Xi’an is a young city, home of dumplings and noodles. There is an enormous amount of ancient culture and history in the “small” city of 9 million people. The smog is similar to that of Beijing, and the summer months (July and August) are busy with Chinese tourists. As you know, Nick and I are spending most of our time in the cities of China and hitting the major tourist stops. This is not how we will be traveling for the rest of Asia, however beneficial in many aspects.
Weijia – Great “fast food” noodle shop with over 300 locations in Xi’an. It has high quality food and is open 24/7. You can get a meal for 10 Yuan ($1.50 USD) and can easily point to photos to order.
Terracotta Soldiers – With 30,000 visitors a day the terracotta soldiers are insanely crowded but as the locals say “the 8th wonder of the world” and worth the chaos nonetheless. The culture and history of the soldiers in the 3 pits are astounding. With a love for pottery it is remarkable to see the life size soldiers being recreated and sold, especially knowing it took multiple years to create one solider with the technology of 2,200 years past. These soldiers were made during the Qin (Chin) Dynasty, and my family name Chin is now a relatively uncommon name in China. Therefore, it’s interesting to think that although unlikely, my family may have ties to the first emperor of China.
Although Qin’s clay army remains impressive it pales in comparison to a more recent discovery. Emperor Qin had over 8,000 life sized terracotta soldiers buried to protect him in the afterlife, however 50 years later, during the Han dynasty, 100,000 soldiers, concubines, eunuchs, and animals were buried to protect a later emperor. These were much smaller statuettes with wooden arms. They have opened a number of pits (182 have been found) and although we only saw about 10 other visitors, I can only imagine how popular this site will become in a number of years.
As a female, I understand that I need to keep an open mind to other traditions and cultures. However, I want to share something that I found extremely interesting. For every 1 emperor (don’t forget we are talking over 2,000 years ago) he would have about 3,000 concubines. It was an honor to serve as a concubine, however when the emperor died, whichever concubine did not have the opportunity to bear a child with him, would be been buried alive to serve him in his afterlife.
Tea Tip – Ku Chao Cha, is a sweet buckwheat tea that tastes similar to Japanese Genmai Cha. This is a must try and available at the Old Xi’an Restaurant.
City Wall of Xi’an – Although touristy, it is worth walking or biking on top of the 8-mile city wall of Xi’an. Enjoy views of the old city and various Buddhist temples.
Tang Dynasty Cultural Performance – Anyone interested in traditional music, clothing, and dance should check this out. Although it’s a little cheesy and overpriced, it may be interesting to some. For us, it felt too expensive.
The Dumpling House – If you have the opportunity to visit a traditional dumping house, be sure to try the 18 dumpling banquet, where chicken dumplings look like chickens, pork dumplings look like pigs, duck dumplings look like ducks and vegetarian dumplings are green. Tip: combine soy, vinegar, oil, cilantro, and chili sauce for the best dumpling dipping sauce.
Daming Palace Ceramics Art Museum – Any potter would be in awe by this museum. We are so lucky to have bumped into the curator who introduced us to the unique properties of Song dynasty porcelains. We viewed ceramics that were 2,000- 7,000 years old and learned how to identify the dynasty the ceramics came from. The most popular, “typical Chinese design”, white porcelain pieces with blue designs, come from the Song Dynasty about 1,200 years ago! All of the pieces have been discovered from mausoleums of various emperors. There is so much talent in the museum and I have such a deep respect for these artists. *We started discussing bound feet with the curator and she was generous enough to show us her ADULT grandmother’s shoe from 1911 (see photo below).
Muslim Quarter – A bustling pedestrian street with tons of street food (lamb, sweet sticky rice on a stick, Turkish ice cream, taffy, pomegranate juice, and fried crab).
Although China is often associated with rice, it is only the primary crop in the south. Here they use rice flower to make a variety of noodles, deserts and buns. The Chinese cook similar foods in the north, however they are made with wheat.
Zhengyang Pedestrian Street- I found the most unique fruits in Guilin and enjoyed eating jackfruit, mangosteen, durian, rambutan, passion fruit, longun, and “Guilin yellow berries”. Unfortunately, we missed lychee season by 1 month. We strolled down the pedestrian street while munching on fruit and Nick enjoyed bbq oysters. The end of the street leads you to a lake and pagoda.
Yangshuo – We enjoyed views of stunning limestone karsts on a 4-hour boat ride from Guilin to Yangshuo; iconic to the Chinese landscape, these same mountains adorned my childhood from the walls of the home where I grew up. The town of Yangshuo is small, however definitely targeted toward tourists. Nick and I have researched this area, as it’s known for it’s climbing. We plan to return to southern China at the end of our trip to climb in Yangshuo and later visit my grandparent’s village.
Cloud 9 Cooking Class – Exploring the local market was quite the experience. As a vegetarian, it was definitely hard seeing the dogs, rabbits and other local livestock being butchered. However, the actual cooking class was a blast, and Nick even managed to make good-looking food.
Guilin Tea Science & Research Institute – Outside Guilin, we visited an organic tea plantation where every step of the production process is done traditionally by hand. This is a must do for any tea lover. We sat in on a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and enjoyed Osmanthus tea, Liu Bao Compressed Tea, High Mountain Yellow Tea and a variety of oolongs. Do you know it takes 50,000 tea needles to make a half-kilo of white tea? I’ll make a more detailed blog post specifically detailing this process later, because everyone wants to know more about tea, right?
Yao Mountain – This is the highest peak in Guilin, reaching 903.3 meters. If you want some exercise, take an easy and straightforward hike up to the top. Don’t bother paying to take the gondola up, in the end; it’s all targeted toward tourists. However, it was enjoyable watching over 200 people take photos of and with Nick, the white guy, also referred to as a “hello”. Maybe I should start a business, 10 Yuan for a photo with Nick?