out the most to me. Besides the beautiful layout of the land that is so different from my own, I long to see the buildings and the architecture that echo the times from the Qin to the Ming dynasties. To feel transported to a time centuries ago and thousands of miles away is reason enough for me.
Terra Cotta Army