An­cient his­tory abounds at vir­tu­ally ev­ery turn in Xi’an

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SHAANXI SPECIAL - By ZHANG ZHAO, SHI XIAOFENG ZHA JING

With a his­tory of some 6,000 years, Xi’an is the right place for a trea­sure hunter — along ev­ery sin­gle step there could be his­toric relics un­der your feet, said lo­cal res­i­dents.

In 1970, con­struc­tion work­ers found in the south of the city a large hoard of gold and sil­ver­ware pro­duced in the Tang Dy­nasty (618907). More than 1,000 other relics were ex­ca­vated later.

Just four years later, lo­cal farm­ers near the city made an even more stun­ning dis­cov­ery — the world-fa­mous Ter­ra­cotta War­riors — when they were dig­ging a well in their field.

To­day one of the best- known tourist at­trac­tions na­tion­wide and a must-see in the city, the site of the gi­ant un­der­ground “army” was ac­tu­ally buried only 5 me­ters be­neath the earth.

Em­peror Qin­shi­huang (259-210 BC), the first em­peror of the Qin Dy­nasty (221-206 BC), be­lieved that he would en­ter an­other world af­ter death, so he gave or­ders to build an army of sculp­tures, war­riors that would pro­tect him in the af­ter­life.

All of the fig­ures were hand­made in the ac­tual size of real peo­ple, wag­ons and horses. With del­i­cate facial ex­pres­sions, hair and other de­tails, no two are ex­actly the same.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have so far dis­cov­ered three vaults with al­to­gether 8,000 ter­ra­cotta war­riors, 130 wag­ons and 520 horses, but they are just a small part of the en­tire army. More re­main still buried.

An­cient metropolis

Lo­cated at the very cen­ter of the map of China, Xi’an is one of the great an­cient cap­i­tals, stand­ing along­side Rome, Athens and Cairo in size and sig­nif­i­cance. It was also the eastern gate­way of the Silk Road.

In the sev­enth cen­tury, Xi’an was the world’s largest city with a pop­u­la­tion of more than 1 mil­lion. It also had one of the most ef­fi­cient ur­ban man­age­ment sys­tems of its time.

Thir­teen dy­nas­ties across long sweep of the na­tion’s his­tory chose Xi’an as their cap­i­tal, in­clud­ing the Qin and Han ( 206 BC- AD 220) em­pires and the pros­per­ous Tang.

Even to­day the city has the same lay­out as the past, a net­work of roads that stretch strictly from south to north or from east to west like on a chess­board. It is the style typ­i­cal of cap­i­tal cities of an­cient dy­nas­ties in­clud­ing Bei­jing.

The most fa­mous an­cient build­ing in the city is Dayan — Gi­ant Wild Goose — Pagoda, which dates back more than 1,300 years to a time when Bud­dhism was flour­ish­ing in China. The seven-story pagoda is 64.5 me­ters high built of rammed earth.

One of the pagoda’s many func­tions was to store the su­tras and fig­urines of the Bud­dha brought to China from In­dia by the Bud­dhist trans­la­tor and trav­eler Xuan­zang (AD 602-664).

Sur­round­ing the city cen­ter is a 14- kilo­me­ter- long, 15- me­ter- wide wall built in the Ming Dy­nasty (13681644).

It is the best-pre­served an­cient city wall in China, and one of the largest an­cient mil­i­tary de­fen­sive sys­tems in the world.

To­day the wall serves as a tourist at­trac­tion. On a sunny day, trav­el­ers of­ten rent bi­cy­cles and en­joy rid­ing on top of the wall that sep­a­rates the city cen­ter from the out­side.

Lo­cal snacks

As fa­mous as the cul­tural her­itage are the city’s char­ac­ter­is­tic lo­cal snacks.

With thou­sands of years of his­tory grow­ing wheat, Xi’an is home to many kinds of flour-based food. Even the sim­ple noo­dle has dif­fer­ent shapes and tastes.

One of them is called biang­biang mian. It is fa­mous not only for its dis­tinc­tive taste, but also for the name it­self its Chi­nese name can­not by typed out on a com­puter. Even the lo­cal peo­ple need a pithy for­mula to re­mem­ber how to write the char­ac­ters con­sist­ing of dozens of strokes.

An­other iconic lo­cal snack is rou­ji­amo, which looks like a Chi­nese ver­sion of a ham­burger. The sim­ple fast food is be­lieved to have been pre­pared that way for some 2,400 years.

In an au­then­tic rou­ji­amo, the pork in­side is stewed for hours in a soup con­tain­ing more than 20 kinds of spices and sea­son­ings, then minced into fine shreds.

The meat is then stuffed in a mo, a type of flat­bread made of wheat flour, and baked in a clay or mud oven.

Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangzhao@chi­nadaily. com.cn

SEAH KWANG PENG / THE STRAITS TIMES

The is a his­tor­i­cal dance drama per­formed at Huaqing Spring, the site of a pool built by Em­peror Li Longji for his fa­vorite con­cu­bine Yang Yuhuan.

KI­RAN KUMAR PANDY / THE KATH­MANDU POST

The Gi­ant Wild Goose Pagoda

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