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My trip to Xi'an E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Local Ren
If Beijing is the political heart of China, then Xi'an is its historical center. An ancient philosopher once mused that all those seeking the truth should go to China. A contemporary philosopher added that no visit to China is complete without a journey to Xi'an. This reflects the important position Xi'an holds as a famed historical and cultural city and one of China's six major ancient capitals.

Many people take the city as the Mecca in their mind. But my business trip there years ago tells a different story. Xianyang Airport sat in the middle of an enormous archeological excavation site and rows of ancient tombs could be identified along highways leading to Xi'an. These were supposed to be the entrance of an invisible "time tunnel", that quickly sent me back to the remote past, being the Qin, Han or Tang dynasties.

The English word "China" is actually a transliteration of the Chinese ideogram meaning "Qin". I was thrilled that I was on a land of the descendents of the Qin people, in search of the rich and deep-rooted historical and cultural heritage of Xi'an, conceivable through a wealth of cultural relics, museums, and historical sites including the world-famous terracotta army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

However, Xi'an city, choked with pollution and much dust in the air, was not a pleasant city to visit. What's worse, the city did not seem to immune to such spiritual pollution found elsewhere in China. I was told to behave myself whenever I dealt with a stranger there. I must not ask for prices until I decided to buy something. My worst impression of the city is that, once I joined our group for a dinner at a well-known restaurant in the downtown area, a pre-school boy, shabby in dress, stopped me to buy him some "mo" (steamed bun, a popular local food). Taking me as a boss, he caught hold of me tightly and not let me go!

Tourism is a big business there, and we encountered more material boys or girls than we had anticipated. Our girl guide, a good-looking university graduate, lured the guys in our group to buy some expensive things in the shops or markets she had connection with to earn her commission. Our travel program was spoilt due to our reluctance to be "ripped off". I was totally lost on this "hot-blooded" land.

With a tight schedule, I could hardly see all the main attractions in Xi'an or its environs. Definitely, "the terra-cotta warriors" and Huaqing Hot Spring were on my must-see list. After seeing the terra-cotta warriors the remaining sites were of modest interest. Nevertheless, I had also been to some other tourist attractions.

The Bell and Drum Towers and the Wall were marvelous architecture, indeed. Forest of Stone Steles Museum was another site I paid a special visit to. It boasts a largest collection of steles cut in 837 A.D! The steles are numerous enough to be likened to a forest, hence the name. They are of great value to historians and for the study of calligraphic development.

I found a bazaar nearby and tried to explore the market as an individual traveler. With no guide and no rush, I meandered from stall to stall. It was funny to see replicas (of different sizes) of the terra cotta worriers and sweet potatoes cooked on an oil drum were for sale at the same site. And I was impressed with a demonstration by a virtuoso noodle maker (Watch this clip on Youtube).

I went past both the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, elegant as an ideal place for a bird's eye view of the city, and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the emblem of the city, and Banpo Neolithic Village, a New Stone Age site, dating from approximately 5,000 to 4,000 B.C. These are the right places my imagination will point at.

Our valuable Editor Local Ren has been with us since Wednesday, 23 January 2013.

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