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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

XIAN - NOT JUST A BASE FOR VISITING THE TERRACOTTA ARMY - WHAT TO SEE IN CHINA?


Xian Museum houses a wonderful collection of figurines statues : the  Terracotta Ladies.






Why visit  Xian?

Xian is universally famous because it is the
perfect base to visit the Chinese Terracotta Army
Xian (also spelled Xi'an) is universally famous because it is the perfect base to visit the Chinese Terracotta Army, the Chinese Army statues famous all over the world and part of the UNESCO heritage (read our dedicated post about The Chinese Terracotta Army).

But there is much more to see in Xian than just spend the night on the way to the Chinese Terracotta Army Museum.

The perfectly perpendicular roads of Xian are bustling with people and life at every time of the day and late in to the night.

Xian has a medieval history, medieval walls and a medieval structure, similar to the one of the medieval town of Pingyao (read here about Pingyao and its wonderful medieval heritage) or the one of a roman town, with the two main roads crossing in the centre of the town and the other streets running parallel to them.

Neon lights and other shops lights make of the city centre of Xian a kind of Asian Times Square.

The Bell Tower and the Drum Tower in Xian

The wonderful Bell Tower in Xian
Where the two main roads in the centre of Xian meet the huge Bell Tower and the Drum Tower stand.

The Bell Tower is a tall pagoda temple heavily decorated with thousand of lights flashing like a Christmas tree at the centre of the town.

Just in front of the Bell Tower is another similar temple: the Drum Tower. They don't only look pretty similar in design one to the other, but also in the way they are adorned with thousand of lights, so to look a bit tacky in the eyes of the Western visitor.

The Bell and the Drum of the two temples mark sun rise and night fall every day from centuries in the history of Xian.

The night market

If you ask me what is the best to see and do in the town of Xian (apart obviously visiting the Terracotta Army nearby:  read here about the Terracotta Army and how to get there), I recommend to visit Xian Night Market.

Xian Night Market is a huge market spreading in the pedestrianized area of the South West quarter.

It is one of the best night markets in China not only for its size, but also for its  variety.

A large area of the Night Market is locally called the Muslim Market because the sellers and the products are from the Muslim countries, so making a wonderful and unique mix with the more typical Chinese products sold nearby.

Great food is sold very cheaply  and you can enjoyed some homemade noodles prepared just in front of you or just some Arab wonderful traditional cuisine.

Sleeping in a typical Chinese courtyard House: a truly backpacker experience

If you haven't yet decided where to sleep the International Youth Hostel Seven Sages is an absolute must.

It is a traditional Chinese building made with many courtyards forming a little complex, similar to an Hutong.

It is a wonderful experience to wake up in the hostel and enjoy the beauty of one of these courtyards.

You literally feel you are back in China of a thousand years ago.

A kind of Central Park of the East.

The area of the Little and Big Pagoda and Xian Museum

Xian is a big city and to try to explore Xian just walking is a pretty impossible task.

Take the tube to move around the town as I did.

Two main lines run one perpendicular to the other cross in the centre, following exactly the direction of the two main roads of the city.


The Little Pagoda

With the tube, you can easily head to the Little Pagoda, one of the most celebrated monuments in Xian (although I think the Little Pagoda is a bit overrated in guide books and brochures of the local tourist authority).

Situated in a beautiful park, the Little Pagoda makes a pleasant contrast with the huge skyscrapers

surrounding the park and reflecting their shapes in the artificial lake built all around the pagoda.

The little pagoda in itself is a lovely, gentle, light masterpiece of architecture. Its design make the pagoda elegant and at the same time austere and dignified, even if it is sadly surrounded by some modern ugly architecture.


One of the Terracotta Ladies
Somehow when I was in the park where the Little Pagoda is situated I felt as if I was in a kind of Central Park of the East.

Before to leave to visit the nearby Big Pagoda, so much celebrated by the locals, I stopped to visit Xian Museum.


