A resort of the emperors for apparently three thousand years, the Huaqing Pool is usually bundled together with the Terracotta Warriors on tours. If you’re in a rush it’s probably best to avoid it – the Huaqing Pool is definitely not one of the most interesting sights of Xian. There’s nothing bad about the place, but it is essentially just a beautiful gardeninterspersed with pools and pretty buildings. The history of the place isn’t readily evident. But if you have a couple of hours to kill then it’s worth a look.
According to legend, there was a palace here as early as the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th – 8th Century BC) and the Huaqing Hot Springs continued to be visited by emperors through the dynasties. But it was Tang Dynasty Emperor Xuanzong (712-756) who really developed and patronized the pool, paying for a plush palace to be put up. Unfortunately most of the buildings in the sprawling complex today have only recently been recreated or are from the Qing Dynasty.
Strolling around the grounds is a pleasant experience – it’s very popular with Chinese tourists and there are some interesting things around. The Empress Dowager Cixi took refuge here when the Allied forces were laying siege to Beijing in 1900; and Chiang Kaishek set up shop here and was attacked in the Xian Incident of 1936 – the bullet holes remain today.
Another interesting part of the complex is the Huaqing Palace, where several legends from the Huaqing Hot Springs are recreated with both live models and mannequins. The legends include the tale of how the Western Zhou Dynasty dell and several stories about Emperor Xuanzong and his lover Yang Guifei, one of the four heralded beauties of ancient China.
Admission: ¥70. Open: 9:00-18:00.
Tel: +86 (029) 8381 2003. Website: www.hqc.cn
Directions: Bus 306 from the train station stops here on its way to the Terracotta Warriors (you can also stop off here on the reverse trip). The bus fare is ¥7.
Show the taxi driver: 请带我去华清池，谢谢。 (Please take me to Huaqing Pool. Thank you.)