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A BRIEF GUIDE TO THE HISTORY OF XIAN

Xian is one of the must visit cities in most China tours. This is mainly down to the fact that it is the resting place of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, and his dynamic army of soldiers, ready to blaze his path into the otherworld on his death. This army, of course, was not made of flesh but of ceramics and is known globally as the Terra-cotta Army. The name, Xi’an, literally means “Western Peace” and the city was previously known, during it’s heyday as Chang’an which means “Perpetual Peace” but judging by the size of the Yellow Emperor’s army he was not expecting a peaceful ride to the otherworld!

Xian was finally to be referred to as such by the time of the Ming Dynasty in 1369 and it was at this time that another of the city’s main attractions was constructed, the City Walls. Enclosing the 12 square kilometres at the centre of the city, they are 12 metres high and 15 metres wide. It is possible these days to hire bikes and cycle around sections of the walls.

See the Muslim Quarter to Understand Xian's Place on the Silk Route

Xian has been a site of many important discoveries and was clearly an important centre in the development of China and it’s culture. Lantian man, over half a million years old, was discovered nearby as well as a neolithic settlement at Banpo just to the east of Xi’an. It was the beginning (or end) of the Silk Route, something that is still apparent to the modern day with the Muslim Quarter and it’s unique Mosque. However it is the burial tomb of Qin Shi Huang that has once again brought the attention of the world upon the fabled city of Chang’an. Millions of tourists, both domestic and from far afield, travel to China every year to view the Terra-Cotta army. It seems to have captured the imagination of the world in a way few other sites worldwide have and the soldiers themselves often travel the world delighting and intriguing those who view them.

The Terra Cotta Warriors are Xian's Greatest Legacy

The sheer variety of expressions and faces of the Terra Cotta Warriors that greet you is mind boggling, the Emperor had decreed that no two should look the same. As well as the numerous ranks the statues have, they are also differing heights and there are horses, stables, chariots as well. That someone would go to that effort to protect themselves into the next world either showed intense religious belief or an alarming amount of paranoia! Maybe the Yellow Emperor was right to show this paranoia as his dynasty would not last long.

It is this discovery by 3 farmers in 1974, out of the many great discoveries that have occurred in these parts, that keeps China tours coming back to Xi’an with the Terra-Cotta Army pulling in as many tourists as the Forbidden City in Beijing these days and it certainly is one of the “must-see” sites of the world. It has helped this city, that was once the greatest on earth, reestablish itself on the world map and see the city flourish once again.

Article posted by Phil Stanley & Headseast: 8th December 2014

 
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