Xi'an - The Old Capital of China

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Xi'an has been the capital of China (under another name - Chang'an, literally means "Perpetual Peace") of 13 dynasties, including the Zhou, Qin, Han, the Sui Dynasty and the Tang, so it is recognized as one of the four great ancient capitals of China. It is also renowned for being the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and for the location of the Terracotta Army (made during the Qin Dynasty).

12/05/2008 Monday
Places Visited: Hanyangling, Tomb of Princess Yongtai, Qian Ling and Famen Temple

Hanyangling - Mausoleum of Western Han Emperor Liu Qi
The Mausoleum of the Western Han Emperor, Liu Qi, is located at Zhangjiawan Village, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Xian City, Shaanxi Province. It is a joint tomb of Liu Qi, a notable emperor of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-220AD), and his empress, Empress Wang. It was built in the year 153 AD and covers an area of 20 square kilometers (4,942 acres). It is a magnificent and abundant cultural relic, comprising the emperor's tomb, empress' tomb, the south and north burial pits, ceremonial site, human sacrifice graveyard and criminals' cemetery. The mausoleum is neatly arranged, centered with the emperor's tomb, revealing the strict hierarchical social structure. The Outside Pits Exhibition Hall was opened in 2006 and is the first underground museum in China.

Tomb of Princess Yongtai
Li Xianhui, the Princess Yongtai was the seventh daughter of Emperor Zhong Zong and grand daughter of Gao Zong and the Empress Wu Zetian. This maiden was considered so beautiful that it was said that even the plum blossom lost its brilliance in her presence. Adored by her imperial father for her beauty and wisdom she was married to Wu Yanji in 700 AD. Her newly wed husband's father was a nephew of the Empress but her family ties gave her no protection from her grandmother. A year after her marriage and only seventeen years of age the princess was put to death in the same fashion as her brother Li Chongrun, the Crown Prince Yide. The young, ill-fated bride was recognized posthumously as Princess Yongtai in 706.

Qian Mausoleum (Qian Ling)
The site covered an area of 2.3 square meters and within this area stood around three hundreds or more buildings that included the Sacrifice Hall, a Pavilion, a Hall of Ministers and numerous corridors. Unfortunately, the above ground structures have not survived unlike the stone sculptures that still delight visitors. :' [

Famen Temple
Famen Temple is renowned for storing the veritable Finger Bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha. It was established in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), for carrying forward Buddhism. The most representative structures in the temple are the Famen Temple Pagoda and Famen Temple Museum.

After dinner, we enjoyed the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show at the city center.

12-05-2008 - Earthquake in Si Chuan (magnituded 7.9)
A powerful earthquake in southwestern China killed at least 50,000 people and trapping more than 1000 students beneath a collapsed high school.We felt the tremor on the way to the Famen Temple. Some tourist sites in Xi'an were closed because of the quake.

13/05/2008 Tuesday
Places Visited: Great Mosque, Moslem Street, Huaqing Hot Springs and the famous Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses

That day we've also been to many places, including the peaceful Great Mosque and the famous Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses.

Great Mosque
Five minutes walk from the Drum Tower, in the Muslim residential area, there stands a famous Islamic mosque in China - Xian Great Mosque. Unlike other Arabic mosques which have splendid domes, minarets reaching into the clouds, and colorful engraved sketches with dazzling patterns, the mosque is built in a Chinese traditional style with the grounds taken up by platforms, pavilions and halls. When I entered the first courtyard I saw a magnificient wooden arch with 9 meters high. On both sides of the arch there is old furniture of the Ming and Qing dynasties on display.

Huaqing Hot Springs
It is a famous historical site with romantic love story of Emperor Xuanzong (685-762) and his concubine Yang Guifei in Tang Dynasty (618-907). Located 30 km west of Xian, the hot springs have allured many kings and emperors over the past 3,000 years. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, the existing Huaqing Palace was reconstructed in 1959, covering an area of 85,560 sq meters.

Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses
The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses are the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum, Lintong County, Shaanxi Province. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China.

Terra Cotta Pit No. 1: 14,260 square meters.
At a depth of five meters, it is cavern-like and constructed from earth and wood. Five slopping entrances reach down to it from the east and west. Ten partitioning walls separate the underground army into different columns. The walls are reinforced by stout beams, which are covered by reeds and earth. The floor is paved with black bricks. There are more than 6,000 terracotta warriors and horses in Pit No. 1, marshaled into battle line formation. Three columns facing out on the east act as vanguard. Each squad is 70 strong, making it 210 troopers altogether. They flank out left and right on the south and the north. The rear guard is on the west. They are armed with crossbows.

Terra Cotta Pit No. 2: It is 6,000 square meters subdivided into L-Shaped foursquare sections, where archeologists unearthed 1,000 warriors, 500 horses, and 89 wooden chariots. The horses are both for pulling chariots and for carrying riders. It reflects a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere.

Terra Cotta Pit No. 3: We reached Pit No. 3 by walking 25 meters north from Pit No. 1. It was discovered within a month after the archeologists had found Pit No. 2. It is a concave structure of 520 square meters. There are 68 warriors, four horses and one chariot. No battle formation. The terracotta warriors are posted on guard duties. There are animal bones and deer horns strewn about, probably sacrifices offered on the eve of a battle. You could find the terracotta warriors with painted faces and wearing painted armor. Archeology experts attribute to this group the command center or headquarters group for those in the other two pits.

14/05/2008 Wednesday
Places Visited: Mountain Huashan and Xian City Wall

Mountain Huashan
Mt. Huashan is known as 'The Number One Precipitous Mountain under Heaven'. It is one of the five sacred mountains in China. The other four mountains are Mountain Taishan in Shandong, Mountain Hengshan in Hunan, Mountain Hengshan in Shanxi, and Mountain Songshan in Henan.
In ancient times, Mt. Huashan was called Mt. Taihuashan. From a distance the five peaks seem to form the shape of a 'flower' (hua in Chinese), hence the name 'Huashan'. It is famous for its natural vistas of steep and narrow paths, precipitous crags, and a high mountain range. It is home to several influential Taoist temples where emperors of past dynasties made pilgrimages, making Mt. Huashan the holy land of Taoism.
The cable car took us directly to the North Peak of Mountain Huashan. The whole ropeway is more than 1,500 meters (about 4,921 feet) long and it takes seven or eight minutes to reach to the top.

I climbed up the stairs assisted by the iron chains along the way. It was easy to climb up but it was difficult to climb down.

Xian City Wall
Xian City Wall is renowned as the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world.

15/05/2008 Thursday
Places Visited: Da Yan Pagoda

Da Yan Pagoda
This pagoda was constructed for the storage of the translations of Buddhist sutras obtained from India by the monk Xuan Zang.

Time passes so fast, five days of visit isn't really enough to explore the great Xi'an. There are many things and places I haven't seen and been yet. I wish I could stay there longer to feel its peaceful atmosphere. Moreover, people in Xi'an are friendly and polite and they are very different from those who you encounter in the south of China. I'll come back, if one day I decide to visit the Silk Road!

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