Xian rests in Shaanxi province and is one of the oldest settled parts of China. The city became world-famous when local farmers discovered remnants of the Terracotta Army when digging a well in 1974. There are thought to be over 8,000 of these life-size warriors and horses in battle formation, with each figure differing in facial features and expressions, and the Terracotta Army has become one of China’s most important attractions. Xian itself retains much of its historic character and is laid out in a grid within large city walls. Over 2000 years the city has seen the rise and fall of many Chinese dynasties, the most influential of which were the Tang. It was in the Tang dynasty from the 6th century Xian became a melting pot of courtiers, foreign traders, craftsmen, entertainers and soldiers.
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Top things to do in Xian
Explore ancient Xian
The ancient city of Xian is one of the oldest in China, and can trace its origins as a settlement to the Han dynasty (206-220BC). A good place to start an exploration of the city is at the city walls, which form a circumference of 14km with a gateway and watchtowers on each side. Most sections of the wall have been restored or even rebuilt and it stands at 12 metres high. By visiting the wall early in the morning, between 6am and 8am, you will be able to see the residents of Xian congregate to practise tai chi and enjoy dancing and music, a charming facet of Chinese culture and a wonderful way to get a taste of Chinese life and authentic customs. In the centre of the walled city, the bell in the Bell Tower was sounded at dawn when the city gates were opened, and the drum in the nearby Drum Tower at dusk when the gates closed. The renovated bell tower, dating from 1384, was moved to its present site in 1582 where it is now encircled by the downtown shopping and commercial centre. Near the Drum Tower is the Muslim quarter of Huajue Xiang, home to the old houses and narrow lanes of Xian's Muslim, or Hui, community. Islam has been the most enduring of all faiths in Xian. It was first introduced by Arab merchants during the Tang dynasty, and flourished during the Yuan (1279-1368). The Great Mosque survived the Cultural Revolution virtually unscathed and remains an outstanding Chinese re-interpretation of an Islamic place of worship.
The Terracotta Warriors
In 1974 a peasant digging a well came upon what now stands as one of the main attractions in China and one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century. An army of thousands of life-sized warriors and their horses in battle formation, which were buried for 2000 years, stand guard over the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi-Huang. The figures were buried with artefacts and weapons of the day and every figure differs in facial features and expressions. The dig is still in progress, as it is believed that the site is part of an even larger army still buried underground.
Visit the Great Wild Goose Pagoda
The Great Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the few remaining Buddhist pagodas from the Tang dynasty, dating from 648AD. Since this date it has been renovated and extended, and now stands at 65 metres high. There are wide ranging views of the city and countryside from the top. The pagoda is part of the Da Cien temple complex, a well-preserved collection of Buddhist temples, pagodas, halls and towers. Surrounding the Great Wild Goose Pagoda are various gardens, squares and fountains to explore.
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