Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is situated on the Weihe River between the Qinling mountain range to the south and a loess plateau to the north. It lies in a fertile valley crisscrossed by the eight tributaries of the Weihe River system.
Xi’an is famous throughout the world for its archaeological treasures and rich cultural heritage. It was the home of “Lantian Man,” who lived some 600,000 years ago, and of a Neolithic community (four thousand to five thousand years old) whose remains have been found in what is now called Banpo Village.
Xi’an leads to the western regions and commands the central plains in the east-because of this important geographical location, it was the capital of eleven imperial dynasties, whose splendor is visible in the area to this day.
During the Middle Ages, Xi’an was one of the biggest cities in the world and a center of international trade. The famous Silk Road started here, traversed the Middle East, and ended at the Mediterranean. The bustling metropolis was host to thousands of foreign envoys, students, monks, and merchants, who all converged on the city from Southeast Asia and beyond.
Today, Xi’an is a major industrial center. But is it the brilliant ancient relics assembles here that people come to see, in what is sometimes called the “cradle of Chinese civilization.”
Greater Wild goose Pagoda (Dayanta)
Located within the compound of the Monastery of Grace (Ci’ensi) in the city’s southern suburbs, this pagoda was built in A.D. 652 to house Buddhist scriptures that had been brought from India by Xuan Zang, an eminent monk of the Tang Dynasty. The wood-and –brick structure is sixty-four meters high and has seven stories.
Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda (Xiaoyanta)
This pagoda is within the compound of Fortune Offering Temple (Jianfusi), one kilometer south of the city. Built in A.D. 684, the square pagoda is an elegant brick structure with closely arrange eaves; it is forty-three meters high and has thirteen stories.
Forest of Stelae (Beilin)
Located on Sanxue Street in the city, this treasure trove of ancient Chinese calligraphy and art is part of the Shaanxi Provincial Museum. It was built in A.D.1096 and has more than a thousand stellar on display in various halls and galleries.
Bell Tower (Zhonglou)
The huge bell in this tower used to toll the hour in ancient times. Initially built in A.D. 1384, the two-stories structure is thirty-six meters high and has three layers of eaves in typical Ming style. The tower commands a fine view of the city.
Xi’an City Wall
This battlement, built in A.D. 1370-1378, is one of the best-preserved ancient walls in China. Surrounded by a moat, it has a circumference of 11.9 kilometers and is 12 meters high, 18 meters wide at the base, and 15 meters wide at the top. The interior of the wall was made of rammed earth, and the exterior of bricks.
Qin Shi Huang’s Buried Legion
While digging a well in 1974, farmers from Yanzhai Commune unearthed some brown pottery fragments, which led to the discovery of one of the most spectacular archaeological finds of the century – the buried terra cotta army of the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. The vaults containing the sculptured legion are located at he eastern flank of his tomb in Lintong County northeast of Xi’an. So far, three underground vaults have been discovered. Vault One, the biggest of the three measures 5 meters high, 230 meters long from east to west, and 62 meters wide from north to south, covering an area of more than 14, 000 square meters. Thousands of life-sized terra cotta warriors lined up in battle array with horse-drawn chariots have been excavated. The warriors are of a fairly uniform height of 1.8 meters. With their individual features and facial expressions, they are amazingly lifelike. Visitors have called this awesome sight the “eight wonder of the world.”
In addition to the terra cotta figures, many finely executed bronze horses and chariots have been unearthed on the western flank of the Qin tomb. Half life-size, these figures are highly detailed and realistic.
Maoling was the magnificent tomb of Han Emperor Wu Di (156-87 B.C.) in Xingping County west of Xi’an. The south gate has been destroyed, but the front gate is dimly visible. The tomb of the famous general Huo Qubing (147-117 B.C.) is also found at Maoling. The valiant general had repulsed many incursions by the Xiongnus and became an illustrious war hero during the Han Dynasty. Emperor Wu Di was so grieved over Huo’s death that he ordered a tomb built for the general near his own. Maoling Museum was built on this spot in 1978; burial objects and other relics of the Han Dynasty are on display here. The massive stone carvings that stand in front of the tomb of Huo Qubing are among the finest examples of Chinese art.
