Inner Circle

Ancient Glory

Much of Xian’s glorious past as a thriving political capital of China remains today as mesmerising historic monuments.

Ancient Glory
Sculpted more than 2,000 years ago, the main pit – the size of an aircraft hangar – contains thousands of soldiers guarding the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.

Xian sits at the start of the fabled Silk Road and was once the capital of China when the city was known as Chang’an. During the Tang dynasty (618–904) it was the largest, with around a million inhabitants, and most spectacular city in the world. From here, great caravans of goods made their way across deserts to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Silk, jade and other luxury goods were traded for gold and precious metals.

With Shaanxi being Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ancestral home province and now part of the initiative to resurrect the overland trade route, Xian’s prospects are looking up – even Narendra Modi made this ancient city the first stop on his May 2015 tour of China. The prime minister of India stayed in the Presidential Suite at Shangri-La Hotel, Xian, which is a testament to the impeccable service the establishment offers. Situated in the Xian High-tech Industries Development Zone, the hotel is located in the city’s new central business district and, with line 3 of the subway set to open by the beginning of next year, is a convenient base to explore the sights. 

Hallowed History

At the very top of your itinerary should be the Terracotta Army. The monumental scale of the exhibit is hard to convey in pictures. Sculpted more than 2,000 years ago, the main pit – the size of an aircraft hangar - contains thousands of soldiers guarding the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. While you can still make out the soldiers’ individual features, remember when they were made – if you look closely at some, faint remnants of their colour remains.

Stretching nearly 14 kilometres, the city wall offers a good lay of the land. Built originally more than 1,400 years ago, what is seen today dates back almost 650 years to the beginning of the Ming dynasty. The best way to get your bearings is to hire a bicycle from atop the wall and cycle around the perimeter. Yongningmen (also known as South Gate) is a good starting point. Visitors can enjoy a welcoming show performed here in the evening from Thursday to Sunday which features a legion of male and female performers in Tang dynasty-style costumes.

Dominating the centre of the old city, the Drum and Bell Towers are two important landmarks. Make sure you time your visit to coincide with one of the short, free percussion performances in the drum tower. Behind the Drum Tower is the entrance to the Muslim Quarter. This is a popular place to eat, with plenty of street food and small restaurants serving halal food. There is also a market for stocking up on souvenirs. In the back streets near the market is the Great Mosque, although curiously it looks more like a Chinese temple. Arab traders spread Islam along the Silk Road and the Hui minority who predominate the Muslim Quarter are their descendants. 

Cultural Pursuits

Xian, as a key gateway city connecting China to the rest of the world in the old days, was an important site for religions. Daxingshan Temple was home to Indian monks translating Buddhist texts back in the Sui and Tang dynasties. During the Tang dynasty, a Chinese monk called Xuan Zang set off for India to collect original Sanskrit Buddhist texts. His 17-year journey started here in Chang’an and the adventure, fictionalised in the Chinese classic Journey to the West, still pervades popular Chinese culture. The Big Goose Pagoda was built to house the scripture­s he brought back. 

Shaanxi History Museum is well worth a visit and houses exhibits from ancient Chang’an. Much less visited is the Xian Museum, where scriptures brought back from India by Yi Jing on a later expedition are housed in the Small Goose Pagoda. 

Back at Shangri-La Hotel, Xian, indulge in one of the famed restaurants. Tian Xiang Ge is under the wings of innovative chef Randy Zhang. The 32-year-old chef blends Cantonese and local Shaanxi cuisines with French techniques. Siam Garden is the only Thai restaurant in Xian headed by a Thai chef. Restaurants use fresh herbs from the hotel’s herb garden as part of Shangri-La’s Rooted in Nature programme.

First-time visitors to Xian shouldn’t miss the city’s spectacular shows. The Song of Unending Sorrow is performed nightly from April to October in the Huaqing Hot Springs area, located in the outskirts of Xian. It tells the love story, over the course of a prelude and 10 scenes, between Tang Emperor Xuanzong and his favourite concubine Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei), who was known as one of the Four Beauties of ancient China. If you don’t want to travel too far, Tang Dynasty is located in the city centre and offers an eight-course dinner in its theatre, so you can tuck into the feast before treating yourself to a pure extravaganza of traditional music and dance performance.

 

 Make a booking at Shangri-La Hotel, Xian Back to Inspiration 

Showing 1 comment

 
  1. boss park: 1 year, 2 months ago

    Ancient Glory

    Much of Xian’s glorious past as a thriving political capital of China remains today as mesmerising historic monuments.
    I would like to go there and feeling, touch, taste and much more experience there.
    I'm wating until 1January 2016.

    Wait great Xian , I am coming to see you .

    Reply
 
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