Xian History, Facts & Tourist Information

Xian is China’s oldest city and one of the cradles of civilization where culture developed and thrived. Over the 3,000 years of its existence, Xian has been the capital city of twelve of the most relevant Chinese dynasties when China reached its full splendor. Tang city is the most wonderful city in the world. More than 1 million people live behind the city’s walls. Merchants, pilgrims, students and travellers often visit the city from the remotest Asian areas.

The Terracotta Warriors and Horses are only a part of the first Chinese emperor’s burial site. There are three ditches with some 8,000 full-sized terracotta warriors and horses buried there. It was the most important archaeological discovery in the second half of the 20th century and the news spread worldwide through the cover of prestigious magazines and publications.

The first ditch is the biggest (210 meters long and 60 meters wide) and the first one to have been opened to the public. There are about 6,000 terracotta warriors inside. The second ditch, opened in 1995, has about 2,000 terracotta warriors, most of them not restored. There is a will to show the visitor the excavation and restoration works but to be honest not very interesting to see. The third ditch is the smallest. It only has 69 warriors and thought to be headquarters. When the ditch was opened, some of the figures had streaks of colour, but not at present.

The Big Goose Pagoda. It is one of China’s oldest pagodas. It was built by the emperor Gao Zong in 648 in order to keep hundreds of Buddhist scripture brought from India by Xuan Zhuang. The temple became an important translation centre. Its historical importance is great, although much less as a tourist attraction. However, the pagoda within its primitive simplicity has kept up over the years with a unique shape among the Chinese pagodas as a whole.

City Wall: Xian is surrounded by a rectangular wall, 3,4 kilometers long from East to West and 2,6 kilometers long from North to South. It is 12 meters high, with a width at the top of 12 to 14 meters and at the base of 15 to 18 meters. Built during the Ming Dynasty, it became a defense wall against Western peoples. The wall has four main gateways, one in every direction and each one formed by 3 sections. There is a moat outside the wall and a park where the city’s inhabitants exercise in the mornings or hold dances in the evenings. The best preserved gate is the Southern Gate and at the same time the nearest to the city’s centre.

The Great Mosque. It is the biggest of Xian’s 13 mosques. Built in 742, it is an original combination of Chinese and Muslim symbols. The Chinese elements predominate on the outside of the building while the Muslim elements fill the whole building with a religious feeling. The courtyards are very interesting with Arabic inscriptions arranged as Chinese typeface. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the prayer hall. It is highly recommended to visit the Muslim Quarter as well.