Xi’an, the first imperial capital of China, is considered a must-see for people the world over. The large wall that encloses the city dates to the Ming dynasty and is thoroughly well preserved, allowing visitors to stroll or cycle around its entirety. Within the walls, the city has a special atmosphere
The city has hosted a human settlement for at least 6,000 years. The preserved settlement of Banpo east of the walled city provides an interesting look into the Neolithic Yangshao Culture. Since then, people have come and gone and left their mark on the city. This is most obvious in the Muslim Quarter, an area with distinct Chinese Islamic architecture and cuisine. Make sure you come to this area with an empty stomach, as the food is superb, especially if you love spices and cooked lamb. Highlights are mutton dumplings; roujiamo, a slow-cooked, pulled-beef sandwich; and paomo, a delicious mutton and bread soup. Don’t forget to watch the noodle-pullers show off their craft too, an impressive display where a lump of dough is transformed into long noodles after a few stretches and slams onto a metal table top.
The main event is of course the Terracotta Army, an awe-inspiring site where each of the 8,000 or so larger-than-life figures has a unique face and shape. It is the mausoleum of the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. The emperor had prepared everything he needed for the afterlife and his gargantuan tomb complex reveals the lengths he went to in his quest for immortality.
The city also houses many historic temples and towers. One such building is the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, which was built during the Tang Dynasty (Seventh Century). The Tang made this great city their capital and one of highlight of any visit is the Tang Dynasty Show, a performance famous throughout the China for its depiction of the Tang court and culture.
Xi’an is easily accessible from around China, with good air and rail links.