Zhaoling is the tomb of Li Shimin (599-649), the second Tang Emperor known as Tai Zong. It is located on Jiujun Mountain in Liquan County northwest of Xi’an. Jiujun Mountain rises 1,188 meters above sea level and is flanked by undulating mountain ranges to the east and west. Occupying an imposing on a mountainside. Surrounded by more than 160 tombs of high-ranking court officials and generals, Zhaoling covers an area of 20,000 hectares with a circumference of 10 kilometers. The stone carving “Six Steeds at Zhaoling” is one of the best examples of Tang Dynasty sculpture. The lifelike carving represents the six horses that carried the first Tang Emperor Tai Zong to victory in the battles that brought the country under his rule.
Located on the northern peak of Liangshan Mountain in Qianxian County, Qianling was the tomb of the Tang Emperor Gao Zong (650-683) and his consort, Empress Wu Zetian (624-705). There are many subsidiary tombs of nobles and ranking officials in the area surrounding Qianling, which has a circumference of forty kilometers. One of the eighteen imperial tombs of the Tang Dynasty in the Guanzhong area, Qianling was never excavated or vandalized; because it is intact, it is of particularly great historical value.
In front of Qianling stands a large group of stone statues that were carved on the order of Empress Wu Zetian to commemorate the funeral of Emperor Gao Zong. Sixty-one of the figures represent foreign envoys who attended the funeral. Dressed in their national costumes, these life-size statues stand on either side of the passage to the tomb, hands cupped to the chest in a gesture of prayer. This seems to indicate that close relations existed at that time between China and various other regions.
Near Qianling are the tombs of Princes s Yongtai and Prince Zhanghuai. Murals of great artistic value have been found here in excavated underground chambers.
The remains of this primitive settlement, consisting of a dwelling area, pottery center, and graveyard, were discovered in 1953 about six kilometers east of Xi’an. Archaeologists believe that this settlement was a Neolithic maternal clan community. Many ancient objects have been unearthed here, including household utensils, pottery, and tools made of stone or animal bones. Some of the objects are decorated with zoomorphic or geometric designs. The discovery of this settlement is of great importance to the study of primitive Chinese society. The site became a museum in 1958.
Located south of Huayin County, 120 kilometers east of Xi’an, Mount Huashan is one of the five sacred mountains of China. Its sheer cliffs and precipices make the climb a perilous adventure. The mountain has five peaks, of which the tallest is Wild Goose Alighting Peak (Luoyanfeng) (2,200 meters). The top of this peak commands a view of the vast expanse of the Guanzhong Plain to the north, where the Yellow River (Huanghe) winds like a dragon, and of the rolling Qinling mountain range to the southwest. The East Peak, also called Morning Sun (Zhaoyang) Peak, offers a magnificent view of the sunrise. Mount Huashan is also known for its Taoist monasteries; one of these is West Mountain Temple (xiyuemiao), located north of Huayin County Town. Other places of historical interest include Jade Fountain Garden (Yuquanyuan) and Female Immortal Temple (Xianguguan).
Lishan Scenic Area
This beautiful area is located in Lintong County, twenty-five kilometers northeast of Xi’an. There are hot springs at Lishan, and a royal park was built here during the Zhou Dynasty some three thousand years ago.
Huaqing Pool resort at the foot of Lishan Hill where Emperor Xuan Zong (685-762) of the Tang Dynasty used to spend the winter with his favorite concubine, Lady Yang. They bathed at Gui Fei Pool.
East of Huaqing Pool is the hillside pavilion where Chiang Kaishek was captured on December 12, 1936, in the famous Xi’an Incident - an uprising launched by generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng. Chinese was forced to agree to end the civil war and join the national united front against the Japanese invaders.
East of Old Mother Hall (Laojundian) are the remains of Longevity Hall (Changshengdian). According to legend, it was here that Emperor Xuan Zong and Lady Yang vowed to live together forever as “lovebirds in the sky and twin lotus flowers on a stalk.”
The remains of beacon towers can be seen on Xixiuling Peak. They were built for defense more than three thousand years ago. The peak also affords a view of the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210 B.C.)