A guide to historic Xian

Terracotta Army, photo by Bernd Rostad

The proud and ancient city of Xian has been the capital of China for over a thousand years, under the rule of a dozen dynasties and many remarkable rulers. A city such as this could not avoid becoming a center for art, culture and knowledge, and even today, when its glory has faded considerably, Xian is still enveloped in some of the past mystique. A visit to Xian is an essential part of any travel experience in China, not only because it holds some of the most dramatic sights in the country, but also because Xian is the very essence of China itself. The modern city is cosmopolitan and friendly, but it is the historic part that has the power to truly fascinate a traveler. Here is a guide to historic Xian, one of the most bewitching cities in China.

Xian City Wall

The old city was surrounded by a protective wall that served it well throughout history. Whiel Xian has long since spilled out of the walls and became a large city, the walls still stand and have been carefully restored. They might not be the Great Wall, but the city walls are quite impressive nonetheless: 12 meters high and 15 meters wide, spanning over more than 13 kilometers. Biking or walking around the walls is a popular activity, but be warned that it can take 4-5 hours to make the loop.

Wolong Temple

photo by Grey World on Flickr

It’s widely known that Buddhism has a very long history in China, and yet when people hear that the Wolong Temple was built around 200 BC, they still can’t help but be impressed. This temple bears itself well for it’s age, considering that it is bustling with activity. Buddhists come to the temple to pay their respects, but such a magnificent sight should not be missed by non-believers either.

Terracotta Army

The attraction that is most associate with the city of Xian actually lies just outside the city: the legendary army of terracotta warriors. The magnificent statues of soldiers and horses, intricately shaped and not two of them the same, are possibly the most popular sight in China. A museum was built near the caverns and offers some additional information about these fabulous statues. No guide to historic Xian could fail to include the Terracotta Army, even if it is an attraction that most visitors know about.

Grand Mosque

photo by Omar A on Flickr

The Grad Mosque is the very first mosque ever built in China, and it looks completely unique: a mixture of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Although only Muslims are permitted to enter the mosque, but the surrounding courtwards are beautiful and showcase in the best possible light the uniqueness of the building.

Shaanxi Historic Museum

Anyone who is interested in Chinese art and history should pay a visit to the Shaanxi Historic Museum, the largest museum in the city. The displays include artifacts dating back to the earliest human settlements in the area, in the neolithic until the Qing Dynasty. Some of the most interesting pieces in the museum are pottery items from the nearby Banpo village, famous for its pottery.


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