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Five Things To Do In Xi’an, China


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Pris Little


Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army is one of the most iconic archaeological discoveries in the world. Located in Xi’an, China, this incredible site is a must-visit for history enthusiasts and anyone fascinated by ancient civilizations. Discovered in 1974 by local farmers, the Terracotta Army is a collection of thousands of life-sized clay soldiers, horses, and chariots that were buried with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, over 2,000 years ago.


Stepping into the vast underground army complex, you’ll be immediately struck by the sheer magnitude and scale of the site. The soldiers, each with unique facial expressions and intricate detailing, stand in battle formation, guarding the emperor’s tomb. It is believed that the army was created to protect the emperor in the afterlife and reflect the power and authority he possessed during his reign.


What makes the Terracotta Army even more impressive is the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail. Each figure is remarkably lifelike, with different hairstyles, clothing, and weapons, showcasing the incredible skill of the ancient Chinese artisans. The painstaking effort put into creating this army is a testament to the sophistication and genius of the Qin Dynasty.


Exploring the three excavation pits, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the ongoing restoration work and see the archaeologists at their craft. It’s truly fascinating to observe how each broken piece is meticulously reconstructed, bringing these ancient warriors back to life.


Aside from the awe-inspiring display of the Terracotta Army, the site also features a fascinating museum that provides further insights into the history and significance of this archaeological wonder. The museum showcases a wide range of artifacts, including bronze weapons, chariots, and other valuable items that were unearthed along with the army.


Visiting the Terracotta Army is an experience that immerses you in China’s rich history and offers a glimpse into the past. It’s a chance to marvel at the ingenuity of ancient civilizations and appreciate the legacy left behind by Qin Shi Huang and his remarkable Terracotta Army.


City Wall

The City Wall of Xi’an is a magnificent architectural marvel that has stood the test of time. Built during the Ming Dynasty, this ancient fortification stretches for 8.5 miles (14 kilometers) and is the most complete and well-preserved city wall in China. It serves as a tangible reminder of Xi’an’s rich history and offers visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the city’s past.


Walking along the City Wall, you can’t help but be awestruck by its sheer size and grandeur. The wall, which is 40 feet (12 meters) high, is made of rammed earth and brick, and is surrounded by a deep moat. From the top of the wall, you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the city’s modern skyline juxtaposed against the traditional architecture and narrow lanes of the old town.


One of the highlights of a visit to the City Wall is the chance to traverse its entire length either by foot, bicycle, or even in a quaint horse-drawn carriage. Whether you choose to leisurely stroll along the ancient ramparts, pedal your way around the wall on a rented bicycle, or enjoy a romantic carriage ride, you’ll have ample opportunities to soak in the history and beauty of the surrounding area.


Along the City Wall, there are numerous watchtowers, gates, and battlements that you can explore. Each watchtower offers a different perspective and allows you to envision what life must have been like during the time of the wall’s construction. The South Gate, or Yongning Gate, is particularly impressive with its imposing entrance and its role as the main entrance to the old city.


For those seeking a more immersive experience, there are also cultural performances and activities that take place on the City Wall. From traditional music performances to learning the ancient art of archery, these experiences provide a deeper understanding of the rich history and culture of Xi’an.


Visiting the City Wall is a unique way to step back in time and appreciate the architectural prowess of ancient China. It’s an opportunity to appreciate the historical significance of Xi’an while enjoying panoramic views and creating lasting memories.


Shaanxi History Museum

The Shaanxi History Museum in Xi’an is a treasure trove of ancient artifacts that chronicle the rich history of the Shaanxi province. With over 370,000 exhibits, this museum showcases the cultural heritage of China, from the prehistoric era to the Qing Dynasty. It is a must-visit for history enthusiasts and anyone curious about the ancient civilization that thrived in this region.


Walking through the museum’s halls, you’ll be transported back in time as you encounter awe-inspiring displays of pottery, bronze artifacts, jade carvings, calligraphy, and much more. The exhibits are meticulously arranged and provide a comprehensive overview of the different dynasties and eras that shaped Shaanxi’s history.


One of the standout displays is the renowned “Golden Age of the Tang Dynasty,” which highlights the cultural and artistic achievements of this influential period. This section showcases exquisite Tang Dynasty murals, tomb figurines, and intricately designed gold and silver items, offering a glimpse into the opulence and sophistication of this golden era.


Another notable section is dedicated to the famous “Silk Road,” an ancient trade route that connected China with Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The exhibits in this section demonstrate the far-reaching impact of this trade network on the cultural exchange and development of civilization.