Xian Museum

It is funny how China wants to take on some of the Western fashion and design in such an impulsive and thoughtless way.

The result of this process of emulation finishes to be superficial and anti-aesthetic, having the local planners forgot, too busy as they were in the emulative process, what they were aiming to do.



Look attentively at the expression of the faces of those Terracotta Ladies:
they are so communicative and expressive to look almost real.


The result is that Xian Museum is housed in a beautifully designed modern building with an elegant neoclassical cupola and a luxurious marble atrium, but something that looks completely out of context in China.

In this modern neo-classical building that would be more appropriate in Washington than here, Xian Museum houses a wonderful collection of figurines statues: the  Terracotta Ladies.

The Terracotta Ladies are absolutely magnificent.

Look attentively at the expression of the faces of those Terracotta Ladies: they are so communicative and expressive to look almost real.

If the Terracotta Army is so famous worldwide, I think these Terracotta Ladies deserve certainly much more notoriety.

Look the photos on this post and tell me if you don't find them amazing!

The Big Pagoda in Xian.
Xian museum exhibits also a rich collection of Chinese calligraphy samples, wonderful jade jewels and a large plastic of medieval Xian.

The plastic of medieval Xian is food to give the visitor an idea of the grandness of medieval Xian, if you think at medieval Europe of the time you can't really think at a city that could be a suitable competitor to the majesty of imperial Xian.

The problem is that visiting Xian Museum you feel almost in a supermarket where price labels have been taken away. Although you would like to buy some products (or in this case just admire them, being in a museum) you kind of refrain to do so as you are not allowed to know what the price is (or in this case what the beautiful objects exhibited exactly are!).

Still the huge plastic of Xian in Middle Age makes you certainly appreciate the importance of this city.



Whoever had the perverse fantasy to design such tacky surrounding
for the Big Pagoda just managed to transform the Big Pagoda in
the Disney pagoda.
When Xian was at the top if its splendour, its walls were long 9 km for each of its four sides. 

The huge walls that encircled Xian today are not the largest circle of walls, but a kind of second and internal circle that luckily and somehow has survived destruction and time.

If the walls that you can visit look an amazing feature on engineering can you imagine how the destroyed big walls should have looked?

Finally the Big Pagoda.

It is impressively big and the huge pool with the many fountains exalt is importance (or it is supposed to do so... maybe a bit tacky with more than a hundred fountains...).

To add an extra charm, in the same...hem..style of the hundred fountains...plastic red leafy trees (yes, I mean it: dozens of tree made in plastic and with red plastic leaves) are switched on at night surrounding the pool with their own red lights and surrounding the big pagoda as an attraction of the fun fair. Charming in its own way... someone would probably say.

I didn't like. Whoever had the perverse fantasy to design such tacky surrounding for the Big Pagoda just managed to transform the Big Pagoda in the Disney pagoda.

And whoever designed this tacky surroundings missed also the point: now the pagoda doesn't look anymore big and impressive but little and unimportant shaded by the Las Vegas style lights... but so it is Xian a town of contrasts... amazing and memorable in its own way.

Two great trips from Xian

There are two places thay you absolutely should not miss if you are in Xian:

- The Chinese Terracotta Army. The Terracotta Army Museum is an hour from Xian, built in an elegant museum complex lacking, as it is usual in modern Chinese architecture, of round lines. This is literally one of the most famous monuments in the world and you should absolutely visit it: click here to read our dedicated post.


- The Taoist Sanctuary of Hua Shan. To get  to Hua Shan with your own means is relatively easy. There are (not too frequent buses) from Xian main bus station, in front of the main train station and the walls gate. The travel is around two hours. Hua Shan is so inspiring, so scenic, so beautiful! Click here to read our dedicated post.




Are you planning to travel to China?




Read my page My China Project where you can find the list of all of my posts and the destinations covered in this blog in China.



Read also the page Visit China and the page What to know before to travel to China.




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