Located in the northwest of China, Xi’an (sometimes Sian or Xian) is one of China’s most historically fascinating destinations. The city is based in the Yellow River Basin and is the capital of the Shaanxi Province (not to be confused with the neighboring Shanxi Province). Xi’an has a population of over 8 million. The majority of the population of Xi’an is of the Han demographic; however, the city is also heavily influenced by the Muslim Uighur ethnic group.  Originally named Chang’an, “The Eternal City,” Xi’an has lived up to its namesake and stood the test of time since the birth of Chinese civilization to present day, maintaining its place as one of the most important cities in the country. Historically, the city has acted as capital to many ruling dynasties for over 1,000 years, leaving the city with an impressive historical and cultural heritage.  Xi’an is also the eastern terminus of the ancient Silk Road – a vital conduit for trade, science and culture throughout Chinese history.  Today, with research and development and China’s space exploration program being conducted in Xi’an, the city has taken the lead in China’s Western Development Program launched in the early 1990’s and become a key regional economic, scientific, and industrial zone.

Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army in Xi’an. Taken by Wikimedia Commons user “Maros M r a z (Maros)”.

Visitors flock to Xi’an every year to see some of China’s most important historical and cultural sites.  The Terracotta Warriors are arguably Xi’an’s most famous attraction, a collection of ancient, life-size generals, officers, infantry, bowmen, and cavalry with each statue being unique. The city wall, which was originally built during the Tang dynasty of 618 AD, is another great place to visit.  A popular activity amongst tourists and locals alike is walking, running, and even cycling on the wall at night whilst taking in the lights of the city.

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Yet another historical treasure, the Ming Dynasty Bell and Drum Towers are located at the center of the city; originally a method of telling time (as they were struck once at dawn and once at dusk), the towers also provide excellent views of the city.  For those who wish to taste some of Xi’an’s most delicious foods, the Muslim quarter is located right next to the Bell Tower and home to excellent ethnic foods. Paomo, a soup which includes hand-made noodles, meat, and bread which you tear and place in the soup, is perhaps one of Xi’an’s most famous food exports and especially popular with its Muslim community.

For those who wish to be a tourist for the night and experience some Chinese culture, the Tang Dynasty Dinner Show is a must.  The show includes dancing, acrobatics, singing, and wonderful regional dishes. The Fountain Show put on next to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is another great activity for warm summer nights.  Nightlife-wise, Xi’an has all the usual attractions of a modern city; however, one of the most popular destinations has to be the Defu Lane bar street; the street houses bars, restaurants, and traditional Chinese tea houses.  Old Henry’s is a local favorite with regular gigs and performances which are tucked away into an intimate venue.

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