In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that further delve into specific aspects of Shaanxi’s history. These special exhibitions cover topics like ancient weaponry, traditional costumes, and archaeological discoveries, providing a deeper understanding of the cultural heritage of the province.


Besides the captivating exhibits, the Shaanxi History Museum is also architecturally impressive. The building itself showcases traditional Chinese architectural elements, with grand halls, pavilions, and flowing rooflines. The serene surroundings, including beautifully manicured gardens and reflective pools, add to the overall ambiance of the museum.


Visiting the Shaanxi History Museum is a journey through time, allowing you to marvel at the incredible artistic and cultural achievements of ancient China. It offers a rare opportunity to appreciate the historical significance of Shaanxi province and gain a deeper understanding of China’s rich heritage.


Muslim Quarter

The Muslim Quarter is a vibrant and bustling neighborhood in Xi’an that showcases the cultural diversity and historical significance of the city. Located near the Drum Tower, this lively district is a melting pot of Chinese and Islamic cultures, offering visitors a unique and immersive experience.


As you step into the Muslim Quarter, you’ll immediately be greeted by the enticing aromas of local delicacies emanating from the food stalls and restaurants lining the narrow streets. The district is famous for its mouthwatering street food, with vendors selling a wide array of traditional Muslim dishes, such as yangrou paomo (crumbled bread soaked in mutton soup) and roujiamo (Chinese-style hamburger with meat fillings).


Aside from indulging in the delectable cuisine, exploring the Muslim Quarter allows you to appreciate the rich architectural heritage of the area. The neighborhood is home to one of China’s most prominent Islamic sites, the Great Mosque of Xi’an. Built during the Tang Dynasty, this magnificent mosque seamlessly blends Chinese and Islamic architectural styles, featuring beautifully carved wooden structures, serene courtyards, and intricate calligraphy.


Wandering through the labyrinthine streets of the Muslim Quarter, you’ll be captivated by the colorful storefronts selling a myriad of goods. From intricate handicrafts, carpets, and textiles to traditional Chinese medicines and souvenirs, there’s something for everyone in this bustling marketplace. Don’t forget to engage in some friendly haggling to enhance your shopping experience.


The Muslim Quarter also offers a glimpse into the daily lives of the local Muslim community. You’ll encounter friendly locals going about their businesses, engaging in prayer at the mosque, or chatting with each other in the congregational halls. This interaction provides a unique opportunity to learn about the traditions, customs, and beliefs of the local Muslim population.


Visiting the Muslim Quarter is not just about exploring the sights and flavors, but also about immersing yourself in a vibrant and diverse cultural landscape. It’s a chance to celebrate the coexistence of different faiths and appreciate the harmonious blending of traditions that make Xi’an such a captivating destination.


Big Wild Goose Pagoda

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda, also known as Dayan Pagoda, is a significant Buddhist pagoda located in Xi’an, China. Built during the Tang Dynasty, this architectural marvel stands tall and proud, serving as a symbol of Buddhism’s influence in the region and a testament to the city’s historical legacy.


The pagoda, standing at a height of 211 feet (64 meters), is comprised of seven levels and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area from its uppermost level. As you ascend the pagoda, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of the city skyline and the beautiful traditional Chinese gardens below.


Originally built to house and protect sacred Buddhist sutras brought back from India by the Chinese Monk Xuanzang, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda has become a popular pilgrimage site for Buddhists and a significant cultural landmark for visitors from around the world.


Beneath the pagoda lies a tranquil square surrounded by beautiful gardens, providing a serene and meditative space for reflection and relaxation. The area is dotted with Buddhist statues, intricate carvings, and deities, creating a serene atmosphere for those seeking inner peace.


Adjacent to the pagoda is the Da Ci’en Temple, a vast Buddhist temple complex that complements the grandeur of the pagoda. The temple, with its ornate architecture and tranquil courtyards, offers a glimpse into the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of China.


The Big Wild Goose Pagoda also serves as a venue for various cultural events and performances. From traditional music and dance performances to Buddhist ceremonies, these events add an extra layer of enchantment to the overall experience.


As the sun sets, the pagoda and its surroundings are illuminated, creating a magical and ethereal atmosphere. The combination of the pagoda’s intricate architecture and the illuminated gardens makes for a stunning visual spectacle that should not be missed.


Visiting the Big Wild Goose Pagoda allows you to immerse yourself in the rich Buddhist heritage of Xi’an. It’s an opportunity to witness the architectural splendor of ancient China while experiencing a sense of peace and tranquility that can only be found in such sacred spaces.