Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province with a 3,000-year history, was known as Chang’s in ancient times. For 1,062 years the city had been capital for 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors had ruled China there. That is why the land of the city is pockmarked with cultural relics and historical ruins. The mausoleum of Qinshihuang and his mighty army of terracotta warriors and horses are world-famous attractions. The other scenes and sights include Banpo Village Ruins, Greater and Lesser Wild-Goose Pagodas, Bell tower and Drum Tower, City Wall, Xingjiao Temple, Famen Temple, Shaanxi History Museum, Xi’an Stele Forest, and Grand Mosque. The celebrated Silk Road began in Xi’an.
The mausoleum of Qinshihuang (259-210 BC), who unified China and founded the first, is found 5 km to the east of Lintong County. A highway conducts to the top of the tumulus for the benefits of visitors.
Terracotta Warriors & Horses
This mighty army of terracotta warriors and horses, found in three vaults 39km east of Xi’an and 1.5 km from the Qin emperor’s mausoleum, is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction of Shaanxi. An in-site museum has been built over these pits, covering a floor space of 20,000 square metres and displaying 8,000 life-size terracotta warriors, 100 or so chariots, and 30,000 weapons-an assemblage billed as the Eighth World Wonder and a world cultural heritage site.
Completed in 652, or the 3rd year of Yonghui reign of the Tang emperor Gaozong, the 64.1-metre-high Greater Wild-Goose Pagoda in Ci’en Temple is a pavilion-like brick structure whose serene and well-proportioned form has become the emblem of the city of Xi’an. A later comer during the Tang, the Lesser Wild-Goose Pagoda in Jianfu Temple is an exquisite and graceful 43.3-metre-high structure with 13 floors.
Situated in the Shaanxi Museum, the Stele Forest of Xi’an is the largest and oldest of its kind in China with a collection of 2,300 stone tablets and epitaphs from the Han, Wei, Jin, Sui Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing, forming comprehensive library of books-on-stones measurable historical and artistic value.
City Wall of Xi’an
Xi’an boasts the only city wall to remain intact to this day in China. Built during the early Ming on the basis of the Tang imperial city of Chang’an, and laid out on a rectangular plan 13.7 km in circumference, this wall stands 12 metres high, 12-14 metres wide at the top and 15-18 metres wide at the base. A total of 5,894 crenels are built along the outer edge of the wall each of its four corners is topped by a turret, and a main gateway is built into each of the wall’s four sides. The top of the wall has been converted into a promenade, so that visitors can take a stroll while feasting their eyes on the scenery within and without the city and musing upon the distant past of this ancient city.
Banpo Village Ruins
The ruins, lying north of Banpo Village on the eastern outskirts of Xi’an, became an in-site museum in 1958. in an area of 50,000 square metres, a residential quarter, a potter-making zone and a burial ground have been found, along with large numbers of tools used by members of a matriarchal clan in the Yellow River valley more than 6,000 years ago.
Shaanxi History Museum
One km from the Greater Wild Goose Pagoda in the south of Xi’an stands the Shaanxi History Museum, the first of its kind in China to be equipped with modern facilities, covers 56,000 square metres in floor space. A total of 2,000 exhibits, chosen from a collection of 110,000, are on display.
Tang Tricolour Pottery
These pottery ware, modeled after real ones unearthed from some Tang tombs, are graphic in image and eye-pleasing in colour, and smack strongly of everyday life. There are 100 or so varieties, including figurines, horse-like camels and utensils.
The Grand Mosque, covering an area of 12,000 square metres and having a floor space of 4,000 square metres and a seating capacity for 1,000 worshippers, is the largest and best-protected mosque in China. Construction of it began in 742. Islamic architecture is perfectly integrated with traditional Chinese elements in this unique complex.
Construction of Famen Monastery in Fufeng County began during the Eastern Han. In 1987 the brick pagoda of the monastery collapsed in the rain, and an underground palace with 2,400 treasures, belonging to Tang and previous dynasties, was brought to light as a result. These include gold and silver utensils, glazed wares, porcelains, pearls and precious stones and textiles. The discovery of four sariras attributed to Sakyamuni in an 8-layer container in this collection shocked the entire Buddhist world.
The Tang emperor, Xuanzong, had Huaqing Palace built by the hot springs at the foot of Lishan Mountain in Lintong County, so that he could frolic with his favoured Imperial Lady Yang to his heart’s content. Today, the facility is attracting a constant stream of visitors who come both to catch a piece of history and enjoy the nice scenery.
The 1,997-metre-tall Mount Huashan, true to its reputation as the “most precipitous mountain under heaven”, is a cluster of five peaks with breathtaking cliff faces and a tough challenge to mountaineers. A cable car whisks visitors right to the top of Huashan, which is also one of the five holy mountains in China.
Yan’an became the center of Chinese revolution in 1937, when top Party leaders stayed there from 1937 to 1947, and conducted the resistance war against Japan and the war of liberation. This has earned Yan’an the title: “Cradle of Revolution”.
Yellow Emperor’s Mausoleum
Yellow Emperor, the legendary ancestor of all the Chinese in the world today, is worshiped every year at this mausoleum north of Huangling County which evinces classic sanctity amidst a forest of verdant, yet ancient-looking cypress trees.
Qinshihuang’s mausoleum is not the only imperial necropolis left in Xi’an. Being the Chinese capital during a succession of dynasties, the city is actually studded with imperial tombs. To name a few: Changling, situated east of Xianyang, was the tomb for Liu Bang, the founding emperor of the Han; Maoling, 15 km east of Xingping County, is the largest of all the Western Han imperial tombs in Shaanxi. Buried there were the remains of the all-mighty Emperor Wu. Maoling Museum was established in 1987 near the tomb of Huo Qubin, a major Han general. Li Yuan, or Emperor Gaozu of Tang, had his tomb built east of Sanyuan County, and named it Xianling. The Zhaoling, situated to the northeast of Liquan County, belonged to Li Shimin, or Emperor Taizong of Tang. Buried in the Qianling on the Liangshan Mountain north of Qianxian County were the remains of Tang Emperor Gaozong and his wife, Empress Wu Zetian. The tomb was actually tunneled into the rocky mountain. Some of the surface structures and large numbers of stone men, animals and ornamental pillars are still there. The Tailing, to the northeast of Pucheng County, was the tomb for Li Longji, or Tang Emperor Xuanzong.
Ruins of Lantian man, Lishan Mountain, Huayan Temple, Xingjiao Temple, Tomb of Sima Qian (author of Historian’s Records), and the Temple of Zhuge Liang at Wuzhangyuan.