Xian is a museum of ancient Chinese history. Xian and the greater region surrounding it is the cradle of Chinese civilization. From the time of China’s unification under the Qin Dyansty (221 BC) for more than 1000 years up until the fall of the Tang Dynasty in 907 AD, Xian or nearby cities were the center of the Chinese empires. This extended period of power has imbued Xian with countless historical relics, while its position as the eastern terminus of the Silk Road made it one of the most prosperous and enlightened cities of ancient times. As a result, Xian is today one of China’s most popular tourist destinations.
Although Xian is a massive city of just over eight million, the tourist area of the city is largely contained in the walled old town. Consequently, in spite of its size, Xian is a manageable city to move around. While many modern buildings have cropped up in the old town, including large department stores, there are still many older buildings standing. And the imposing, fully-restored Xian City Walls compensate for any loss of atmosphere from the new developments.
Xian’s most famous attraction is the Terracotta Warriors, located outside of the city. But there are many more things to see and do in Xian. A great way to get a feel for the city is to take a walk along the top of the City Walls – you can do the full 16km circuit if you’re up to it. There’s a truly excellent museum that’s not to be missed and various temples and ancient buildings. Xian also has a fascinating Muslim area replete with mosque and a couple of interesting markets.
Xian as a city has character. The sense of history here is palpable. And in spite of the hordes of tourists constantly visiting the city, Xian has not become a whore to the tourist dollar. Instead, it steadfastly maintains its own sense of identity. The Xian of today maintains the dignity and pride of the mighty capital of old and, as a result, it is possible for visitors to vividly imagine those bygone times.
Who should travel to Xian?
Xian is on the most common tourist itinerary along with Beijing and Shanghai. And rightly so: a visit to Xian is essential. Even travelers with only a vague interest in history can’t help but be amazed by Xian’s attractions.
How long is needed to see Xian?
It takes a minimum of two days to see the Terracotta Warriors as well as the major sights of the old city. But it’s well worth staying for a bit longer.